What Parents Need to Know About the Coronavirus
Parents are justifiably concerned as the coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world. Since the outbreak began in China in December 2019, more than 90,000 people have been infected and there have been over 3000 deaths. Seventy-six countries and territories have confirmed cases of the virus.
In Australia thirty-three people have tested positive and there has been one death so far. While the risk here is relatively low, complacency is not an option. Many are wondering what they can do to protect children and minimise exposure.
Here’s what you need to know.
What’s Different About this Virus?
Coronaviruses are actually very common and most cause only mild symptoms. Occasionally a virus crosses from animals to humans, and these rogue coronaviruses tend to be more severe, as seen in the 2003 SARS epidemic and the MERS virus in 2012. The current virus known as COVID-19 is thought to have spread from a seafood and animal market in Wuhan.
Unlike milder viruses, this one has caused a large number of deaths. Experts are still unsure how it spreads or how contagious it is, which adds to the uncertainty and fear around the illness. While older adults and those with existing health conditions are more likely to experience serious complications, it has the potential to make many people very sick.
Should Parents be Concerned?
It’s only natural to worry, but the good news is that there have been few cases of children being infected. A report published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in February found that the virus is more likely to affect those aged from 49 to 56 years old. Children who contracted the virus have experienced much milder symptoms than adults.
What Should I Do?
Doctors advise parents to protect children in the same way they would from any contagious illness. Hygiene is essential and children should be encouraged to wash their hands for twenty seconds with soap and water before they eat, after using the bathroom and when they’ve been in public places.
It’s wise to encourage guests to your home to wash their hands when they enter. Make sure kids have hand sanitiser for times when there’s no sink available and tissues in their school bag.
Advise children to move away from people who are coughing or sneezing. The current view is that the virus can’t travel more than a couple of metres through respiratory secretions, but it can survive on surfaces. Teach kids to avoid touching surfaces in public as much as possible, and to keep hands away from their eyes, nose and mouth.
If there is an outbreak in your city or town, experts recommend ‘social distancing.’ This means staying home as much as possible. In Japan the government has closed all schools to contain the virus. At least two schools have closed in the United States and there are preparations underway for widespread closures in the UK if the virus continues to spread.
Australia could also experience disruptions and students may be required to stay home. Even if schools don’t close, some parents may be reluctant to send kids to class if more cases are being reported. Thanks to technology, students can keep up to date with schoolwork online, but this can’t completely make up for hours of lost instruction. Tutor Doctor offers online tutoring sessions to help students stay on top of their work from the comfort and safety of home.
Any Final Advice?
It’s important to stay informed by listening to announcements from the Department of Health and following advice from public health officials in your area. Seek medical advice but don’t panic if someone in your family develops symptoms. It’s much more likely to be a cold or the flu. If your family isn’t vaccinated for the flu, consider getting this done, as influenza can be very dangerous too.
The best way to maintain a healthy immune system is to avoid stress and enjoy a healthy lifestyle so make sure your child continues to eat well, exercise and get enough sleep.