The new SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which causes the COVID-19 disease, has infected nearly 90,000 people and has caused more than 3,000 deaths so far. There is clearly a concern for the environment. But it’s important to remember that relatively few children have tested positive for the virus, and children’s deaths are very rare.
Here’s what we know about how babies are affected so far.
what is COVID-19?
COVID-19 is caused by a new strain of a virus family discovered during the 1960s. When seen under a powerful microscope, coronaviruses derive their name from a distinctive corona or “crown” of sugar proteins that cover the virus.
Coronaviruses occur in humans, usually causing cough and runny nose to cause a mild condition. Coronaviruses are also frequently present in animals with COVID-19 reports that arose from animals, most likely from bats.
This century saw the discovery of three novel coronaviruses.
SARS-CoV (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus) emerged in China in 2002-03 and spread to North America, South America, and Europe. Over 8,000 cases have been identified and about 10 percent of those infected have died.
MERS-CoV (Middle East Coronavirus Respiratory Syndrome), originated in 2012 from the camels in Saudi Arabia. A major outbreak in South Korea followed in 2015. Nearly 2,500 cases were reported and 34 percent of infected people died.
Infection with SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV is reported less frequently than anticipated in babies. For instance, 3.4 percent of MERS coronavirus cases in Saudi Arabia were in children, where about 15 percent of the population is under 19.
A similar pattern was found in SARS, where the confirmed infection rate was much lower in children under the age of 14 than in older age groups.
COVID-19 was first identified in December 2019 in Wuhan, China, and has already resulted in more deaths than combined SARS-CoV and MERS-CoV.
So what about children?
The number of reported cases of COVID-19 in children remains low: of China’s more than 44,000 confirmed cases, only 416 (less than 1 percent) were aged nine years or younger. There have been no recorded deaths in this age group.
In Australia so far only one child has reported infection with COVID-19.
It remains unclear whether the reported low number of infections among children is due to:
- Low numbers of children who suffer from the virus
- Low numbers of infected children, or
- Low numbers of untreated children with symptoms too severe to apply for treatment.
Why does it matter if significant numbers of children do not get sick?
When infected children have milder symptoms yet, they may still play a critical role in COVID-19 transmission. Children are active, shed large volumes of pathogens, congregate in groups, and are at lower risk of severe illness, maintaining their daily activities so often.
An active group preventive approach has been shown to prevent school-age children from becoming diagnosed with influenza. If children are found to be the main transmitters of infection, school closures may need to be addressed in the absence of a COVID-19 vaccine, when looking at ways to decrease community spread.
What symptoms do kids get?
Chinese doctors also record sick kids having cough, nasal congestion, runny nose, diarrhea, and headache. Fewer than half of the kids have a rash. Many are without symptoms.
The majority of COVID-19 children and teens in China had mild infections and recovered within one to two weeks.
Also, babies, typically more vulnerable to severe respiratory infections, were compromised fairly mildly.
How can you tell if it’s COVID-19?
Most COVID-19 children have respiratory symptoms and/or a cough that can not be differentiated from other common viruses, including influenza and rhinovirus.
Both children with confirmed COVID-19, however, have had family members or close contact with a suspected infection so far.
Confirming COVID-19 infections will be important in the early part of an Australian outbreak to guide our response to the public health. However, if COVID-19 cases continue to climb, this research method will shift to monitoring only patients who are hospitalized as the only advantage of verifying COVID-19 infection will be to notify diagnosis and infection control procedures in patients in the hospital.
It’s uncertain at this point whether antiviral drugs are effective in COVID-19 care. Some older medications, such as lopinavir used to cure Aids, have been used to treat certain serious cases, but they need to be tested formally. Clinical trials have been registered, and Chinese researchers are expected to see some results soon.
However, because children have such mild symptoms, it would be difficult to justify exposing them for little gain to potential side effects of antiviral medication, such as nausea, vomiting, and allergic reactions.
How do I prevent my family from being infected?
COVID-19 is transmitted by droplets created when a person who is infected coughs or snees. Infection can be spread if an individual touches items or surfaces that have been coughed and sneezed on by an infected person and then touches their mouth, nose or face.
The best way to avoid infection with COVID-19 (and any other respiratory virus infection) is by washing your hands with soap and water, using your elbow’s tissue or crook to cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and avoiding close contact with others that are unwell.
Group masks are only helpful in preventing people from suffering from COVID-19 from transmitting it to others. There is little evidence that supports the widespread use of surgical masks in healthy people to prevent public exposure–and it’s almost difficult to get small children to wear them regularly.
A COVID-19 vaccine is still some way off. But having your child to be vaccinated against influenza is worthwhile. This is not only to protect your child from influenza, but also to reduce the likelihood that your child might be labeled COVID-19, and to eliminate certain community-based illnesses that use health resources.
What Are the Signs & Symptoms of the Coronavirus?
The coronavirus (COVID-19) causes fever, cough and breathing difficulties. Symptoms are a little like those with a cold or flu. In some people, the virus may be more serious, particularly if they are sick or have health problems.
How Does the Coronavirus Spread?
Still, researchers study how coronavirus (COVID-19) spreads. In general, when people cough or sneeze, coronaviruses spread by droplets sent out into the air. Some people who got infected with COVID-19 had been staying with others who had the virus.
How Can I Protect Myself From the Coronavirus?
As with other viruses, you and your family are best protected by:
- Evite some interaction with sick people.
- Wash your hands, often and well. Wash with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or use hand sanitizer with alcohol at least 60 percent. Teach your children to do likewise.
- If you haven’t washed your hands, try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects which affect people a lot.
Antibiotics can not kill viruses so the coronavirus won’t help. Flu medications either don’t work because the coronavirus is unique to the flu virus.
The new coronavirus (COVID-19) is being researched and identified by experts around the world. Countries like the USA take steps to prevent it from spreading. It involves identifying people with the virus and with whomever they come in contact.