As news of the coronavirus outbreak continues to spread, along with it already being flu season, the thought of getting on an airplane or a cruise ship can be daunting. Since originating in Wuhan, China, the recently named Corvid-19 has spread to over 15 countries. To keep people healthy, many major airports are screening passengers for the virus and more than a dozen airlines have halted flights to mainland China. While scientist are still researching how and where this strain of the coronavirus originated and working on developing a vaccine, what is known is that it’s a respiratory illness similar to influenza. As such, there are ways to protect yourself, especially if you have an upcoming cruise that you’re looking forward to.
How can I protect myself?
Hand Washing: Frequent hand washing using soap and water or hand sanitizer (if soap and water are not available) is extremely important after touching any public surfaces. There is evidence that suggests the coronavirus can lingers on surfaces for 3-12 hours. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth and avoid close contact with those who visibly are suffering from a cough or cold.
Face Masks: Although scientists still don’t know the preferred transmission method of this coronavirus, based on the traits of past viruses of this nature, this variety seems to spread primarily through respiratory droplets from coughing and sneezing. When moving through densely populated areas such as airports, wearing a one-time use, disposable face masks may be a prudent choice.
Sleep: Not only is getting enough sleep imperative for those who are recovering from an illness, it’s also one of the best ways to ensure your immune system is strong and will prevent sickness. Our bodies repair themselves primarily while we are sleeping, so getting a solid eight hours of sleep each night is essential in ensuring your body is getting the time it needs to optimize your immune system before and on your next exciting journey.
Diet: While maintaining a healthy diet is always important, focusing on a nutrient rich diet before a big trip can be beneficial in boosting your immune system. Look out for brightly coloured whole fruits and vegetables to get that vitamin boost. Foods rich in garlic, ginger and vitamin C are all great inclusions in a pre-cruise, immune boosting diet.
Feeling ill while travelling? As with any illness, make sure to inform the cruise ship’s crew and seek medical care as early as possible. If you seek medical attention on board or after your trip, make sure you share your travel history with your health care provider.
By taking these extra precautions to protect yourself while travelling, you can greatly reduce your risk of getting sick and still enjoy your travel plans to the fullest.
What is the Coronavirus?
This coronavirus, or Crovid-19, is similar to SARS in the sense that it comes from the same viral family and is also zoonotic in nature, meaning it’s a virus that jumped species from an animal to humans. The symptoms of the novel coronavirus are much less severe than SARS, despite it infecting more individuals than the SARS outbreak in 2003. Unfortunately, it has a rather long incubation period of up to 14 days. This means that at the onset of the outbreak, the virus had a better chance to spread from people that believed they were healthy to those they came into contact with. This longer incubation period, combined with a delay from officials in establishing quarantine procedures, and a public holiday that brings many people together in both public and family settings, created a perfect storm for transmission of the virus before anyone knew they were ill. To understand why and how Covid-19 has infected so many people, consider the inception of this virus on a personal level: think of someone you know that works full-time at a coffee shop. Consider the number of people they come into contact with on a daily basis and multiply that by 2 weeks for the full incubation period, before this person had any symptoms. Then consider everyone this individual had contact with as compounded exposure and then everyone the second level of people have had contact with. A situation similar to this helps us understand how the virus appears to have spread so quickly before quarantine procedures were established. Once evident, symptoms are similar to those of the flu or a cold including a high fever and dry cough. Milder symptoms also led people to believe that their temporary illness was just a simple cold or flu, delaying the correct diagnosis and also allowing the virus greater exposure to unsuspecting people. Since the coronavirus was able to be transmitted without anyone’s knowledge, it has been challenging to contain. As time passes, now cases are fewer and authorities are doing an excellent job of contacting people that may have been exposed to the virus and ensuring they are tested.
What happens onboard a ship when there is an illness outbreak?
The cruise industry has well established policies and procedures for any infectious outbreaks onboard. There are medical staff on all ships to help identify and treat those who come down with an illness while travelling. The ship may impose quarantine restrictions on some passengers, or in recent cases, all passengers, to ensure as few people as possible are exposed. On board medical staff can provide medications and treatment to help people get healthy. Recently, these larger scale quarantines have been more common and many cruises in Asia have recently been cancelled or ports of call are being reassigned. This is done to ensure all current and future passengers and crew remain healthy. The goal in a wide-spread situation is to keep those who are ill from boarding the ship. Cruise lines will screen passengers before boarding to ensure everyone will enjoy a safe and healthy voyage. Possible restrictions for nationals attempting to board ships from affected areas may come to pass. Rest assured that everyone is working hard to ensure your enjoy a healthy and stress-free cruise, including the onboard medical staff, on land healthcare preofessionals and infection control authorities.
What about the stories I've heard on the news?
The World Health Organization is doing their best to contain the coronavirus situation through screening and quarantines around the world. Situations regarding cruising have been selectively reported with little to no reporting when a suspected case of the coronavirus has tested negative and the illness potential has been elminated. Please keep this in mind as new stories emerge from the media - healthy people don't make good news stories. To date there has only been one cruise ship affected by the coronavirus and all steps continue to be taken by the infection control tream on board, as well as by local and international health authorities. Resources have been deployed to the ship in the form of medications, medical and goods resources and medical staff including additional doctors, nurses and pharmacists. At time of publishing this article, the quarantine end date remains at February 19, 2020 with all staff and crew being tested and completing the quarantine period. We look forward to the media picking up the story of the ship being released from quarantine and focusing on all of the healthy passengers on board that will be on their way home next week.
As a Canadian, living in Canada, you have very little to worry about regarding Covid-19. Quarantine procedures appear to be working well to ensure you and everyone else stays healthy. If you have an upcoming trip, we recommend you take the usual precautions to stay healthy as you travel. Speak to your doctor if you have specific health concerns. Always be sure you understand your medical and cancellation insurance. And, most importantly, enjoy your trip knowing that you and all of the authorities are doing everything possible to keep you healthy during your tripl. Happy travels!