Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know
How to protect yourself and your children.
What is a ‘novel’ coronavirus?
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) – ‘CO’ stands for corona, ‘VI’ for virus, and ‘D’ for disease. Formerly, this disease was referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ or ‘2019-nCoV.’
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. What does that mean?
Characterizing COVID-19 as a pandemic is not an indication that the virus has become deadlier. Rather, it’s an acknowledgement of the disease’s geographical spread.
UNICEF has been preparing and responding to the epidemic of COVID-19 around the world, knowing that the virus could spread to children and families in any country or community. UNICEF will continue working with governments and our partners to stop transmission of the virus, and to keep children and their families safe.
There’s a lot of information online. What should I do?
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. This explainer contains information and recommendations on how to reduce the risk of infection, whether you should take your child out of school, whether it’s safe for women to breastfeed, and precautions to take when traveling. 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.
How does the COVID-19 virus spread?
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated 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.
What are the 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). Also, there is a vaccine for the flu – so remember to keep yourself and your child up to date with vaccinations.
How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?
- 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?
Step 1: Wet hands with running water
Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
Step 3: Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with running water
Step 5: 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.
Should I wear 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).
What should I do if my 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.
As with other respiratory infections like the flu, seek care early if you or your child are having symptoms, and try to avoid going to public places (workplace, schools, public transport), to prevent it spreading to others.
What is UNICEF doing to help?
UNICEF is working with the World Health Organization, governments and partners to equip children, pregnant women and their families with the information they need to know on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. This includes the development of online training modules for health workers, and FAQs and guidance for parents, pregnant women and children.
As of 27 March, UNICEF had shipped more than 4.27 million gloves, 573,300 surgical masks, almost 100,000 N95 respirators, among other supplies, in support of countries as they respond to the pandemic.
In the Eastern Caribbean Area, UNICEF and partners are reaching the populations in the 12 countries covered by the Office with prevention messages mainly around handwashing, measures to maintain safety and psychosocial issues; and providing support across the educational; child protection and social protection systems.