As more cases of COVID-19 pop up, nations have taken drastic measures to try to curb the spread of the novel Coronavirus. Its impact has been felt globally, especially in the airline industry as many of the big and small names have been forced to cut back operations to cope with significantly reduced capacity.
While COVID-19 carries a higher mortality rate compared to the flu, the media has caused its own share of panic over the new virus that shares some similarities to the flu (which gets almost no media coverage).
Even as scientists try to understand the new virus, the reality is that many of the preventative measures being recommended are guidelines that we should have always been practicing from beforehand.
In this article, we will try to cover some of the facts and myths about the Novel Coronavirus, and will also offer some safety tips for when you travel.
Does wearing a mask prevent Coronavirus?
Masks are not a surefire way of preventing the spread of the virus, as transmission can also occur via the eyes as well. Regular surgical masks are not effective against blocking the virus, and while N95 masks are much effective, it is imperative that the proper instructions be followed with regards to how it should be worn.
Depending on your situation, you most likely would be wasting your time stock-piling face masks, making it harder for those who really need it to get it.
Who should wear face masks?
If you are suffering with any respiratory illnesses, wearing a mask can help reduce the spread of airborne droplets which can enter someone else’s nose, mouth or eyes. The same also applies for persons in close contact with those who currently suffer from Coronavirus (or other respiratory illnesses). People, such as healthcare professionals and airport staff and crew (among others), who are directly involved with those who are or may be ill, should always wear a face mask as a preventative measure.
For the average Joe, wear a mask only if you’re traveling into an area where there is an outbreak.
What about air travel? As airplanes have high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filters, the odds of contracting coronavirus are much lower, but wearing a mask may still add an additional layer of protection just in case the person next to you may be carrying the virus.
If you choose to wear a face mask, make sure that it properly covers your nose and mouth, and ensure there are no gaps to the side which can air in or out. Also, avoid touching the mask once it is put on.
Who should not wear a face mask?
If you’re just walking through the town or neighborhood, wearing a mask is pretty much ineffective once you maintain enough distance (about 1 meter or 3 feet) from others around you. If you are in an area where there is no outbreak, avoid overbuying masks as you would just be wasting your money and preventing those who need it the most from accessing it.
Wash your hands regularly (or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer)
Regardless of whether you are on an airplane, in the airport, or any where else, washing your hands with soap and water for at least 20 seconds has proven to be one of the most effective ways of preventing the spread of the virus. This should be done every time before consuming food or drinks, after using the bathroom, or if you are coughing or sneezing. If you do not have immediate access to soap and water, you can use a hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol.
Use disinfecting wipes for surfaces
Airports and airplanes can be particularly dirty places. Even though airlines are running campaigns showing how well they are cleaning up to prevent the spread of Coronavirus, do yourself the favor and still use a disinfecting wipe as an added measure of protection. Cleaning staff are not guaranteed to clean every thing on an airplane, so make sure to wipe down surfaces that you are sure to come in contact with. On the aircraft, wipe down your seat, tray table, personal TV (if those are installed), seat belts, seat handles and window shades.
Note that not all wet wipes are effective against viral spread. The EPA has listed a number of products effective against the virus.
Avoid touching your face (especially your eyes, nose and mouth) with unwashed hands
Infection can take place via the eyes, mouth or nose, and it is advised that touching your face should be avoided, especially if your hands are not clean.
Cough and sneeze into tissue or flexed elbows
If you have a cough or are sneezing, do so in paper towel or into your flexed elbows. Avoid sneezing into your bare hands as the virus could be passed to your hands and then onto other surfaces that you touch after. Used tissue should be immediately and properly discarded.
Eat well cooked food from more reputable sources
Whether you are cooking for your self or buying food from a restaurant, shop or hotel, always eat well cooked meals to ensure that any remaining viruses or bacteria are killed in the cooking process.
Get some rest and reduce the stress
Going into a new country means exposing yourself to a wide variety of differing conditions, and simple things like getting a proper night’s sleep and reducing stress can boost the body’s ability to fight off any potential infection.
What to do if you think you are ill?
Consider re-scheduling travel plans and seek medical advice
If you display symptoms such as coughing, sneezing or high fever, it is advised that you defer your travel plans and seek medical attention immediately to rule out the illness. As many airlines are lenient about change fees regarding the virus, it’s better to re-schedule your trip rather than potentially infecting others.
If you have a confirmed case of COVID-19, or have traveled to a country where there is a Coronavirus outbreak, it is best to self-quarantine until the illness or symptoms have cleared. There is no set period, so you should keep in contact with a medical professional to confirm whether or not it is safe to be in human contact again.
Being in a self-quarantine involves maintaining separation from others around you (including pets) for the allotted time frame. This can include steps like:
- Staying isolated in a separate room (and using a separate bathroom if the option is available).
- Avoiding unnecessary contact with and maintaining distance from family members and friends.
- Following the above tips including wearing a face mask to reduce airborne droplet spread, washing hands, keeping surfaces clean, and cough and sneeze into paper towels or flexed elbows.
- If your symptoms or condition worsens, head to your local health care facility for further treatment.
Do not travel if you do not have to
Deferring travel plans to affected regions is strongly advised as little is known about the virus. Even though it is making its way to more countries on a daily basis, seek alternative arrangements in the mean time to help slow the spread. Considering working from home if your company allows it, and use teleconferencing options instead of having physical meetings.
If you have vacation plans, look into the possibility of having your travel dated deferred. Many airlines and hospitality companies have relaxed their date change or cancellation policies given the severity of the outbreak.
Stay up to date via trusted sources
As news spreads about COVID-19, it is recommended that you follow guidelines offered by government and health agencies. Stay up to date with travel advisories, as well as measures to avoid being exposed to the virus.
Always check in with reputation organizations including:
- World Health Organization (WHO)
- Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
- Respective governments and embassies.
- Any other publication that has sufficient evidence from trusted sources to back its claims.
[Featured Photo: Burst/Pexels]