How to ward off coronavirus in your hotel room
As the novel strain of coronavirus that causes the severe respiratory disease known at COVID-19, continues to spread around the globe, the travel industry is taking some serious hits.
Airlines are cancelling services and offering flexible cancellations: major world celebrations and gatherings have been cancelled, and some countries have even closed their borders. Travelers are fearful about traveling and are taking measures into their own hands to prevent infection -- including cleaning their own hotel rooms.
Related: Complete guide to traveling during the deadly coronavirus outbreak
The CDC reports that COVID-19 is most commonly contracted through human-to-human contact.
TPG asked Kelly A. Reynolds, a professor and environmental microbiologist at the University of Arizona what precautions travelers should take and whether hotel rooms should be a concern during this outbreak.
"Respiratory agents, including cold and flu viruses, can persist on surfaces for hours to days. Since it’s impossible to know if the person who stayed in the same room before you harbored an illness, it’s best to be proactive with wiping down surfaces with a disinfecting wipe and increasing your hand hygiene practice." says Reynolds.
Here’s what you should do to stay healthy on the road:
Head straight to the sink
Wash your hands. Prior to entering your room, you probably touched doorknobs, elevator buttons and maybe even took public transit. All of these touch points are places where germs may linger.
"Hand washing remains your best defense for infection prevention. Remember to pack your own disinfecting wipes. I often bring my own pillow too, since hotel pillows could be full of allergens and residual saliva," says Reynolds.
Related: How to tell if you're staying in a dirty hotel room
Get out the wipes
Your hotel room should be clean and tidy upon arrival, but that doesn't mean the housekeepers did a deep clean of all the surfaces. To be safe, get out your Clorox To Go wipes and focus on disinfecting the surfaces that are known for being the germiest, such as the remote control, light switches, bedside lamp switches, the alarm clock, the phone, the bathroom sink — essentially any surface that is frequently touched.
Related: How to thoroughly disinfect your airplane seat
Ditch the comforter
If you thought the comforter was safe because linens are changed between guests, think again. Comforters are typically washed on occasion, but rarely between guests. Various reports suggest that hotel comforters may only be washed four times a year. When you start to think of all the things people may put on their bed, like a suitcase for instance, you really start to question the cleanliness.
"Many hotel comforters are not designed for routine washing or the use of disinfectants in the wash. I recommend travelers remove the comforter to avoid potential contact with lingering bodily fluids that can harbor germs." advises Reynolds.
If you're the type of person who gets chilly, pack some cozy pajamas for your hotel stay.
In general, coronavirus is believed to be most commonly transmitted via human-to-human contact. There's certainly the chance of contracting the virus through contact with contaminated surfaces, but according to the CDC, this is "not thought to be the main way the virus spreads."
Related: Myth-busting: Will a face mask keep you safe from viruses?
However, Reynolds says, "Our studies [at the University of Arizona] show that housekeeping may not be using proper disinfectant products or disposable cleaning tools. Reusable sponges and mops can spread contaminants to multiple rooms."
There's no harm in giving your hotel room an extra round of cleaning. To keep yourself safe during this outbreak, remember to be diligent about washing your hands and cleaning potentially contaminated surfaces. These are the best precautions you can take.
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