The U.S. Department of State on Sunday advised U.S. citizens against traveling by cruise ship as cases of the novel coronavirus continue to spread across the world.
“U.S. citizens, particularly travelers with underlying health conditions, should not travel by cruise ship,” the State Department wrote in its warning.
The warning comes with new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that includes tips for people who do choose to travel by cruise ship. The U.S. has 554 confirmed cases of the coronavirus with 21 deaths as early Monday.
“Like many other viruses, COVID-19 appears to spread more easily between people in close quarters aboard ships,” the CDC wrote.
The CDC reports those with underlying health issues and older travel should avoid cruise ships altogether, along with long airplane trips and crowded places. Tips from the CDC while aboard a cruise ship, which the government entity said should be “especially” avoided, include:
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands.
- Clean your hands often by washing them with soap and water for at least 20 seconds or using an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains 60%–95% alcohol. Soap and water should be used if hands are visibly dirty.
- It is especially important to clean hands after going to the bathroom; before eating; and after coughing, sneezing or blowing your nose.
- Avoid traveling if you are sick.
- If you get sick with fever or new or worsening cough or difficulty breathing during your cruise, stay in your cabin and notify the onboard medical center immediately.
“Person-to-person spread of COVID-19 is occurring and countries are reporting both travel-related cases and community spread of the disease,” the CDC wrote. “As the outbreak of COVID-19 continues, there remains a risk of infected travelers and crew boarding cruise ships.”
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For those who have been on a cruise ship within the last two weeks, the CDC recommends monitoring your health for 14 days after returning to the U.S., staying home if you’re feeling sick and limiting your interactions with others, washing your hands and seeking medical advice.
Call and discuss recent travel and symptoms before going an emergency room or doctor’s office, according to the CDC.
There are more than 110,000 confirmed cases of the coronavirus worldwide.
“In order to curb the spread of COVID-19, many countries have implemented strict screening procedures that have denied port entry rights to ships and prevented passengers from disembarking,” the State Department wrote.
“In some cases, local authorities have permitted disembarkation but subjected passengers to local quarantine procedures.”
Every effort to contain the virus and slow the spread saves lives. These efforts give health systems and all of society much needed time to prepare, and researchers more time to identify effective treatments and develop vaccines.
Allowing uncontrolled spread should not be a choice of any government, as it will harm not only the citizens of that country but affect other countries as well.
We must stop, contain, control, delay and reduce the impact of this virus at every opportunity. Every person has the capacity to contribute, to protect themselves, to protect others, whether in the home, the community, the healthcare system, the workplace or the transport system.
Leaders at all levels and in all walks of life must step forward to bring about this commitment across society.
We don’t yet know how dangerous the new coronavirus is, and we won’t know until more data comes in. Seasonal flu typically has a mortality rate below 1% and is thought to cause about 400,000 deaths each year globally. Sars had a death rate of more than 10%.
Another key unknown is how contagious the coronavirus is. A crucial difference is that unlike flu, there is no vaccine for the new coronavirus, which means it is more difficult for vulnerable members of the population – elderly people or those with existing respiratory or immune problems – to protect themselves. Hand-washing and avoiding other people if you feel unwell are important. One sensible step is to get the flu vaccine, which will reduce the burden on health services if the outbreak turns into a wider epidemic.