The Wuhan coronavirus has spread to 26 countries. Here’s how to protect yourself while traveling.

Medical workers near the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, China, which housed patients with the coronavirus, on January 10, 2019.

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Medical workers near the Jinyintan hospital in Wuhan, China, which housed patients with the coronavirus, on January 10, 2019.
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Reuters

A coronavirus outbreak that started in Wuhan, the most populous city in central China, has killed at least 494 people and infected more than 24,000.

The disease has spread to at least 25 other countries outside of China: Australia, Belgium, Cambodia, Canada, Finland, France, Germany, India, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, the United Arab Emirates, the UK, the US, and Vietnam.

The coronavirus family is a large group of viruses that typically affect the respiratory tract. Coronaviruses can lead to illnesses like the common cold, pneumonia, and severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS), which resulted in 8,000 cases and 774 deaths in China from November 2002 to July 2003. Authorities suspect this new coronavirus jumped from animals to people at a seafood market, then humans started transmitting the virus to one other.

More than 60 airlines have canceled flights to China in response to the outbreak, and many countries have imposed travel restrictions on flights to and from China.

“Travel spreads this kind of virus like wildfire,” Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer at Healix International, which offers risk-management solutions for global travelers, told Business Insider.

Here’s how to stay safe while flying.


Travelers should avoid close contact with people who are sick — particularly those with cold symptoms.

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Samantha Lee/Business Insider

People who contracted the Wuhan virus have reported symptoms including a fever, chills, headaches, difficulty breathing, and a sore throat.

Travelers should try to avoid contact with people who display symptoms similar to those of pneumonia or the common cold, such as coughing or runny noses.


Travelers should wash their hands frequently with soap and water, making sure to scrub for at least 20 seconds, the CDC says. Avoid touching the eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.

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A woman riding an electric bicycle near the closed Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market on Friday.
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Getty Images

There are no vaccines to protect humans from contracting a coronavirus.

“There is no cure for this virus,” Hyzler said.


Wearing a mask isn’t particularly helpful, according to Eric Toner, a senior scientist at Johns Hopkins University.

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People wearing protective masks arrive at the Beijing railway station on Tuesday to head home for the Lunar New Year.
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NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP via Getty Images

Many people in China have purchased face masks, which have reportedly sold out at some stores.

“There’s little harm in it,” Toner told Business Insider. “But wearing masks, except in the situation of a healthcare provider, has never been shown to be a very effective way to protect yourself from infectious diseases.”


Travelers in any part of the world should steer clear of markets that sell live animals.

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The Huanan Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan.
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Photo by Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

Scientists think the Wuhan virus outbreak might have started at a local seafood market where live animals were sold. So far, evidence suggests it likely spread from bats to a mammal – potentially pigs or civets – before jumping to people. A direct hop from bats is also possible.

Recent research suggests the virus that caused SARS in China spread to humans from horseshoe bats.

“Ever since SARS, there have been calls for improving or closing down the live animal markets in China,” Toner said. “There’s an awful lot we don’t yet know, but it is fair to say that live-animal markets are a threat not just to the people who work in them, but to public health more generally.”

China has said it will ban the trade of live animals. The city of Wuhan has already done so.


The virus started to spread across Asia before it reached the US and Europe.

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A map showing confirmed cases of the virus in red.
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Ruobing Su/Business Insider

As of Wednesday, Thailand has 25 cases, Singapore has 24, and Japan has 20. South Korea has 16, Australia has 13, Germany has 12, and Taiwan and the US each have 11. Malaysia and Vietnam each have 10.

"I think it's laudable that the Chinese authorities have identified this quickly," Hyzler said. "There seems to be a good sharing of information."


Twenty US airports are screening passengers for the virus.

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A notice for passengers from Wuhan, China, displayed near a quarantine station at the airport in Narita, Japan, on Friday.
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Tomohiro Ohsumi/Getty Images

The airports include New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, Los Angeles International Airport, and Chicago O'Hare International Airport. Airports in Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea, among other countries, are also screening passengers for fever.

"Screening is a very imperfect tool, but it's the only tool we have to try and prevent the importation of a disease," Toner said.


Several countries, including the US, have evacuated citizens and employees from China.

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Health officers screen arriving passengers from China with thermal scanners at Changi International Airport in Singapore on January 22, 2020.
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ROSLAN RAHMAN/AFP via Getty Images

All of Wuhan's public transportation - including buses, metros, ferries, and train - were shut down on January 23. Trains and airplanes coming in and out of the city were halted and roadblocks were installed to keep taxis and private cars from exiting.

Wuhan's 11 million residents have been told not to leave the city, barring special circumstances.

The US government evacuated some 200 Americans from Wuhan last week. The passengers arrived at the March Air Reserve Base in Riverside, California on January 29. They've been placed under a 14-day quarantine.

Many other countries - including Australia, France, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Turkey, and the UK - have evacuated citizens from the Hubei province as well.


Tourist attractions throughout China have been temporarily shuttered.

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Bobby Yip/Reuters

Shanghai Disneyland closed on January 25 without saying when it would reopen. The announcement came at a time of peak spending at the park, which has said it will refund tickets.

The Badaling section of the Great Wall of China temporarily closed as well.


If you do become ill after traveling to or within China, report your symptoms to a health authority right away.

Toner said people who have been ill and visited China recently should tell a doctor about their travel history.

"I think they're doing the right things," Toner said of the Chinese government's response. "They are screening for patients or passengers that are coming in. They are trying to educate them to make sure they get care. They're trying to isolate them as soon as they start getting sick. These are the things that prevent a transmission."