Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
March 2020

Wondering about Coronavirus?

coronavirus Parents PACK March 2020In recent weeks, the news has been dominated with stories about coronavirus. The virus, now called COVID-19, first sickened people in Wuhan, China, in late 2019. Since then, many thousands of people in that region, as well as other regions, have fallen ill, and some have died.

What is coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that contain RNA (instead of DNA, like people have). The viruses are circular in shape with spikes on the surface, which appear like a halo when the virus is viewed with a microscope. This halo of spikes is what led scientists to name these “coronaviruses.”

Coronaviruses were first discovered in the 1930s, and as with other families of viruses, some coronaviruses are more worrisome than others. The earliest discovered coronaviruses infected farm animals, causing lung infections in chickens and digestive illness in pigs. Later, scientists found a couple of types that infected people, causing symptoms of the common cold.  

This family of viruses garnered more attention in the early 2000s with the epidemic known as severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS. The SARS virus infected civet cats and then gained the ability to infect people, leading to the epidemic. In 2012, a similar occurrence led to the Middle East respiratory syndrome, or MERS, epidemic. In this situation a coronavirus that infected camels gained the ability to infect people. Currently, scientists think that COVID-19 also originated in an animal and then infected people, but, right now, it remains uncertain as to which animal. 

Read on to find out:

Why is COVID-19 such a big deal?

When a virus that normally infects animals gains the ability to infect people, two things can happen ... 

What are scientists and public health officials doing about it?

When a new virus emerges, scientists and public health officials have a long “to do” list that includes ...

What should I worry about? 

In situations such as the current COVID-19 epidemic, it is important not to “FORGET” these points ... 

News & Notes

2020 State of the ImmUnion

Did you know that outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases still occur in the United States? Or that in some cases, the United States falls behind other countries in the success realized by vaccines? For example, Australia is closer to eliminating cervical cancer than any other country in the world because of their robust HPV vaccination program.
In their 2020 State of the ImmUnion report, Vaccinate Your Family (VYF) examines the successes of vaccines, as well as the barriers that contribute to a lack of access to vaccines, in the United States. The report also outlines steps which Congress can take to ensure that everyone has access to life-saving vaccines.

Download your copy today. 

Cases of mumps in the U.S.

In the first month of 2020, cases of mumps were reported in at least 16 states across the U.S. While a vaccine is available to protect against mumps (the second “M” in MMR), some people may not have been vaccinated and for others, immunity may have waned. To learn more about mumps and the vaccine, check out “Mumps: What You Should Know,” a Q&A sheet produced by the Vaccine Education Center, available in English, Spanish and Japanese

Only one shingles vaccine now available

Shingles has been preventable by vaccination since 2006. The first shingles vaccine was a live, weakened viral vaccine, called Zostavax®, made in a similar manner to the chickenpox vaccine. More recently, a second shingles vaccine, called Shingrix®, was licensed. Because the newer vaccine produces better immunity in older adults, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended a preference for this one. Even adults who had Zostavax are recommended to get Shingrix. As a result, use of Zostavax declined, and it has been removed from the market. If you, or someone you know, is 50 years of age or older, check to make sure that you have had two doses of Shingrix, separated by two to six months.

Learn more about shingles and the shingles vaccine in this recently updated Q&A sheet offered by the Vaccine Education Center, available in English and Spanish.

Just the Vax Trivia Corner

What is believed to be one of the roles viruses play within the environment?   

  1. To facilitate diversity by making sure no one type of bacteria becomes dominant
  2. To create coral reefs in the tropics
  3. To remove algae from the water’s surface
  4. To create optimal conditions for plant growth and survival
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