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Q&A with kids

Dr. Jeff Pernica, infectious diseases specialist, McMaster Children’s Hospital

This video was created using excerpts from a presentation delivered by Dr. Pernica to students from the Hamilton Wentworth District School Board (HWDSB) in partnership with the McMaster Children and Youth University (MCYU).

What are germs?

I spend most of my day talking about germs. Germs are little tiny animals that nobody can see. If they get into your body, they can make you sick.

Our bodies are made of tiny little living pieces called cells. They’re so small you can’t see them with your regular eyes, you can only see them with a microscope. Now if these tiny germs get into our bodies, they can make the cells sick. If our cells get sick, because they make up our bodies, then we get sick.

There’s a part of your body whose job is it to fight germs and stop them from making you sick. The immune system cells are the parts of your body that fight
germs. Now if they have seen a germ before, then they can fight it well and you don’t get sick. Or if you have gotten a vaccination (a needle in your arm) that teaches the immune system cells in your body to fight the germs, you don’t get sick. But if a new germ comes that your immune system cells don’t know, then sometimes your body has problems fighting the germ and you get sick.

Where did the coronavirus come from?

The coronavirus was probably in animals before, because every kind of living thing on earth can have germs. You and me can have germs,  dogs can have germs, cats can have germs, fish can have germs, bats can have germs. Probably, the coronavirus was in bats for a long time and then the virus went from the bat to the person and that made that person sick. Then it went from that person to other people. Germs can go from animal to people and from people to other people. This coronavirus came from China but there are viruses in all countries of the world.

When will the coronavirus be over?

When the immune cells in people’s bodies know how to fight the germ, the germ doesn’t make them sick. The only way that their bodies learn how to fight the germ is after they get sick or if they have a vaccination and immunization. Because most people in the world haven’t gotten sick yet and there isn’t a vaccination yet, there’s probably going to be people getting sick from the coronavirus for at least another couple of years. I think the coronavirus is gonna be with us for a while. It’s not gonna go away next week or the week after that or the week after that.

Why do we have to wear masks?

So for coronavirus, the main way that the germ goes from person to person is by being breathed out. When people who are sick with the coronavirus breathe in and out, the germ can go on their breath. So that is why we say when adults are in enclosed spaces, they should stand apart from one another
because the farther away you stand, the harder it is to get a germ from another person’s breath.

Now if the germ comes out in breath, then if you wear a mask, some of those germs will get stuck in the mask and not infect other people. This is why I would say especially for adults that are close together, adults should all wear masks.

I think for schools it’s a little bit different but the reason that you wear masks in general, so that people who are sick spread less virus to other people.

I think the science on COVID especially changes so fast, things get out of date within a month. I think it’s hard for most doctors to keep track with what is happening. I think there’s lots we don’t know and lots that we’re going to learn in the next few months.