I understand the concern about the coronavirus most of us have right now. After all, it’s dominating the headlines and probably your work and home conversation.
But as a pediatrician, let’s talk first about what’s most important to me and you: our kids.
Fortunately, we have not seen any cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) at Cook Children's. The other good news is based on confirmed cases of COVID-19 from around the world, kids have been relatively protected from serious illnesses. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, children are less likely to get Novel coronavirus infections (COVID-19) than adults. And the good news is if they do get it, it’s usually a mild case.
In a study of more than 72,000 patients by the Centers for Disease Control in China, only about 400 cases occurred in children under age 9 with zero deaths.
Most of the kids who caught COVID-19 had mild symptoms, including a fever, runny nose and cough.
"These limited reports suggest that children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms, and though severe complications (acute respiratory distress syndrome, septic shock) have been reported, they appear to be uncommon," the CDC wrote.
The CDC adds, "However, as with other respiratory illnesses, certain populations of children may be at increased risk of severe infection, such as children with underlying conditions."
So now let’s get to some of the basics you may be wondering about.
What is the “Coronavirus?”
COVID-19 is a novel respiratory coronavirus which most often presents with symptoms of fever, coughing and shortness of breath. The rapid spread throughout China (and now outside of China) as well the significant percentage of cases that result in severe illness is what makes COVID-19 a particular concern.
Where can I find the latest?
I highly recommend checking out Tarrant County Public Health’s website for the latest on COVID-19 (Coronavirus). The site tracks the total cases confirmed worldwide, including deaths.
The Texas Department of Health and Human Services (DSHS) also has a COVID-19 webpage with information for the public, travelers, health care professionals, public health partners and others.
How do I take care of myself and my kids?
Currently, there is no vaccine to prevent COVID-19. So for now, the best way to prevent infection is to take the following precautions:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash.
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces using a regular household cleaning spray or wipe.
To add to the previous bullet, the World Health Organization states that “there are some chemical disinfectants that can kill the 2019-nCOV on surfaces. These include bleach/chlorine based disinfectants, either solvents, 75% ethanol, peracetic acid and chloroform.” Click here for the EPA's registered antimicrobial products for use against Novel Coronavirus report.
But it’s important to add: “However, they have little or no impact on the virus if you put them on the skin or under your nose. It can even be dangerous to put these chemicals on your skin.
I know you’ve probably heard a ton about the Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) as far as what will and won’t work. Check out the WHO’s myth busters section for some great advice for the public.
What about masks?
We have been asked so much about masks. Should you wear one or not wear one? The CDC doesn’t recommend the routine use of respirators (or masks) outside of workplace settings (in the community).
“Most often, spread of respiratory viruses from person-to-person happens among close contacts (within 6 feet). CDC recommends everyday preventive actions to prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, such as avoiding people who are sick, avoiding touching your eyes or nose, and covering your cough or sneeze with a tissue. People who are sick should stay home and not go into crowded public places or visit people in hospitals. Workers who are sick should follow CDC guidelines and stay home when they are sick.”
So, what can we do to prepare?
Preparation is good advice in general for any new and emerging infectious disease, and not just dealing with the novel coronavirus. Preparation and thinking around the status of coronavirus could be divided into three categories:
Preparation Right Now
Based on the current status, the following suggestions can be universally applied at relatively low cost. They could prevent problems down the road should an outbreak occur.
- Gather medical supplies and prescriptions that you might need in advance. Children with chronic medical conditions should have enough supplies to last a few weeks in case local spread develops rapidly, and doctors or pharmacies are overwhelmed. Parents of children with chronic respiratory conditions such as asthma should especially consider this option.
- Having some non-perishable food on hand to minimize trips outside is something relatively easy to do. At the same time, we wait to see what develops.
- Reinforce with your children hand-washing, cough and sneeze hygiene and continue to develop good habits of staying home while sick.
- Healthcare workers should discuss with their institution the efforts that are taking place to protect them from spread should their medical center have cases.
What to do in case of a community spread of the novel coronavirus
If one of the local populations of COVID-19 infections includes your area, some other things might help or be asked of you:
- Schools, churches, employers and other places where people gather in large numbers should have preparation for allowing individuals who can have the ability to work from home. If the virus is spreading throughout a community, minimizing contact between community members may be a strategy employed.
- Reach out to your health care providers if you think you or your child might have COVID-19 so that they can guide you to the right place and prepare for your visit. In the case of local spread, a non-essential visit to health care facilities may be postponed, so call ahead.
- Use common sense when evaluating claims of products on the market for treatment or prevention of disease. Unfortunately, many will use this vulnerable time to take advantage of scared members of their community.
- The local public health departments (Tarrant County for us) will be the ultimate source of the best information regarding the spread of the virus and recommendations regarding novel coronavirus.
What to do in case of a widespread outbreak of the novel coronavirus
Should the number of cases expand rapidly or broadly, further precautions will be undertaken. Remember, this is felt to be an unlikely scenario for the United States.
- Minimize contact with others whenever possible to help avoid the spread of the virus.
- Follow the CDC guidance for infection precautions and treatment. In the case of a widespread outbreak, they would be working with local health departments and healthcare facilities to address coronavirus.
I hope this helps ease your mind. We will continue to update you as needed and also provide the latest information from our friends at Tarrant County Public Health.