This isn’t an exhaustive list, and it may need to be updated as we learn more about how this virus is transmitted, but these are the biggest things experts suggest to prevent infection and transmission. Also important: Make sure you’re staying generally healthy and your vaccinations are up to date (including your annual flu shot). This is helpful because it keeps you from catching an illness that might require seeing a doctor or going to the hospital, Lipsitch says. That helps free up medical care for more people with COVID-19.
“This is really a social problem, and it needs social interventions,” Lipsitch says. “So by doing all those things, we not only protect ourselves, but we slow down the spread of the virus.”
Now, let’s go over what we know about how the new coronavirus is transmitted in certain people (and pets).
Does the new coronavirus spread in children?
Experts aren’t sure. According to the CDC, there haven’t been many confirmed cases of the new coronaviruses in children, and even fewer with severe complications. New information is coming out every day (often several times a day), but a report from the WHO noted that only 2.4 percent of COVID-19 cases in China happened in people 18 and under, and 0.2 percent of those cases were critical.
Before we get too excited, it’s important to note that these low numbers might be due to a coronavirus testing bias, Aaron Milstone, M.D., epidemiologist and professor of pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Medicine, tells SELF. “In order to confirm someone has the virus, they have to get tested,” Dr. Milstone says. “Kids are not that sick, so they may not be getting tested. It doesn’t mean kids don’t have the virus. It just means if they have mild symptoms and they’re not presenting to health care … they’re not being identified.”
Even with that in mind, it’s encouraging that there aren’t a lot of severe new coronavirus cases in children, Dr. Milstone says. Some experts believe this will ultimately help us understand much more about the disease. There is, however, the pesky fact that even children with mild cases (or no symptoms at all) can potentially spread the virus to other people via the same mechanisms we covered above. So, if you have or care for any little ones, it’s still important to make sure they’re adhering to the same recommendations above to reduce their risk of infection and transmission.
Can pregnant people transmit the new coronavirus to fetuses?
Given the physiological and immune-related changes people experience during pregnancy, pregnant people can be more susceptible to respiratory infections overall, including COVID-19, the CDC says. Unfortunately, there isn’t enough information available to say how much of an increased risk there might be. If you’re pregnant, you should still take extra caution to avoid getting sick with any infectious respiratory disease.
There is a bit of good news, though: “I will say the data right now seems to suggest that there is no transmission from mothers to the fetus,” Bertha Hidalgo, Ph.D., assistant professor in the department of epidemiology and associate scientist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Public Health, tells SELF, adding that most of the available research is observational, so it’s not enough to make a definitive conclusion. The virus also hasn’t been found in samples of amniotic fluid or breast milk. But if you’re pregnant and at all worried about the new coronavirus, don’t hesitate to check in with your health care provider to talk through your concerns.
Can the new coronavirus spread from people to pets (and vice versa)?
Though some coronaviruses (including the new coronavirus) do like to hang out in animals, you can rest assured that there haven’t been any recorded cases of pets passing the illness to their owners in the United States, the CDC says. This doesn’t mean, however, that your sweet pets aren’t full of their own germs that you should try to avoid when you can, pandemic or not. This is why it’s smart to continue to practice good hand hygiene (and good hygiene in general) when you’re around animals.
Whether or not your pets carry illness is only half of the equation, right? The other thing you might be wondering is if you can transmit the new coronavirus to your pets. The CDC recommends that people with the illness limit contact with their cuddly animal friends (the same way you would with cuddly human friends). To the best of your ability, leave pet caretaking to other people in your household if you can. And if you do have to take care of your pet when you have the new coronavirus, make sure you wash your hands before and after, and consider wearing a facemask.
The situation with coronavirus is evolving rapidly. The advice and information in this story is accurate as of press time, but it’s possible that some data points and recommendations have changed since publication. We encourage readers to stay up to date on news and recommendations for their community by checking with their local public health department.