What pediatricians need to know about 2019-nCoV


Dominating health news for the past month, the novel coronavirus COVID-19 may have parents panicked that their child has the disease or worried about upcoming travel plans. Here’s the latest on the epidemic.

Editor's Note: The World Health Organization changed the name of the disease from the temporary 2019-nCoV to the official COVID-19 on February 11, 2020.

Coronavirus is dominating the health news in mainstream media. It’s giving the manufacturers of face masks a boost. It may even be something that brings parents to your office convinced that their child’s fever and cough are the sure signs of infection. It’s called 2019-nCoV, and it’s been responsible for 28,276 infections and more than 564 deaths, according to the World Health Organization on February 6, 2020.

Fortunately, a recently published study in the New England Journal of Medicine has some comforting information for pediatricians: No case has been found in children aged younger than 15 years.1 The researchers also found that earlier onset of symptoms was linked with being younger. They did say that children could be underrepresented in the case count because they could have milder symptoms, and that further research should look specifically for cases in children as well as health care workers.

CDC recommendations

For parents who are wondering what they should be doing to prevent infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some tips.2

Parent and children should not:

· Travel to China.

· Use face masks.

· Assume that someone who is either Asian or of Asian descent is more likely to get 2019-nCoV.

· Show prejudice toward someone who is either Asian or of Asian descent.

Parents and children should:

· Stay informed by visiting cdc.gov/ncov

· Seek medical care if they have fever, coughing, and shortness of breath as well as either exposure to someone with a diagnosis of 2019-nCoV or who has traveled to China in the past 14 days.

Parents and children should also take the usual precautions that they take to prevent influenza such as avoiding contact with sick people; limiting contact with other people if sick themselves; staying home when sick; covering the nose and mouth when coughing or sneezing; avoiding contact with the nose and mouth; disinfecting surfaces and objects; and washing hands often with soap and water or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.


For health care providers, the CDC has interim guidance and recommendations and also provides a flowchart to use when assessing potential 2019-nCoV infections.


1. Li Q, Guan X, Wu P, et al. Early transmission dynamics in Wuhan, China, of novel coronavirus-infected pneumonia. N Engl J Med. January 29, 2020. Epub ahead of print.


2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 2019-nCoV: What the public should do. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/what-you-should-do.html. Updated February 2, 2020. Accessed February 6, 2020.

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