Q&A: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)

What you need to know to protect you and your family

washing hands
UNICEF/Sari Omer
24 March 2020

A new virus is spreading across the globe. You are probably wondering, “Should I be worried about my children getting sick?” To help guide you through a confusing situation, UNICEF Sudan gives answers to your questions and important information to help protect you and your family. 


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.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.

How is COVID-19 spread?

Through close contact and through respiratory droplets. Close contact is defined as one to two metres, that is the distance at which droplets from a cough or sneeze are close enough to enter someone else's mouth, nose or eyes. 

Is the COVID-19 airborne? 

No. COVID-19 transmits via droplets, small little particles of liquid. These particles come out of your mouth and they drop. So beyond 1 or 2 meters it cannot be transmitted. 

What are the symptoms of COVID-19? 

This is a respiratory virus, many people will experience a dry cough, fever, shortness of breath. Very few people have symptoms of a runny nose or sneezing based on observing 70,000 cases in China by the World Health Organization (WHO).

Is COVID-19 fatal?

The vast majority of people who have contracted the new coronavirus to date have recovered or are recovering. According to WHO, 80% of people who are infected will experience mild disease and will recover. However, 20% will go on to experience severe disease and will require care in a hospital. Among that group many of those who have experienced severe disease will also recover based on observations in China. Risk factors for severe disease are people over 60, healthcare workers and those with underlying medical conditions such as cardiovascular disease, chronic respiratory disease or diabetes.

Can children get COVID-19? 

Yes. However, there have been relatively few infections among children and adolescents. In China, they reported a very low 2% infection rate, which is a much lower infection rate than in influenza. 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.

How can I protect my child from COVID-19 infection?

You can encourage your child to help stop the spread of COVID-19 by teaching them to do the same things everyone should do to stay healthy.

  • Clean hands often using soap and water or alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid people who are sick (coughing and sneezing).
  • Clean and disinfect high-touch surfaces daily in household common areas (e.g. tables, hard-backed chairs, doorknobs, light switches, remotes, handles, desks, toilets, sinks).
  • Launder items including washable fabric toys as appropriate. If possible, launder items using the warmest appropriate water setting for the items and dry items completely. Dirty laundry from an ill person can be washed with other people’s items.

Are the symptoms of COVID-19 different in children than in adults?

No. The symptoms of COVID-19 are similar in children and adults. However, children with confirmed COVID-19 have generally presented with mild symptoms. Reported symptoms in children include cold-like symptoms, such as fever, runny nose, and cough. Vomiting and diarrhea have also been reported. It’s not known yet whether some children may be at higher risk for severe illness, for example, children with underlying medical conditions and special healthcare needs. There is much more to be learned about how the disease impacts children.

Should children wear masks?

No. If your child is healthy, there is no need for them to wear a face mask. Only people who have symptoms of illness or who are providing care to those who are ill should wear masks.

Should I wear a medical mask? 

The use of a medical mask is ONLY advised if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) to protect others. WHO recommends that you wear a mask if you are sick so that you can protect other people. If you don’t have any symptoms, 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. If you are coughing and sneezing into your mask and it gets wet, you need to replace it. And when you take it off, do not touch the front of your mask. Take your mask off from the sides, discard it in a covered bin, wash your hands, and then put another mask on.

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 I think either myself of a family member has COVID-19?

People who are mildly ill with COVID-19 are advised to isolate at home during their illness. You should restrict activities outside your home, except for getting medical care. Do not go to work, school, or public areas. Avoid using public transportation, ride-sharing, or taxis.

If you are ill you should wear a face mask when you are around other people (e.g., sharing a room or vehicle) or pets and before you enter a healthcare provider’s office. If you are not able to wear a face mask (for example, because it causes trouble breathing), then people who live with you should not stay in the same room with you, or they should wear a face mask if they enter your room.

Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw used tissues in a lined trash can. Immediately wash your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or, if soap and water are not available, clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.

Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; going to the bathroom; and before eating or preparing food. If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol, covering all surfaces of your hands and rubbing them together until they feel dry.

Avoid sharing personal household items. You should not share dishes, drinking glasses, cups, eating utensils, towels, or bedding with other people or pets in your home. After using these items, they should be washed thoroughly with soap and water.

Seek prompt medical attention if your illness is worsening (e.g., difficulty breathing). Before seeking care, call your healthcare provider and tell them that you have, or  suspect you have COVID-19. Put on a face mask before you enter the facility. These steps will help the healthcare provider’s office to keep other people in the office or waiting room from getting infected or exposed. 

What is UNICEF doing?

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 Sudan will continue working with the government of Sudan and our partners to stop transmission of the virus, and to keep children and their families safe.

Where can I get more information about COVID-19?