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It's not just about coronavirus: Tips to avoid illness while traveling

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Nothing can ruin a vacation like getting sick. But germs can be hard to avoid when traveling, especially if you’re flying to your destination.

“You are potentially exposed to lots of different types of germs in a public setting where you have a lot of people who are in a relatively confined space,” explains Dr. Nipunie Rajapakse, a Mayo Clinic pediatric infectious disease specialist.

She says the best thing travelers can do to protect themselves from picking up an infection, like the flu, is wash their hands.

“As simple as it sounds, it really is the most effective way to keep yourself well when traveling.”

Excellent hand-washing also can help protect you from getting infected with norovirus.

“That one tends to occur on cruise ships because you have a limited number of restaurants or places that people are eating, and you can have food that sits out in buffet style for prolonged periods of time, which kind of really makes a good breeding ground for spread of this type of infection,” says Dr. Rajapakse.

Making sure your food is piping hot and cooked thoroughly also can decrease your risk.

When going through a busy airport, you may notice some travelers wearing face masks. Dr. Rajapakse says if you’re sick, wearing a face mask can decrease your risk of transmitting the infection to someone else. However, in terms of otherwise healthy people, she says that face masks generally don’t give that much additional protection.

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