The COVID-19 illness caused by a new coronavirus has millions of Americans questioning whether it’s wise, or even safe, to travel, especially by air. To help you make an informed decision, an infectious disease expert has created a checklist to help you decide whether to go ahead with your trip or cancel it.
Information courtesy of Robert Preidt, HealthDay Reporter for U.S. News & World Report.
Know your risk
Regarding risk assessment, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) states on their website (as of March 11) that, “For most people, the immediate risk of being exposed to the virus that causes COVID-19 is thought to be low. There is not widespread circulation in most communities in the United States.”
So, for most people with healthy immune systems, infection appears to result in mild symptoms—similar to a cold or flu. However, infection appears to be most severe, and occasionally fatal, for the frail elderly or those with chronic health issues or compromised immune systems.
Should you travel Q&A
Dr. Susan Wootton, an infectious disease pediatrician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, has developed this nine-point checklist to help you decide whether your trip is a go or a no.
If your answer matches the response in parentheses to each question, move on to the next question. If not, you may need to rethink your travel plans.
- Are the travelers healthy? (Yes.)
- Have the travelers received flu shots? (Yes.)
- Do any of the travelers or anyone the travelers have had contact with have any underlying high-risk conditions for the virus, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? (No.)
- Are any travel restrictions for your destination listed on the CDC or U.S. Department of State websites? (No.)
- Is the trip a cruise (which Wootton advises against)? (No.)
- Are there any major events after the trip that would cause problems if you and your fellow travelers were quarantined for a period of time? (No.)
- Would anxiety during travel ruin the trip for you? (No.)
- Are you reasonably able to take common preventative measures — such as washing hands and keeping hands away from the face — during travel? (Yes.)
- Would your regret be manageable if you or a family member caught COVID-19? (Yes.)
If you’ve gone through and answered this checklist, your trip may still be a go. If this is the case, Dr. Luis Ostrosky, professor of infectious diseases at UT Health, offers these tips to help keep yourself healthy while traveling:
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds—wash to the “Happy Birthday” song twice to ensure germs are washed away.
- Carry and use a hand sanitizing gel with at least 60% alcohol as a backup when hand-washing isn’t available.
- If you fly on a plane or take public transit, wipe down your seat, armrests, tray table, air vents, etc. with Clorox disinfecting wipes or similar.
- Don’t touch your face. This is a tough one, because people do this without realizing it many times an hour, around 90 times a day. Try to be aware and avoid this habit.
- If you don’t have to touch that doorknob, railing or countertop, don’t, or use your arm or other body part instead. Like the cold and flu virus, coronavirus can be coughed or sneezed onto surfaces.
- Don’t bother wearing a face mask in public unless you have symptoms and want to help reduce spreading something yourself. According to the CDC, in everyday scenarios, face masks aren’t effective in cutting down your risk of infection, and might even raise the odds as people touch their face to readjust the mask. Also, buying up face masks reduces the supply available for medical professionals, possibly putting them at risk. So, only wear a mask if you are already sick, to prevent spread to others.
- Keep yourself informed, preferably by reputable sources such as the CDC’s travel notices, the U.S. Department of State’s travel advisories, and the World Health Organization’s situation reports.
- In addition to wiping down your airline or train seat, it is recommended that upon checking into your hotel room, wipe down the doorknobs, light switches, handles, coffee pot, tv remote, desk, toilet, faucet, sink, etc. with disinfectant wipes. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly and frequently.
For more information, see the CDC’s coronavirus website.
Source: U.S. News & World Report