What is the 2019 novel coronavirus, or COVID-19?
Coronavirus is the name of a large family of viruses. Some cause infection specifically in humans while others cause infection in animals. There are many types of human coronaviruses, including some that cause the common cold. Rarely, animal coronaviruses may develop the ability to also infect humans.
COVID-19 is a disease caused by a new (novel) coronavirus that has not previously been seen in humans and is thought to have originated from an animal coronavirus in Wuhan, China. The name of this disease was chosen by the World Health Organization and stands for Coronavirus Disease 2019. Currently, COVID-19 is the cause of a contagious respiratory infection in humans that has been spreading across the world. It is NOT the same thing as MERS or SARS-CoV, two other coronavirus diseases that originated from animals and then spread to people.
More information on the origin of COVID-19 can be found here.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19 infection?
Reported illness in confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world range from mild symptoms for the majority of those affected, to severe respiratory illness and death. The following symptoms may be found 2-14 days after exposure and appear flu-like: Fever, cough, sore throat, shortness of breath, body aches, and/or fatigue. Nasal congestion, nausea/vomiting, and diarrhea occur in only a minority of patients along with other symptoms of the virus.
More information on symptoms of COVID-19 can be found here.
How is COVID-19 spread?
COVID-19 is spread person to person and can be transmitted through respiratory droplets containing virus that travel 3 to 6 feet before landing. Infection can be spread if respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes land in the eyes, nose, or mouth of people nearby, or if they are inhaled into the lungs. Respiratory droplet transmission is also how influenza (flu) and many other respiratory viruses spread. COVID-19 can also be spread by contact with a contaminated surface or other objects, and touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
More information on how COVID-19 is spread can be found here.
Who is at higher risk of serious illness with COVID-19?
Based on numerous published studies from China, Italy, and the United States in the past 7 weeks, children continue to show that they are the least likely age group to experience severe illness. Intensive care hospitalizations and deaths have been the exception, not the rule, for children. However, certain groups are considered at higher risk of serious disease, including older adults and those with chronic medical conditions like diabetes, immunocompromised status, heart disease, chronic lung disease, and kidney disease.
How can I prevent from getting COVID-19 disease?
There is currently no vaccine or antiviral therapy proven to be effective against COVID-19, although vaccine development and clinical drug trials are in their earliest stages. The best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the virus. COVID-19 can be spread by those with asymptomatic infections as well as by those who are in the asymptomatic period of infection before symptoms develop. While most healthy children and adults under 40 years of age will be able to manage their illness at home, this is not true for everybody. For everyone’s safety at this time, we encourage staying home as much as possible and limiting in-person social activities and exposures, including playdates with those outside your household. Avoid unnecessary international travel as well as crowded public places. Practice “social distancing,” which means limiting close contact with others outside of your household and maintaining a physical distance of at least 6 feet from other people when outside the home.
In addition, these everyday preventive practices are recommended to help prevent the spread of respiratory diseases:
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then discard in the trash and wash hands. Or, cover your cough or sneeze with your elbow or shoulder instead of hand.
- Disinfect high-touch surfaces (e.g. phones, doorknobs, countertops, light switches, bathroom fixtures, etc.) using an EPA-certified cleaning product effective against COVID-19. More information on effective household disinfection recommendations can be found here.
- Wash hands frequently, and especially before touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. A 20-30 second soap and warm water scrub of all hand surfaces is recommended if you have surface grime or residue on hands. Otherwise, a hand sanitizer made with at least 60% alcohol is adequate. Apply enough product to allow a 20 second rub of all hand surfaces. Store all hand sanitizers out of reach of young children. More information on proper hand hygiene use can be found here.
Is it recommended to wear a facemask to protect against COVID-19?
The CDC does not recommend that people who are well wear a facemask to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses, including COVID-19. You should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends it. A facemask should be used by people who have COVID-19 and are showing symptoms, to protect others from the risk of getting infected. The use of facemasks also is crucial for health workers and other people who are taking care of someone infected with COVID-19 in close settings (at home or in a health care facility).
I’m concerned about how to prepare for a possible COVID-19 outbreak in my community.
The steps that public health officials in each city or state may vary widely depending on the level of COVID-19 cases in a region. While the timing and duration of a COVID-19 outbreak in your community may be unpredictable, there are things that you can do to help prepare yourself and your household. More information can be found here.
My child has a fever and cough and I’m concerned that they may have COVID-19.
In the case of COVID-19, there is no proven effective treatment or prophylaxis for household members currently available. There continues to be a relative test shortage for COVID-19, as well as prolonged turnaround time for results. As a result, during the time of community-wide spread of infection, we do not recommend routinely pursuing testing for COVID-19 infection for patients with mild symptoms. For individuals with symptoms of mild infection (fever, cough, sore throat without dehydration or shortness of breath), home management and isolation is advised. For those with more concerning symptoms (shortness of breath or labored breathing, chest pain with breathing, concerns for dehydration, fever of 101F or higher for > 72 hours without signs of improvement in height or frequency of fevers) please call your medical provider.
Only go to the emergency department if you or your child is experiencing a true emergency. If you are concerned about possible COVID-19 infection, contact the medical office, urgent care, or emergency department BEFORE going. This allows medical staff to take the necessary precautions to protect themselves and other patients when you arrive.
At this time, Center City Pediatrics is not routinely testing patients for COVID-19.
I was exposed to COVID-19 and I’m concerned about my family. What should I do?
Contact your public health department or your own medical provider as soon as possible. Stay home and avoid visitors until you are instructed on next steps. Information on preventing the spread of COVID-19 in your home or community if you were exposed to COVID-19 and have developed symptoms can be found here. Much is unknown about breastfeeding and COVID-19. The most current advice can be found here.
What about my pets? Can they get sick with COVID-19?
While COVID-19 seems to have originated from an animal source, there is for now no clear evidence that companion animals might be a source of infection with COVID-19. The CDC has not received any reports of pets or other animals becoming sick with COVID-19 at this time. However, since animals can spread other diseases to people, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after being around animals. If an individual has been diagnosed with COVID-19 and has a companion animal, as a precaution it’s recommended to avoid contact with pets and other animals.
More information on COVID-19 and animals can be found here.