What parents should know about COVID-19

Answers to frequently asked questions about COVID-19

UNICEF/UNI287422/Wallace/AFP-Services

What is the novel coronavirus?

The 2019 novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new virus linked to the same family of viruses as Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and some types of common cold.


How is the novel coronavirus spread?

The virus is transmitted through direct contact, respiratory droplets like coughing and sneezing, and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. It is not yet known how long the virus survives on surfaces, but simple disinfectants can kill it.


What are the symptoms of novel coronavirus?

Symptoms can include fever, cough and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, infection can cause pneumonia or breathing difficulties. More rarely, the disease can be fatal. 


How can I avoid the risk of infection?

Here are five precautions you and your family can take to avoid infection:

  1. Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub 
  2. Cover your mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing
  3. Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms
  4. Go to the doctor if you have a fever, cough or feel that it is difficult to breathe
  5. Avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.


Should I wear a medical mask?

The use of a medical mask is advised if you have respiratory symptoms (coughing or sneezing) to protect others. If you don’t have any symptoms, then there is no need to wear a mask. 

If masks are worn, they must be used and disposed of properly to ensure their effectiveness and to avoid any increased risk of transmitting the virus. 

The use of a mask alone is not enough to stop infections and must be combined with frequent hand washing, covering sneezes and coughs, and avoiding close contact with anyone with cold or flu-like symptoms (coughing, sneezing, fever).


Does the novel coronavirus affect children?

This is a new virus and we do not know enough yet about how it affects children or pregnant women. We know it is possible for people of any age to be infected with the virus, but so far there have been no reported fatalities of children linked to the novel coronavirus. The virus is fatal in rare cases, so far mainly among older people with pre-existing medical conditions.

We are closely monitoring the situation and will update as new information becomes available.


If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with COVID-2019, is it possible for her to pass the virus to the fetus?

We are not able to assess at this point the risk of mother-to-child transmission of the COVID-2019. If a pregnant woman is diagnosed with the 2019-nCov, the same precautions, medical management and care will be provided. In addition, close monitoring will be advised during the whole course of the pregnancy.


What should I do if a family member displays symptoms?

You should seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing. Tell your health care provider if you have traveled to an area where the novel coronavirus has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone with who has traveled from one of these areas and has respiratory symptoms.


What is UNICEF doing to help? 

A UNICEF shipment of respiratory masks and protective suits for health workers landed in Shanghai, China, on 29 January to support China’s response to the novel coronavirus outbreak. UNICEF will be sending more items in the coming days and weeks.

UNICEF is in close contact with the Chinese authorities, including the Ministry of Commerce and the National Health Commission, the World Health Organization (WHO), and other UN agencies to monitor developments and needs as the situation further unfolds. UNICEF will also work with WHO and partners for a coordinated response in China and other affected countries, as well as to enhance preparedness in at-risk countries.

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