A fast-spreading outbreak of a new coronavirus (2019 nCoV) that started in China has made its way to Thailand, Japan and the United States. In many cases, the virus has spread via travelers flying internationally.
The spread of viruses can often be gravely exacerbated by the spread of germs in air travel, as was the case with the SARS (another type of coronavirus) outbreak that began in China before spreading to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003.
The CDC has deemed the risk from the 2019 nCoV virus to Americans to be low, but the agency is urging people to practice proper hygiene (at all times, not just during air travel) to help mitigate the virus’ ability to spread.
Here are some tips from the CDC on how to stay healthy while traveling by plane – and in general – to limit your risk of contracting a cold, the flu or the the 2019 nCoV. The CDC recommends that travelers should:
–Avoid contact with sick people.
–For those traveling to/in Wuhan – avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
–Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
–Carry hand sanitizer with you. The CDC recommends at least 60 percent alcohol concentration to maximize effectiveness.
–Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
–Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands.
–Keep the air vents above your seat open during your flight to improve ventilation, ideally pointing them away from your face.
–Wipe down arm rests and your tray table with sanitary wipes, and avoid touching the handle on the bathroom doors, if possible, by using a tissue or sanitary wipe.
–Bring a face mask and wear it if you’re sitting next to someone coughing or sneezing.
–Sit in a window seat and don’t get up until the flight is over, if possible.
–If you are seated next to someone sick, ask a flight attendant if it’s possible to move. Passengers sitting within two seats or a row of a passenger with a respiratory illness have an 80 percent higher risk of getting sick.
The CDC’s most important recommendation is to avoid traveling when you are sick. The agency recommends staying home for a minimum of 24 hours after a fever has subsided.