As I write this blog post, 722 people have died of the Coronavirus. Many American airlines are halting flights to mainland China (possibly until March 28!). Three cruise ships have been placed under quarantine after several passengers tested positive for the virus. Outside of China the countries with the most reported cases of the virus include Singapore, Thailand and Japan with 20 to 30 infections each. Singapore has upgraded its outbreak alert to orange; the government is trying to stop or limit further spread of the virus throughout the country using increased screening.
I am traveling to Singapore at the end of this month for my spring break. Am I worried? Not really.
For 43 years of my life, I have had a pretty good health run, avoiding major illnesses and injury. (The other day, I literally ran a little over 10km in one hour and felt pretty good!) I have never needed to be hospitalized or required an operation and have never broken a bone. At the various institutions where I have worked, I accrue sick leave that went unused. If I were to become sick or injured, however, now that I am working at Qatar University, I have the most comprehensive health insurance that I have ever had in my life.
I am in relatively good health, fortunately, and should I become sick or injured, I have good health insurance coverage, fortunately.
So, given my health situation, I opt to travel.
Still, why tempt fate by traveling from a country where there are no cases of the virus to a country where there is a slim probability of exposure? (Qatar has confirmed no incidences of Coronavirus.)
A little bit of background: I am someone who doesn’t exercise preventive measures when it comes to microorganisms. I wash my hands but will never use antibacterial hand sanitizers. I eat raw sushi and medium rare beef. I eschew flu shots every year at the onset of influenza season—which, by the way, has killed 10,000 people already this year.
Part of me believes that I need exposure to microorganisms in order to stay healthy and stand any chance of surviving them, should I become sick from contact with one. Part of me would rather just try to exercise common sense and not go about my day terrified of what I can’t discern floating in the air, resting on a surface, or swimming in my water.
What scares me more on a daily basis is slipping in the shower as I balance on one leg trying to wash the bottom of my foot or losing my balance as I sprint on the faster settings of the treadmill. If I get got because my immune system isn’t up to par, I’m more ok with that, but if I become injured or die because of a balance-related accident, I’m less ok with that.
I can get sick in the country where I am living, and I can get sick in a country that I am visiting, so in my reductive mindset, not traveling because of fears of a pandemic flu is moot.
Besides, for the past three years, I have lived in a blockaded country in the Gulf: there are day-to-day risks from the political machinations of the region that I have blindly accepted as the cost of doing business here. And, these unknown knowns don’t care about my good health or health insurance.
So, even with all the things to fear in the world, I still opt to travel.