What Parents Need to Know About Coronavirus (COVID-19)
It is all over the media and as parents, we have a right to be concerned. In this article, we'll cover the basics of coronavirus, what you need to know, and how you should handle preventative measures. We cover the facts so you can sort through the noise and take the best possible precautions. Remember first and foremost, do not panic, just be prepared!
Let’s start with some basics.
What is coronavirus?
The term Corona, in this case, merely refers to and describes a specific family (corona family) of spherical(round) viruses. Several viruses in this family such as that responsible for the SARS outbreak in the 2000’s are also in that same family of coronavirus. In fact, the syndrome caused by SARS is quite similar to what we are seeing now with the current coronavirus which we are calling the novel (new) Coronavirus or “COVID-19”. Unfortunately, while we are not entirely unfamiliar with coronaviruses as a whole, COVID-19 has in just a few short months spread in both numbers of people infected and geographic reach to an extent that has not been seen for this type of virus, and has accurately been declared a “global pandemic” as a result.
How is coronavirus spread?
It is spread through respiratory droplets, meaning when a person sneezes or coughs, the droplets that leave their mouth or nose contain the virus that can affect a person in close contact. You can also contract the virus by touching a surface where someone with the virus left respiratory droplets. Symptoms develop between 1-14 days after being in contact with someone else who has the virus. The first cases were from Wuhan, China so most cases have been related to people who have traveled to that area of the world or have been in close contact with people who have traveled to that area.
What are the symptoms?
Most people’s symptoms are respiratory, meaning fever, cough, sneezing, and shortness of breath, which are typical of many viral illnesses. More serious symptoms present like pneumonia that causes difficulty breathing, which are largely responsible for poor outcomes reported. Some people have nausea and vomiting, or simply have no symptoms at all; but these latter symptoms are less likely. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (a US government agency), research out of China has seen that 16 out of every 100 people with the virus will have a serious illness, which could vary between prolonged hospitalization, respiratory support, critical life support, and even death.
Is there a vaccine?
Currently there is no vaccine available. However, several laboratories are researching to find one. Current experts estimate that this may become available no sooner than a year from now. The best defenses right now are preventative measures like good hygiene.
What is the treatment?
There is currently no specific antiviral medicine for the virus, but you may hear about some experimental drugs approved for other viruses that have shown some limited activity against the virus. However, supportive measures can be used by trained healthcare providers to help with the symptoms.
What is the risk?
As with any infectious disease, the elderly and people with suppressed immune systems or chronic conditions, especially those that affect the lungs, experience the most serious forms of the illness. It appears that 80% of people present typical viral symptoms, do not need to be hospitalized, and generally fully recover within a few weeks. Unfortunately, a percentage of people who have been infected with the virus have died and preliminary data puts this number at around 3%. Though this may seem like a small percentage, the represents a number that is roughly 20x more deadly than the flu. The flu has killed an estimated 20-52K every year, and this is for a virus for which a vaccine already exists.
Finally, possible the biggest risks of this virus are the unknowns. As a pandemic, we have crossed the threshold to contain this syndrome and have now entered into damage-control territory. The importance of individual and collective responsibility to help reduce the spread of the virus cannot be overstated. Though you may not contract the coronavirus during this outbreak, the longer it goes on and the more cases we have, the higher the potential for this to become an annual occurrence. It is important to remember that every virus, whether it is the flu, the common cold, RSV, or Croup, started out as a single outbreak that grew until it became a seasonal occurrence. Unless at some point we can bring the cases of coronavirus to zero in every part of the world, this remains a very real possibility.
How can you help prevent it?
Wash your hands and avoid touching your hands to your face, eyes, and mouth if you have not washed them. Masks do not help prevent the illness. In fact, buying out the masks in stores has lead to a shortage of masks, which puts healthcare workers who are working with the virus at risk. So do your part and wash you and your children's hands often! Avoid people who may be sick, the elderly, people will chronic illnesses, and large crowds. If you do develop symptoms and have been in contact with someone with confirmed coronavirus or travel to an area with a high number of cases, such as Italy or China, warn the facility before you arrive to ensure they have proper tools for testing and resources to treat you.
For pregnant women:
There is not enough information yet to know if the coronavirus is spread to neonates through pregnant mothers who are infected. The treatment in pregnant women is roughly the same as in non-pregnant people. However, there may more of a risk for serious illness. So do not hesitate to reach out to healthcare workers if you develop symptoms or have been in contact with someone who is ill. Warn the healthcare facility before if you believe you have the virus, that way you can go to an institute with proper resources for testing. However, parents should know that several reliable sources have reported that no child under 9 years-old has died from the virus yet.
For more information, please head to the CDC's website. This situation will be ongoing and ever-changing, so it is important to continue to monitor government updates and recommendations.
This article was independently vetted by several doctor's and medical professionals.