Updated: Apr 6
and other questions that your kids are probably wondering, but haven't asked...
Bridget Chapital, BS, MEd | February 13, 2020
For weeks now, you can’t turn on a TV without hearing reports about COVID-19, aka, the coronavirus. As scientists race to piece together the puzzle of how the disease started and how it can be stopped, it seems like there’s a new development almost every hour.*
To separate truth from rumor, I put together a few fast facts to help families talk to kids about COVID-19.
What is the coronavirus, and how did it start?
Coronavirus is a family of diseases that spread from animals to people. Just like the flu,it has been around for a very long time, and there are some versions that are more harmful to people than others. In the past, there have been coronavirus versions, like SARS and MERS, that have made people very sick.
In December of 2019, scientists and doctors noticed a new and deadly version of coronavirus that they think started in the food markets of Wuhan, a city in the Hubei province in China. Scientists have given the name COVID-19 to this newly discovered version of the coronavirus.
Under the microscope, this version looks a lot like a coronavirus that has been found in bats. But since bats are not sold in the food markets, scientists are still trying to figure out how the disease was able to spread from animals to humans.
Can I catch COVID-19 from playing with my Asian friends?
ABSOLUTELY NOT!! You can't catch the virus from any of your friends. There are only 15 people in the entire United States who have COVID-19. That's 15 people out of 331 million people living in the US. The sick people are all staying at hospitals and can't leave until they get better.
Everyone else that has traveled to the US from China since the disease was discovered is being quarantined, which means that they have to go straight from the airport to temporary housing and can't leave for at least 2 weeks until doctors make sure that they are not sick.
COVID-19 has spread to a total of 27 countries around the world because of people that left China in the last few weeks while they were already sick. But, most of the 60 thousand people who have COVID-19 are still in 1 country: China. Of the 15 people in the US that are sick, 13 of them just came back from China, and the other 2 are people that they came into contact with.
How can you tell if someone has COVID-19?
The symptoms of COVID-19 appear very much like the symptoms of a bad cold or the flu. People might get a fever and feel very tired. They may cough, sneeze and have a sore throat, and some people get diarrhea.
But, some sick people have few or no symptoms at all and look just like normal. This is why it is very important for those who have been in contact with people with COVID-19 to stay away from others and to be checked very closely until doctors are sure that they didn't catch it.
How is COVID-19 spreading so fast?
There are certain features that a deadly disease has to have in order to do widespread damage. The good thing is that scientists can use these features against a disease to try to figure out how to slow it down or stop it.
1) It has to be able to make many copies of itself inside a sick person without being noticed.
With some diseases, sick people can pass it to others only when the person who has it starts to feel and look sick. This is a big clue for health workers, because it gives them time to get the sick person to the hospital and away from other people so they won’t spread the disease.
2) It has to be easy to spread from one person to lots of others.
There are some diseases that can be spread just by breathing in the germs of a sick person who is near you, while there are other diseases that can only be spread by close direct contact with a sick person’s body fluids.
COVID-19 spreads very easily through the water droplets that sick people cough or sneeze into the air and onto other people. Plus, scientists now believe that it can spread to other people while the infected person still feels well enough to go to work, home or school.
How can I avoid catching COVID-19? Should I stop using products from China and stop eating Chinese food?
The best way to avoid catching COVID-19 is to stay away from people who have it. Since all of the people who have come from China to the US since the disease was discovered are being kept away from others, there is virtually no way that you are going to get it.
People in the US are much more likely to get the cold or flu virus, but the same steps that you would take to stop the spread of cold and flu also work to stop the spread of COVID-19. These are covering your coughs and sneezes, washing your hands a lot and being careful not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth after touching things (like doorknobs) that get touched by a lot of other people.
Regularly cleaning surfaces with disinfectant sprays and wipes can also kill the cold, flu and COVID-19.
COVID-19 has not been found in the US food supply, so you can’t catch it from eating at a Chinese restaurant (or any other restaurant).
Scientists don’t believe that the virus can live long enough on surfaces to make it through the shipping process from China.
What is the cure for COVID-19?
Right now there is no cure for COVID-19. Doctors are taking care of sick people by giving them treatments to help with their uncomfortable symptoms as they wait to get better.
Scientists in China are starting medical experiments in people (called clinical trials) of a medicine called remdesivir. This treatment has worked before in treating similar diseases, and scientists want to know if it will also work on people with COVID-19.
There is no vaccine to keep healthy people from catching COVID-19.
If you have more questions about COVID-19 (or other diseases), mail them to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*This is a developing topic. Post information current as of 4pm CT on 2/13/20