The coronavirus, now referred to primarily as COVID-19 coronavirus, is so far responsible for over 2,800 deaths worldwide, most of them in China. There are over 83,000 global cases in dozens of countries, with some other outbreaks being reported in Italy and South Korea.
According to a CNN report on a Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 13% of Americans have canceled or changed their travel plans because of the coronavirus outbreak. Many people are wondering if it’s still safe to travel and if they need to take additional precautions while traveling.
Here’s what you need to know about protecting yourself from coronavirus while traveling:
The Department of State’s Travel Site & the CDC Have Emergency Notifications About the Outbreak
The Department of State has specific guidance for Americans traveling abroad. In terms of travel to China, there is a level 4 travel advisory in place which means do not travel because of the coronavirus. That means there is a “greater likelihood of life-threatening risks” and the government has a “very limited ability to provide assistance.” This is specifically for travel to China.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has compiled a detailed guide on traveling to countries where coronavirus is present. As of February 26, there are five countries listed with “widespread or sustained community transmission.” These are China, Italy, Iran, South Korea and Japan. The CDC recommends that Americans avoid all non-essential travel to China, Iran, Italy and South Korea.
The CDC has a level 2 alert for travel to Japan. That means “older adults and those with chronic medical conditions should consider postponing nonessential travel.” The CDC has also specifically mentioned that Hong Kong is not a part of this advisory and there is no recommendation to cancel or postpone travel plans.
There are three countries listed by the CDC with a risk of a large spread of the disease: Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan. Although there is no travel notice in place at this time, CDC is monitoring the situation in those countries and will issue a travel notice if required.
The CDC does not recommend that travelers cancel plans to other countries not listed, but Americans are encouraged to consult their site for real-time updates to the situation.
How Travelers Can Protect Themselves While Traveling; Face Masks Are Not Recommended by the CDC
There is currently no vaccine for the virus, so the best prevention is to avoid exposure. CDC recommends the same practices for any respiratory illnesses, which are to avoid contact with someone who is infected, to avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with hands that are unwashed, and to wash hands frequently with soap and water.
The CDC also recommends discussing travel to China and other areas with travel notices with your health care provider, since some travelers who are older or have a chronic medical condition may be more at risk. The full guide for travelers is on their website.
The CDC’s FAQ page says that it’s not recommended for healthy individuals to wear a face mask to protect themselves from the coronavirus, or any respiratory illness. They say that a face mask should only be worn if recommended by a healthcare professional. People with coronavirus or symptoms of the virus should be wearing a mask, however, to protect others from being infected, as should health workers taking care of someone infected with coronavirus.
Travelers on Cruise Ships Should Reconsider Travel To or Within Asia
According to the State Department’s travel site, passengers with cruise travel to or within Asia should reconsider their plans. It also says that Americans with plans to travel elsewhere by cruise ship should know that because of the coronavirus outbreak, there are strict screening procedures in place. Americans traveling on a cruise ship “may be impacted by travel restrictions affecting their itineraries or ability to disembark, or may be subject to quarantine procedures implemented by the local authorities.”
Travelers with a cruise ship trip planned are urged to contact their cruise line company for more information.
Travelers From China to the U.S. May Be Subjected to a 14-Day Quarantine
Travelers should also be aware that if they have traveled to China in the past 14 days, they might have to undergo a 14-day quarantine when they return to the U.S. According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, all flights from China and passengers who have visited China in the past 14 days will be flown into the U.S. through one of eleven airports for screening and possible quarantine.