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Kids News explains what COVID-19 is and why there are new rules for living

Donna Coutts, March 24, 2020 6:30PM Kids News

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A researcher works on a vaccine against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020. Picture: AFP media_cameraA researcher works on a vaccine against the new coronavirus COVID-19 at the Copenhagen's University research lab in Copenhagen, Denmark, on March 23, 2020. Picture: AFP

explainers

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WHAT IS A VIRUS?
Viruses are like microscopically* tiny predators equipped to invade the cells* of living things to use them as hosts so the virus can multiply. They can’t multiply without a host.

There are countless* types of viruses and most are harmless to humans. Some cause mild illnesses and some are deadly.

WHAT ARE CORONAVIRUSES?
These are a big family of viruses that can cause illness in animals, including in humans.

They are called coronaviruses because they look like a crown under a powerful microscope. Corona is crown in the Latin language.

The common cold is a type of coronavirus.

The most recently discovered coronavirus causes COVID-19.

media_cameraThis is an illustration of what coronaviruses look like when viewed under a microscope.

WHAT IS COVID-19?
COVID-19 is the name given to the infectious* disease caused by the most recently discovered coronavirus. This new virus and disease was unknown before the outbreak began in Wuhan, China, in December 2019.

Scientists aren’t sure how it began to infect humans.

WHAT HAPPENS IF I GET COVID-19?
Most common symptoms are fever, tiredness, and dry cough.

Some patients may have aches and pains, nasal congestion*, runny nose, sore throat or diarrhoea. These symptoms are usually mild and begin gradually.

Some people become infected but don’t develop any symptoms and don’t feel unwell.

Most people (about 80 per cent) recover from the disease without needing special treatment. Around 1 out of every 6 people who gets COVID-19 becomes seriously ill and develops difficulty breathing.

Older people, and those with other medical problems such as high blood pressure, heart or lung problems or diabetes, are more likely to develop serious illness.

People with fever, cough and difficulty breathing should seek medical attention.

WHAT IS A PANDEMIC?
This is a word to describe a new disease that is spreading easily worldwide.

It comes from the Greek pan meaning all and demos meaning people.

The World Health Organisation* first called COVID-19 a pandemic on March 11.

media_cameraParked planes of the airline Swiss at the airport in Duebendorf, Switzerland, March 23, 2020. Many airlines around the world have parked planes as countries make rules preventing travel to try to slow the spread of COVID-19. Picture: AP

HOW DOES COVID-19 SPREAD?
People can catch COVID-19 from others who have the virus through small droplets* from the nose or mouth that are spread when a person with COVID-19 coughs or breathes out.

These droplets land on objects and surfaces around the person. Other people then catch COVID-19 by touching these objects or surfaces, then touching their eyes, nose or mouth. People can also catch COVID-19 if they breathe in droplets from a person with COVID-19.

media_cameraIsaac Smith of the Hawks competes for the ball against Lincoln McCarthy of the Lions during the Round 1 AFL match at the MCG in Melbourne. Round 1 games were played in empty stadiums so that fans weren’t travelling to the games and sitting in the seats close to lots of other people. More recent rules means that AFL games are now not being played at all. Picture: AAP

WHY ARE THERE NEW RULES ABOUT HOW WE LIVE?
Governments around the world, including in Australia, are making new rules or guidelines almost every day about what people can and can’t do.

These rules are about travel, work, school, shopping, eating in restaurants and cafes, playing and watching sport and being in close contact with other people.

The rules are to try to stop COVID-19 spreading from person to person and to slow down its spread through a community so hospitals have enough beds for the people who get seriously ill.

WHEN WILL THE RULES END?
No one knows the answer to this question.

The rules will stay in place until health experts decide it is safe for everyone to go back to how things were before the rules began.

media_cameraA cyclist enjoys light traffic on Elizabeth street in central Brisbane, Qld, March 24, 2020. A shutdown of non-essential services across Australia means usually busy streets are very quiet. Picture: AAP

IS THERE A VACCINE?
Many, many teams of scientists around the world are working as fast as they can to study COVID-19 and make a vaccine to protect people from becoming ill.

Vaccines are a medicine that trick our bodies into developing immunity — natural protection — from a particular virus. If we are exposed to the virus, our body’s immune system has a head start at fighting it off and we don’t get sick or don’t get as sick as we would have.

Coronavirus Pandemic Causes Climate Of Anxiety And Changing Routines In America media_cameraA person washes their hands at the hand washing station at the entrance of an outdoor grocery store in Somerville, Massachusetts, US on March 21, 2020. Picture: AFP

HOW CAN YOU AVOID GETTING COVID-19?
Follow the rules about staying away from people.

Wash your hands frequently with soap and water or use hand sanitiser.

Don’t touch your face.

Cough or sneeze into your elbow or a tissue and put the tissue straight into the bin.

Do your best to stay healthy by going to bed on time, eating healthy food and exercising.

Source: World Health Organisation

GLOSSARY

  • microscopically: so tiny you can only see it with a microscope
  • cells: building blocks of living things; your skin, hair, bones and blood are all made of cells
  • countless: so many you can count them
  • infectious: spreads from one person to another
  • nasal congestion: stuffy, blocked nose
  • World Health Organisation: WHO for short, part of the United Nations, responsible for international public health
  • droplets: very small drops

EXTRA READING

It’s not all bad news; there is good news too

Hand washing: How does soap work?

QUICK QUIZ

  1. What is the official name for the new coronavirus?
  2. What does pandemic mean?
  3. When will the rules about everyday life end?
  4. What is a vaccine and is there one for COVID-19?
  5. How often should you wash your hands?

LISTEN TO THIS STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES
1. Worry Chart
When a worrying event happens, such as this virus, it is normal to have all different types of feelings about the event. Adults do too. Take some time to reflect and then you may like to share some of your feelings in the worry chart below.

You don’t have to, but if you’d like to – you can share with a friend, your teacher, your class or your family, and talk through it together.

You can write in words or draw pictures to convey your feelings about the COVID-19 virus and the new guidelines we have to live by that would be affecting your everyday life.

Call it: MY WORRY CHART FOR COVID-19 VIRUS

My worry chart for COVID-19 media_cameraMy worry chart for COVID-19

Time: allow 25 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, Personal and social

2. Extension
How do these rules about everyday life affect you and your family? What changes have you had to make to abide by the new rules and help stop the spread of the virus?

What will you miss most about school until it resumes?

How could you, and how will you, stay in contact with your friends?

Time: allow 10 minutes to complete this activity
Curriculum Links: English, Health and Physical Education, Personal and social, Critical and creative thinking

VCOP ACTIVITY
One of the ways we can stop the spread of the virus is to distance ourselves from interactions with those outside our immediate family. You have been given the task of creating 2 new games with some learning intentions.

Your first game must work on different verbs or actions. It must require players to ‘do’ different actions.

Decide if it is an indoor game, outdoor game, or either.

What equipment do you need?

What is the aim of the game?

Is there a winner, or just play for fun? Either way, how do you know when the game is over?

Who can play?

The next game must work on maths skills. It can be any type of maths, so be as creative as you like, but be clear as well on what we are practising.

Decide if it is an indoor game, outdoor game, or either.

What equipment do you need?

What is the aim of the game?

Is there a winner, or just play for fun. Either way, how do you know when the game is over?

Who can play?

With all the games you create, think about the people in your house too. How can you make sure that everyone can play, but still be interesting and challenging?

HAVE YOUR SAY: What more would you like to know about COVID-19?
No one-word answers. Use full sentences to explain your thinking. No comments will be published until approved by editors.

Extra Reading in explainers