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Infectious Diseases

Updated 13 March 2020

Should you cancel travel plans because of coronavirus? Take this quiz

An infectious disease expert compiled a nine-point checklist to help you decide whether your trip is a go or a no.

The coronavirus crisis has millions questioning whether it's wise, or even safe, to travel.

Now, an infectious disease expert has created a checklist to help you decide whether to go ahead with your trip or cancel it.

Covid-19 is an illness caused by the new coronavirus. For most people with healthy immune systems, infection appears to result in mild symptoms – similar to a cold or flu. However, infection appears to be most severe, and occasionally fatal, for the frail elderly or those with chronic health issues or compromised immune systems.

Dr Susan Wootton, an infectious disease paediatrician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, has compiled this nine-point checklist to help you decide whether your trip is a go or a no.

Your vacation may still be a 'go'

If your answer matches the response in parentheses to each question, move on to the next question. If not, you may need to rethink your travel plans.

  • Are the travellers healthy? (Yes)
  • Have the travellers received flu shots? (Yes)
  • Do any of the travellers or anyone the travellers have had contact with have any underlying high-risk conditions for the virus, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? (No)
  • Are any travel restrictions for your destination listed on the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or US Department of State websites? (No)
  • Is the trip a cruise (which Wootton advises against)? (No)
  • Are there any major events after the trip that would cause problems if you and your fellow travellers were quarantined for a period of time? (No)
  • Would anxiety during travel ruin the trip for you? (No)
  • Are you reasonably able to take common preventative measures – such as washing hands and keeping hands away from the face – during travel? (Yes)
  • Would your regret be manageable if you or a family member caught Covid-19? (Yes)

If you've successfully made your way to then end of the checklist, your planned vacation may still be a "go".

Tips for staying healthy

If so, Dr Luis Ostrosky, professor of infectious diseases at UT Health, offers these tips in a university news release to keep yourself healthy while traveling:

  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water – time the wash to the "Happy Birthday" song twice to ensure germs are washed away.
  • Carry a hand sanitising gel with at least 60% alcohol as a backup when hand-washing isn't available.
  • Don't touch your face. This is a tough one, because people do this without realising it many times an hour. Try to be more aware of the habit.
  • If you don't have to touch that doorknob, railing or countertop, don't. Like the cold and flu virus, coronavirus can be coughed or sneezed onto surfaces.
  • Don't wear a face mask routinely in public. According to the CDC, in everyday scenarios, face masks aren't effective in cutting down on your risk of infection, and might even raise the odds of infection as people touch their face to readjust the mask. A mask might be of help if you are sitting next to someone who is coughing. But otherwise, only wear a mask if you are already sick, to prevent spread to others.
  • Keep yourself informed, preferably by reputable sources such as the CDC's travel notices, the US Department of State's travel advisories, and the World Health Organization's situation reports.

READ | Why exactly does the coronavirus spread so easily among people?

READ | Yes, washing our hands really can help curb the spread of coronavirus

READ | Coronavirus: Why the 14-day quarantine period?

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