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The Coronavirus also known as the Wuhan Virus after the city where the outbreak began, is an infectious respiratory disease that was first contained to Hubei Province in December 2019. Cases have spread to other parts of the Mainland, the rest of Asia and many other countries including the United States, Thailand, Japan, Taiwan, Nepal, Hong Kong, Singapore, Vietnam, Macao and South Korea.
Infected cases are in the thousands and fatalities have reached well into the triple digits.
The government has stepped up precautions to contain the epidemic, including an unprecedented travel ban that so far encompasses all cities surrounding Wuhan and impacting some 50 million residents.
Here are some FAQ's about the virus and precautions that should be taken when traveling to China.
What are the Symptoms of the Coronavirus?
- The incubation period for contracting the virus and the onset of symptoms is between six to 10 days.
- The new coronavirus causes a fever, fatigue, sore throat and dry cough in the early stages of the disease
- As the illness progresses, patients may experience difficulty breathing and shortness of breath
How is the Coronavirus transmitted?
Like other coronaviruses - such as the common cold - the virus is spread via droplets when a person coughs or sneezes. It can also be spread when someone touches a contaminated surface such as a door handle.
Per the Centers for Disease Control:
"This virus probably originally emerged from an animal source but now seems to be spreading from person-to-person. It's important to note that person-to-person spread can happen on a continuum. It's not clear yet how easily 2019-nCoV spreads from person-to-person. When person-to-person spread has occurred with MERS and SARS, it is thought to have happened mainly via respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes, similar to how influenza and other respiratory pathogens spread."
Should you delay or cancel your trip to China?
The situation is evolving and you should keep tabs on the latest news if you are planning on traveling to China and know what to expect. January 31, 2020 update:
The CDC has issued a Level 3 Warning to avoid all non-essential travel to China. In response to an outbreak of respiratory illness, Chinese officials have closed transport within and out of Wuhan and other cities in Hubei province, including buses, subways, trains, and the international airport.
There is limited access to adequate medical care in affected areas.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak a global health emergency.
The US State Department has issued its highest-level travel warning Level 4 for China: Do Not Travel. The Department of State ordered the departure of all non-emergency U.S. personnel and their family members. The U.S. government has limited ability to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens in Hubei province. At this time, all organizations are watching the situation closely.
From a more practical standpoint, keep in mind that if you do travel to China, and specially Hubei Province where Wuhan, the epicenter of the outbreak is located, much of it is in quarantine and transport hubs, including air and rail have shut down until further notice. Travelers should be prepared for travel restrictions to be put into effect with little or no advance notice, meaning you might be stuck in a certain area due to lack of transportation options.
Likewise coming back to your home country, count on tighter screening measures which have been introduced at many international airports across the world for flights to/from China.
Many of the most popular tourist attractions in China have been closed temporarily until further notice:
- In Beijing, the Forbidden City and sections of the Great Wall and the Ming Tombs have been shut down as well as the Lunar New Year Temple Fairs.
- In Shanghai, Yuyuan Garden, the Shanghai Zoo, Shanghai Grand Theater, Shanghai Wild Animal Park, Shanghai Haichang Ocean Park, Disneyland Shanghai, Shanghai World Financial Center Observation Deck, the Xujiahuiyuan scenic area, and A-level tourist attractions in Qingpu District such as Zhujiajiao watertown are all temporarily closed. Huangpu River cruises have also suspended operations.
- In Hong Kong and Macau major Chinese New Year celebrations including parades and fireworks were scrapped. Many popular attractions have been closed temporarily including Hong Kong Disneyland, Ocean Park and the Ngong Ping Cable Car. In Hong Kong primary and secondary schools will remain closed for two more weeks after the Lunar New Year holiday
Airlines including Delta, AAmerican and United are waiving fees to reschedule flights and said they would refund tickets to Wuhan, many airlines are in fact cancelling their flights to China.
Many hotel chains including Hilton, Marriott and Hyatt, are also waiving cancellation fees for reservations at its hotels in China.
Cruise lines Carnival Corp. and Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd. said they are NOT allowing anyone who lives in or recently passed through Wuhan to board.
Recommendations and Precautions to Prevent Infection
Some simple and common sense precautions all travelers and the regular population for that matter should follow:
- Avoid contact with sick people
- Wash hands thoroughly and often
- Don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth. If you need to touch your face, make sure your hands are clean
- Cover your mouth when coughing/sneezing, but not with your hand, use a tissue or your sleeve if you must
- Avoid touching animals (live or dead) and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat)
- Avoid the wet markets, live bird markets and farms
- If showing any symptoms (high fever, coughing), get treatment right away
- If showing any symptoms after you return, advise your physician you have been in China. Before you go to a doctor's office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms
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