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What you should do if you’re traveling during the coronavirus outbreak

Airplane Flying IMG_9215The coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, China, has spread to at least 25 other countries. It has killed at least 425 people, and infected more than 20,500 in China. Among the countries with cases of the coronavirus are Australia, Cambodia, Canada, France, Japan, Singapore, South Korea, the United States, and Vietnam.

In the U.S., 20 airports are screening passengers for the virus.

Symptoms of the coronavirus are fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, headache, shortness of breath, and gastro-intestinal problems.

On Friday, the Trump administration said that foreign nationals who visited China within the last 14 days will be barred from entering the U.S. Also, Americans who visited the Hubei province will be quarantined when they return to the U.S. Several U.S. airlines have suspended flights to China.

Should you cancel your travel plans due to the outbreak?

First, you need to make a determination about your risk. If your trip is to China, your risk is greater than for other countries.

Currently, the U.S. government is urging people not to travel to China. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued a warning for all of China.

If you have travel plans, you need to decide whether you’re comfortable traveling to other countries or not.

If you decide to travel, wash your hands with soap and water for 20 seconds, avoid sick people, especially those with cold symptoms, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

In addition, you can buy a mask that will protect you from germs. You may want to wear it on airplanes, because, due to the usual circulation problems, airplanes are a place where illnesses are easily transmitted. Also, don’t sit in an aisle seat, because a study showed people can catch illnesses from ill people who pass by and may accidentally touch them or their seat.

When I travel on an airplane, I always turn off the air vent. In my experience, it seems to just blows more contaminated air at you.

If you decide not to travel because you’re worried about the coronavirus, your travel insurance may or may not reimburse you if you cancel.

Most travel insurance plans don't offer coverage for pandemics such as the coronavirus, according to the Forbes article “Does Travel Insurance Cover the Coronavirus?” Only a “cancel for any reason” travel insurance policy will allow you to cancel your vacation because you’re afraid of an infection.

However, many policies will cover you if you get sick on your trip.

For your hotel reservation, call to see if you can cancel without a charge being made. Some hotel chains are accommodating travelers who are canceling their China reservations.

On air travel, most airlines have canceled flights to China. Several airlines are accommodating travelers who want to reschedule China-related travel plans. 

Contact your airline if you want cancel a flight to a country other than China due to coronavirus concerns to see what its policy is.

It's hard to say how long the coronavirus outbreak will last. One estimate was April.


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Carol Cassara

Thanks, Rita, for this informative post.


Um, just pointing out that masks are for keeping germs INSIDE the mask of a person who is ill, to protect those around him or her. Everything that I have read from the CDC and WHO state that wearing a mask does NOT protect the wearer from picking up germs from nearby people. The exception to this is to wear a very particular kind of mask, but the infectious disease doctor who discussed this on a news show commented that those masks are generally used only by medical professionals because they are quite uncomfortable to wear, so people generally want to be inside one only for minutes at a time.

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