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Coronavirus isn’t a good reason to cancel your U.S. travel — yet

Click to play video 'Coronavirus outbreak: Canadian government continuing to monitor risk of travel to the U.S.' Coronavirus outbreak: Canadian government continuing to monitor risk of travel to the U.S.
WATCH: Canada's Chief Public Health Officer Dr. Theresa Tam said on Monday that the federal government is continuing to monitor the risk of travel to the U.S., and urged Canadians to check the country's list of travel advisories online whenever traveling to any destination abroad – Mar 9, 2020

Canadians travel more often to the U.S. than anywhere else, but as more cases of COVID-19 appear south of the border, travellers may want to take precautions, experts say.

“I’m not telling people not to go to the States,” said Dr. Gerald Evans, chair of the division of infectious diseases at Queen’s University. “But I am telling them that if they’ve returned from the United States and they are ill, that they need to consider that as a potential issue around COVID-19.”

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the U.S. has 423 confirmed cases of COVID-19, with 19 deaths. Several states and cities have declared states of emergency.

Some states have confirmed community spread of the virus, including Washington, California and Oregon.

READ MORE: Do you think you have coronavirus symptoms? Here’s who to call first

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It’s likely that there are more cases than reported, because of problems with U.S. testing, said Dr. Isaac Bogoch, an infectious diseases specialist at Toronto General Hospital.

“There are known hotspots, but just because some place has not reported disease activity, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have that infection presently,” he said.

Click to play video 'COVID-19: U.S. cases climb, states weigh stronger response' COVID-19: U.S. cases climb, states weigh stronger response
COVID-19: U.S. cases climb, states weigh stronger response – Mar 8, 2020

So far, Canada has over 70 cases and one death as of Monday.

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All travellers, including those from the United States, should be aware of COVID-19, said Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, at a press conference Monday.

“Everyone who comes back into Canada should self-monitor for symptoms,” she said.

READ MORE: Ontario reports 3 new cases of COVID-19, including U.S. travellers

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On its travel advisories website, the federal government does note that it is monitoring the COVID-19 situation in the U.S., but it doesn’t say not to go. That doesn’t mean there couldn’t be a travel advisory someday, though, according to Minister of Foreign Affairs, François-Philippe Champagne.

“It’s science first,” he said.

Bogoch doesn’t think people should avoid the U.S., but they should take appropriate precautions.

READ MORE: How gaps in U.S. health coverage could affect Canada’s fight against COVID-19

People should check advisories and consider their travel plans carefully in light of the risks, he said. Whether you’re travelling by air, train or bus, you’re likely going to be in “high-contact settings” and should take precautions like frequently washing your hands and avoiding crowded venues like concerts, he said.

And whether you catch COVID-19 or something else, “Travel insurance and health insurance is a must,” he said.

“That also can be cancellation insurance for hotels or other reservations.”

Click to play video 'What you need to know about travelling amid coronavirus outbreak' What you need to know about travelling amid coronavirus outbreak
What you need to know about travelling amid coronavirus outbreak – Mar 9, 2020

Ultimately, the decision to travel is a personal one, he said.

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“If you’re travelling for pleasure and you’re going to be miserable because you’re so worried about COVID-19, then don’t go.”

It’s possible that the U.S. could continue to export more cases to the rest of the world, he said. So far, at least two Canadian cases are in people who appear to have caught it on a U.S. trip.

READ MORE: Going on vacation amid the coronavirus outbreak? Here’s what to know

But as more countries report COVID-19 cases, the question of “hot spots” might become less relevant, he said.

“I really think we’re in a transition period now. As we’re watching this epidemic march around the world, it’s harder and harder to have a list of countries that we would say is a ‘hotspot’ because day by day, more countries are being affected.”

It’s also possible that Canada could look more like the U.S. in a little while, he said.

“If we fast forward a few weeks, we will have a similar relative number of cases that they do.”