Coronavirus hysteria is on the upswing and I am asked several times a day how worried I am.
In this article I’ll address all the questions Moms and Dads are asking me.
The news is filled with information, and misinformation about COVID 19.
World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Feb 15, 2020:
“We’re not just fighting an epidemic; we’re fighting an info-demic. This is a time for facts, not fear. This is a time for rationality, not rumours.”
Here is the thing: the reason COVID-19 is called a novel coronavirus, is because it is “NOVEL” – we don’t know it all yet.
We are learning as we go.
That is scary, but there is no point freaking out, as that certainly doesn’t get us anywhere.
Here’s what you actually have to know about Covid-19
COVID-19 started as an outbreak, then became an epidemic and may become a pandemic.
What does this mean?
An outbreak is:
An outbreak happens when a disease occurs in greater numbers than expected in a community. You can have outbreaks in different communities.
An epidemic is:
An epidemic is an outbreak that spreads rapidly to many people. A pandemic is an epidemic of global proportion that has become widespread across several countries or continents.
COVID-19 is the name of the respiratory illness caused by the 2019 novel coronavirus that was first detected in Wuhan, China.
Coronaviruses typically cause mild illness like the common cold, or more severe illness like with SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) or MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) and now COVID-19.
How many people actually have COVID-19?
The number of COVID-19 cases and deaths are increasing every day, so these numbers are a moving target.
WHO COVID-19 Situation Reports provide daily reports of worldwide numbers.
Click to see an Interactive Map of the Coronavirus Covid-19 Statistics
As of March 3, 2020,
- over 87% of worldwide COVID-19 cases were still in China, currently at 80,300
- there are 64 cases in the USA and 27 in Canada
- there are 74 countries with cases
This WHO graph shows that currently, infection from exposure to COVID-19 from within the reporting country is far surpassing infection from exposure due to travel from China (or another country) to another country.
Domestic spread is becoming an increasing concern, and the WHO and public health units are working on strategies for early detection, containment and treatment. Just closing borders may not be enough, or appropriate.
On February 26, the CDC announced the first case of a woman in the US who contracted COVID-19 without any history of travel outside the US or close contact with another patient with known infection.
This is scary.
It is also unusual that no one else seems have gotten it this way with no confirmed contact or travel from China.
How is COVID-19 transmitted?
Transmission is mainly through respiratory droplets and close contact – just like influenza.
The CDC defines close contact as being within 6 feet or within a room or care area for a prolonged period without personal protective equipment OR having direct contact with secretions of a person with COVID-19 infection.
There is some evidence that fecal-oral or blood transmission is possible, but less common than through droplets.
Investigation is underway to determine how long COVID-19 can survive on surfaces.
The incubation period is thought to be 2-14 days, meaning a person will show signs 2-14 days after getting infected by another person. Patients are thought to be most contagious when they have symptoms, like cough and fever.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19?
Most people with COVID-19 have mild infections – with mild cold-like symptoms and fever, and many have no symptoms.
- Respiratory symptoms (cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, malaise, headache, muscle aches)
- Difficulty breathing
- Mild pneumonia
- Severe pneumonia (the severe pneumonia caused by COVID-19 is now named severe acute respiratory infection (SARI))
- Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS)
- Sepsis and Septic shock
Death is what we are all worried about, so let’s look into that:
Covid-19 – kids & pregnant women
Children seem less vulnerable to infection and appear to have milder symptoms than adults.
There have been NO reported deaths in children 0-9 years of age.
Pregnant women also do not appear to be at greater risk for complications.
How many people have died from COVID-19?
Unfortunately, we don’t really know.
The high number of deaths in China may not be reflective of what we would see in Canada or the US, as they have a tragic lack of hospital staff, medical supplies, ICU beds, and test kits.
Of the 80,000 or so patients in China, there have been around 3,000 deaths, which puts the mortality rate in China at 3.7%.
Outside of China, however, the mortality rate has been around 1%.
Compare this to the mortality rate of influenza, which is estimated to be around 0.1% in the US and Canada.
Certain populations and demographics can be more at risk
We know certain populations seem to be more at risk for serious infection and for death. Older adults have had more severe illness and higher mortality. Children appear relatively spared.
In particular, the risk of death increases with age, with being over 80 the highest risk factor. Having a chronic pre-existing medical condition also significantly increases the risk of death.
So, like the influenza virus, the elderly and those with underlying chronic medical conditions appear to be most at risk for serious complications and death from COVID-19.
However, unlike influenza, children so far appear to be relatively protected.
How do we test for COVID-19?
COVID-19 is detected by testing nasopharyngeal swabs (a swab in the nose), throat swabs and sputum (spit).
In the US and Canada, these test kits are NOT available through doctor’s offices. Some hospitals do have them if you meet very specific criteria.
Here is the screening protocol we are using at Kidcrew, and most clinics and hospitals are doing similar:
You will be asked prior to your visit to Kidcrew:
1. Have you or has your child traveled to the following countries in the last months?
- Hong Kong
- South Korea
2. Have you or has your child been in close contact with any family members or close contacts who have traveled to the countries listed in the last month?
3. Have you or has your child been in close contact with anyone with a suspected or confirmed case of Coronavirus Covid-19?
If anyone answers yes to any of these questions and has a fever, cough or other respiratory symptoms, that person should proceed immediately to the nearest hospital facility for further evaluation.
Here’s the thing, if you have cold, cough, congestion, fever, you likely have the flu! NOT coronavirus! The symptoms are the same, and the flu is WAY more prevalent in North America right now (and hopefully always will be).
How do you treat COVID-19?
There are currently no specific antiviral medications known to treat COVID-19. We treat symptomatically with rest, fluids, and oxygen, as we would with a severe case of the flu.
Scientists are actively researching antiviral medications that may have activity against COVID-19, and vaccines that may help to prevent COVID-19.
This can take months to years to develop and test to ensure it works and is safe. TAMIFLU DOES NOT WORK.
Is airplane travel safe right now?
As we see more outbreaks in countries outside of China, the CDC has added several countries to its travel advisories.
The alerts below are up to date to March 2, 2020:
- Level 3 (Warning: avoid all nonessential travel) – China, Iran, Italy and South Korea
- Level 2 (Alert: consider postponing nonessential travel) –Japan
- Level 1 (Watch: practice usual precautions – Hong Kong
Many of my patients and followers online are asking if they should travel at March break or other times.
If you are planning international travel, keep informed with the CDC’s COVID-19 travel advisory page.
Personally, I am not currently concerned about travel within North America, or to the Caribbean, Mexico and the like.
I hope the case count in these areas does not increase. I remain cautiously optimistic.
What can you do to prevent contracting or spreading COVID-19?
- • Wash hands frequently, with warm soap and water for at least 30 seconds. Many times a day
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Stay home when you’re sick
- Cover your cough with your elbow or tissues
- Stay away from sick people
- Get enough sleep
- Eat a variety of colourful foods
- Get daily exercise
Should I wear a mask?
Face masks are currently not recommended for the general public. They are only recommended if you have a cough yourself or are taking care of someone who is sick with COVID-19.
What are N95 masks?
An N95 respirator is a respiratory mask designed to achieve a very close facial fit and very efficient filtration of airborne particles.
The ‘N95’ designation means that when subjected to careful testing, the respirator blocks at least 95 percent of very small (0.3 micron) test particles.
These are special masks that are fit to the individuals face by professionals.
This is a process that we undertake at the hospital to ensure a tight fit. So just going out and buying an N95 is a complete waste of time and money, as it will not fit properly, and will not be any more protective than a normal surgical mask.
Also, these masks are not made to fit kids, so you are wasting your money, and your kids are going to hate wearing it.
I will continue to update you as we know more.
For latest news, always use trusted sources – I recommend you find updates here:
• WHO: Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak
• CDC: Center For Disease Control Coronavirus Disease 2019 page
• CDC: Center For Disease Control COVID-19 travel advisory page
There’s a far more dangerous VIRUS and it’s in your backyard.
As with all illnesses, if you are worried about your symptoms, you should see a healthcare provider.
Dina is a wife, mother of 4, and adrenaline junky. She loves to share children’s health information from her professional and personal experience. More About Dr Dina.