Few things besides politics, economics and the threat of terrorism can drastically change the course of national policy. One of them is a disease epidemic such as the recent Coronavirus. Since its reported outbreak in the Chinese city of Wuhan in December 2019, the virus has spread to at least 23 other countries, leaving 3,361 dead in its wake as of this Monday, February.

As a result, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has been left with little choice but to declare a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC), the 5th time it has ever done so in history. Nations are issuing advisories and major international events are being cancelled as the fear of travel grips the world.

The International Travel Awards gala night which we were to participate in after winning the Best Online Travel Agency in Kenya award is one such event. The award ceremony was scheduled to happen this coming March in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia but was cancelled a few hours ago citing Coronavirus concerns. The annual event honours the best travel brands in the world. In China, the price of oil and meat dropped instantly after the virus broke out while major global airlines scaled down on travel.

In Kenya, a suspected case which turned out to be a false alarm caused panic on mainstream and social media as speculations on how many more might be infected ran wild. Conspiracy theorists had a field day conjuring up fantastical stories of its origin and misinformation reigned supreme. In the coming weeks, awareness-raising on what to do to keep the virus at bay will determine if it will be contained or not. As you travel elsewhere outside the affected countries, take note of these tips from WHO to keep safe:

1. Wash Your Hands Frequently

Wash your hands frequently with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. Alcohol-based hand rubs or soaps can kill the virus if it is on your hands.

2. Practice Respiratory Hygiene

Cover your mouth and nose with a flexed elbow or tissue when coughing and sneezing to avoid contaminating objects or people that you touch and discard the tissue immediately into a closed bin and clean your hands with an alcohol-based hand rub or soap and water. If you have mild respiratory symptoms and no travel history to or within China, carefully practice basic respiratory and hand hygiene and stay home until you are recovered, if possible.

3. Maintain Social Distancing

Maintain at least a 1M (3F) distance between yourself and other people, particularly those who are coughing, sneezing and have a fever because someone infected with the 2019-nCoV (the technical term for the current Coronavirus strain) tends to project small droplets containing the virus when they cough or sneeze and if you are too close, you can breathe in the virus.

4. Avoid Touching Eyes, Nose and Mouth

Since you are constantly touching many surfaces with your hands, it is possible to get contaminated with the virus which can then be transferred to your eyes, nose or mouth which are the primary exposed points of entry (being part of the mucosal surface).

5. Seek Medical Care Early

Especially if you have fever, cough and difficulty breathing. Tell your health care provider if you have travelled in an area in China where Coronavirus has been reported, or if you have been in close contact with someone who has travelled from China and has respiratory symptoms. Respiratory symptoms with fever can have a range of causes, and depending on your personal travel history and circumstances, 2019-nCoV could be one of them.

6. Practice General Hygiene Measures when Visiting Live Animal Markets, Wet Markets or Animal Product Markets

Ensure regular hand washing with soap and potable water after touching animals and animal products; avoid touching eyes, nose or mouth with hands; and avoid contact with sick animals or spoiled animal products. Strictly avoid any contact with other animals in the market (e.g., stray cats and dogs, rodents, birds, bats). Avoid contact with potentially contaminated animal waste or fluids on the soil or structures of shops and market facilities.

7. Avoid consumption of raw or undercooked animal products

Handle raw meat, milk or animal organs with care, to avoid cross-contamination with uncooked foods, as per good food safety practices.