A Blog From Your Kaiser Permanente Physicians


Coronavirus: What We Know So Far

The news that a new respiratory virus (coronavirus or 2019-nCoV) is spreading from China may be concerning to many parents. However, families in the U.S. are at very low risk of getting the novel coronavirus compared to the higher risk of getting the flu. Here’s what we understand about the coronavirus at this time.

The virus is a member a family of viruses called “corona” viruses. Some of these viruses cause disease in animals and some can also infect humans. Examples of coronaviruses that infect humans include Middle Eastern respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS.)

These viruses cause cold-like symptoms in most people but can cause severe pneumonia (with fever and respiratory difficulty) in some.

There have been cases of illness caused by this new virus in China and we’re now seeing the disease spread to a growing number of countries, including the U.S.

While some viruses are very contagious (like measles), others are harder to spread. At this time, it’s unclear how easily the coronavirus is spread from person-to-person. Because MERS and SARS are spread by respiratory drops from sneezing or coughing and shared only by those in close contact with each other, it’s likely this new virus is spread the same way. However, at this time it doesn’t seem that this coronavirus is as severe or as easily spread as MERS or SARS.

As we learn more about this novel coronavirus, we’ll keep you updated here. In the meantime, take this opportunity to make sure your children have had the flu vaccine! It’s not too late to get it. Flu season is in full swing and affects the health and lives of many people here at home.

To help prevent getting sick or sharing any viruses, teach your family to:

  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Have kids sing two rounds of the ABC song to measure how long the soap should be on their hands! If soap and water aren’t available, use hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
  • Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
  • Stay home when they’re sick. This can be a tough one for some young children who want to please teachers and parents. Let them know that taking care of their body and not getting other kids sick is more important that school attendance!
  • Cover coughs or sneezes with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash. And then wash hands again. Or if no tissues are available, cough and sneeze into their elbows like Dracula!
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces like doorknobs, rails, and light switches.

In response to the developing situation with the coronavirus, we’re monitoring and following the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. We’re asking patients with fever or other symptoms about recent travel to China, particularly the Wuhan region. Those who have symptoms and who’ve traveled there recently are cared for in isolation – away from other patients.

Anyone who has symptoms of respiratory illness and has recently traveled to China should call our 24/7 Appointment and Advice Call Center at 866-454-8855 immediately.

Resources for parents

7 Things Pediatricians Want You to Know About the Flu
Questions Parents Ask about the Flu Vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2019 Novel Coronavirus

My Doctor Online
Cold and Flu
24/7 Appointment and Advice Call Center 866-454-8855

Disclaimer: If you have an emergency medical condition, call 911 or go to the nearest hospital. An emergency medical condition is any of the following: (1) a medical condition that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity (including severe pain) such that you could reasonably expect the absence of immediate medical attention to result in serious jeopardy to your health or body functions or organs; (2) active labor when there isn't enough time for safe transfer to a Plan hospital (or designated hospital) before delivery, or if transfer poses a threat to your (or your unborn child's) health and safety, or (3) a mental disorder that manifests itself by acute symptoms of sufficient severity such that either you are an immediate danger to yourself or others, or you are not immediately able to provide for, or use, food, shelter, or clothing, due to the mental disorder. This information is not intended to diagnose health problems or to take the place of specific medical advice or care you receive from your physician or other health care professional. If you have persistent health problems, or if you have additional questions, please consult with your doctor. If you have questions or need more information about your medication, please speak to your pharmacist. Kaiser Permanente does not endorse the medications or products mentioned. Any trade names listed are for easy identification only.