Coronavirus disease: What parents should know?
A novel coronavirus (CoV) is a new strain of coronavirus.
The disease caused by the novel coronavirus first identified in Wuhan, China, has been named coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). The COVID-19 virus is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold.
COVID-19 has been described as a pandemic by the World Health Organization. But it is not an indication that the virus has become deadlier. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement of the disease’s geographical spread.
Virus can spread to children and families in any country or community. There are a lot of myths and misinformation about coronavirus being shared online – including on how COVID-19 spreads, how to stay safe, and what to do if you’re worried about having contracted the virus. So, it’s important to be careful where you look for information and advice.
UNICEF has also launched a portal where you can find more information and guidance about COVID-19. In addition, the WHO has a useful section addressing some of the most frequently asked questions. It’s also advisable to keep up to date on travel, education and other guidance provided by your national or local authorities for the latest recommendations and news.
Mechanism of COVID-19 spread
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person through coughing and sneezing and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for a few hours to several days, but simple disinfectants can kill it. Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets, rather than through the air.
Symptoms of coronavirus
Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal.
These symptoms are similar to the flu (influenza) or the common cold, which are a lot more common than COVID-19. This is why testing is required to confirm if someone has COVID-19.
It’s important to remember that key prevention measures are the same – frequent hand washing, and respiratory hygiene (cover your cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throw away the tissue into a closed bin).
Preventive measures from COVID-19?
Here are some precautions you and your family can take to help avoid infection:
Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
Cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissue immediately
Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms
Seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing
What is the Best way to wash hands properly?
Wet hands with running water
Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
Rinse thoroughly with running water
Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel
Wash your hands often, especially before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and going to the bathroom.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water, if hands are visibly dirty.
Wearing a medical mask?
The use of a medical mask is advised if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) to protect others. If you don’t have any symptoms, then there is no need to wear a mask.
If masks are worn, they must be used and disposed of properly to ensure their effectiveness and to avoid any increased risk of transmitting the virus. The use of a mask alone is not enough to stop infections and must be combined with frequent hand washing, covering sneezes and coughs, and avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, fever).
Does COVID-19 affect children?
This is a new virus and we do not know enough yet about how it affects children or pregnant women. We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected and transmit the virus, although older people and/or those with pre-existing medical conditions seem more likely to develop serious illness. Children may be disproportionately affected by measures taken to control the outbreak, such as school closures and physical distancing measures. Special attention needs to be paid to prevent and minimize negative consequences for children as much as possible.
If your child has symptoms of COVID-19, seek medical attention, but remember that it’s flu season in the Northern Hemisphere, and symptoms of COVID-19 such as cough or fever can be similar to those of the flu, or the common cold – which are a lot more frequent. Continue to follow good hand and respiratory hygiene practices like regular handwashing, and keep your child up to date with vaccinations – so that your child is protected against other viruses and bacteria causing diseases.
Try to avoid going to public places (workplace, schools, public transport), to prevent it spreading to others.
Can pregnant women pass coronavirus to unborn children?
At this time, there is not enough evidence to determine whether the virus is transmitted from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, or the potential impact this may have on the baby. This is currently being investigated. Pregnant women should continue to follow appropriate precautions to protect themselves from exposure to the virus, and seek medical care early, if experiencing symptoms, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing.
Is it safe for a mother to breastfeed if she is infected with coronavirus?
All mothers in affected and at-risk areas who have symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, should seek medical care early, and follow instructions from a health care provider.
Considering the benefits of breastfeeding and the insignificant role of breastmilk in the transmission of other respiratory viruses, the mother can continue breastfeeding, while applying all the necessary precautions.
For symptomatic mothers well enough to breastfeed, this includes wearing a mask when near a child (including during feeding), washing hands before and after contact with the child (including feeding), and cleaning/disinfecting contaminated surfaces – as should be done in all cases where anyone with confirmed or suspected COVID-19 interacts with others, including children.
If a mother is too ill, she should be encouraged to express milk and give it to the child via a clean cup and/or spoon – all while following the same infection prevention methods.