Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Elsa. Elsa Wonders, “What is the Wuhan Coronavirus?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Elsa!
**If you have come into contact with COVID-19 and are experiencing symptoms (cough, fever, difficulty breathing), call your healthcare provider immediately. If you live in the United States and need state-specific contact information, follow this link.**
You’ve probably heard about the topic of today’s Wonder of the Day. You may have even been directly affected by it. Maybe your school is closed. Perhaps the grown-ups in your life are staying home from work. It’s possible you’ve just heard about it on the news. Either way, kids all over the world are wondering: What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)?
COVID-19 is an illness. It’s caused by a novel coronavirus. When a coronavirus is “novel,” that means it’s being seen in humans for the first time. That’s why people who study viruses are so concerned about COVID-19. Scientists are still learning about how it spreads and how it affects people.
In the past, other coronaviruses have caused many illnesses. Some of these are fairly mild, like the common cold. Others are more severe. One example was the coronavirus that caused a Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) outbreak between 2002 and 2004. But the one that causes COVID-19 is different from these. People are very worried about this virus because it spreads quickly and can cause very severe symptoms.
Where did this novel coronavirus come from? Experts believe it spread to humans from an animal. Now, it’s spreading from person to person quickly. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) has called it a global pandemic. The first cases of COVID-19 were in Wuhan, China. From there, it quickly moved across the globe. You can find information on the spread of COVID-19 in the daily Situation Reports from WHO.
What are the symptoms of COVID-19? The most common ones are fever, cough, and difficulty breathing. If you or someone you know has these symptoms, it’s important to call a healthcare provider right away. Don’t go anywhere without the direction of your doctor.
How dangerous is COVID-19? Doctors say that most people who have the illness will get better. However, people over the age of 65 are at a higher risk for complications. So are those with chronic conditions like heart disease, lung disease, and diabetes. People who have suppressed immune systems are also more likely to have problems.
Many people who have COVID-19 might not show symptoms at all. That’s one reason the illness has spread so quickly. People who don’t feel sick might not know they’re carrying the novel coronavirus. For example, 660 sailors aboard the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt tested positive for COVID-19 in April 2020. Sixty percent of them showed no symptoms. Even people who have no symptoms can spread the virus to others, though. That’s why so many schools and workplaces have closed.
What can you do to avoid getting or spreading COVID-19? It’s important to wash your hands often, especially after coughing, sneezing, or blowing your nose. To make sure your hands are clean, wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and warm water. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. These are points of easy entry for the coronavirus.
As always, be sure to cover sneezes and coughs. If possible, sneeze or cough into a tissue and then throw it away. Experts also recommend social distancing. In fact, it’s best to stay home if you can. If you need to go out in public, stay at least six feet away from people outside your immediate family. Anyone who has COVID-19 symptoms should stay away from other people completely.
When someone who has COVID-19 coughs, sneezes, or exhales, the virus can leave their body and land on nearby surfaces. If someone else touches that surface, they will pick up the virus. That’s why it’s also important to clean surfaces you touch with a disinfectant, like bleach. Remember that, while cleaners are great for killing the virus on surfaces, you shouldn’t use them on your hands or body. Wash your hands and other body parts with soap and water instead.
What about food? Currently, there’s no evidence of the novel coronavirus spreading through food or food packaging. However, it’s always a good idea to wash your hands after handling food or groceries--and always do so before eating!
Everyone wants to protect their family members from getting sick with COVID-19. That’s why many are also concerned for their pets. Can animals catch the virus from humans? Some dogs and cats have tested positive for COVID-19, but they showed few symptoms. Experts say this coronavirus isn’t a serious threat to pets. If an owner tests positive, their pets should be quarantined to avoid spreading it to other people.
Should you wear a medical mask to avoid getting sick? Not necessarily. The U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends wearing a cloth face covering in public. This could include a non-medical cloth mask or a bandanna. However, hospitals do need medical masks. If you have unneeded ones at home, consider giving them to a hospital or doctor’s office.
Unfortunately, there’s plenty of misinformation going around about COVID-19. For example, some people think the novel coronavirus is unable to spread in warm climates. This is untrue. COVID-19 can spread in any climate. It’s also too early to tell whether COVID-19 will be a seasonal illness like the flu. At this time, experts don’t have any evidence to suggest that hot weather can stop it.
The coronavirus can also spread to any person, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or age. Some groups are at a higher risk of complications due to age or health reasons. But people of all ages can become ill with COVID-19, with or without underlying conditions.
Is there a cure for COVID-19? Not yet. However, experts are studying the effects of several medicines in hope of finding a way to fight the illness. They are also working to develop a vaccine. In the meantime, doctors treat the symptoms of the illness as well as they can with medicines.
Many people feel anxiety or fear about COVID-19. It can be scary to see so many people sick. There are many ways to help your family members get their minds off of the pandemic. You might try going for a walk or playing games together at home. Turn on a movie and prepare your favorite snack. You could also try deep breathing techniques or other mindfulness exercises if you’re feeling stressed. This is an important time to be kind to others—and if you’re worried, talk to a trusted adult.
If you or a family member have symptoms of COVID-19, you should contact health officials as soon as possible. You should also stay away from other people until you feel better.
Standards: NGSS.LS2.C, NGSS.ETS1.A, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.R.10