Novel coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak: What you should know

How to protect yourself and your children.

UNICEF/2019/Arimacs Wilander

COVID-19 – otherwise known as novel coronavirus – has been dominating the headlines recently. While it is spreading quickly across parts of Asia and beyond, there are simple precautions you can make to reduce the risk of infection and transmission.   

What is the novel coronavirus? 

The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold. 

How is the novel coronavirus spread? 

The virus is transmitted through direct contact, respiratory droplets like coughing and sneezing, and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. It is not yet known how long the virus survives on surfaces, but simple disinfectants can kill it. 

What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus? 

Symptoms can include:






Shortness of breath

Shortness of breath

In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. 

How can I avoid the risk of infection? 

Here are five precautions you and your family can take to avoid infection:


Should I wear a medical mask? 

While wearing a medical mask can help in limiting the spread of some diseases including the 2019-nCoV, it alone will not stop infection. Washing hands and avoiding contact with potentially infected individuals is the best way to reduce the risk of infection. 

“This coronavirus is spreading at a breakneck speed and it is important to put all the necessary resources into halting it. We may not know enough about the virus’s impact on children or how many may be affected – but we do know that close monitoring and prevention are key. Time is not on our side.” 

Henrietta Fore - UNICEF Executive Director

Does the novel coronavirus affect children? 

This is a new virus and we do not know enough yet about how it affects children or pregnant women. 

The officially reported number of cases among children is much lower than we would expect, considering the total number of reported cases. As of 05 February 2020, there have been no WHO reports of infection among pregnant women. While this could be because they are less susceptible to infection, it may also be due to under-reporting. This is why close monitoring is key and health workers must keep a high degree of clinical suspicion, so they can test for potential 2019-nCoV in children and pregnant women to be able to detect them. 

What should I do if a family member displays symptoms? 

You should seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Tell your health care provider if you have traveled to an area where the novel coronavirus has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has traveled from one of these areas and has respiratory symptoms. 

Can pregnant women pass the 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 herself from exposure to the virus, and seek medical care early, if experiencing symptoms consistent with 2019-nCoV infection, such as fever, cough, difficulty breathing. 

Is it safe for mother to breastfeed if they are infected or suspect being infected? 

All mothers in affected and at-risk areas with 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 could continue breastfeeding. 

However, precautions should be taken as there is a risk of transmission from mother to infant through respiratory droplets and direct contact, as well as indirectly through contaminated surfaces. Wear a mask when feeding a child, wash hands before and after feedings, and clean/disinfect contaminated surfaces. 

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. 


Some schools were closed because of the outbreak. What do you think of this decision? 

We cannot speak to the epidemiological implications of such decisions. It is critical that whatever impact such a decision might have on children’s access to essential services be minimized. If schools have to be closed, Governments may consider options to minimize the impact on education including through adjusting their school calendar or use alternative education delivery methods, such as internet, radio or television in support of home schooling. It is equally important to use all possible means to promote people’s awareness about how to prevent the virus from spreading further. 

What is UNICEF doing to help? 

A UNICEF shipment of respiratory masks and protective suits for health workers landed in Shanghai, China, on 29 January to support China’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. UNICEF will be sending more items in the coming days and weeks. 

UNICEF is in close contact with the Chinese authorities, including the Ministry of Commerce and the National Health Commission, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other UN agencies to monitor developments and needs as the situation further unfolds. UNICEF will also work with WHO and partners for a coordinated response in China and other affected countries, as well as to enhance preparedness in at-risk countries. 


Is there any case of corona virus infection in Indonesia?

No corona virus cases detected in Indonesia so far.

Where can I get updated information and educational material about novel coronavirus?