Which is worse, knowing everything or not
What parents need to know about the coronavirus : "Covid-19 is no worse than the flu for children"
Johannes Hübner is a professor at the LMU Munich and head of the department for infectious diseases in the field of pediatric and adolescent medicine at the Munich University Hospital.
Mr Huebner, are children more at risk of contracting Covid-19 than adults?
It is currently likely that children are significantly less at risk than adults, especially older adults. That also fits in well with our current level of knowledge.
Because even with related pathogens such as Sars or Mers, which belong to the corona virus group, it has been noticed that children are less susceptible. In addition, the courses are less severe when children become ill. However, we still don't know enough about why that is so to be able to make any concrete statements.
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The reports of illnesses in children in China that I am aware of have not yet described any severe courses. In the Munich area we had the case of a family where the children were also sick. There, too, the symptoms were no worse than those of a common respiratory disease. Normally no one would have taken any notice of the cases.
At the moment, it looks like Covid-19 disease for children is no worse, and perhaps even less, than influenza.
Does this mean that parents need to worry less?
A viral disease can always take a severe course in individual cases. In Germany, ten to twenty thousand people die of influenza every year. Children can also come to the intensive care unit if they have influenza. Children also die from influenza, which we sometimes cannot prevent.
So far, however, as I said, nothing indicates that the coronavirus leads to serious illnesses in children.
How should concerned parents behave?
The health authorities are currently trying to contain the disease and isolate infected people. In a second stage with many sick people, where the chains of infection can no longer be traced, this will no longer be possible.
By the way, we're not doing that today with influenza. In the case of sick children, we have to treat the disease according to its severity.
My biggest concern at the moment is that daycare centers will be closed in a panic or that the children will be kept at home. The children should go out and play and meet other children. There is currently no increased risk for children compared to what we see every year.
Should parents see a pediatrician if they suspect coronavirus disease?
That would be exactly the wrong reaction. In the waiting room, the risk of catching something like this is greater. If it is a normal viral infection as we know it - with a slight fever of 38.7 degrees, if the child coughs and the nose is runny but is otherwise in good spirits and drinks - there is no reason to go to the pediatrician.
If there is a specific suspicion of Covid 19 disease - for example through proven contact with a sick person - parents should first call the corresponding hotline, which has been set up in many cities.
As a general rule, if the child has a severe respiratory disease, it should be seen by a doctor and treated clinically. That is already the case now. The only difference: we may be able to give medication for influenza, but not so far for Covid 19 disease.
Background about the coronavirus:
How exactly is one to imagine a severe course of the disease in children?
If you have a serious viral disease - regardless of whether it is influenza or coronavirus - a doctor should be consulted. If the respiratory infection is severe, the children are often exhausted and apathetic, drink poorly, and need oxygen. In these cases, regardless of the pathogen, a hospital stay of several days to a few weeks may be necessary.
But it is also important here: Other pathogens (such as influenza or RSV) have severe courses that make treatment in the intensive care unit necessary. Most children recover relatively quickly, however, there is currently no indication that this is any different with the coronavirus.
What can be done to prevent a virus from being transmitted?
The best and safest way that applies to all viral diseases: follow general hygiene rules, do not sneeze into your hand, frequent hand washing. This is the best thing to do to prevent infection.
It's flu season right now, and many children are already sick. Does that make the situation worse?
For the doctors, yes, because the practices are already full even without the coronavirus. It is questionable whether a child can get a double infection. Typically, when children have a severe respiratory infection, they only have one type of virus.
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