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Here’s What You Need to Know About Coronavirus

Here’s What You Need to Know About Coronavirus

Don’t let the news cause you to panic. Gustavo Ferrer, M.D., F.C.C.P., is here with what you need to know about coronavirus, and how to protect your kids from infection.

So far, the coronavirus that originated in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China, has sickened more than 24,000 people and killed 490, according to The New York Times. “Coronavirus” refers to a group of viruses that cause anything from the common cold to more serious respiratory problems—but this particular strain is a never-before-seen novel virus that scientists are racing to understand. Parents who remember the SARS outbreak of 2002 or the H1N1 outbreak of 2009 might be worried about what this virus will mean for their kids—after all, its epidemiology is unknown. To ease your concerns, Gustavo Ferrer, M.D., F.C.C.P., the program director of the Aventura Hospital Pulmonary and Critical Care and Pulmonary Disease, shares up-to-date information on this coronavirus and tips for keeping kids healthy in the crowded New York metro area.


First of all: Don’t panic.

This virus can be anxiety-inducing because we’ve never seen it before, and scientists are unaware of its true potential to harm people. While most deaths occurred in elderly patients or those with compromised immune systems, it’s still scary to think about coronavirus infecting your kids. However, Dr. Ferrer recommends that parents do not panic. Keep in mind—the flu has killed thousands of people in the United States alone this year.

“At some point in our lives, we’ve all been infected with coronavirus. It’s one of the many viruses that produces cold or flu like symptoms,” Dr. Ferrer says. “Don’t panic [about this one]. The reason this virus has progressed so quickly is it’s still not well understood, but outbreaks happen every year. We should remain aware of our surroundings, aware of the information that is coming through the surveillance systems of the [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention], and take measures if your children develop respiratory symptoms.”

The signs of coronavirus can be fever, runny nose, sore throat, cough, and respiratory difficulties.


Early detection is key.

The aggressiveness of this coronavirus is still unknown, and could be due to the planet’s population growth, which provides the virus with more chances to mutate and become stronger, Dr. Ferrer says. That’s why early detection is key in treating it—and learning more about it. While symptoms can look just like the common cold or flu, be on guard.

“A lot of times we wait too long to go to the doctor because we’re used to just ‘getting through’ the cold and flu,” Dr. Ferrer says. “If someone in your family has respiratory symptoms that are progressing rapidly throughout the day, go to the doctor or the pediatrician to test for a viral infection.”


There are ways to protect your kids.

You can convince older kids to wear masks that go around their noses and mouths to prevent infection, and always encourage kids of all ages to cough and sneeze into their elbows, not their hands. Make sure kids wash their hands thoroughly and often (hand sanitizer is helpful, but not a replacement!). Keep your kids home from school when they’re sick. Take extra care with your kids in crowded environments—and extra, extra care with kids who have chronic conditions or compromised immune systems.

The bottom line, Dr. Ferrer says, is this coronavirus is going to behave like any other viral infection. New York does not have any confirmed cases yet, so don’t panic. But do be cautious: Watch out for respiratory symptoms in your kids, and don’t hesitate to take them to the doctor if you sense something might be wrong.

Jacqueline Neber

Author: Jacqueline Neber is an assistant editor and a graduate of The Writing Seminars at Johns Hopkins University. When she's not focused on writing special needs and education features, you can find her petting someone else's dog. See More

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