The recent Coronavirus outbreak has taken the limelight in the news - even more so now as the death toll rises and the virus continues to spread. The fear of the Coronavirus has also sent many people in a frenzy trying to purchase face masks for protection. The result is a worldwide shortage of masks and a lingering sense of unease. Countries like Hong Kong have repeatedly extended their work-from-home protocol in an attempt to limit the risk of infection for their employees. Even here in Toronto, we’re finding restaurants, grocery stores, and malls quieter because people are opting to stay home over leaving the house unnecessarily.
However, the good news is that the best way to reduce the risk of transmission isn’t rocket science. WHO (World Health Organization) advises that frequent hand-washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the virus from spreading. It is also advised to avoid areas with high human traffic as it’s almost impossible to tell if anyone is a carrier of the virus when people aren’t showing the symptoms yet.
Unfortunately, not everyone has the luxury to stay home, as their jobs require them to travel. If you’ll be travelling in the near future, here are some tips for you to minimize the risk of transmission:
Bring Hand Sanitizer and Wipes
Having access to a sink and clean water to wash your hands may not be feasible where you’re travelling to (e.g. if you’re going to a rural area or camping). The next best option is to use hand sanitizer to kill off any germs or viruses. It’s also great for a quick sanitation before you eat if your hands aren’t too dirty. Alternatively, if your hands are more grimy, wipes would be more effective to take off the dirt and sanitize your hands at the same time.
When you get on the plane, give your seats, hand rests and tables a good wipe. It may sound excessive but you never know who’s been sitting there or how clean it is, so it’s better to be safe than sorry.
Pro Tip: it might be hard to get your hands on hand sanitizers in Toronto now to bring on your trip. Try checking out the pharmacies or grocery stores in the city you’re visiting - you might get lucky there. I’ve personally even brought bottles of sanitizers back from Walmart in Mexico!
Wear a Mask If You’re Sick
While wearing masks can act as a barrier between your face and the environment, they probably won’t protect you from illness. This is because most of the time they aren’t being worn correctly and aren’t forming a tight seal to prevent transmission. However, if you are feeling unwell and you’re coughing or sneezing a lot, put a mask on. It helps to greatly reduce transmission of water droplets (that could pick up the Coronavirus) and protect those around you.
This plays an important role in suppressing the virus from spreading, so be aware of your body condition and put a mask on even if you are unsure if you’re actually sick. Do also note that you should change your mask every time you have to touch it and dispose of the mask by first isolating it in a small bag (e.g. zip-lock bag) before throwing it out.
Of course, it might be nearly impossible to buy any masks now, so if you do need to cough or sneeze, practice general flu hygiene such as sneezing or coughing into your shoulder to minimize the transmission.
Avoid Touching Your Face with Unwashed Hands
An average person can subconsciously touch their face more than 20 times an hour, which means they’re likely to be touching their face with unwashed hands. This is a high risk of infection since we come in contact with so many items and surfaces.
A great way to stop yourself from touching your face unconsciously is to keep your hands occupied. You can try using more hand gestures or even physically sitting on your hands while you’re in a seat! If you really need to touch your face, remind yourself to sanitize your hands first.
Avoid Contact With Sick People
While this is a no-brainer, sometimes people can become desensitized to their surroundings. Make a conscious effort to scan your surroundings to see if there is anyone that looks or sounds potentially sick. Once you spot them, try to keep a distance to minimize your risk.
Avoid Food and Drinks from Unsanitary Joints
Another way that diseases can be transmitted is through food that hasn’t been stored or prepared properly. As much as street food is alluring, it’s also hard to tell if the food stall has good sanitary practices. Since your body isn’t accustomed to the foreign waters, you’re more likely to get sick, so it’s best to avoid these joints during the Coronavirus outbreak. Raw or undercooked foods are also not recommended.
While we can’t tell how long the Coronavirus will last or how many more people will be infected, the best way to lower your risks of infection is to pay attention to your surroundings and be diligent in keeping your hands and personal items sanitized. Even though it pains us to say this, if you have the opportunity to reschedule your travels, it might be for the best to do so.
Hope everyone stays safe during this difficult time!