Coronavirus: What It Is, Affected Countries, Symptoms, Treatment, and More [Guide]

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There are still a lot of unknowns about the recent coronavirus outbreak that began in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province in China. This new strain has been already been confirmed in thousands of cases in China. The Center for Disease Control (or CDC) has identified additional cases in a growing number of international locations, including the U.S.

For travelers, coronavirus is definitely something to be aware of. The situation is rapidly developing, so our goal is to provide you with the most up-to-date information so that you can be prepared.

We’ll also let you know how to take preventive measures to limit your risk of being infected and what to do if your plans to China (or beyond) have been affected.

What is Coronavirus?

A coronavirus is not a single virus, but actually a family of viruses that were first identified in the 1960s. A coronavirus can include both the common cold virus and as well as more severe diseases such as severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and the Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

In December 2019, the World Health Organization (or WHO) identified a new type of coronavirus, or a “novel” virus, officially known as Covid-19. This is a new strain that hasn’t been previously seen in humans.

For purposes of this article, we’ll simply refer to this current strain as coronavirus or virus.

How is Coronavirus Transmitted?

According to WHO, “coronaviruses are zoonotic, meaning they are transmitted between animals and people.” It is not known how the current form of coronavirus was transmitted to humans officially, but Chinese health officials believe that it came from wild animals sold at a market in Wuhan.

Bottom Line: Per the CDC, coronaviruses are “common in many different species of animals, including camels, cattle, cats, and bats.”

Once humans have been infected, the virus is spread the same way other cold-causing viruses do — through close person-to-person contact. It is spread through the fluids of infected people from coughing and sneezing, by touching an infected person’s hands or face, or by touching things that infected people have touched.

Currently, there is no evidence to support the transmission of the virus from imported goods.

It is important to note that the CDC notes that while “this is a very serious public health threat, based on current information, the immediate health risk from Covid-19 to the general American public is considered low at this time.”

Recent News About Coronavirus

As of January 31, 2020, the U.S. State Department has a “Level 4: Do Not Travel” advisory in place for China. This is the highest level warning that can be given.

Outbound Travel Restrictions

During the week of January 20, 2020, Chinese officials began restricting all outbound travel from Wuhan to help restrict the spread of the virus. This includes all air, road and rail transportation in the area around Wuhan. Restrictions have been placed on other activities throughout the country as well.

Evacuations From Wuhan

Several foreign governments, including the U.S., Japan, South Korea, Germany, and Italy have evacuated or are planning to evacuate citizens from Wuhan.

Prior to departure, these evacuees were screened for symptoms and only those who proved “symptom-free” were allowed to board the plane. After landing, they are being subjected to secondary screening and quarantined for 14 days before their release.

Currently, quarantined individuals are being held at a number of military bases. People in quarantine will have no contact with other military personnel on these bases.

U.S.-Bound Passengers

The Trump administration announced on January 31, 2020, that it will deny entry to foreign nationals who have traveled in China in the last 14 days unless they are immediate family of an American citizen or permanent resident starting on February 2, 2020.

U.S. citizens or other eligible passengers who have traveled in the rest of China within the past 2 weeks will go through a screening upon their arrival to the U.S. The CDC will conduct these screenings at all entry points where they have quarantine stations.

Here are the 11 airports where travelers will undergo additional screening:

Airports With Coronavirus Screenings
Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International (ATL)New York’s John F. Kennedy International (JFK)
Chicago’s O’Hare International (ORD)Newark Liberty International (EWR)
Dallas-Fort Worth International (DFW)San Francisco International (SFO)
Detroit Metropolitan (DTW)Seattle-Tacoma International (SEA)
Honolulu International (HNL)Washington Dulles International (IAD)
Los Angeles International (LAX)

These passengers will then be asked to self-quarantine for 14 days and their movements will be monitored.

Additionally, many airlines, hotels, cruise lines, and other organizations are canceling flights or tours to China. Refer to that section below to get more information about any waivers that might be in place and what you need to do if you are scheduled to travel to China.

Countries With Coronavirus in 2020

As of February 22, 2020, the number of worldwide cases of the virus is nearly 78,000, while reportedly over 2,300 people have died. Outside of China, the number of confirmed cases is over 1,400 in at least 27 other countries, while there have been 35 confirmed cases in the United States.

Keep in mind that this is a rapidly developing situation, but as of the time of this publication, according to the CDC, countries with confirmed cases of the novel coronavirus include:

Locations With Confirmed Cases
AustraliaGermanyNepalSweden
BelgiumHong KongPhilippinesTaiwan
CambodiaIndiaRussiaThailand
CanadaItalySingaporeU.A.E.
ChinaJapanSouth KoreaU.K.
FinlandMacauSpainU.S.
FranceMalaysiaSri LankaVietnam

Coronavirus Prevention

The best way to prevent the virus is to avoid being exposed to it. As we’ve noted above, the U.S. State Department has recommended avoiding travel to China.

If you must travel to China or you think you are at risk of coming in contact with someone who has recently traveled there, both the CDC and the WHO have some recommendations.

WHO’s standard recommendations to reduce exposure to and transmission of a range of illnesses include:

  • Frequently clean hands by using alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water.
  • Use a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing and sneezing to cover your mouth. Throw the tissue away immediately and wash your hands.
  • Avoid close contact with anyone who has a fever and cough.
  • Avoid direct contact with live animals and surfaces they may have touched when visiting live markets in areas currently experiencing cases.
The CDC advises you to discuss your travel plans with your healthcare providers, especially if you are an older adult and have any underlying health issues, as you may be at higher risk.

Symptoms of Coronavirus

Per the CDC, for confirmed cases of this particular coronavirus (Covid-19), reported illnesses have ranged from people being mildly sick to people being severely ill and dying. Symptoms can include:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Shortness of breath

Most of these symptoms go away after a few days but can spread to your lower respiratory system and cause more serious issues. Based on other similar coronaviruses, including SARS and MERS, these might include pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death.

Bottom Line: In most cases, you won’t know whether you have a coronavirus or a different cold-causing virus, such as rhinovirus.

What to Do If You Think You Have Coronavirus

If you have traveled to an area with known coronavirus outbreaks within the past 14 days and develop some of the common symptoms noted above, please go see your healthcare provider immediately.

Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.

The CDC recommends:

  • Avoid contact with others. If you live with others, stay in a separate room and use a separate bathroom, if possible.
  • Avoid traveling while sick, including using local public transportation.
  • Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing. Consider using a face mask as well.
  • Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds to avoid spreading the virus to others. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer that contains at least 60% alcohol if soap and water are not available.
  • Avoid contact with pets and other animals until more is known about the spread of the virus.

We are not medical professionals, so always discuss all of these items with your healthcare provider.

Coronavirus Treatment

There is currently no vaccine for coronavirus. The treatment for a coronavirus infection is the same as you would treat a cold:

  • Get plenty of rest
  • Drink fluids
  • Take over-the-counter medicine for a sore throat and fever

Your doctor may prescribe additional medicine to ease the symptoms.

How Long is Coronavirus Detectable in the Body?

The CDC believes at this time that symptoms of Covid-19 may appear in as few as 2 days or as long as 14 after exposure. This is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS viruses. There is additional information that incubation could last longer than 14 days. This is a developing situation.

Airline Cancellations

Nearly 80 airlines have suspended some or all of their flights to mainland China. Some flights are canceled outright, but others are offering waivers on change fees or the option to cancel for credit on a future flight.

Specific cancellation policies based on dates and locations of travel vary by carrier, so be sure to reach out directly to see if you are eligible or check out Business Insider.

Airlines That Have Suspended Some or All Mainland China Flights
AirAsiaCebu Pacific AirKorean AirSilkAir
Air AstanaChina AirlinesLion AirSingapore Airlines
Air CanadaDelta Air LinesLOT Polish AirlinesSkyUp Airlines
Air FranceEastar JetLufthansaSriLankan Airlines
Air IndiaEgypt AirMandarin AirlinesSwiss International Air Lines
Air KBZEl Al Israel AirlinesMyanmar Airways InternationalThai Airways
Air MacauEmiratesMyanmar National AirlinesThai Lion Air
Air MadagascarEtihad AirwaysNeosThai Smile Air
Air MauritiusEVA AirPakistan International AirlinesTurkish Airlines
Air New ZealandFinnairPeach AviationTurkmenistan Airlines
Air SeoulHimalaya AirlinesPhilippine AirlinesUkraine International Airlines
Air TanzaniaHK ExpressQantas AirwaysUnited Airlines
All Nippon AirwaysHong Kong AirlinesQatar AirwaysUral Airlines
American AirlinesIberiaRoyal Air MarocVietJet Air
Asiana AirlinesIndiGoRwandAirVietnam Airlines
Austrian AirlinesJapan AirlinesSASVirgin Atlantic
British AirwaysJeju AirSaudiaVirgin Australia
Cambodia AirwaysJetstar AsiaScandinavian Airlines
Cathay DragonKenya AirwaysSCAT Airlines
Cathay PacificKLM Royal Dutch AirlinesSCOOT

If you have upcoming travel plans, you should check with your airlines and look for advisories posted on their websites.

Hotel Cancellations

Currently, the following hotel chains are waiving cancellation fees through February 8, 2020 for reservations at hotels in mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, and potentially beyond. Since this date has passed, it is best to contact your hotel directly to see if there are any waivers in place currently.

  • Accor
  • Hilton
  • InterContinental Hotels & Resorts
  • Marriott International
  • The Peninsula Hotels
  • Radisson Hotel Group
  • Rosewood Hotels and Resorts
  • Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts
  • Wyndham Hotels and Resorts

You may need to call the hotel chain to get this fee removed. Even if your hotel chain isn’t listed, it is worth it to give them a call to see if they will be able to accommodate you.

For example, the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group has noted that they will be handling cancellations on a case by case basis.

Other Cancellations

Several cruise lines, including MSC, Costa, and Royal Caribbean, have canceled scheduled sailings to China and boosted screening procedures for passengers boarding from Chinese ports, according to CruiseCritic.com. In the unfortunate circumstances of cases being discovered on-board cruises already at sea, passengers are being quarantined.

Many other retail closures are in place as well. Apple, KFC, McDonald’s, and Pizza Hut have all announced that all stores will be closed in Wuhan and surrounding areas until future notice and Disney has closed its parks in both Shanghai and Hong Kong.

Other prepaid items may be refunded at the discretion of the tour operator, so be sure to call and see if any exceptions can be made.

Travel insurance will typically not cover any cancellations due to coronavirus. This is because an outbreak of a virus is not included under most standard trip cancellation insurance policies. This includes any travel insurance provided by credit cards.

Hot Tip: Unless you have opted to get a “Cancel For Any Reason” travel insurance policy, you may be out of luck. 

Final Thoughts

Most of the tips we have given you will help you stay healthy whether or not you are traveling to areas that are currently impacted by the spread of the new coronavirus. If you must travel to China, take precautions and monitor your health carefully.


All information and content provided by Upgraded Points is intended as general information and for educational purposes only, and should not be interpreted as medical advice or legal advice. For more information, see our Medical & Legal Disclaimers.


Frequently asked questions

What is coronavirus?

A coronavirus is a family of viruses. Most recently in December 2019, a new type of coronavirus, or a “novel” virus, was identified. It can cause fever, shortness of breath, respiratory problems, and in some cases, death. It is officially known as Covid-19.

How do I prevent coronavirus?

There is no vaccine against this new coronavirus. Officials recommend similar precautions to avoid getting the flu — wash hands frequently, avoid contact with those who might have been infected, and avoid travel to China, if possible.

Christy Rodriguez

About Christy Rodriguez

Christy was born in St. Louis, Missouri, but lived in Texas the majority of her life. Now, work has her living in the Bay Area with her husband and yellow lab. Her first international travel experience was for a summer study abroad program in Italy. After that, she knew that she was destined to travel as much as possible. Luckily, her husband worked at Southwest Airlines, so they were introduced to the exciting world of “non-rev” travel.

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