Coronaviruses are a group of related RNA viruses that cause diseases in mammals and birds. In humans, these viruses cause respiratory tract infections that can range from mild to lethal. There are as yet no vaccines or antiviral drugs to prevent or treat human coronavirus infections.
Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1930s when an acute respiratory infection of domesticated chickens was shown to be caused by infectious bronchitis virus (IBV). Arthur Schalk and M.C. Hawn described in 1931 a new respiratory infection of chickens in North Dakota. The infection of new-born chicks was characterized by gasping and listlessness. The chicks’ mortality rate was 40–90%.
What parents should know
UNICEF has been preparing and responding to the epidemic of COVID-19 around the world, knowing that the virus could spread to children and families in any country or community. UNICEF will continue working with governments and our partners to stop transmission of the virus, and to keep children and their families safe.
How does the COVID-19 virus spread?
The virus is transmitted through direct contact with respiratory droplets of an infected person (generated through coughing and sneezing), and touching surfaces contaminated with the virus. The COVID-19 virus may survive on surfaces for a few hours to several days, but simple disinfectants can kill it. Studies to date suggest that the virus that causes COVID-19 is mainly transmitted through contact with respiratory droplets, rather than through the air.
What are the symptoms of 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.
These symptoms are similar to the flu (influenza) or the common cold, which are a lot more common than COVID-19. This is why testing is required to confirm if someone has COVID-19. It’s important to remember that key prevention measures are the same – frequent hand washing, and respiratory hygiene (cover your cough or sneeze with a flexed elbow or tissue, then throw away the tissue into a closed bin). Also, there is a vaccine for the flu – so remember to keep yourself and your child up to date with vaccinations.
How can I protect myself and others from COVID-19?
Here are some precautions you and your family can take to help avoid infection:
Wash your hands frequently using soap and water or an alcohol-based hand rub
Cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue when coughing or sneezing. Dispose of used tissue immediately
Avoid close contact with anyone who has cold or flu-like symptoms
Regularly clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces like phones, doorknobs, light switches and countertops
Seek medical care early if you or your child has a fever, cough or difficulty breathing
What is the best way to wash hands properly?
Step 1: Wet hands with running water
Step 2: Apply enough soap to cover wet hands
Step 3: Scrub all surfaces of the hands – including back of hands, between fingers and under nails – for at least 20 seconds.
Step 4: Rinse thoroughly with running water
Step 5: Dry hands with a clean cloth or single-use towel
Wash your hands often, especially before eating; after blowing your nose, coughing, or sneezing; and going to the bathroom.
If soap and water are not readily available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Always wash hands with soap and water, if hands are visibly dirty.