• Dr Michael Oehley

The Wuhan Coronavirus - do travellers need to be worried?

The media is currently raising the spectre of a possible global pandemic due to the novel strain of coronavirus that has emerged in Wuhan Province, China. Case reports of deaths from the virus and media buzz words like 'deadly outbreak' and 'cases soaring to epidemic levels' are naturally creating a climate of fear. That's not to say that we shouldn't be concerned - the Wuhan coronavirus does appear to be causing significant illness - but a degree of perspective may be useful.

First of all, if you're searching for up to date official advice on the novel strain of coronavirus, I recommend one of the following websites: the United States C.D.C., the N.H.S. in the U.K., or the New Zealand Ministry of Health.

To summarise what the experts say about travel to China, here is a list:

1. If you plan travel to Wuhan Province in China, avoid contact with sick people, sick animals, and animal markets.

2. Small children, the elderly, and people with underlying respiratory conditions should reconsider travelling to affected areas.

3. Wash your hands frequently.

4. Do not travel if you are yourself ill with a flu-like illness.

In terms of the media hysteria, my advice is to remain calm. Generally speaking, we all encounter coronaviruses frequently throughout our lifetime. They cause the common cold! It has always been true that coronavirus infections can lead to secondary illnesses such as pneumonia and, in some cases, cause death.

There is a desire in the media to report the 'Next Big Thing', to be the ones who identify the next great human pandemic (e.g. the Spanish influenza or the Black Death). Undoubtedly such an illness will arise; but at this stage the novel Wuhan coronavirus does not appear to meet the standard of 'the next global pandemic'. Time will tell.

For now, keep travelling and just take extra precautions to avoid contact with those who are exhibiting cough and cold symptoms; and avoid crowded animal markets too.


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