The rapidly spreading Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak has been declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO). As the virus advances to all countries and the number of cases & deaths climb, the governments worldwide are fighting to curb the growth of this infectious disease. The authorities are imposing:
Travel ban and restrictions to other countries
Shelter-in-home, stay home, and no gatherings orders
Local or national lock-down
The effect of this sweeping phenomenon on the world economy including the medical tourism industry could be enormous. Medical tourists, Americans or Canadians, may wonder whether it is still safe to travel to Mexico for weight loss surgery, cosmetic surgery, dentistry, cancer, orthopedic, or any other procedure.
In the month of March 2020, about 85% of patients were forced to cancel their trips to receive treatment; with at least 50% cancellations on the horizon through Q3, 2020.
In this comprehensive guide, we will be discussing all aspects of Coronavirus and its influence on medical trips overseas.
About Coronavirus (COVID-19)
Coronavirus Count worldometers.info
Novel Coronavirus or SARS-CoV-2 causes a viral respiratory illness that was first originated in Wuhan, China in December 2019. SARS-CoV-2 has spread to over 81 countries with clusters in China, Spain, Iran, Italy, Germany, United States, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and Japan. The most common symptoms include fever, dry cough, shortness of breath, muscle aches, fatigue, and in severe cases pneumonia.
The most vulnerable to this flu-like sickness are elderly with reduced immunity and individuals with underlying health problems, such as morbid obesity, diabetes, and High Blood Pressure. COVID-19 can be particularly deadly for individuals with obesity-associated comorbidities as they are getting hit the hardest.
The mortality rate of COVID-19 is estimated at 3.4% according to the World Health Organization. It is estimated about 80% of people who get infected “do well” and recover without needing any medical care.
The anxiety regarding Coronavirus is the fact that it is not fully understood and treatments are not yet available. As of today, the apex of COVID-19 pandemic has not reached and the only remedy is practicing good hygiene, self-isolation, social-distancing, and quarantine. Over the next few months, we will understand what we can and can’t do to intervene, including vaccination.
Here are some statistics to compare COVID-19 with SARS, MERS, Ebola, Obesity, etc.
Influenza outbreak (Flu Season) in 2017 had 60,000 deaths in the U.S. and half a million deaths globally.
Coronavirus counts: There are over 765,000 cases of Coronavirus worldwide with over 37,000 people dying, and about 161,000 recovered from it so far (March 30, 2020).
In one year, an estimated 3,000,000 people died from being overweight or obese.
As it appears in the statistics, obesity and its related health issues, such as type 2 diabetes, heart problems, and cancers, are still more deadly than coronavirus. The average medical cost of obesity is around 100,000 USD per person and it could leave you financially broke!
COVID 19 cases in the US
How Does COVID-19 Spread?
Like any type of flu or virus, Coronavirus spreads from human to human or animal to human through respiratory droplets. Sneezing and coughing are the main forms of transmittal for this disease. COVID-19 is generally transmitted by asymptomatic carriers who have none of the typical symptoms and are unconsciously spreading it to others. To be exposed, you have to be within a 6 feet proximity from the person who harbored the pathogen.
Coronavirus, also called “Bioweapon,” has secret ammunition called a super-spreader. Super spreader works a bit differently from a typical infection spreader. A super-spreader catches the infection much like a normal carrier but spreads it to an average of 8 people as opposed to an average of 2.6 people.
Coronavirus survives in the air for 3 hours, on copper for 4 hours, on cardboard for 24 hours. The virus lives on some surfaces like plastic as well as stainless steel for 3 days. The infection stays in the body for up to 2 weeks before showing symptoms.
Patients cross national borders to receive elective or urgent healthcare services not available or affordable at home. Global healthcare destinations, like Mexico, Thailand, Malaysia, Turkey, Singapore, South Korea, Costa Rica, and Iran attract thousands of individuals to receive medical services like bariatrics, plastics, dental, fertility care, orthopedics, cancer, stem cell, and heart surgery.
Medical travelers can save anywhere from 2o% to 80% on treatments in countries like Mexico with 40% to 65% savings.
Destination surgery travelers need to outweigh the risks of not undergoing necessary medical procedures with the risks of contracting any illness. Medical tourists need to make sure they are not going to substandard facilities without sufficient infrastructure and protocols in place to be proactive in combating harmful pathogens. Clinical accreditation is crucial in reducing the risk activities by establishing infection control of viruses like Coronavirus.
Coronavirus Impact on Medical Tourism
Increased globalization affects tourists who are planning to travel for medical treatments. That is why patients must be very vigilant and prepared to avoid contagious diseases. The Coronavirus has created a virus fears and restrictions on patients crossing the borders.
Short term impact of COVID-19 on medical travel is imminent for some countries like Thailand and China. The long term effect on medical tourism is unknown and depends on levels of spread and severity, as well as the levels of reaction, complacency, and inaction. Tourism, in general, is expected to get hit hard and medical tourism is expected to suffer the hardest.
A global collaboration of scientists is creating a path to a speedy human intervention to contain outbreaks with vaccines and antiviral medications. Environmental factors such as heat and humidity in the summer months can also help alleviate the novel Coronavirus. Another scenario is that it will mutate at a rate that makes it harder to infect people.
Things to Consider Before You Travel
There have been broader efforts in terms of preventing the spread of SARS-CoV-2 including travel bans and lockdowns. The United States, for example, imposed restrictions on people coming from China.
Check with the CDC, WHO, any other national regulatory bodies for travel advisory, ban, etc.
Check the accreditation of the facility you are considering to go with as well as their infection control policies.
Travel Restrictions to Mexico
The U.S. Department of State advises citizens to avoid all international travel. President Donald Trump suspended all travel from Europe to the United States.
Mexico is one of the least impacted countries as far as the Coronavirus is concerned. Mexico is ranked about the 60th Thus far, only four cases of Coronavirus have been reported within Mexico – all of the four cases traveled to Italy.
In Baja California, there have not been any cases reported of Coronavirus. Currently, the United States of America will not close the border to Mexico, however, restricts it to non-essential travels.
Preventative Measures by Mexico Bariatric Center
Mexico Bariatric Center®, number one medical tourism operator in Mexico, is proactive in reducing the risk of patients’ exposure to the Coronavirus (COVID-19). These measures include;
Mexico Bariatric Center uses accredited facilities and surgical teams with standard procedures in place to address infection control.
The staff at the hospital has been wearing Personal Protective Equiment (PPE), including N95 face masks, face shields, special gowns, and gloves.
The staff have been instructed to wash their hands more frequently.
Surfaces are been disinfected and sterilized more often.
The staff was asked to avoid touching their lips as least as possible.
There are many antibacterial stations available within Mexico Bariatric Surgical Center for patients and their companions to gel-in and gel-out.
Mexico Bariatric Center has been closely monitoring the continuing outbreak of the respiratory diseases and the guidance announced by the government and health authorities.
Mexico Bariatric Surgery Center Preventative Measures
Actions Taken by Mexico Bariatric Center at This Time
As Coronavirus cases top 300,000 around the world, Mexico Bariatric Center® makes the following decisions:
At our headquarters in Folsom, California, MBC has decided to continue to employ our staff as they work from home, to be there for you whenever you need them.
We have decided the best course of action is to postpone and reschedule surgery dates in effect to April 13, 2020 and beyond. We will resume surgeries after we have better control and handle the spread of COVID-19.
“Our patients have always been our number one priority. Mexico Bariatric Center is choosing the best practice for the patient’s safety and wellness. We will continue to monitor the situation closely and make the right decision regardless of financial implications and losses imposed by this once-in-a-lifetime circumstance.” – Ron Elli, Ph.D., Founder & CEO
How to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus
Prevention, Contagion, Symptoms
Basic universal precautions needed for personal wellbeing and avoiding getting sick. Be smart and do not panic!
Make sure you cough or sneeze into a tissue paper or the upper sleeve – not the hands. That is how you transmit it to others!
Wash your hands for 20-30 seconds minimum. Emphasize this before/after using the restroom and eating food.
Do not go in close to people who are sick; coughing, sneezing, blowing the nose, etc.
Do not touch eyes, mouth, or nose without washing your hands first.
Throw away any tissues, napkins, paper towels, or kleenex after use.
Carry and regularly use alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Clean your seat and area in the airplane with antibacterial wipes.
Social distancing: Be aware of your surroundings and increase the physical space between yourself and the people around you.
There is no recommendation to use masks on a routine basis outside the affected areas, although it does offer an extra layer of protection for patients. Special n95 mask is required for healthcare professionals dealing with patients affected by this disease.
Drink hot water to kill germs and viruses.
Disinfect your cell phone
Use EPA’s approved list of cleaners, such as Lysol, Clorox, Purell products. Make sure you do not mix cleaners together, such as bleach and vinegar.
This is a “public health” type of prevention. Someone with the signs of infection needs to stay at home and avoid any contact when sick to stop spreading it to others. Besides a mandatory self-quarantine, they should seek medical help immediately if the following symptoms are present:
Detailed Map of COVID-19 Spreading Around the World
The following map shows the extent of the coronavirus outbreak in different regions of the world:
Mexico Bariatric Center® is one of the oldest medical tourism companies housed in the United States. MBC coordinates people from the U.S., Canada, and the rest of the world to travel to Mexico for reliable and affordable bariatric & metabolic, and plastics surgery. Bariatrics in Mexico offers a safe and long-term weight loss solution for individuals not covered by insurance or underinsured.
Studies regarding the occurrences of comorbidities in patients with COVID-19 infection indicating that health issues such as hypertension, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, is a risk factor for obese patients. Massive obesity coupled with infections such as Coronavirus jeopardizes people’s lives.
Coronavirus 2019 has brought the world to a screeching halt and threatens to cause a global recession, with most businesses “living day-to-day.” Medical travelers from the United States and other cities around the globe are forced to cancel and/or to reschedule their trips due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
What the future holds and how soon healthcare to destinations like Mexico will resume is yet to be seen. After the crisis recedes and a new normal is established, everything will be more intense and vivid. The demand for procedures life weight loss surgery in Mexico will be pronounced.
Mexico Bariatric Center's Founder and CEO, Ron Elli, Ph.D. has been in Medical Tourism Bariatrics and Plastics since early 2007. Dr. Elli is a pioneer in the Mexico Weight Loss Surgery field. Ron has published numerous articles in Global Healthcare and has been informing patients in U.S. and Canada through bariatric seminars and webinars.