Coronavirus disease (COVID-19): What parents should know

How to protect yourself and your children.

UNICEF
UNICEF/UN0157971/Helin

What is the new coronavirus?

Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) 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 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 COVID-19 survives on surfaces, but simple disinfectants can kill it.


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. 


How can I avoid the risk of infection?

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

  1. Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub 
  2. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  3. Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms
  4. Go to the doctor if you have a fever, cough or feel that it is difficult to breathe
  5. Avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.


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).


Does coronavirus affect children?

This is a new virus and we do not know enough yet about how it affects children or pregnant women. We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there have been no reported fatalities of children linked to COVID-19. The virus is fatal in rare cases, so far mainly among older people with pre-existing medical conditions.


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 COVID-19 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 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, such as fever, cough or difficulty breathing.


Is it safe for a mother to breastfeed if she is infected with coronavirus?

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.

 
UNICEF/UNI281226/Hildelbrandt

What is UNICEF doing to help? 

UNICEF’s current response focuses on supporting the Government of China and the broader East Asia and Pacific region countries where most of the cases have so far been reported. Since 29 January, UNICEF has flown in 13 tons of supplies, including protective suits, masks, goggles and gloves for use by health workers. Additional shipments are in the pipeline and UNICEF is pre-positioning supplies in key locations.

Given the unpredictable nature of the virus and the continued spread, UNICEF is also liaising with governments, World Health Organization counterparts and other partners in developing contingency plans in other regions, especially in countries with weaker health systems and limited capacity to deal with major disease outbreaks.

On 17 February, UNICEF appealed for US$42.3 million to scale up support for efforts to contain the COVID-19 virus outbreak. The preliminary funds will support UNICEF’s work to reduce the transmission of the virus including by strengthening risk communication and tackling misinformation so that children, pregnant women and their families know how to prevent COVID-19 spread and where to seek assistance.

Read more about the appeal

 


For more information on COVID-19 see the WHO website