The fast-moving coronavirus is on everyone’s mind. Reports of new victims and locations are emerging daily. The coronavirus (officially called 2019-nCoV) appears to have been originally transmitted from animals — likely snakes or bats — to humans in Wuhan, China. It appears similar in many ways to SARS (severe acute respiratory syndrome), which broke out in China in 2002–2004 or MERS (Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome), which broke out in Saudi Arabia and South Korea between 2012 and 2015. As of the time of publication, 76 people have died from the coronavirus, according to The New York Times.
Public health experts say the virus can spread as people who have been infected travel. Already, there are confirmed coronavirus cases in many other countries, including the U.S. There are many things you can’t control while you’re flying in a plane — such as who is assigned to sit next to you and whether they’re carrying some sort of communicable germ — but there are things you can control.
Given the growing concern over the coronavirus as it relates to travel, we reached out to Wai Haung Yu, Ph.D., a research scientist, to ask if medical face masks can protect against the coronavirus. Dr. Yu is not only an expert in the field but also a frequent flyer.
What are the basics travelers need to know about Coronavirus?
The virus has a long latency period (between one and 14 days) between exposure and when the symptoms begin to display themselves, so it may be possible to transmit the disease without knowing that you have it. If that’s the case, transmission would occur from saliva or moisture from the mouth from an event such as coughing or sneezing.