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Does Coronavirus Have You Concerned for Upcoming Travel?

Pandemic fears of the Coronavirus (COVID-19)

It’s all over the news, day and night. A global pandemic is looming!  100,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 worldwide (as of 03-06-20) with new hotspots mushrooming in Italy, Iran and South Korea. It might spiral out of control as it gets a foothold into communities where the infrastructure cannot handle it – despite our best detection systems. The next few weeks will tell if we can control it’s spread and put this COVID-19 genie back in the bottle.  

destination wedding in Dominican RepublicI, like many of you, have travel booked for later into April and May – a family wedding in the Dominican Republic. Maybe you might have a trip into the olive grove plantations of Italy, or the Australian outback, or maybe a cruise. Are you rethinking your upcoming travel? Or at least carefully monitoring the worldwide situation and trying to tamp down the fears. The Dominican Republic just logged their first case of COVID-19 and Haiti, with all it’s impoverished chaos even still after the 2010 earthquake, being right at the other side of the island, chances are it will be another hotspot if it gets into the capital area.

So, how serious is this Coronavirus (COVID-19)?

I don’t want to minimize the experience of 100,000+ people and the serious sickness and effects they’ve experienced. The Coronavirus is a nasty virus with major health and medical implications unintentionally being spread globally.

Coronavirus (COVID-19) isn't very friendlyBut let’s look at some statistics to better understand where we are today:

  • The population of the world stands at about 7.7 billion people.
  • Currently Coronavirus has infected 100,000 people globally with 3400 deaths (currently a recovery rate of 97%)

Proportionately, every year around the world,

  • The Seasonal Flu kills 646,000 people globally with more than 5 million people a year hospitalized (US Center for Disease Control)
  • Malaria kills 1 million people annually with a child under 10 yrs old dies from Malaria every 30 seconds (UNICEF)
  • virus and superbug dangersHepatitis kills 1.34 million people annually (WHO)
  • Tuberculosis kills 1.5 million people each year (WHO)
  • 1.7 million NEW cases were reported of HIV in 2018, and 770,00 died of AIDS the same year (UN-AIDS)
  • Pneumonia killed 2.56 million people and 1/3 were under the age of 5 years old. (University of Oxford)

Given our global travel and the fact that virus’ can live outside the body and contaminate a surface affecting many simply by touch, this elevates the Coronavirus COVID-19 to a challenging global threat.

Facts versus fiction on the spread of COVID-19

As news sources continue their 24/7 coverage on the coronavirus and propagate theories, projections and hypothesis, it’s great to have firsthand factual data from scientists studying this virus. Factual, impartial information will help balance the broad swath of theories and AI projections.

Two of the best sources I’ve found painting a complete picture and presenting this data well are:

Johns Hopkins University dashboard stats as of 03-03-20

So, how contagious is this coronavirus (COVID-19)?

Summarizing how Dr. James Robb, MD FCAP, a renowned pathologist and one of the first molecular virologists in the world to work on coronaviruses (beginning in the 1970s) describes transmission and contagion – “This virus is spread in large droplets by coughing and sneezing. This means that the air will not infect you! BUT all the surfaces where these droplets land is infectious for about a week on average - everything that is associated with infected people will be contaminated and potentially infectious. The virus is on surfaces and you will not be infected unless your unprotected face is directly coughed or sneezed upon. This virus only has cell receptors for lung cells (it only infects your lungs). The only way for the virus to infect you is through your nose or mouth via your hands or an infected cough or sneeze onto or into your nose or mouth.

10 tips to protect yourself from Coronavirus

Considering this is a virus and not a bacterial contagion, safeguarding against contaminated surfaces and protecting bodily points of entry are top concerns. Here’s some tips from Dr. James Robb, MD FCAP, to help minimize your picking up the virus when you travel and introducing it to your breathing pathways.

Let me say that these really are best practices in everyday life as cold, cough and flu season hits each year.

bring on the fist bump (or footshake!)1) NO HANDSHAKING! Use a fist bump, slight bow, elbow bump, etc.

2) Use ONLY your knuckle to touch light switches. elevator buttons, etc.. Lift the gasoline dispenser with a paper towel or use a disposable glove.

3) Open doors with your closed fist or hip or a knuckle to the handicap push buttons - do not grasp the handle with your hand, unless there is no other way to open the door. Especially important on bathroom and post office/commercial doors.

4) Use disinfectant wipes at the stores when they are available, including wiping the handle and child seat in grocery carts.

5) Wash your hands with soap for 10-20 seconds and/or use a greater than 60% alcohol-based hand sanitizer whenever you return home from ANY activity that involves locations where other people have been.

make hand sanitizer your travel buddy6) Keep a bottle of sanitizer available at each of your home's entrances. AND in your car for use after getting gas or touching other contaminated objects when you can't immediately wash your hands.

7) If possible, cough or sneeze into a disposable tissue and discard. Use your elbow only if you have to. The clothing on your elbow will contain an infectious virus that can be passed on for up to a week or more!

8) Travel with hand sanitizers and latex/nitrile gloves (get the appropriate sizes for your family). The hand sanitizers must be alcohol-based and greater than 60% alcohol to be effective.

9) A note about disposable surgical masks – use of these in this case is more to prevent you from touching your nose and/or mouth disinfect any foreign surfaces you touch(We touch our nose/mouth 90X/day without knowing it!). This is the only way this virus can infect you - it is lung-specific. The mask will not prevent the virus in a direct sneeze from getting into your nose or mouth - it is only to keep you from touching your nose or mouth.

10) Take zinc lozenges with you when you travel. These lozenges have been proven to be effective in blocking coronavirus (and most other viruses) from multiplying in your throat and nasopharynx. Use as directed several times each day when you begin to feel ANY "cold-like" symptoms beginning. It is best to lie down and let the lozenge dissolve in the back of your throat and nasopharynx. Many brands are available.

I’m traveling in the next few months, am I safe?

Travel advisory map Depending where in the world you are heading and how fast new hotspots flare up over any span of time, the safety question really can vary. A trip to Florence and Rome was probably safe til about 10 days ago. Now it’s a hotspot of contamination. We all know cruises have the potential for the spread of contamination even in non-pandemic times – I’m sure we’ve all heard the stories of the Diamond Princess and how the situation quickly turned. Predicting where is safe and future hotspot is a game I’m sure the bookies love! Keep watch on the Johns Hopkins University Dashboard for new emerging hotspots where you may be traveling.

If you have travel insurance, review what protection level you have. If you have the “Cancel for any reason” clause, you can be refunded about 75% of your total expenses at any time you want to opt out. Other insurance coverages only pay out when government advisories elevate the level of any particular countries risk from Level 1 – Exercise Normal Precautions (Safe) to a Level 3 – Reconsider Travel (currently like Italy and South Korea) or an all-out Level 4 - Do Not Travel (like China and Iran). Check with your travel provider for more specifics on the level of coverage you may have.

Travel risks by countryFor a complete list of countries and their travel advisories visit your governments listing of Travel Advisories:

Lets all hope and pray this genie gets put back into their bottle and the spread of the coronavirus is contained through government inter-cooperation and our collective wisdom to act and live safely. 2020 will be a year for improving inter-governmental communications and cooperation to protect this beautiful planet we live on and love to explore.

I’m still a little worried for my families upcoming Dominican Republic travel late April. I guess the next few weeks will tell the outcome. Are you concerned? Do you have travel on the short-term horizon? Drop a comment below, we’d love to hear your thoughts. Connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

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