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Coronavirus: Travellers should keep risks in perspective, warn experts

The Independent logo The Independent 05/02/2020 Simon Calder
a person holding a sign posing for the camera © Provided by The Independent

Senior medical and assistance experts have urged travellers to keep the risks of the new coronavirus in perspective.

Dr Mark Parrish, regional medical director for International SOS, told The Independent: “A 2 per cent death rate for this virus is lower than 35 per cent for coronavirus when it mutated into Middle East respiratory virus, which is still happening, and 10 per cent for Sars.

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“What we’re advising businesses is: be aware, make sure that your personnel and your travellers are up to speed with the latest information about the virus, and where it’s spread to, and what you should do to avoid it.

“The key thing is to make sure you have some fact-based evidence on the outbreak.”

International SOS has opened up the section on its website dealing with the virus to all travellers.

It advises: “Avoid direct contact with animals (live or dead) and their environment. Do not touch surfaces that may be contaminated with droppings.

“Keep some distance from people who are obviously sick.

“Maintain good personal hygiene. Wash your hands frequently. Carry hand sanitiser for use when soap and water are not readily available. Avoid touching your face.”

Dr Parrish said travellers should be aware of other threats that claim many more lives.

Malaria kills 400,000 people every year,” he said. “We see regular deaths from malaria, which is a completely preventable disease.

“We have to weigh all these things up. The new coronavirus is new – we don’t know enough about it yet, we’ll keep a very careful eye on it until we’ve got a better idea.”

Danny Kaine, head of assistance at Traveller Assist, said 61,200 people died from the common flu virus in 2019 – an average of 168 deaths per day, far higher than the toll from the Wuhan Coronavirus so far.

“Even though the risk is low right now, it does not mean that the virus will not mutate,” he said.

“Everyone should be armed with the facts. You shouldn't discount or disregard the virus completely just because you don’t live in or travel to China.

“But don't get overly stressed or anxious about it either.”

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