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Reviewed by: Karen A. Ravin, MD

What Is the New Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are common causes of colds and respiratory tract infections. At the end of 2019, a new type of coronavirus began making people sick in China. You might hear the virus called 2019-nCoV, novel coronavirus, or COVID-19. Some of the first cases were diagnosed in people who had visited a market selling live seafood and animals.

When viruses spread from animals to people, it can take health experts a while to learn the details of the virus and how it spreads.

What Are the Signs & Symptoms of the New Coronavirus?

The coronavirus causes a fever, cough, and trouble breathing. Symptoms are a bit like those people have with a cold or the flu. The virus can be more serious in some people, especially if they are sick or have health problems.

How Does the New Coronavirus Spread?

Experts are still investigating how the new coronavirus spreads. In general, coronaviruses spread through droplets sent into the air when people cough or sneeze. Some people who became sick with the new coronavirus lived with others who had the virus.

Is the New Coronavirus Dangerous to Children?

Experts are still learning about this new virus, so we don't have a lot of information about it yet. But it seems to cause a milder infection in children than in adults or older people.

Only about 100 cases in children have been reported worldwide. Most of them caught the infection from someone they lived with or a family member.

Call your doctor if your child:

  • is ill and has traveled to China
  • had contact with someone thought to have the new coronavirus within the past 14 days

Right now, measles and the flu are bigger problems for children than the coronavirus. Make sure your child is vaccinated against both of these. It's not too late to get a flu shot!

How Is the New Coronavirus Treated?

Most people with the coronavirus, including children, do not have serious problems. After talking to a doctor, most get better with rest and fluids. People who are very ill get care in a hospital with breathing help, IV fluids, and other treatments.

How Can I Protect Myself From the New Coronavirus?

As with other viruses, the best ways to protect yourself and your family are:

  • Avoid contact with people who are sick.
  • Wash your hands well and often. Wash for at least 20 seconds with soap and water or use hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Teach your kids to do the same.
  • Try not to touch your eyes, nose, and mouth if you haven't washed your hands.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that people touch a lot.

Antibiotics can't treat viruses so they won't help with the coronavirus. Medicines for the flu don't work either because the coronavirus is different from the flu virus.

Experts around the world are studying and tracking the new coronavirus. Countries like the United States are taking steps to prevent it from spreading. This means identifying people who have the virus and anyone they come into contact with.

Where Can I Learn More About the New Coronavirus?

Check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) website for up-to-date information on the new coronavirus.

Reviewed by: Karen A. Ravin, MD
Date reviewed: February 2020