Coronavirus – The Facts
As concern spreads globally about the virus outbreak which originated in Wuhan, China, our latest blog posts shares some key facts to know about the virus and how to prevent it. Read our blog below and download our handy infographic here for more information.
For more information you can also see our Member FAQ here and read a detailed briefing from our travel assistance partner Assist America here.
What is the virus?
The virus, known as COVID-19, is part of the coronavirus family which includes Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) as well as the common cold. The virus is understood to be a new strain of coronavirus not previously identified in humans.
Where is it?
The virus is understood to have originated in a seafood marked in Wuhan, but it has since spread to more than 150 territories and the World Health Organization (WHO) has declared an official pandemic.
Many countries have put in place social distancing measures, travel restrictions and quarantine procedures to prevent the spread of the disease. Please check with your local authorities for more advice.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms include a cough, sore throat, fever and shortness of breath. In more severe cases it can lead to pneumonia and respiratory tract conditions.
How bad is it?
As of 26 May 2020 there have been more than 5 million cases worldwide and more than 340,000 deaths. The virus is believed to be milder than SARS and for most people the symptoms are mild and will gradually subside, although you are advised to seek treatment early. The majority of deaths have been amongst the elderly or those with underlying medical conditions who are at heightened risk from respiratory tract diseases.
How do I prevent it?
It has been confirmed that the virus can be transferred by human contact, such as via a handshake. The WHO therefore advises social distancing, including maintaining at least 1 metre (3 feet) distance between yourself and anyone who is coughing or sneezing.
Crucially good personal hygiene and regular hand washing is advised. This means washing your hands thoroughly – 20 seconds is recommended. You may also wish to carry hand sanitiser with you in case you are unable to frequently wash your hands. You should also avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth wherever possible.
Finally you should practice good respiratory hygiene. This means covering your mouth and nose with your bent elbow or tissue when you cough or sneeze. Then dispose of the used tissue immediately. You can view our '7 Steps to Prevent the Spread of COVID-19 here'.
What does the WHO say?
On the 11 March the World Health Organization (WHO) officially declared a pandemic of COVID-19.
The WHO says it is prudent for travellers who are sick to delay or avoid travel to affected areas, in particular for elderly travellers and people with chronic diseases or underlying health conditions. Many countries have also enacted travel bans for those travelling from infected areas, so you should check before you travel.
Travellers returning from affected areas should self-monitor for symptoms for 14 days and follow national protocols, and some countries may require returning travellers to enter quarantine. Please check with your local authorities for more advice.
Who is at risk?
The elderly or those with underlying medical conditions are at a more heightened risk and should take extra precautions.
What should I do if I feel unwell?
Don’t panic. Seek medical attention and remember to share your travel history with your health care provider.
It is best to call in advance to alert them to your symptoms rather than visit in person to help prevent further spread of the disease. They can then advise further on whether you need to seek medical treatment. Please refer to your local health authorities for more information about the advice in your area.
If you are symptomatic, where possible try to isolate yourself from family members, particularly the vulnerable (e.g. elderly or those with pre-existing medical conditions).