Unless we’ve been living under a rock, we would be aware of the speed the Wuhan coronavirus (known to Chinese scientists as nCoV-2019) has been spreading in China and the world (at least 13 countries to be exact).
The coronavirus is a family of viruses that causes respiratory symptoms that can range from mild to extremely serious. The common cold is a coronavirus and so is Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome virus (SARS CoV) that infected more than 8000 people and killed around 774. The Wuhan coronavirus is part of this family of viruses.
Symptoms of the Wuhan coronavirus usually appear as a fever, cough and difficulty breathing. It can range from mild and flu-like to full blown, life-threatening pneumonia. The more serious symptoms of the disease tend to affect those with existing health issues
While it is wise to cancel trips to China at present, it would not be convenient to axe all your travel plans. Doctors are predicting that the epidemic will remain at least for a couple more months. Since we can’t postpone our plans to go abroad indefinitely, here’s how we can protect ourselves while we travel according to the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
- Avoid travelling if you’ve a fever, cough or have difficulty breathing
This may seem like a no-brainer, however, we often tell ourselves that it’s just a slight fever (or flu, or cough). Under the current circumstances, it’s best to err on the side of caution to prevent infecting others (and also to prevent ourselves from being infected when our immune system is down).
- Stay away from anyone with fever, cough or respiratory difficulty
The WHO and CDC have stated that the coronavirus can be spread by being in close contact with an infected person. ‘Close contact’ has been defined by CDC as being within six feet or in a room or within closed confines with an infected person.
- If it’s not possible to move away from someone who’s sick, have a mask handy to reduce the risk of infection.
While some medical experts are of the opinion that masks don’t really help to prevent infection, it is sometimes the only way we can protect ourselves when we simply can’t move away from a sick person (this happens when we’re seated in a plane next to someone who’s sick, for instance). Please bear in mind that masks must be worn correctly in order for them to provide sufficient protection. Don’t touch your face mask once it’s worn; discard the single-use mask immediately and wash your hands after use.
- Keep Your Hands Clean And Avoid Touching Your Eyes, Nose and Mouth
When washing your hands, remember to be thorough and clean your hands for at least 20 seconds. Don’t just keep unwashed hands away from your mouth. The virus can also enter your body if you rub your eyes or touch your nose with germ-laden hands. Wash your hands with soap often to keep them clean and use a hand sanitizer if you don’t have access to soap and water.
- Avoid infecting others by coughing or sneezing into a tissue, the crook of your arm or the sleeve of your shirt
If you’ve sneezed into a tissue, discard it immediately and wash your hands to prevent infection.
- Make sure the food you eat is cooked well and avoid contact with raw meat or sick animals
The first cases of Wuhan coronavirus were said to have originated from a market where live animals were sold. Scientists believe that the virus was originally from bats and snakes before it was transmitted to humans. In the face of these findings, it is best to be cautious for now and consume food that is cooked well.
If you have been in contact with someone who has travelled to the affected areas in China and is experiencing fever, cough and shortness of breath, see a doctor immediately. Call ahead to inform your doctor and avoid contact with others. If you are currently travelling in transit and are feeling the symptoms, inform your flight crew or train or bus attendant immediately.
For live updates on the Wuhan coronavirus, click here.
Healthcare advisory images courtesy of the World Health Organisation