What started as a mystery virus last month in Wuhan, China, has now killed more than 50 people and infected more than 2,000 around the world.
On Friday, the second case was reported in the US and three were reported in France — the first in Europe. The disease has spread to at least seven other countries outside China as well: Thailand, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Vietnam, Singapore, Nepal, and Canada.
At first, authorities suspected that the coronavirus — which most likely originated at a seafood market — could only spread to humans from animals. But they have since determined that humans can transmit the virus to one other.
"Travel spreads this kind of virus like wildfire," Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer at Healix International, which offers risk-management solutions for global travelers, told Business Insider. "I think we're going to see cases popping up in cities all over the world."
Here's how to stay safe while flying.
Travelers should avoid close contact with people who are sick — particularly those with cold symptoms.
Symptoms of coronavirus
Based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) the symptoms of coronavirus may include :
- runny nose
- sore throat
- a general feeling of being unwell
Human coronaviruses can sometimes cause lower-respiratory tract illnesses, such as pneumonia or bronchitis. This is more common in people with cardiopulmonary disease, people with weakened immune systems, infants, and older adults.
Travelers should try to avoid contact with people who display symptoms similar to those of pneumonia or the common cold, such as coughing or runny noses.
"What we don't know is to what extent this disease can be transmitted by people who are only mildly ill," Toner said. "That's one of the things that we're trying to figure out right now."
How to protect yourself
The CDC warns travelers not to touch their eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
There are currently no vaccines available to protect you against human coronavirus infection, the CDC says. You may be able to reduce your risk of infection by doing the following:
- wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds
- avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands
- avoid close contact with people who are sick
"There is no cure for this virus," Hyzler said. "If there is a vaccine, it'll take years."
If you're traveling to or within China, steer clear of live animals.
Scientists have traced the Wuhan virus to a local seafood market with live animals, and think it might have jumped from bats to snakes to people.
If you do become ill after traveling to or within China, report your symptoms to a health authority right away.
Toner said people who have been ill and visited China recently should tell a doctor about their travel history.
"I think they're doing the right things," Toner said of the Chinese government's response. "They are screening for patients or passengers that are coming in. They are trying to educate them to make sure they get care. They're trying to isolate them as soon as they start getting sick. These are the things that prevent a transmission."