Novel Coronavirus

FAQs, tips, and myths debunked about the new virus

Diana Chai
mother helps girl child wash her hands
07 February 2020

The new strain of Coronavirus has got worldwide attention and concern is understandable. In Malaysia, we've seen masks and sanitisers being sold out almost everywhere and an abundance of questionable information shared on social media. However, whilst the virus is contagious and has the potential to spread quickly; there are things you can do to protect yourself.


Practical tips


  • Wash your hands frequently using soap and water, or with an alcohol-based hand rub;
  • Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing. Where possible, wear a mask if you are unwell and out in public places;
  • Don't get too close to anyone who has a fever and cough;
  • Go to a doctor if you or someone you love has fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Be sure to let your doctor know if and where you have traveled recently;
  • Don't touch live animals and surfaces in that have come in contact with animals when at the market. If you must, wear gloves, and make sure to wash your hands after handling them. Do not touch your face with unclean hands.


Frequently asked questions


Q: What is a coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can be found in both animals and humans. The types that can make people ill range from the common cold to more severe diseases such as Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).


Q: What is a 'novel' coronavirus?

A novel coronavirus is one that has not previously been found in humans. The new, or “novel” coronavirus, now called 2019-nCoV, was first reported in the outbreak in Wuhan, China, December 2019.


Q: How dangerous is this virus?

The novel coronavirus, like many other flu-like illnesses, can range from mild symptoms to serious. In rare cases, the disease can be fatal. Older people, or those with pre-existing medical conditions are more at risk to be seriously ill. 


Q: Can this novel coronavirus affect children?

Anyone of any age can be infected with coronavirus. However, as 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 children infected by the virus is much lower than expected, considering the total number of reported cases. This does not mean children are less at risk - it means more information is needed. 


Q: How does this virus spread?

The new coronavirus is a respiratory virus which spreads mainly through contact with an infected person through respiratory droplets, for example, when the person coughs or sneezes, or through droplets of saliva or discharge from the nose.

It is important that everyone practice good respiratory hygiene. For example, sneeze or cough into a flexed elbow, or use a tissue and discard it immediately into a closed bin.  It is also very important for people to wash their hands regularly with either alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.

UNICEF supplies next to plane at airport

Q: Can I catch the virus from someone with no symptoms?

According to recent reports, it may be possible that people infected with the new coronavirus may be infectious before showing significant symptoms. However, based on currently available data, the people who have symptoms are causing the majority of virus spread. 


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

From current understanding of the virus, it is spread through respiratory droplets. This means, it is unlikely to be transmitted by breastmilk.

However, a mother can infect her child through droplets while feeding. Because of this, mothers in affected areas and those who are unwell need to go to a doctor as soon as possible and practice good respiratory hygiene (wear a mask if available when around her child).  


Q: What is UNICEF doing to help China? 

A UNICEF shipment of respiratory masks and protective suits for health workers landed in Shanghai, China, on January 29 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 to respond to needs in China and other affected countries.

Have more questions? Read WHO's full FAQ on the virus online


Coronavirus myths debunked!

coronavirus myths debunked