From “how did a worldwide pandemic start?” to “just how many germs are there anyway?” Kids have questions about the COVID-19 outbreak. Lots of them.
Global News invited young viewers to submit those questions. We then took them to the experts, in an effort to provide some comfort in this time of uncertainty.
Some of the answers have been condensed or edited for clarity.
How did COVID-19 start? Why is the coronavirus here?
Dr. Chris Sikora, medical officer of health in the Edmonton Zone: It really did have origins in Wuhan, China. The best evidence — and the scientists are still working on this — is that the virus itself originated in bats and for some reason transferred into humans. Normally that doesn’t happen. So when we have a new virus that people haven’t seen, it always has potential to spread like it is spreading right now.
Dr. Michiko Maruyama, family medicine resident: Coronaviruses themselves are not a new virus. They are a family of viruses that can make animals and humans sick. Sometimes these viruses can change, and they can become somewhat of a new virus, that acts in new ways, through changes in their genetic blueprint. They can jump from animals to humans. This is what happened with COVID-19. It changed in a way that it started to infect humans. So, it’s a new virus to us and that is why some people are getting very sick.
So there’s no cure for the coronavirus and some people have recovered. How did they recover when there’s no cure?
How long do you have the coronavirus? How long does it take you to get the coronavirus?
Sikora: If you are exposed to the virus — as in, if somebody in your household has been identified as having it — there’s a real risk you might be exposed. From the time of exposure to time of having symptoms might be anywhere from five to 10 days. That’s called an incubation period. Those symptoms can be things like a cough, sore throat, runny nose, fever or worse: difficulty breathing. Most of time people get better. Sometimes people need hospitalization or intensive care along the way.
Dr. Michael Gardam, infectious diseases physician: When we get infected with viruses like the coronavirus, for the first week or so your body is kind of overwhelmed. It doesn’t really have a lot of defense against it. But then your body’s immune system kicks in and we start to produce antibodies and cellular immunity to the virus. So typically within two weeks after infection, your body has developed immunity to it. So now your body is actually fighting it.
Why are germs so bad?
James Mino, occupational hygienist: Well, germs like to steal from the body so they can make more copies of themselves. Sometimes depending on what they’re stealing it can hurt the body — which is why you get sick.
Sikora: Throughout our lives we come in contact with things that may make us sick. Germs ultimately have that potential to make us sick. Sometimes those germs can make us feel bad for a couple hours or a couple days, like having a runny nose, a snuffy nose, a fever and a cough. Most of time we get better. Our bodies have really good immune systems. That’s the body’s defense mechanism to fight off infection, to fight off germs. Most of the time our immune system works wonderfully. However with a new virus like coronavirus there’s nobody in the population that has previous immunity to it.
Does hot water help kill the coronavirus?
Sikora: Being a virus, it has a coating around it. And the way we inactivate that virus and make it go away is with soap and water.
Mino: If the water is hot enough it will kill the coronavirus, but at that temperature you could also hurt yourself. There are better ways to get rid of them — like washing your hands with soap because it will rinse away those sticky germs. They can’t stick to you if you use good soap and water.
How many virus are there? Because I wanna know what number of virus this one is.
Mino: There are lots and lots and lots of different kinds of viruses. There are even some kinds of viruses that make other germs — like bacteria — sick. Those ones are called phages. For coronaviruses, there are a few hundred that affect pigs and cats and bats. But there are only seven that make people sick.
How long would the germs last?
Scientists are working to learn exactly how this new virus spreads. Here’s what we know about coronaviruses as a family:
When can I see my friends again? Go back to school? Play at the park?
Here’s where we admit that sometimes grown-ups don’t have all the answers.
The estimates are changing as authorities everywhere fight the spread of the virus. Rules vary from place to place. We’ve included some insight in our video series, accurate as of the week of March 30.
Bookmark our Global News coronavirus page for the latest updates.