Coronavirus: Should UK Parents Be Worried?
Full Disclosure: I am not a medical doctor. This article is based on information from The World Health Organisation, the NHS and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention. If you think you or a member of your family are showing the signs of Coronavirus, call the NHS Helpline 111. Do not go to hospital or your local GP without calling first and seeking professional medical advice.
We can’t move at the minute without being bombarded by news of the Coronavirus (also known as COVID-19).
Traditional media are pumping out “clickbait” headline articles every couple of hours. This does one of two things:
- causes panic and the spread of misinformation and myths as “facts”
- makes people switch-off and ignore potentially life-saving information
I know lots of parents in the UK – including myself – are worried by the spread of Coronavirus. And so I’ve decided to do some research from credible organizations and put together this article, with all the most useful information for parents in the UK.
Remember I’m not a medical professional. I’ve researched and written this article from the perspective of a concerned UK parent.
What is Coronavirus / COVID-19?
The Coronavirus is not new. The World Health Organisation (WHO) tells us that the Coronavirus is actually a large family of viruses that typically cause respiratory infections in humans.
These can be relatively mild, like the common cold. Or more severe, like MERS and SARS.
COVID-19 is simply a new member of the Coronavirus family. It is an infectious disease that was unknown before the outbreak in China in December 2019.
What are the Symptoms of COVID-19?
Remember I’m not a medical doctor. I’ve taken this information directly from the WHO website:
- dry cough
The NHS list the symptoms as:
- a cough
- a high temperature
- shortness of breath
It’s important to know that having these symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that you have the Coronavirus. It’s far more likely to be a common cold or perhaps flu.
If you do have these symptoms, and you’re really worried, call the NHS helpline on 111. Don’t go to the hospital or local GP surgery until you have spoken to a professional medical health adviser.
The good news is that the WHO say around 80% of people recover from this disease without needing any specialist medical treatment.
Around 1 in 6 people with the disease become seriously ill and have difficulty breathing.
Older people, and those with chronic health conditions, are more likely to develop serious illness.
How Is The Virus Spread?
COVID-19 is an infectious virus that can be passed on from people who already have it.
The virus spreads from person to person through droplets from the mouth or nose of someone who is infected when they cough or sneeze.
If these droplets then enter another person’s body, through touching contaminated surfaces and then rubbing your eyes for example, then it is possible to spread the virus that way.
How Can We Protect Ourselves?
The WHO offers very comprehensive advice on how we can best protect ourselves and avoid spreading Coronavirus.
Basically we need to follow the common-sense advice of being extra vigilant with personal hygiene.
- washing our hands regularly is the best defence! Current guidance is to wash our hands with soap and warm water for 20 seconds before we prepare food or eat, after using the toilet, and as soon as possible after coughing or sneezing
- use hand sanitiser if you can’t wash your hands immediately
- stand at least 1 metre (3 feet) away from anyone who is coughing or sneezing
- cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow or a tissue, and put used tissues in the bin as soon as you can
- avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
- if you feel unwell stay home and avoid contact with people until you have had advice from calling the NHS helpline 111
Although little is known about the virus, new information is becoming available all the time.
Should UK Parents Worry About Coronavirus?
Yes and no.
It really depends on where you are, whether or not you have a chronic underlying illness, if you have recently travelled to any of the infected areas, or have come into contact with somebody confirmed to have the virus. In which case you should be more alert to spotting the symptoms.
Most of us have little to fear.
One UK medical expert said we are “right to be concerned and prepared, but [it’s] not a time to panic.”
There are 85 confirmed cases of Coronavirus in the UK at the time this article was written. And all except three have been linked to travel or contact with infected people.
Let’s put this into context.
As of Wednesday 4th March 2020 there are 93,166 known cases of CORIVD-19 around the world. Seventy-seven countries have reported cases. And there are 3,199 deaths connected to the virus.
With only 85 confirmed cases in the UK out of a total population of 66.44 million people, you’d be very unlucky to catch the virus.
The UK government’s Coronavirus Plan has been widely reported in the news. The plan is not meant to incite fear. Instead it is to reassure the public that whilst the Coronavirus is listed as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), we are well-equipped to deal with it.
That is, we are well-equipped to deal with it if we follow the advice of the WHO and our local health organisations.
Are My Children At Risk?
There are very few known cases of Coronavirus affecting children.
A WHO report into the disease published in February 2020 recorded that only 2.4% of all known cases in China were children. And only 0.2% of them became seriously ill and none resulted in death.
Another study published last month found that of all known cases in China between December 2019 and February 2020, only nine were infected infants.
That’s nine children under the age of 12 months old. The youngest was one month old and the eldest was aged 11 months. None of these children required intensive care and none died.
Children up to around the age of 15 appear to be fairly resilient to this particular virus.
But, premature babies and children with underlying chronic health conditions are considered high risk.
The reason why some schools may take the decision to close is purely to stop the spread of infection. Not because there is greater threat to children.
Use this helpful infographic from the WHO if your child is expressing any signs of stress, concern or worry about the Coronavirus.
Remember our goal should be two-fold:
- to avoid catching the virus
- to do our best to prevent the spread of Coronavirus to those who are susceptible to severe complications
I hope that this article has helped to reduce any stress, worry or anxiety that you may be feeling about the spread of Coronavirus and its health implications.
Obviously we all need to remain vigilant. And we all need to practice good personal hygiene.
It’s also important to keep yourself informed on the regular updates about COVID-19.
But from the right sources of information.
My first source of information on any global health issues would be the World Health Organization. They are the true experts.
Next would be the UK Government website and the NHS website.
And, importantly, you should look to your local health service for localised health advice.
The big takeaway from this article is that prevention of spreading the virus is most important:
- wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water for 20 seconds
- cough or sneeze into the bend of your elbow or a tissue that covers your mouth and nose; discard of the tissue immediately and wash you hands
- avoid touching your eyes, mouth and nose
- stand 1 metre (3 feet) away from a person who is coughing and sneezing
- if you begin to show any of the symptoms of Coronavirus contact the NHS helpline on 111, do not go to hospital or your local GP until you have spoken to a medical professional
If you have any specific questions that I’ve not covered here, do drop them into the comments below and I’ll do my best to research and respond to them.
But remember I’m not a medical doctor. I’ve researched and written this article from the perspective of a concerned parent.
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