Unless you lived under a rock for the past week, you are probably aware of the coronavirus outbreak and how fast it has spread not only in China, but also all over the world. Today’s news was that China is closing its borders, not allowing its citizens to leave the country, starting from Monday.
First of all, what is the coronavirus and why is it so dangerous? The new virus spreading around China belongs to the Coronaviridae family (same as the flu or Ebola) but it’s new, something that hasn’t been encountered before, therefore there is no vaccine or cure for it. It originated in animals (probably bats or snakes) and spread to humans in a questionable meat market in Wuhan.
Chances are that by the time this article will be published, the virus would have reached many other countries in Europe, including the UK. As traveling by air is responsible for spreading the virus, I thought about writing an article about how best to take care of yourself if you are traveling by air in the next period. Of course, I am not a doctor, but I did work in the pharma industry for a few years, including during the 2009 N1H1 virus outbreak, which killed more than 18,000 around the world before a vaccine was developed, and I know a thing or two.
Before panicking about the number of cases of coronavirus and the alarming way is going up you need to know that many of the people who died were in poor health, which is quite normal when it comes to general flu too. There are probably many more cases that haven’t been identified because the symptoms are very mild. Now, what are the symptoms of getting infected with the new coronavirus? Pretty much the same ones as pneumonia, so cough, fever and breathing difficulties. As mentioned before, there is no cure, the only thing that the hospitals can do at the moment is to support the vital organs and to hydrate the body.
If you have a strong immune system, the chances are that you will be ok if you happen to get infected with the new coronavirus. However, children and elderly people, as well as the ones who have respiratory problems are at higher risk.
It is yet to be studied how the coronavirus is transmitted from human to human, with early believes that through cough, sneezing and close contact with an infected person. Also, it is believed that an infected human is contagious from the incubation period, when he doesn’t show any symptoms.
So, what can you do if you need to travel by air during the next weeks?
Tips for traveling during the coronavirus outbreak
If you are really worried or if you are in one of the risk categories, the best thing to do would be to cancel your trip. If you can’t cancel and you can’t avoid traveling, then follow these simple hygiene rules:
- Wash your hands with soap as many times as possible. Dry your hands with a paper towel instead of the automatic hand-dryer in the airport’s toilets, which can spread germs.
- Carry antibacterial gel and use it every time you touch public surfaces. I was in a big airport recently and I have used half a bottle of sanitiser in one trip just because I kept forgetting not to hold the rail of the escalators.
- Try not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth, as this is the easiest way the germs spread.
- Wipe the tray table on the plane with alcohol-based antibacterial wipes. We all use the tray table on flights, either to eat or to put our devices on to watch movies. You would be surprised to know that those tray tables carry more germs than the loos on the plane!
- If you are traveling to countries that have been affected by the coronavirus, avoid eating street food or even better, don’t eat any meat, eggs or milk. Also avoid contact with all animals. Sure, that stray cat is cute, but don’t touch it.
- If you choose to wear a mask, make sure it covers both your mouth and nose, and throw it away after each use.
Being in an airport after the coronavirus outbreak started, I was amazed of how many people don’t cover their mouths when they cough. If you are sick, it is your duty to not spread the germs to other people! If you can’t cancel your trip at least wear a mask, to protect other travellers. When you cough or sneeze cover your mouth with a tissue and then throw it in the bin straight away, don’t keep it for a later use.
If you present the symptoms of the coronavirus (fever, coughing, shortness of breath), do not travel. Call your GP and share your traveling history, your healthcare professional will let you know what is best to do. By going to the surgery or hospital, if you actually have the virus, you risk spreading it around to a lot of other people.
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