“Do You Feel Lucky?”
Summer travel to Indo, already a dicey proposition after the horrific Bali bombing in October and recent anti-American demonstrations and terror-related blasts in Jakarta, has become even more dangerous with the spread of the SARS virus. While the country itself has had seen only two known cases of the deadly disease, the major transit ports to Indonesia, Singapore and Taiwan, are dealing with hundreds of cases and, at last count, 37 deaths.
What does this mean for the surfer who’s got a six -hour layover scheduled in the Singapore airport on the way to a dream trip to the Mentawais? Well, most travel experts would say there isn’t yet much cause for alarm. The mortality rate for young and healthy folks like surfers is in the single digits and the common flu still kills far more people than SARS. The spread of the epidemic is also being effectively curtailed in many Asian nations. Singapore, an authoritarian country, is being especially aggressive in stopping the spread of the disease.
Most doctors now agree that SARS patients are only contagious when they develop the tell-tale fever associated with the disease. According to Sean Walker of Wavehunters Surf Travel, officials at the Singapore airport have been taking the temperatures of everyone going into the airport and have not been not letting anyone in who is even a hair above normal. They’ve also been pulling people off planes who are exhibiting any signs of SARS. The country’s hardcore efforts recently resulted in the removal of Singapore from the US State Department’s travel advisory list. “There’s minimal risk in going through Singapore,” says Walker.
But despite these precautions, SARS still begs for concern in terms of Asian travel. Doctors have shown that the disease can live in urine and fecal matter for days, making a trip to the bathroom in an airport or plane a potentially risky ordeal. It is highly recommended that travelers carry antiseptic hand wipes or waterless soap and wash their hands with it regularly. The popular surgical masks don’t seem to do any good in preventing the disease, but can prevent infected people from spreading it.