Outbreak Understanding the latest updates, for travel, work and general wellness
As the Covid-19 outbreak continues to lead global media cycles, many alerts, advisories and related counsel – official and otherwise – have been released. The situation related to this outbreak continues to evolve rapidly, but there are some basic facts that any traveler should know.
Symptoms and treatment
Covid-19 is presenting in a manner very similar to other human coronaviruses, including the common cold. Symptoms may include runny nose, cough, fever, sore throat, headache and may progress to pneumonia or bronchitis with shortness of breath and easy fatigability.
Those at high risk of developing complications include those with underlying chronic conditions, immunocompromised individuals, and those in extreme age groups (e.g. infants or the elderly). The likelihood of this virus leading to fatality is – like other flu-type viruses – greatest with predominantly older people with comorbidities.
While numerous, notable efforts are underway, there is currently no cure or vaccine for Covid-19, but symptom relief may be achieved by taking pain and fever medication, drinking plenty of liquids, staying indoors and getting as much rest as possible. If symptoms are more severe, people should seek treatment from their healthcare provider.
All travelers who have returned from an area where the virus is widespread in the past 2-3 weeks should seek treatment immediately if they: 1) have any respiratory symptoms or fever since their return; or 2) were in contact with any infected or unwell person during their travel.
Travel Restrictions and Precautions
As of March 1, 2020, the CDC has active, Level 3 Warnings to “avoid all nonessential travel” to mainland China, South Korea, Italy and Iran. Outside of these countries, we are seeing the greatest travel complications in Macau, Hong Kong and Taiwan – there is a potential for increased scrutiny of travelers passing through those areas, and they would undoubtedly be screened, and possibly detained, resulting from any visits there, however brief.
No international standard has been adopted to determine which location would have to be visited to trigger screening. Each country and airline has its own rules to make that determination, so that’s something travelers will need to be vigilant about if they’re traveling to – or even connecting in – any airport in that region.
While containment measures are certainly appropriate, we have now moved from “containment” to “mitigation,” which basically means, at this time, that everyone needs to have an awareness of the disease and continue to use the sorts of precautions that are appropriate to guard against any kind of infectious agent:
- Travel with antibacterial wipes and wipe down any surfaces you might touch in public places (the tray table on your plane is a key one).
- If you see somebody coughing, or showing other clear, outward signs of illness, avoid them as much as possible.
- Wash your hands regularly, or at least carry and use a bottle of alcohol-based sanitizer… whichever of these you prefer, do it frequently!
- Keep your hands away from your face and mouth.
- If you’re sick, please stay home.
Anyone unsure as to whether health issues should restrict their travel should consult with their treating physician to address any related concerns.
To stay apprised of the latest updates and guidance:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Written By William Spangler, M.D., Global Medical Director with AIG Travel
Dr. William Spangler is the worldwide medical director for AIG Travel, a global leader in medical, security, and travel assistance. He directs an international team of medical professionals including physicians, nurses and paramedics who assist travelers with medical concerns throughout the world. Assistance services include such activities as medical referrals, monitoring, evacuation and repatriation. He is board certified in emergency medicine, with more than 30 years of experience in this medical specialty.