In light of the new coronavirus (COVID-19), we would like to share some information about the outbreak, prevention, and management.
What is a Coronavirus?
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new coronavirus called SARS-CoV-2. The virus was first detected in a live animal market in China and now present worldwide. It is believed to spread mainly from person to person contact, either by close proximity or through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It may also spread from contact with contaminated surfaces or objects exposed to the virus. Learn about Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) (CDC)
While the outbreak is a serious public health concern, most people who contract the virus do not become seriously ill and only a small percentage require intensive care. The elderly and those with existing health conditions, such heart or lung disease, are at higher risk of developing severe symptoms. At this time, there is no evidence that children are more susceptible to COVID-19. In fact, most confirmed cases have occurred in adults.
How is the novel coronavirus, COVID-19 different from other coronaviruses?
Just like there are different types of related viruses that cause smallpox, chickenpox, and monkeypox, different coronaviruses cause different diseases in people. The Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) coronavirus causes SARS and the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) coronavirus causes MERS. The novel coronavirus, COVID-19 is one of seven types of known human coronaviruses. COVID-19, like the MERS and SARS coronaviruses, likely evolved from a virus previously found in animals. The remaining known coronaviruses cause a significant percentage of colds in adults and children, and these are not a serious threat for otherwise healthy adults.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared COVID-19 a pandemic. What does that mean for me?
An Epidemic is a sudden increase in the number of cases of a disease—more than what’s typically expected for the population in that area. A Pandemic is an epidemic that has spread over several countries or continents, affecting a large number of people.
Per Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO director-general, “Pandemic is not a word to use lightly or carelessly. It is a word that, if misused, can cause unreasonable fear, or unjustified acceptance that the fight is over, leading to unnecessary suffering and death. Describing the situation as a pandemic does not change WHO’s assessment of the threat posed by this coronavirus. It doesn’t change what WHO is doing, and it doesn’t change what countries should do.”
It is important to remember this is an evolving situation, and guidance will change. Symptoms of COVID-19 are mild to moderate for 80% of people infected. Avoiding social situations that may expose you, staying home when sick, and handwashing remain the best defense.
What are the signs and symptoms of COVID-19 infection?
The most common symptoms of COVID-19 are:
- Dry cough
- Shortness of breath (difficulty breathing)
These symptoms may appear 2-14 days after exposure. Read more about COVID-19 symptoms here.
What should I do if I think my child has been exposed to or infected with COVID-19?
If you or any family members are experiencing these symptoms and suspect infection, please notify us and your local healthcare provider to direct you to the correct health facility and receive testing for COVID-19. By calling in advance, you will allow these facilities to operate more effectively and help protect you and others from COVID-19 and other viruses.
What should I do if my child is immunocompromised or asymptomatic?
COVID-19 is spreading throughout the United States and it is important for parents and caregivers of immunocompromised children and adolescents to be diligent about precautions and make some preparations.
Children who do not have symptoms, including those who are immunocompromised or taking medications that impact the immune system, should continue to attend school unless otherwise directed by your healthcare provider, education program, or governmental agency. There is no indication that they are at greater risk for infection than the general population. Children should engage in usual preventive measures to avoid exposure including frequent hand washing and staying up to date on vaccinations, including influenza.
What are we recommending you do for you and your family?
We strongly urge you to follow CDC guidelines to prevent illness from COVID-19 and other respiratory diseases:
- Wash your hands often and thoroughly by scrubbing with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, mouth, and food with unwashed hands
- Maintain distance (at least 3 feet) with people who are sick, coughing, or sneezing
- Limit non-essential travel; avoid crowded, public places and large gatherings
- Practice respiratory hygiene by covering your sneeze and cough with your arm or into a tissue
- Stay at home if you are sick, even with mild symptoms until you recover
- Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces (doorknobs and countertops) daily
It is not recommended to use a facemask unless you are sick and symptomatic. You may even increase your risk to exposure if you wear a facemask improperly.
In addition, we recommend the following preparedness tasks and tips:
- Refill prescription medications by mail if possible (30-day supply on hand)
- Check that medical equipment is in working condition
- Ensure you have enough medical supplies, basic household items, and groceries
- Stay informed on the latest developments
- Follow advice given by your healthcare provider and public health authorities
How to prepare for the possibility of school or childcare closings
If there is a COVID-19 outbreak in your community, local public health officials may decide to temporarily close schools and childcare centers to help slow the spread of the virus. Schools also may decide to dismiss students early if there are too many students or staff absent. Many schools use email to update families. Be sure your child’s school knows how to get in touch with you.
Working parents can be prepared by having alternative childcare plans or talking with their employers about work from home options during school closings. If your child attends a college or university, encourage them to learn about the school’s plan for a COVID-19 outbreak.
If your children need to stay at home due to the outbreak, try to keep their days as routine and scheduled as possible. Here are a few tips that can help:
- Read books with your child. It’s not only fun, but reading together strengthens your bond with your child AND helps their development.
- Make time for active play. Bring out the blocks, balls, jump ropes and buckets and let the creativity go. Play games that kids of all ages can play, like tag or duck duck goose. Let your kids make up new games. Encourage older kids to make up a workout or dance to keep them moving.
- Keep an eye on media time. Whenever possible, play video games or go online with your child to keep that time structured and limited. If kids are missing their school friends or other family, try video chats to stay in touch.
This information has been taken from The American Academy for Pediatrics.
Talking to children about COVID-19
There’s a lot of news coverage about the outbreak of COVID-19 and it can be overwhelming for parents and frightening to kids. The American Academy of Pediatrics encourages parents and others who work closely with children to filter information and talk about it in a way that their child can understand. These tips can help:
- Simple reassurance. Remind children that researchers and doctors are learning as much as they can, as quickly as they can, about the virus and are taking steps to keep everyone safe.
- Give them control. It’s also a great time to remind your children of what they can do to help – washing their hands often, coughing into a tissue or their sleeves, and getting enough sleep.
- Watch for signs of anxiety. Children may not have the words to express their worry, but you may see signs of it. They may get cranky, be more clingy, have trouble sleeping, or seem distracted. Keep the reassurance going and try to stick to your normal routines.
- Monitor their media. Keep young children away from frightening images they may see on TV, social media, computers, etc. For older children, talk together about what they are hearing on the news and correct any misinformation or rumors you may hear.
- Be a good role model. COVID-19 doesn’t discriminate and neither should we. While COVID-19 started in Wuhan, China, it doesn’t mean that having Asian ancestry – or any other ancestry – makes someone more susceptible to the virus or more contagious. Stigma and discrimination hurt everyone by creating fear or anger towards others. When you show empathy and support to those who are ill, your children will too.
This information has been taken from The American Academy for Pediatrics.
A Note From Our Team
Our team here at the University of Florida and UF Health are taking the spread of this virus seriously and hope that you will too. Be diligent with all of the precautions outlined here and reach out to our neuromuscular clinic if you have any additional concerns.
We recommend that parents regularly seek information about what is happening with the virus – the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are both updating their websites daily with the most up-to-date information.