Headlines regarding the recent coronavirus outbreak are concerning. And if you’re studying in an unfamiliar country, such news may bring about extra anxiety. You’re probably wondering what you can do, and what this might mean for your travel plans.
Below, are helpful links and basic information that you can use to stay updated on this global issue, adjust your travel plans, and protect your health.
What is the Coronavirus?
Coronaviruses are a family of viruses that occur in animals. When a coronavirus is transmitted to a human, it can cause illness and infection. The virus responsible for the current outbreak is officially named 2019-nCoV. It’s a brand new virus that was first detected in Wuhan City in the Hubei Province of China. Symptoms of 2019-nCoV in humans include fever, cough, and shortness of breath.
Is the Coronavirus Impacting the US?
Yes, the coronavirus (2019-nCoV) has entered the US, and the first instance of person-to-person spread was confirmed on January 30. As of this writing, the US has confirmed 11 cases of coronavirus in five states including Arizona, California, Illinois, Massachusetts, and Washington. You can use this map to stay up to date on the virus’ impact in the US.
While person-to-person spread has been confirmed in the US, the spread is limited to close contacts of the infected person. Thanks to China’s relatively quick response and fast sequencing of the virus’ genome, many countries were able to make preparations to contain cases beyond Wuhan City.
Can I Travel to China?
Yes, but it is advised that you postpone your plans. In the last week, the State Department issued a Level 4 Travel Advisory, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and Prevention issued a Warning Level 3, both encouraging everyone to avoid nonessential travel to China. In addition, it may be difficult to find a commercial flight, and once you get to China, you may experience further travel restrictions. Wuhan City itself is closed to transportation both in and out of the city, and many other cities within the Hubei province are following suit.
If your travel is essential, be sure to discuss your trip with your healthcare provider first. They will be able to provide customized care and recommendations. While you are abroad, avoid contact with sick people and all animals, and be sure any animal products you consume have been fully cooked. And of course, be sure to wash your hands often and pack an extra bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Can I Enter the US from China?
Yes, but be prepared. The CDC and Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have designated 11 US airports to accept travelers from China, and you will be rerouted if your final destination was not to one of these designated airports. You will experience additional screenings when you enter the country if you have been abroad within the last 14 days. These added precautions include a short questionnaire and a health evaluation. You can find more detailed information and additional resources from NAFSA’s Coronavirus Critical Resources webpage.
If you are not symptomatic, you will be asked to self-quarantine within your home and to monitor your health. If you become symptomatic after entering the US, please call your healthcare provider. Discuss your situation and recent travel while you are booking your appointment so that your provider can make any necessary accommodations.
How Can I Protect Myself?
It is important to take the coronavirus, and any illness, seriously. However, do not worry. While headlines may be scary, the risk to the American public is low. US federal agencies are working with the World Health Organization (WHO) and the global health community to respond to the coronavirus outbreak. For your own peace of mind, you can monitor their progress on the CDC’s Situation Summary webpage.
That said, protecting yourself from the coronavirus requires the same care as avoiding any of the flu season nasties. Wash your hands or use hand sanitizer often, especially if you are in a public place. Cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unclean hands. You should also avoid contact with any sick person, and stay at home if you aren’t feeling well.
For further information, you can read up on the WHO’s advice for the public, NAFSA’s guide to responding to a health crisis, and view our recommendations for maintaining your mental and physical health while studying the US.
Author: Erin Caswell
Erin is Vice President of LewerMark Student Insurance and currently leads our Client Advocacy Team. Her passion is providing the best care and client advocacy to our schools and their international students. Erin, a former middle school teacher, is well-known in the international student industry as a go-to resource and dynamic personality, having been recognized as “Best Presenter” by NAFSA at its Region 1 Conference in 2018.