Everything a parent needs to know about Coronavirus

News around Coronavirus (or COVID-19) has taken the world by storm, and you may be wondering whether you should start panicking or stay calm. Essentially, the world has never seen this particular Coronavirus, so scientists and researchers everywhere are scrambling to learn more about it and possible treatments and prevention strategies.

Dr Elisa Song, a Holistic Paediatrician and mum, uncovered the facts so that we can calmly prepare for a COVID-19 pandemic if it occurs. She’s on a mission to fight fear with facts, and provide anxious parents with up-to-date evidence-based information. Here is a summary of Dr. Song’s findings:

What is COVID-19?

First reported in Wuhan, China in December last year started as an outbreak, and has since become an epidemic (meaning that it spreads rapidly to many people), and may be set to become a pandemic (which is an epidemic of global proportions).

Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause mild illness like the common cold, or more severe illness like we’ve seen previously with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) or MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome), and now COVID-19.

How many people actually have COVID-19?

The number of cases and deaths are increasing every day. The World Health Organisation (WHO) updates their situation report every 24 hours with a map of the distribution of cases here. As of 4 March 2020 there are 91,800 confirmed cases globally, with the majority of those still in China. We have 41 confirmed cases in Australia (39 of those had travelled to high-risk countries).

How is COVID-19 transmitted?

Transmission from human to human is mainly through respiratory droplets and close contact (within 1.8 metres of someone who is infected without any protective equipment), similar to how the flu is spread. Investigation is underway to determine how long the virus can survive on various surfaces.

The incubation period is thought to be 2-14 days, and patients are thought to be most contagious when symptomatic. However, a woman without symptoms recently infected five people, and may have had an incubation period of 19 days.

What are the symptoms of COVID-19?

The majority of infected people appear to have mild infections, with cold-like symptoms and fever. Reported symptoms include:

  • Fever (which may not be present in the very young or very old, or immunocompromised)
  • Uncomplicated upper respiratory symptoms: cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, malaise, headache, muscle aches
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Mild pneumonia
  • Acute respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
  • Sepsis and Septic shock
  • Death

What is the COVID-19 mortality rate?

For children, there have been NO reported deaths between 0-9 years of age. In fact, children seem less vulnerable to infection and appear to have milder symptoms than adults.

Pregnant women also do not appear to be at greater risk of complications.

Of the confirmed cases in China about 3.5% have died, and outside China there have been 86 deaths out of the 6,009 cases. The risk of death increases with age, with being over 80 the highest risk factor. Death in those under 50 seems to be unlikely. Having a chronic pre-existing medical condition also significantly increases the risk of death.

Like the flu, the elderly and those with underlying chronic medical conditions are at greatest risk for serious complications and death from COVID-19. However, unlike the flu, children so far appear to be relatively protected.

Is airplane travel safe right now?

If you are planning international travel, keep informed with the Australian Government Department of Health Coronavirus (COVID-19) health alert. As of 5 March, 2020 the travel advice is:

Avoid all non-essential travel to China, Iran, South Korea, and Italy. Consider postponing travel to Japan for older adults or those with chronic underlying medical conditions. Travel with usual precautions when visiting Hong Kong.

Travel restrictions are in place for visitors from mainland China and Iran, who are not Australian citizens or permanent residents, or their dependents, and will not be allowed entry into Australia.

Whether you choose to cancel or delay travel plans outside of this advice is a personal decision.

How can you protect your family from COVID-19?

Protect your family using common sense measures as you would with any with any circulating virus. The only exception with COVID-19 is to avoid unnecessary contact with non-domesticated animals due to presumed animal-human transmission.

  • Wash your hands frequently (warm soap and water for 30 seconds is more effective than antibacterial gel)
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
  • Stay home when you’re sick
  • Cover your cough with your elbow or tissues
  • Keep your distance (try to stay at least 1.8 metres from anyone who is obviously sick with a fever or respiratory symptoms)
  • Irrigate your and your children’s nasal passages (using saline drops/spray at the end of every day. ***Dr Song states that other than hand washing, daily nasal irrigation is one of the MOST important things we can do to prevent influenza and other viral respiratory infections from taking hold)
  • Eat a colourful and varied diet
  • Stay well hydrated
  • Get fresh air, exercise, and adequate sleep (not always easy with a baby!)
  • Keep your immune system as strong as possible

What to do if you or your child gets sick…

If you or a family member do start to feel a fever or cough coming on – DON’T PANIC. It’s very likely the common cold, flu, or another common virus, and NOT COVID-19. Even if it is, remember that most people appear to have mild symptoms. There are currently no specific antiviral medications known to treat it. Treatment is supportive with rest, fluid, oxygen, and more intensive care if needed.

Finally, Dr Song advises: DO NOT rush to your GP or hospital to get tested at the first sign of fever or cough unless your health is declining or you need urgent medical care. Going to these places may inadvertently expose your family to other infections, or likewise, you may expose others to whatever illness you may have.


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