700 Children's Blog

What Parents Need to Know About COVID-19

Jan 24, 2020
Woman wearing a face mask

A new virus causing COVID-19, previously known as 2019-nCoV, has been making headlines around the world. Cases of COVID-19 have been concentrated in China, but have also been reported in other countries around the world. The United States announced its first confirmed case on Jan. 21, 2020, in a traveler returning to Spokane, Washington, from Wuhan, China, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The number of cases continues to increase globally, but few have been confirmed in the United States. As of February 13, 2020, no cases have been reported in Ohio.

But what is it, exactly? And should you be worried?

What Are Coronaviruses?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. Several known coronaviruses infect people and usually only cause mild respiratory disease, such as the common cold. However, at least two previously identified coronaviruses have caused severe disease — Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS-CoV) coronavirus and Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-Cov) coronavirus.

How Are New Coronaviruses Transmitted?

Some coronaviruses can cause illness in people and others circulate among animals. Rarely, viruses that infect animals can mutate to infect people. This is suspected to have occurred with the virus causing COVID-19. Initially, the virus was linked to a large seafood and animal market in Wuhan, China, suggesting animal-to-human transmission.

Now, the virus is being transmitted person-to-person via respiratory secretions. It is suspected that the virus can also be transmitted via surfaces – that is, by touching a doorknob or other surface that an infected person has touched or sneezed on then touching your face. At this time, COVID-19 is not spreading within communities in the US.

What Are the Symptoms of COVID-19?

Symptoms of infection include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. The severity of symptoms from COVID-19 range from mild to severe. In some cases, severe illness has resulted in death.

What Should a Person Experiencing Symptoms Do?

If you have been in an area affected by COVID-19 or in close contact with someone who is infected in the last two weeks and show symptoms of fever, cough or difficulty breathing, you should:

  • Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms. 
  • Avoid contact with others.
  • Not travel while sick.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.

How Can You Prevent COVID-19?

The best way to prevent infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. There is currently no vaccine for the COVID-19 virus. The CDC recommends that people avoid all non-essential travel to China.

We are currently in peak cold and flu season. Everyday preventive actions can help prevent the spread of respiratory viruses, including the flu and novel coronavirus.

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, and use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid touching your face 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.

How Dangerous Is the COVID-19 Virus?

There’s still a lot that is unknown about this virus. The CDC and the World Health Organization are monitoring the situation closely.

You can find regular updates about the latest travel warnings and health-related information here: www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html

Featured Expert

Nationwide Children's Hospital Medical Professional
Matthew Washam, MD, MPH
Infectious Diseases

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Pediatric News You Can Use From America’s Largest Pediatric Hospital and Research Center

700 Children’s features the most current pediatric health care information and research from our pediatric experts – physicians and specialists who have seen it all. Many of them are parents and bring a special understanding to what our patients and families experience. If you have a child – or care for a child – 700 Children’s was created especially for you.