Given the recent concerns about the Coronavirus outbreak and travel safety, we have created this quick guide for families to help prepare for safe travel with children.
What is it?
Coronaviruses (CoV) are a strain of viruses ranging from the common cold to far more severe diseases such as MERS-Cov and SARS- CoV. The strain that is causing the latest outbreak, 2019-nCoV, is a new one, not previously found in humans. Signs of infection include fever, coughing, and shortness of breath. In more severe cases, the infection can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, and even be fatal.
The World Health Organisation, WHO, has declared the Coronavirus a global emergency.
What are government officials doing about it?
It is believed that the outbreak started in a live animal market in Wuhan, with most cases being identified within that city. Wuhan has now been placed under quarantine. A handful of cases has now been identified outside China including in Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Vietnam Singapore, Taiwan, Macau, USA (Seattle), Australia, and Germany. One of the key concerns being raised is that the virus appears to be contagious before any symptoms actually present themselves.
At the moment, international government bodies, such as the American CDC (Centre of Disease Control and Prevention), are proposing travel restrictions to and from Wuhan, and advising the public to avoid all non-essential travel to China. According to the Department of Health and Social Care and Public Health England, China has introduced port of exit screening to stop any people with symptoms exiting the country.
Advice for travelers
As a traveling parent myself, my biggest concern is how to keep us all safe when traveling. As part of the Bébé Voyage editorial team, I did my best to source all the latest information from official government websites to help us find true and helpful advice.
According to the WHO, the best way to protect oneself when traveling is to maintain a high level of personal hygiene and safe food practices. Here are the main points directly from the WHO website:
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with people who are sick.
- Stay home when you are sick.
- When coughing and sneezing, cover mouth and nose with flexed elbow or tissue-–throw tissue away immediately and wash hands.
- Avoid close contact with anyone who has fever and cough.
- When visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases of novel coronavirus, avoid direct unprotected contact with live animals and surfaces in contact with animals.
- The consumption of raw or under-cooked animal products should be avoided. Raw meat, milk, or animal organs should be handled with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.
According to Dr. Juna Bobby, as with all other viruses, elderly, young kids and those with immuno-compromised are at increased risk. There’s no solid evidence regular surgical masks help and some studies say they do and others say they don’t. If you’re sick though, wearing a face mask can help others in your family not get sick. The most effective measure is hand washing, 20 seconds, running water, soap or hand sanitizers with at least 60% alcohol content.
Dr. Bobby states: “The flu is definitely much more of a threat than Coronavirus in the U.S. Get flu shots. Even though it doesn’t match, the vaccine likely will decrease severity of the virus. Protect your general immunity with good sleep–kids 0-3 mo 14-17 hours, 4-11 months 12-15 hours, 1-2 years 11-14 hours; 3-5 years 10-13 hours; 6-13 years 9-11 hours; 14-17 years 8-10 hours; 18-25 years 7-9 hours.”
She also recommends:
- Consuming citrus fruits and generally a healthy diet full of vegetables and whole food.
- Staying hydrated–The best way to tell is if the color of urine is clear.
She adds: “To be clear, there’s no recommendation to decrease travel to anywhere but China. I beg to differ. I would be on the cautious side right now with little kids. You don’t know who came in contact with anyone.”
The WHO has also released a number of downloadable leaflets to explain how to stay healthy when traveling. Please check them and also the latest guidance available at www.gov.uk/guidance/ before, during and after traveling.
Moreover, the CSSE (Center For System Science and Engineering) at John Hopkins University has created a real-time map to show the spread of the virus worldwide. Click here to view: Coronavirus Global Cases Map.
As of 31st January 2020, United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar has declared the 2019 Novel Coronavirus a Public Health Emergency. Starting from 5pm EST on 2nd February 2020, the US Department of Health and Human Services will implement temporary measures to help with the emergency including quarantine (up to 14 days) and screening of any US citizens who have been in Hubei Province in the previous 14 days. US Citizens returning to the United States from visiting other areas of mainland China in the past 14 days will be subject to entry screening and up to 14 days of monitored self quarantine. Foreign nationals (excluding immediate family members of US nationals and permanent residents) who have traveled to China within the past 14 days will be denied entry into the United States. For more information please refer to the official briefing from Secretary Azara.
As of 1st of February 2020, AHPPC (Australian Health Protection Principal Committee), has declared that in light of the latest changes to the 2019-nCoV outbreak, entry to Australia will be denied to anyone who has left or transited through mainland China (not just the Hubei Province). This does not apply to Australian citizens, permanent residents, their immediate families or air crew members. For more information please refer to the official statement from the AHPPC.
As the position regarding 2019-nCoV is developing and changing on a daily basis, please note that the above is only short-term interim advice to flag where further information may be available. It is therefore particularly important for everyone to ensure that they keep themselves up to date with all the latest information from the various official websites.
For more resources on safe travel, read about staying healthy abroad and how a pediatrician recommends families stay healthy while traveling with babies.