Coronavirus at School
Viruses are germs that can make people and animals sick. Viruses cause colds, chickenpox, flu, hand, foot, and mouth disease, and many other diseases. Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that can infect the respiratory tract and cause symptoms like a runny nose, cough, sore throat, and fever. Seven coronaviruses can infect humans, including the viruses that cause Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). Other coronaviruses can infect animals like cats, dogs, monkeys, and rodents.
Almost everyone gets infected with a coronavirus at some point. Usually, the symptoms are mild and last for just a few days. In rare cases, a coronavirus infection can lead to a more serious problem like pneumonia or MERS, a severe infection of the respiratory tract that hasn’t been found outside of the Arabian Peninsula. SARS is also serious but hasn’t been seen since 2004.
At the end of 2019, a new type of coronavirus called 2019-nCoV began to make people sick in China. This virus came from animals and moved to people, probably at a market selling live seafood and animals. It causes fever, cough, and trouble breathing. It can be more serious in some people, especially if they were already sick.
Doctors believe that coronaviruses spread from person to person through the air by sneezing or coughing, or by close contact, such as shaking hands. Coronavirus infections are most common in the fall and winter.
Treatment for most coronavirus infections involves easing symptoms until the infection runs its course. More serious infections may need treatment in a hospital or other care facility.
Keep in Mind
Chances are you’ve had a coronavirus infection in the past but thought it was a cold. If you have any concerns about a cough, fever, or other symptoms, call your doctor.
Will my child get coronavirus at school?
The Australian government’s initial advice was that any child who had been in contact with an infected person be excluded from school for 14 days. But schools shouldn’t exclude children who were well and who had not had any exposure to an infected person that may have come back from China.
This position was updated on Wednesday afternoon when the chief medical officer asked people who have returned from Hubei province, or have had contact with someone who has a suspected or confirmed case of the virus, to stay at home for 14 days.
This update came as four people attending a conference in Germany contracted the virus from a Chinese national who did not show any symptoms until 24-48 hours later.
Who decides who goes to school?
During disease outbreaks, authorities are particularly concerned about schools and childcare centres for several reasons. Children are often in close contact with each other and are less likely to adhere to public health messages (such as washing hands and not sharing water bottles).
Children in childcare, especially those younger than two years, are particularly vulnerable because many of them still haven’t finished their vaccinations.
This is why following an outbreak, authorities would make decisions to isolate children who might have come in contact with a person with a suspected transmittable disease. Authorities consider several factors when making decisions to isolate people following an outbreak. These include the risk of infection, its modes of transmission and how aggressive it is.
Each Australian state and territory has its own disease surveillance and control branch which develops public health recommendations based on the scientific evidence relating to an outbreak. But some public health messages can also be influenced by political factors.
For instance, the NSW health minister admitted the government’s advice was not “medically necessary” but that the government has acted in line with community expectations to ensure the safest possible environment for students.
This advice is less urgent than the current messaging.
In Toronto, three schools were closed during the SARS outbreak but 24 people had died of it there within three months.
Health officials making the decision to close schools during an outbreak weigh the potential benefits of reducing transmission against economic and social costs, difficult ethical issues (such as potential xenophobia) and the disruption of education.
Although the risk to human health is always prioritised, these considerations make decisions difficult, especially when the number of cases is still low.