What Parents Need To Know About Coronavirus and Influenza This Week

January 28, 2020

What a week to start watching the new Netflix docuseries, Pandemic! With all of the health news coming out this week, it feels very fitting. But in all seriousness, I’m one episode away from finishing Pandemic, and I already give it 5 stars and a standing ovation. They masterfully presented the immense effort of scientists around the globe who dedicate their time and talent to fight influenza (despite the anti-vaxxers protests). It’s a good time to remember that the 1918 influenza pandemic killed more people than World War I and World War II combined, and the need to stop the next global outbreak of influenza should be of importance to us all. If you haven’t watched it yet, you really should!

coronavirus outbreak map jan 28

Coronavirus Outbreak

The world is buzzing with news of the coronavirus outbreak. A lot has happened since I wrote about it in my last newsletter, and I’ve been fielding many messages from understandably concerned moms this week, too. The outbreak has now spread to 5 people in 5 different states in the US (including my alma mater). As I write this, newly released reports indicate that the known cases in China jumped nearly 60% since Monday, and there are now 5,974 cases and 132 deaths.

The bad news: coronavirus is spreading much faster than SARS did. However, SARS was much deadlier at approximately a 10% fatality rate. From the reports I’m reading, coronavirus seems to have a 2-3% fatality rate, and it is largely affecting the elderly or those who are medically fragile. China has put about 10 million people on lockdown in an effort to control the spread, and a plane evacuating 240 Americans from Wuhan, the primary location of the outbreak, is currently on its way to Alaska.

So, what do we do with this information? Not much, yet. We will keep watching. It will be particularly telling to see what happens here in the United States over the next several days. I am nearly positive that we will see more cases develop here from person-to-person spread, but hopefully it will be extremely limited and well contained. China just agreed to receive international medical support from the World Health Organization, so I’m hoping that will help.

girl wearing medical mask

Influenza Season Continues

While there is always lots of media coverage in somewhat panicky tones that goes into global outbreaks, it is wise to remember the influenza outbreak in our own backyard. There were several good articles about that this week. Influenza poses a much greater risk to Americans right now. Sadly, over 8,200 Americans including 54 children have died this season already.

I know this can all be overwhelming information. Influenza and coronavirus are both scary, especially for parents.

Here is a little bit of actionable advice for parents who are concerned:

  • Try not to worry too much. So much of this is completely out of our control and it is helpful to make peace with that fact. This is the toughest time of year for infectious illnesses and there is very little we can do about that. Remember to take a deep breath. I promise, summer is coming!
  • Practice good handwashing, and make sure your little ones are, too.
  • Consider avoiding large groups of people in public places, if possible, especially if you have infants or immune-compromised children.
  • Don’t let people touch (or kiss!) your children, especially if you are not sure if they are healthy.
  • If you haven’t had your flu shot already, make sure you go get it today.
  • Be skeptical of many of the products people try to promote this time of year to “boost” your immune system. Many of these things just haven’t been proven to be effective.
  • Use this as an opportunity to learn a little bit more about global outbreaks and pray for the people suffering in other countries. The NPR did a great breakdown on many of the terms you’ve likely seen floating around in the news. It’s definitely worth a read.

Author: Dani Stringer, MSN, CPNP, PMHS 

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