Children at lower risk for severe novel coronavirus symptoms, expert says

WAKE COUNTY, N.C. (WTVD) -- There is some early good news for parents about the novel coronavirus.

Although statistics about the virus are constantly changing because it's early in the outbreak, current evidence appears to suggest that older adults are more susceptible to coronavirus than children.

RELATED: Wake County man tests positive for novel coronavirus, traveled through RDU in late February

In contrast, the seasonal flu often kills the very young, the very old and those with underlying health issues and compromised immune systems.

The statistics for children and the novel coronavirus were of special interest to WakeMed infection prevention specialist Jessica Dixon.

"I have a 10-year-old myself," Dixon said. "She's here in a school in Wake County in a very close congregant setting with hundreds of other children and so of course I'm thinking of this when it comes to my child."

Dixon said that while the numbers could change, right now they are comforting for parents.

"This is definitely an illness that disproportionately affects older adults," Dixon said. "Really seeing very few cases--certainly not serious cases--in children,"

And like the flu, it appears older adults who have already compromised immune systems are mostly likely to die from the coronavirus.

However, many child care providers are still preparing to prevent a coronavirus outbreak in their facilities.

RELATED: Wake County schools following guidelines from CDC, health department for coronavirus threat

An email sent to parents of daycare kids at Raleigh's First Presbyterian Church Child Development Center reads in part, "We will begin adding a temperature check to our daily health observation. Any child arriving with a fever of 100 will not be permitted to stay."

The email also said that "If more than 25 percent of our staff are ill at the same time, the center will have to close due to illness."

So even if the coronavirus only continues to affect adults, it could still cause problems at schools and child care centers.

And Dixon stressed that the statistics for children shouldn't make parents complacent.

"My advice to my child hasn't changed," Dixon said. "Wash your hands, gel your hands if you can't wash them, keep your hands out of your face."

Dixon also said many of her friends ask her if surgical masks will help them avoid getting the novel coronavirus.

RELATED: Why a face mask isn't your best defense against coronavirus

WATCH: Dixon explains why masks are not necessary for the general public
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"I really do not feel it is necessary for the general public to have masks and that is a position that is supported by the WHO, by the CDC, by the U.S. Surgeon General, by I think the entire medical community supports that," she said.

Dixon noted that when you see video from China, almost everyone is wearing a mask, yet that's where you'll find the most cases of coronavirus.

"If you have a mask on and you are near someone who has a respiratory illness and they cough, it goes on the outside of your mask. So any time that you touch that mask, you're contaminating your hands," she said.

If you then subconsciously touch your face, you could potentially transmit viruses or other germs.

She said that's not the only problem with masks.

"The other thing is that when you have something on your face, especially if you're not used to wearing it, you're more likely to touch your face. You get your fingers up around your eyes, your nose, your mouth as you're adjusting it or moving it so that you can breathe."

The worldwide rush to buy masks has created a shortage.

"There are lots of folks--members of the general public and healthcare providers--who truly need masks in order to get through their day-to-day work or their day-to-day life," Dixon said. "And people buying them up and hoarding them for something where they're not really useful is really causing an issue."

Dixon said only those who already have the novel coronavirus or another compromising illness or those who work with those patients should wear a mask.

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