Travel and the Coronavirus
Fodors’ excellent article by Johanna Read about travel and COVID19.
Easy and Common Sense Protections
Basically, if you follow the advice of health experts like the CDC and the WHO, the chance of getting sick from this new coronavirus remains slim. And not only is the advice pretty easy, it’s what we should all be doing anyway to prevent colds and flus.
Wash Your Hands: A 20-second scrub using warm running water and soap is best (the Mayo Clinic says to sing “Happy Birthday” twice). Then, rinse with clean water and dry your hands. It’s important to dry them, though the jury is out about the best way (some studies say hot air blowers spread germs and that paper towels or clean fabric towels are best; other studies disagree). If you don’t have access to a sink, using a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol is fine. Regardless, wash your hands often: certainly after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose; before you prepare food; before and after eating, and after using the restroom. And throw those used tissues away immediately (and then wash your hands!). Avoid Touching Your Face: Most viruses and bacteria enter the body through mucous membranes like the mouth, nose, and eyes. It’s easy to re-contaminate your hands after washing them, so keeping your hands away from your face is the best way to prevent germs of any type from getting in you and making you sick. Cough and Sneeze Into Your Elbow: Yes, covering your cough or sneeze with your hand is preferable to spraying all those tiny virusy droplets directly into the air. But then you’ve contaminated your hand and you’ll inevitably touch something or someone. So, make a new habit of coughing/sneezing into the inside of your elbow. And while you’re at it, break that other habit of crossing your arms and putting your hands right onto your sneeze spots.
People who have higher risks—the immunosuppressed, very old, or very young—should follow the advice of their doctor.
Still feeling a little paranoid? It’s good practice to regularly disinfect surfaces that get handled frequently (your phone is filthy). On the plane, you can also use a wipe to clean off your tray table, armrests, and seatbelt, though the evidence is unclear whether this is effective in killing germs or just cleaning up that bit of sticky spilled Coke.
Regardless of whether there’s a new coronavirus circulating, staying away from animals when you travel (even that cute stray cat or dog) is a sensible precaution. They likely carry bugs that your body isn’t used to. The WHO is also reminding people of its general advice to be extra careful in markets that have live animals or non-refrigerated meats and fish.
It’s wise to keep your distance from sick people, the WHO recommends three feet. No hugs, kisses, or handshakes, please. And really, during cold and flu season why not keep close contact just for loved ones?
At restaurants, do an extra hand wash, ideally after you’ve given back the menu and before you start to eat. At a buffet, only put food on a clean plate; don’t bring your used plate back to the smorgasbord. And while we’re at it, let’s call a halt to waiters at fancy restaurants picking up your used napkin and refolding it when you step away from the table. Let’s all just keep our germs to ourselves, yes?