It is the topic of conversation around the world. In January 2020, news outlets began reporting many people were being infected by the Novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) in Wuhan, China. Every day brings more questions with very few answers. As a result, travel is being affected globally. So we thought we would take a moment to explain what we know so far and what precautions you should take if you are traveling.
Where does the Novel Coronavirus Originate?
According to the CDC and WHO websites, the origin of the virus appears to be from animal to human transmission. The epicenter of the outbreak was from a wet market in Wuhan, China where meat, seafood, and vegetables are sold. The outbreak coincides with one of the largest human migrations in the world known as Chun Yun which helped to spread the virus.
Chun Yun is the travel period starting approximately 15 days before the Chinese New Year and extends approximately 15 days after the end of the public Spring Festival holiday. Spring Festival is the first of two holidays in China that extend for a week allowing many people living far from home a chance to reunite with family. Although most travel back to their home towns, many are using this time to take family vacations abroad.
Novel Coronavirus is being classified in the same group of viruses as SARS which hit Hong Kong in 2002-03 and MERS which affected most of the Middle East in 2012. Researchers confirm that human to human transmission is happening by carriers releasing droplets from coughing or sneezing infecting people nearby. Because of Chun Yun, the virus has been able to travel far very quickly with so many people at its epicenter on the move. Unprecedented efforts are being made to research and contain the virus as quickly as possible.
Is the Outbreak Serious?
The virus, officially named today as COVID-19 by the WHO and previously known as 2019nCoV, is serious. Infected people are presenting with symptoms including dry cough, fever, headaches, and diarrhea. The symptoms vary from mild to severe and deadly in patients with underlying conditions. It is contagious and the public has been asked to take precautions. Within China, many businesses remain closed and people returning to their city of residence are maintaining various forms of quarantines in order to limit contact and exposure for at least 14 days upon arrival. People with symptoms are being asked to self-quarantine and alert their health care providers to determine if testing for COVID-19 is required.
Where Should I Go For Information
So many details are unknown at this point which increases the hype and speculation of its reach and forecast in the coming months. Fear is growing and the only way to combat it is with information. CDC (Center for Disease Control) and WHO (World Health Organization) are reliable resources to track outbreaks globally and provide updates regularly on their websites. Although COVID-19 is dominating the news, there are more localized outbreaks of the flu, measles, yellow fever that you should check before you travel.
Tips to Use When Traveling
Here at eOasia, we wanted to compile a list of resources that can help you plan your trip or assist while you are traveling. These tips can help you keep yourself safe and healthy. Many of the tips below are recommendations we make year-round for a safe and healthy trip.
- Most consulates and foreign affairs offices provide their citizens with a website that advises about travel advisories around the world. Today is COVID-19, tomorrow could be a weather-related event or even a safety issue. Regardless, it is extremely important to check the conditions locally before you go. It is also a good idea to have the contact of your consulate just in case an emergency arises.
- Stay in Contact. What’s App is a great messing tool that can work off data and wifi. Not only can you stay in contact back home while you travel, but you can message tour operators locally. It is great to keep in touch before you head out on your adventure to make sure everything is ok.
- Check for recommended vaccines before you travel. Outbreaks occur frequently but may not be reported in the news like the novel coronavirus. The CDC, although targetting travelers from the United States, can offer resources on deciding what vaccines you need. Keep in mind that many vaccines should be administered well in advance for travel.
- Hygiene is key. We tend to forget how dirty things really are. Some of the busiest airports may have over 100 million people transiting each year. The CDC and WHO have recommendations that are simple to help keep you from getting communicable diseases like the COVID-19.
- Wash Your Hands Frequently with Soap for at least 20 seconds.
- Keep your hands away from your face.
- Use alcohol-based hand sanitizers.
- Wipe down surfaces with pre sanitized wet wipes.
- Be courteous if you do need to cough or sneeze. Keep tissues on hand or cover your mouth and nose with your sleeve.
- The most effective way to transmit the common cold, the flu, and other respiratory infections is by sneezing and coughing near someone else.
- Many airlines are requiring you to wear a mask while traveling. While there is no scientific proof that masks are effective at preventing the spread of germs, it will not hurt. Also, be sure to change out the mask daily or every few days depending on use. These too will collect germs.
- If you are sick with something that is contagious, don’t travel.
Travel Insurance is something more people are investing in when they travel. Travel Insurance will target costs due to delays, cancelations, lost luggage, and injuries while traveling. Even if you have health insurance back home, it may not cover the costs of travel disruptions or injuries and illnesses abroad. It’s very important to read the details of your policy before you travel including additional the plans listed below. Exclusions are common with all policies so its important to know before you purchase.
- Check your credit card. Many cards like ones from Chase offer travel protection when you purchase a trip or hotel with their card. They will cover things such as travel disruptions and rental car insurance. Read the fine details and make sure your destination is covered.
- Purchase Trip insurance with your flight or hotel booking. When you book but many operators offer inexpensive travel insurance with the purchase of a flight or hotel.
- Many insurance companies offer temporary travel insurance. This option can be quite affordable and cover you while traveling in case of sickness or injury. Just be aware they make not cover flight cancelations or lost luggage.
Be mindful of local delicacies- Part of the travel experience is taking part in the local cultures which can include some interesting things to eat and drink. Pay attention to the menu and do not be afraid to say no to certain items.
- Sometimes local delicacies include uncooked meats or wildlife. Locals may be able to eat these dishes because they are accustomed to the dish. You, on the other hand, could end up with a bad case of traveler’s belly.
- Tap water could contain bacteria. Even if the water is deemed safe to drink, each ecosystem treats water differently. Stick to bottled water and be sure to clean off the top before you drink until your own internal ecosystem adapts.
- Ice in Drinks. If you cannot determine the source, it is best to accept that drink without ice. Restaurants may also keep drinking ice and ice used for cooling raw meats and vegetables together allowing for cross-contamination.
- Fresh Fruits and Raw Vegetables. Cross-contamination happens easily if the restaurant or food cart is storing fruits and raw vegetables on the same ice as uncooked meat. Take a look around and see if the conditions look sanitary before digging in.
Bring Your Medicine
- Carry pain reliever and stomach relief (anti-diarrhea) medicine. This is an absolute must! Locating a pharmacy to buy when you land is challenging.
- If you do take medicine regularly, ensure that you keep enough on hand to cover you throughout the trip. Prescription medicines are not universal and will require a physician’s visit at your desintation.
- In addition, certain drugs may be illegal in the country you are traveling to so it is best to ensure that you have a prescription for that medicine and check ahead to make sure you can bring it in and in what quantity.
- If you are sick before you leave, double-check with your physician that you are safe to travel.
We send our thoughts out to those affected by this virus and give thanks to everyone on the front line who are working tirelessly to combat the spread and look for the vaccine.
Just a reminder, many countries and destinations rely solely on tourism for revenue. If we stop visiting, many of the operators of these beautiful paradises may no longer exist. Ensure your decision to travel or cancel your travels is based on reliable information from trusted sources. In a time when the news is reported as events are happening, we must all be responsible for reading, believing, and disseminating information.
Let us know if you have questions or concerns by contacting us at firstname.lastname@example.org.