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The Novel Coronavirus And What Travelers Need to Know

There is a significant amount of information and misinformation online and on social media about the novel coronavirus which originated in Wuhan, China and so for travelers who need to decide on whether or not to change their plans or stay the course, our teams have been working around the clock to put together a comprehensive overview of the most current, most accurate information on the virus and its spread. This is the latest on the coronavirus and what travelers need to know.

The History

Chinese authorities confirmed the existence of a new infectious disease on January 7th, and since then global health authorities have been reacting in realtime to the novel Coronavirus’s spread. It is understood the first case was reported in Wuhan in December and as of now the working theory (which may change) is that is was contradicted in a wet market.

With China and many parts of Asia celebrating the Lunar New Year, the virus’ timing could not have been worse. This period represents the globe’s largest annual migration which typically sees over a billion individual trips. This year is different however with many travelers voluntarily cancelling their plans, while China has put into place significant travel restrictions on well over 50 million people. The goal is to slow the spread and to keep people safe.

For its part the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and US State Department on January 27th warned against any travel to China. The CDC issued its highest travel warning on Monday, urging Americans to avoid all nonessential travel to China because of the outbreak of coronavirus. Many other countries have followed suit.

What is the Novel Coronavirus?

Coronaviruses are a large family of respiratory viruses that can cause diseases ranging from the common cold to the Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

Typically with this type of virus patients exhibit the symptoms such as fever, cough and trouble breathing. The incubation period is thought to be up to 14 days with the shortest known transmission being one day, with 10 days seeming to be typical. It’s important to know that a person is considered infectious during this period even if they don’t present symptoms.

Coronaviruses usually spread with a cough or sneeze from an infected person or by touching an infected surface such as doorknob. It is thought that the virus can live for days on an object. 

In case of symptoms suggestive of pneumonia before, during or after travel, all travelers are encouraged to seek medical attention and share their travel history with their health care provider.

Public health authorities should provide to traveler’s information to reduce the general risk of acute respiratory infections, via health practitioners, travel health clinics, travel agencies, conveyance operators and at points of entry.

Who is Most at Risk

As of January 27th the World Health organization (WHO) published these soaring statistics:

Globally – 4500 confirmed cases in at least 15 countries 

China – 2741 confirmed, 5794 suspected cases of which 461 are severe, and there has been at least 106 deaths

Outside of China – 37 confirmed, in 15 countries

WHO’s Risk Assessment:


Regional – High

Globally – High

These numbers are changing daily, sometimes every few hours as more information is learned and more cases are confirmed.
So in essence everyone, not just people who live or travel in Asia are at a high risk. This is a serious, global challenge.

What Precautions Can You Take?

The good news is after SARS, MERS, Ebola and other public health emergencies, global medical leaders are more prepared than ever before to deal with serious, global threats.WHO’s standard recommendations for the general public to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses are as follows, which include hand and respiratory hygiene, and safe food practices:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water;
  • When coughing and sneezing cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue – throw tissue away immediately and wash hands;
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough;
  • If you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing seek medical care early and share previous travel history with your health care provider;
  • When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals;
  • The consumption of raw or undercooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.

The Bottomline

This is a fast moving virus with confirmed human-to-human transmission. In this case, wearing a facemark and using hand sanitizer or disinfectant wipes is thought to be a good solution. If you’re flying, aisle seats tend to have more germs than window ones as often embarking and disembarking passengers touch them on the way on and off a plane. Regardless it would be prudent to use wipes to clean any airplane surfaces you’ll be in contact with and always use tissues to open and close lavatory doors or on any public surfaces you need to touch. In hotels, do the same with TV remotes, phones, handles, etc.

Many airlines and hotels are waving cancelation or change fees for travel in the most affected areas, especially as so many parts of China and so many China travelers are on a government mandates lockdown.

Ultimately the decision to stick with a trip or cancel it is usually a personal one, therefore we hope this overview on the latest info regarding the the coronavirus and what travelers need to know helps you make a more informed decision. Stay safe out there.