Well, I just hate this. I would much rather see you in town and you ask me about my latest adventure or where I’m headed next. But when the greeting is “Aren’t you scared to travel? What about that Corona Virus, are you cancelling trips?”
In no way do I mean to diminish the importance of being aware of what is happening with this prevalent concern. What I do wish to do is keep travelers informed and calm while this episode plays out. No one can predict what is around the corner (although our media tries) so getting overly anxious about a hypothetical situation isn’t a plan. So let’s look at what we KNOW. In reading many credible travel publications, here is some basic information.
In early January 2020, China and the World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed the identification of a new virus. It stems from several cases of pneumonia identified in Wuhan, a city in the Chinese province of Hubei, on December 31, 2019.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) describes coronaviruses as a type of virus that causes a fever and symptoms of the upper respiratory system like a sore throat, coughing, and a runny nose. Sometimes coronaviruses can cause more severe symptoms like difficulty breathing, illnesses of the lower respiratory system like bronchitis and pneumonia, and sometimes death. Other coronaviruses include the common cold, as well as SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome), and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Disease).
Unfortunately, Cold and flu viruses generally change, which is why we keep getting sick from them and why we are encouraged to get a flu vaccine every year.
According to Fodor’s Magazine, “Scientists pay close attention to new viruses because they don’t know how they’ll behave and how dangerous they might be. For example, a virus that’s contagious only when the infected person is clearly sick and that causes only minor symptoms isn’t a big concern. But a virus that transmits rapidly, especially before an infected person even realizes they’re sick, is more dangerous, as is one that causes severe symptoms. Viruses that are transmitted by direct contact, like touching mucus membranes or bodily fluids, are easier to control than smaller viruses (like measles and chickenpox) that are transmitted through the air by floating on dust particles.”
SARS-CoV-2 is called a “large virus that lives on droplets” by Dr. Chris Mackie, a Canadian doctor. Gravity pulls a heavy virus toward the floor and Mackie says SARS-CoV-2 could be propelled a distance of one or “mayyyyybe two” yards via a cough or sneeze.
So this is why travelers (think cruise ships) are being quarantined and areas in the East are on lock down. Fodor’s also reported that, “On February 12, the number of new COVID-19 cases jumped by 33%, but this was largely due to a new method of diagnosing the illness.” the diagnosis method was changed “to include all those patients [in China] who have been hospitalized and have pneumonia,” even though the results of a positive culture test weren’t yet available. The good news? The new method allows doctors to treat and isolate patients more quickly. The bad news? The increased number of people being treated have given the media material to create a travel fear frenzy.
Until there is an actual travel ban to the place you have plans, the up-to-date sites and bloggers encourage people to follow the advice of health experts and the chances of getting sick from this new coronavirus remains slim. Actually, the advice is pretty easy and something we should be doing anyway during the cold and flu season. Fodor’s recommends the following and so do I!
• Wash Your Hands: A 20-second scrub using warm running water and soap is best Then, rinse with clean water and dry your hands. If you don’t have access to a sink, using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is fine. Regardless, wash your hands often: certainly after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose; before you prepare food; before and after eating, and after using the restroom. And throw those used tissues away immediately (and then wash your hands!).
• Avoid Touching Your Face: Most viruses and bacteria enter the body through mucous membranes like the mouth, nose, and eyes. It’s easy to re-contaminate your hands after washing them, so keeping your hands away from your face is the best way to prevent germs of any type from getting in you and making you sick.
• Cough and Sneeze Into Your Elbow: Yes, covering your cough or sneeze with your hand is preferable to spraying all those tiny virus droplets directly into the air. But then you’ve contaminated your hand and you’ll inevitably touch something or someone. So, make a new habit of coughing/sneezing into the inside of your elbow. And while you’re at it, break that other habit of crossing your arms and putting your hands right onto your sneeze spots.
Note: fake coronavirus news is spreading so fast that the WHO calling it an “infodemic.” Make sure your information comes from a credible source and not just making news.
Patti Beth Anderson has more than 20 years of experience in the group travel industry taking people all over the world. Her motto is "I return with the same number of people I left with… not necessarily the same people, but the same number nevertheless. So no 'crankpots' allowed" She may be reached at 918-786-3318 or email@example.com.