Concerns about the spread of a deadly type of coronavirus originating in China may worry international travelers, but there are steps you can take to protect yourself, infectious diseases specialist Dr. William Schaffner told FOX Business.
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“There are certainly things that people can do,” Schaffner said. “Avoid people who [are] coughing, sneezing. … If you do become ill, unfortunately, obviously report yourself immediately to a health care provider.”
Travelers should focus on hand hygiene, he recommended. They should also know that airflow inside airplanes means passengers within a few rows of each other are most likely to infect each other.
“If somebody is coughing or sneezing or not exercising cough etiquette, offer them a Kleenex or ask airline personnel to,” Schaffner said. “Do it with a smile, not a frown.”
His last tip? Travelers should cut out any contact with animals if they travel to China, he said.
“People who are going to China, whether tourists or on business, the first thing is don’t go to live animal markets … since we don’t exactly know the source of the virus,” Schaffner said. “Be very careful if you’re going to rural areas.”
Chinese government expert Zhong Nanshan confirmed fears on state television late Monday that the new type of coronavirus can spread from human to human.
Six people have died and 291 have been infected in China, the National Health Commission said Tuesday.
Medical professionals in the U.S. should be asking sick patients if they’ve recently been to China or been near someone who has, Schaffner said.
“Our public health authorities, my friends at the CDC, have this top of the mind,” he said. “They have deployed over 100 people to three major aiports receiving people from Wuhan, China. They’re screening everyone who comes in.”
Concerned about a global outbreak similar to SARS, another coronavirus that spread from China to more than a dozen countries in 2002-2003, numerous nations have adopted screening measures for travelers from China, especially those arriving from Wuhan, the central city where the virus appears to have originated.
Guards at Wuhan’s airport pointed electronic thermometers at travelers. Several online retailers were sold out of masks, which were being sold for more than 10 times their original price. Users of the popular Weibo social media platform urged others to wash their hands and stay home.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.