The beginning of the year started with bad news for people living and traveling to Asia: a new mutational coronavirus, transmitted for animals to humans was identified in China, the Wuhan province, and made until now over 100 victims. Cases of infections are identified in North America, Asia and Europe and the diagnosis methods are under elaboration.
Does it mean that one should avoid travels to China and Asia in general? How dangerous it is the virus and what are the prospects of a pandemic outbreak?
As someone who used to live and extensively travel in Asia during the bird flu outbreak, and who definitely rejects any hysterical, overemotional life approach, I feel the need to share a couple of thoughts about how to deal with this new health threat in a rational, gentle way.
What we know until now?
Transmitted from animals to humans, the infection with the novel coronavirus manifests through respiratory infections, fever and difficulty in breathing. The incubation lasts about 2-5 days. Based on the information available until now, it is similar to SARS/MERS but it is complicated to say exactly how does it affect people.
The most reliable source of information in this respect, covering also the latest medical findings is the World Health Organisation (WHO).
In such cases, local embassies provide information about the medical evolutions, as well as about doctors speaking your mother tongue and/or English available at your destination.
Should you putting your Asian plans on hold?
My general answer is 'definitely no'. However, the only place I will not recommend travel to Wuhan and the surrounding area.
Obviously, there are some situations when one must avoid travels in areas with high health risk. Pregnant women and people already suffering of respiratory problems, for instance, should be very careful, as well as people with a low immunity system.
If you are not feeling well, you can avoid travel, and if you do though, be sure that you keep in touch with your doctor.
How to protect yourself?
First and foremost, before you go on a long trip, check your health situation. A simple medical checking may be enough for being sure that you are fit enough for an oversea adventure in another part of the world.
Plus, in such complex global situations, the need of having a reliable health insurance is of dramatic importance. Some local insurance companies - at least in Germany - might cover costs related to health-related incidents happening during travels, otherwise a travel insurance is enough to guarantee the best medical conditions in case you are becoming sick on the road.
Other basic preventive measures are very important to be followed, such as:
- Wash your hands with soap as often as possible, especially before eating and after using the toilet.
- Avoid contact with live animals. Some stray animals are so cute and inviting for your attention, but right now you better keep your feelings at bay. In case you can't resist, generously use desinfectant thereafter.
- In case you are having a cold, use a mask.
- Try for a while to be stricter in terms of food safety standards. It will cost you more to avoid open food markets and eat in restaurants instead, but it is safer. You can eat more fruits and vegetables - cleaned as much as possible - or just biscuits from the supermarket. It will cost you more and you will miss a lot of authentic local flavors, but those are the times. You can compensate with more cultural and natural sightseeings.
As for now, you can maintain your Asian travels, but you must be more careful than before and be sure that you took all the preventive measures before leaving, including by being informed about the situation at your destination, from reliable sources.