Travel Health Is Your Travel Destination Safe?

BY Travel Writer

How You Can Track the Spread of Any Illness Around the World

Concerned about where to travel or if where your plans are taking you are safe from a health perspective?  Now you have a couple of tools to help you learn about your destination with up to the minute advice.

The following two websites show where the Coronavirus has spread and where there are outbreaks of other illnesses too.

This tracker shows ALL pathogens/epidemics tracked around the world, be sure to use to the filter on the top right to isolate which pathogen you’re interested in tracking, You can track measles and hepatitis in addition to many other pathogens. Both are easy to use interactive maps.

This tracker is dedicated to the Coronavirus

Quick Coronavirus Facts: as of Jan 30th, 2020

The coronavirus family is a large group of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract. Coronaviruses can lead to illnesses like the common cold, pneumonia, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and even death. he virus can spread from an infected person to others before the infected person shows any symptoms of the disease.

The deadly coronavirus has spread to over 20 other countries within Asia, Europe, and North America, with the vast majority of cases being in mainland China. In China over 170 people have died and there are at least 8200 confirmed cases reported throughout China.

Due to the outbreak of the virus, the U.S. State Department has issued its highest travel advisory, a Level 4, to the Hubei province in China.  Level 4 advisories urge travelers “Do not travel,” their strongest recommendation.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a Warning Level 3 (red) Alert – which states “Avoid all non-essential travel” to this destination. The outbreak is of high risk to travelers and no precautions are available to protect against the identified increased risk.

The CDC reports that there are no specific treatments for illnesses caused by human coronaviruses. Most people with common human coronavirus illness will recover on their own.

 How the Corona Virus is Spread

Like the flu, the Coronavirus which can be spread from person to person and is transmitted through coughing, sneezing, or touching an infected person – so getting to close to someone who may already have the virus would be risky.  

What Are Airports Doing

Air passengers arriving in the US are being screened now at 20 airports — Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York’s John F. Kennedy among the most popular with flyers. Those airports receive most of the travelers on direct and connecting flights from the central Chinese city of Wuhan and other cities too.

Passengers are being screened by the CDC personnel which includes administering health questionnaires as well as checking passengers for fever and other symptoms.

How Travelers Can Avoid Catching Coronavirus

Try to stay away from sick travelers – when possible

Because the viruses are spread through airborne droplets (sneezing, coughing), when possible, avoid close contact with people who are sick — particularly those who display symptoms similar to those of pneumonia or the common cold, such as coughing or runny noses.

Wash Your Hands Often

Frequent hand washing is an effective way of reducing the potential for infection. Touching of others or touching an infected surface can transmit the illness. If hand washing is not an option, the use of a good alcohol-based hand sanitizer is a good substitute. Try not to touch your mouth, eyes or nose.

While On Airplanes – Wipe Down Surfaces

It’s also wise to take into consideration that airborne droplets can be deposited on hard surfaces that can last for several days.

Compounding this issue, if an infected person coughs or sneezes onto a surface – such as an airline tray table, and another person touches that surface, there may be a chance the virus could be transferred.  This potential transfer is greatly increased if the traveler then inserts their fingers in their eyes, mouth, or nose, as reported by the University of Georgia.  It should also be pointed out that as of this writing, it’s unknown how long coronavirus particles can live on surfaces.

To reduce the chances of contracting a virus while on board an airplane, travelers should take additional measures to minimize exposure to germs and infection, especially if they suffer from a weak immune system or are particularly vulnerable to illnesses.

Travelers should consider using disinfecting wipes to help kill germs and disinfecting hard surfaces they will be exposed to. They should pay special attention to wiping down:

  • Seat tray table (top and bottom). The tray table is the most important, as it usually tops the list for bacteria per square inch.
  • Armrests,
  • TV-screen and/or remote,
  • Seat buckle,
  • Seat storage compartment, and,
  • Seat call buttons

Related Article: What is a Travel Health Clinic

Wearing Masks?

Wearing surgical masks has become a phenomenon in China since the outbreak of coronavirus – but there are mixed reports about their use.  What’s consistently reported is that when a mask is worn, it needs to be a higher quality mask.

To protect themselves from infection, health care workers don’t wear the kind of thin, over-the-mouth masks you see in operating rooms, which are designed to keep germs from leaving the mouths and noses of medical staff in the room. When it comes to preventing infection from their surroundings, health care workers wear N95 respirators, which fit much more tightly.  It’s also reported that these respirators haven’t been tested for effectiveness when worn by the general public. Learn more about the N95 mask.

While the CDC does not discourage healthy people from wearing surgical masks as a precaution, the agency is only recommending their use for patients thought to have the virus and the medical professionals who interact with them.

It should be noted that some airlines, including American Airlines and Cathy Pacific are allowing their flight attendants to wear masks on certain flights to or from China. 

Coronavirus Online Training Resource

The World Health Organization has a free, online training course that has been made available to the general public.  The course, called “Emerging respiratory viruses, including nCoV: methods for detection, prevention, response and control” is appx one hour in length, and can be located here. 

More Travel Health Information

CDC Coronavirus Home Page

World Health Organization

World Health Organization – Situation Report Review – Released Daily


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