What Should Expats Know About The COVID-19 Coronavirus?
The recent outbreak of the Wuhan coronavirus has raised concerns amongst the local and expatriate population in China, and globally. It is an emerging, rapidly evolving situation, and reports are pouring in. Here are the top 5 things expatriates and global citizens should know about the emerging virus and the resulting public health threat. It includes a short description, how to recognize it, how to keep yourself healthy, treatment, and much more. The World Health Organization has provided a new official name for the illness caused by the new coronavirus: COVID-19
What is Wuhan Coronavirus?
This new virus called the 2019 Novel Coronavirus (2019-nCoV) or COVID-19, was first detected in Wuhan, China, in December 2019. Specifically, known as coronavirus, this small infectious agent belongs to a family of viruses that causes a range of respiratory illnesses such as Middle-East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) and Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). According to the CDC, coronaviruses are more common in animals such as camels, cattle, cats, and bats. But many patients who contracted the 2019-nCoV has some link to seafood and live animal market. However, there’s a growing number of reports where patients reported not having any exposure to animal markets. So not only there’s a concern of the origin of the virus, it has been widely reported that person to person transition is occurring in China and possibly some other countries as well.
How to recognize COVID-19?
The main symptoms of coronavirus are similar to a bad cold or the flu, which can make detection difficult. They include:
- Shortness of breath
Left untreated, it can cause pneumonia, severe acute respiratory syndrome, kidney failure, and even death. Moreover, reports show that symptoms may appear as early as two days or may also take 14 days after exposure. If you start to feel ill and you think you may have come in contact with the Wuhan virus, you must report to medical authorities and note your travels to an infected zone or someone who has been infected.
Telemedicine: Some global medical plans, including the plan we offer from Cigna, will allow an insured Expat to consult a doctor online via a telemedicine app. It may allow you to avoid going to a hospital unnecessarily, especially one in China or Italy, where you may catch the virus in crowded hospital waiting room settings.
Call Ahead: If you have to go to your doctor’s office, call ahead and let them know your symptoms and past travels so they can make preparations or send you to another facility.
COVID-19 Key Facts
It is essential to know that although COVID-19 (2019n-CoV) belongs to the same family as the viruses that cause MERS and SARS, it is, in fact, a new strain. The “Wuhan coronavirus” epidemic is suspected of having jumped from an unknown animal source to humans in ‘Huanan South China Seafood Market’ in Wuhan.
The virus infects the lungs causing viral pneumonia. The initial symptoms are fever, cough, and sore throat. It can progress to shortness of breath and cause difficulties in breathing. It leads to pneumonia. Based on the reports, it is likely to cause severe illness in around 20% of sufferers. Furthermore, the fatality rate is expected to be 2% of all confirmed cases – but that figure may be too high as it is assumed there are a large number of people with very mild symptoms who never come forward for treatment or testing. In fact, there are lots of cases where authorities in China simply can’t test everyone who needs to be tested.
There have been cases confirmed in almost every country in the world with Italy, China and Iran amongst the worst impacted. China has instituted lockdowns of several cities, including Wuhan and the virus seems to be handled as a result of the excellent work by the Chinese government and people. Most countries in the world, especially in the USA and Europe, have reported human-to-human spread rather than household or hospital transmission.
Protection for Expatriates
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. If soap and water are unavailable, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth
- Stay away from sick people if possible
- Steer clear of crowded places, especially if you are an expat in Europe
- Consider using a face mask in infected zones – but many experts say the effectiveness of mask is negligible outside a hospital setting
- Stay home when you’re sick & quarantine yourself from your family members – in fact, in many countries authorities are asking people to stay home
- Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue, then throw the tissue in the trash
Treatment for the COVID19 Virus
Currently, there is no specific antiviral treatment for 2019-nCoV, but the World Health Organization and scientists around the world are examining the virus and possible treatment. Australian scientists are the first outside of China to map the virus and have been working on developing an antibody test to detect the virus before the symptoms develop.
If you find yourself going through any of the symptoms or think you are infected, you should immediately seek medical support to relieve symptoms – but call before you show up a hospital so they can take steps to avoid the spread of the virus. Furthermore, it is also important to include treatment to support vital organ functions. There have been some discussions on whether or not the virus may be infectious even before a person shows symptoms – this seems to be the case.
It is important not to panic and have some confidence in the health authorities in China and around the globe. The top officials are working on this health emergency, and everyone has learned from past mistakes.
Medical Evacuation: If you are an expat and you catch the COVID-19 virus, there is a very good chance you will not be able to be medically evacuated. It is due to the restrictions on flights, quarantine, or restrictions on movement into another country.
Many countries are advising against all travel to Hubei Province. Health authorities are also advising against all but essential travel to other parts of China. As for organizations with expatriates in China, some health authorities are urging to withdraw non-essential staff, dependents, and “at-risk group”. It includes pregnant women, persons under the age of 12 or over 65, and those with chronic illness.
Expats Need to Be Covered to Receive Treatment
The above tips are helpful, but if you do fall sick from an illness, you will need coverage. But it is too late after you get sick. Make sure you have coverage in place and check that your current travel or health plans cover you. If you are an expat currently residing in China or any of the countries mentioned above, it is essential to get global medical coverage form a large global insurance company. It will provide you the best possible coverage locally, regionally, and back home. Some will be covered by public health plans, which can be quite excellent depending on your resident country or by group expatriate benefit plans. Catching any sickness can be very expensive if you don’t have adequate coverage.
To make it easier, work with experienced global insurance resources and agencies. At Expat Financial, we can discuss your requirements and recommend buying comprehensive international health insurance to cover medical emergencies, including falling sick. Your health is your most valuable asset, so it makes sense to get the best possible health protection at a premium that you can afford. The Cigna plan we offer HERE treats the COVID-19 illness like any other illness, so in our opinion, it is the best possible individual global health plan for expatriates today.
Last Updated at 1:52 PM PST on Feb 16/2020. Please consult your medical doctor for full guidance on your health.