In the wake of the coronavirus outbreak, it can be difficult to tell whether it’s safe to travel (both nationally and internationally), when to cancel your plans and what to do ahead of time if traveling is necessary for you. It’s our goal to help you better understand what to do before your travel plans and how to keep yourself safe during and after.
What to Do Before Traveling During the Coronavirus Outbreak
If it’s necessary for you to travel — especially to areas affected by the coronavirus — take precautions to keep yourself safe with these four steps.
1. Visit Your Physician to Ensure You’re Caught Up on Latest Vaccinations
If you’re feeling healthy and not feeling sick with fever, coughing or difficulty breathing (the top coronavirus symptoms), make an appointment with your doctor before you plan to travel. There may be specific vaccines you need for where you’re traveling, so be sure to discuss your travel plans in depth with your physician.
Your primary care physician can also give you advice on how to keep yourself safe from coronavirus while traveling and help you formulate a plan for what to do if you feel sick after coming home.
2. Check the CDC’s Travel Resources and Health Notices
As the coronavirus outbreak unfolds, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) continues to provide many resources for travelers. The CDC regularly updates a global map with locations of confirmed cases of the coronavirus disease, and you can also search COVID-19 risk level by country using the CDC’s interactive map.
Another important resource to check before you travel is the CDC’s Travel Health Notices, which are recommendations on postponing or canceling travel based on potential health risks around the world, including the coronavirus.
Three levels of notices exist to help travelers assess where to travel:
- Watch Level 1 (Green) means to practice the usual precautions for this destination
- Alert Level 2 (Yellow) means practice enhanced precautions for this destination and may define a specific at-risk population
- Warning Level 3 (Red) means avoid all non-essential travel to this destination as the outbreak is of high risk to travelers
3. Weigh the Risks of Traveling to an Affected Area
If traveling to an area with a COVID-19 outbreak is non-negotiable for you or required, please take all precautions to keep yourself safe and avoid spreading the coronavirus to other people. Follow any recommendations given to you by your doctor and travel or airline personnel. It’s worth the extra effort.
If you’re considering traveling to an area with a coronavirus outbreak and it’s optional for you (like a vacation or visiting family), weigh the risks carefully before making your decision.
From what we know about how it spreads, the novel coronavirus spreads from person to person through small droplets from coughs, exhales and sneezes. Places where people are in close quarters (like airports, buses and cruise ships) can make it easier for the coronavirus to spread, meaning it’s possible that you could pick up germs or get sick before you even get to your destination.
4. Have a Plan for If You Feel Sick After Traveling
While we hope the worst never happens, it’s always smart to plan for a worst-case scenario when traveling during a disease outbreak. Before you even board a cruise ship, train, bus or plane, make a plan for what you’ll do if you feel sick — during and after your trip.
If you feel like you have coronavirus symptoms while on a plane, the World Health Organization recommends informing travel crew immediately. Seek medical care early, even if you’re not at your destination yet, and share your travel history with the health care provider you see.
Once you’ve returned home from a country or area that had a coronavirus outbreak, and depending on which country it was, there’s a possibility that you may be put in a temporary quarantine period to ensure that you did not catch the virus.
If you don’t go through quarantine and you feel sick with fever or coughing after coming home, you’ll need to get a diagnosis from a medical professional. Your plan of action should be to call your doctor or do an eCare virtual visit from home. To avoid infecting other people, do not go to the hospital or urgent care center. Your physician can advise you on your best next steps over the phone.
Additionally, if you feel sick after traveling from an affected area, the CDC recommends to:
- Avoid contact with other people (stay at home)
- Avoid public transportation
- Cover your nose and mouth when you cough and sneeze
- Wash your hands with soap and water frequently
Avoiding Coronavirus While You’re Traveling
If you feel healthy enough to travel, you’ve determined that your travel is necessary and have carefully considered the above steps, you can take steps to stay healthy while traveling. The World Health Organization recommends that travelers:
- Alert flight crew if you feel ill
- Avoid contact with animals that appear to be sick
- Avoid close contact with travelers who are coughing
- Avoid spitting on the ground in public
- Carry hand sanitizer and frequently clean your hands
- Eat only well-cooked food
- Seek medical attention early if you feel sick
- Use tissues to catch your coughs and sneezes and throw them away
Here to Help You Stay Healthy
As the coronavirus outbreak unfolds, we’re committed to helping you stay healthy and giving you updates you and your family need. Find FAQs, important resources and more on our Coronavirus Resource Hub.