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Coronavirus: What parents should know

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses. People around the world commonly get infected with various strains of coronaviruses, often causing mild upper respiratory infections. Sometimes coronaviruses that infect animals can evolve and become a new human coronavirus strain. These can cause more severe illness. The current outbreak, which began in Wuhan, Hubei Province, China, is known as 2019-nCoV and has spread to several other countries, including the U.S.

Is my child at risk for coronavirus?

If your child has not recently traveled internationally, the risk of acquiring 2019-nCoV right now is low, says Dr. Jasjit Singh, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at CHOC Children’s.

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Dr. Jasjit Singh, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention and control at CHOC Children’s

“I have been reminding my patients that at this point in our community, influenza is a more immediate concern,” says Dr. Singh. “We are in the midst of influenza season, and thus far in the U.S., the CDC has reported 15 million cases of influenza, including 8,200 fatalities – 54 of which have been children. Therefore, a good way to avoid a severe respiratory illness is to get your influenza vaccine.”

How can I prevent infection?

There is no vaccine for 2019-nCoV. The best way to prevent infection is to avoid exposure in the first place. As of Jan. 27, 2020, The CDC has recommended that people avoid all nonessential travel to China.

The Centers for Disease Control offers the following tips for preventing the spread of any respiratory virus:

  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, and then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Frequently clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces.

Public health officials are still working to identify the source of the 2019-nCoV outbreak. Many of the earliest patients infected had links to a large seafood and animal market, suggesting animal-to-person spread. However, recent patients have not had exposure to animal markets, suggesting person-to-person spread is occurring. This can happen via respiratory droplets spread when someone with coronavirus coughs or sneezes.

What are symptoms of coronavirus?

Reported illnesses have ranged from people showing little to no symptoms, to severe illness and death. Symptoms of coronavirus can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. Symptoms can appear in as few as two days after exposure, to as many as 14 days after exposure.

Currently, diagnostic testing for 2019-nCoV can only be done at the CDC.

What should I do if I suspect I have coronavirus?

Anyone who has been in the Wuhan City area of China in the last two weeks and develops fever and symptoms of lower respiratory illness such as cough or shortness of breath, is encouraged to call their doctor for guidance before coming in to be seen.

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