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Should You Cancel Travel Plans Due to Coronavirus? Take This Quiz

MONDAY, March 9, 2020 (HealthDay News) -- The coronavirus crisis has millions of Americans questioning whether it's wise, or even safe, to travel this spring.

Now, an infectious disease expert has created a checklist to help you decide whether to go ahead with your trip or cancel it.

COVID-19 is an illness caused by a new coronavirus. For most people with healthy immune systems, infection appears to result in mild symptoms -- similar to a cold or flu. However, infection appears to be most severe, and occasionally fatal, for the frail elderly or those with chronic health issues or compromised immune systems.

Dr. Susan Wootton, an infectious disease pediatrician at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston, has developed this nine-point checklist to help you decide whether your trip is a go or a no.

If your answer matches the response in parentheses to each question, move on to the next question. If not, you may need to rethink your travel plans.

  • Are the travelers healthy? (Yes.)

  • Have the travelers received flu shots? (Yes.)

  • Do any of the travelers or anyone the travelers have had contact with have any underlying high-risk conditions for the virus, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease? (No.)

  • Are any travel restrictions for your destination listed on the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or U.S. Department of State websites? (No.)

  • Is the trip a cruise (which Wootton advises against)? (No.)

  • Are there any major events after the trip that would cause problems if you and your fellow travelers were quarantined for a period of time? (No.)

  • Would anxiety during travel ruin the trip for you? (No.)

  • Are you reasonably able to take common preventative measures -- such as washing hands and keeping hands away from the face -- during travel? (Yes.)

  • Would your regret be manageable if you or a family member caught COVID-19? (Yes.)

If you've successfully made your way to then end of the checklist, your planned vacation may still be a "go."

If so, Dr. Luis Ostrosky, professor of infectious diseases at UT Health, offers these tips in a university news release to keep yourself healthy while traveling:

  • Frequently wash hands with soap and water -- time the wash to the "Happy Birthday" song to ensure germs are washed away.

  • Carry a hand sanitizing gel with at least 60% alcohol as a backup when hand-washing isn't available.

  • Don't touch your face. This is a tough one, because people do this without realizing it many times an hour. Try to be more aware of the habit.

  • If you don't have to touch that doorknob, railing or countertop, don't. Like the cold and flu virus, coronavirus can be coughed or sneezed onto surfaces.

  • Don't wear a face mask routinely in public. According to the CDC, in everyday scenarios, face masks aren't effective in cutting down on your risk of infection, and might even raise the odds of infection as people touch their face to readjust the mask. A mask might be of help if you are sitting next to someone who is coughing. But otherwise, only wear a mask if you are already sick, to prevent spread to others.

  • Keep yourself informed, preferably by reputable sources such as the CDC's travel notices, the U.S. Department of State's travel advisories, and the World Health Organization's situation reports.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more on COVID-19 and travel.

SOURCE: University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, news release, March 6, 2020

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