A Letter From Our Medical Editor

Publisher’s Note: We are grateful for all of our Expedition Portal readers, and our subscribers to Overland Journal. These are challenging and defining times for all of us as people and as travelers. Many of our fellow overlanders are stuck behind borders or managing major adjustments to their travel schedules. If there is anything we can do to help support you during this outbreak, please reach out in this forum post and let us know, and we will do our best to help. The letter below is from our Medical Editor, Jon Solberg, an ER Doctor and member of the Expeditions 7 team that I crossed Greenland with. We wish all of you and your families safety and health during this time. – Scott Brady

COVID-19 update from the Medical Editor

March 30, 2020

Jon Solberg MD
Fellow, Academy of Wilderness Medicine
Fellow, American College of Emergency Physicians
Diploma in Mountain Medicine

Humans are programmed to get outside and explore their world, a trait that makes the COVID-19 epidemic frustrating for all the Overland Journal and Expedition Portal staff, and likely for its readers too. Our heart goes out to everyone who’s been personally affected by the virus, and also to our many friends whose travel home has been postponed or canceled. Nevertheless, we owe it to those who may become ill and those who work in a healthcare setting to help flatten the curve by becoming educated about the virus, heeding the recent social distancing guidelines and travel restrictions, and by staying mentally and physically healthy while we wait for this challenge to end.

This new corona virus belongs to the same family of corona viruses which causes the common cold, but like its deadly cousin SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome), it has evolved some
particularly nasty traits. Most infected individuals will exhibit nothing more serious than a sore throat and cough, but some (especially the elderly, those with serious medical conditions, and an unlucky group of young healthy persons) will develop copious respiratory secretions and become unable to breathe on their own. Currently, healthcare experts fear there will not be enough ventilators to care for the sickest patients (like what happened in Italy). If you develop mild symptoms, you should call your doctor for advice and avoid contact with anyone because the virus spreads very easily to others. If you develop shortness of breath or chest pain, you should go to the ER because symptoms can go from bad to deadly in less than an hour.

The best way to protect yourself from acquiring and spreading the virus is by practicing good hand hygiene and covering your mouth if you need to cough or sneeze. Experts recommend social distancing by 6 feet between you and anyone outside your immediate home. The Centers for Disease Control website contains the most up-to-date information for returned travelers and for those traveling within the United States.

Those of us with some downtime can stay positive by engaging in preventive maintenance on ourselves and our vehicles. This is the perfect time to get that flu shot you put off in the fall, ensure you have enough prescription medications on hand to outlast your stockpile of toilet paper, and to get serious about a personal physical fitness program. It’s also a good time to detail your vehicle, fix that annoying squeak or rattle that’s eluded you for the past year, or install that accessory that’s been sitting on your shelf since last Christmas.

It’s also a perfect time to revisit the litany of technical information and adventure stories available in the overland community or watch a few episodes of XOverland. Stay up to date with family and fellow travelers on Facebook or Instagram, and do some research for upcoming trips or vehicle modifications you may be contemplating. It’s also possible to still get outside and explore, albeit a lot closer to home (i.e., a walk, hike, or short drive). Our family has instituted a weekly trip on a tankful. These local jaunts to trails, rivers, and other outdoor places allow us to get out of the house, to cook a meal over the camp stove, and to get some much-needed exercise and sunshine. If you do choose to head outside, please be sure to follow any local laws or regulations before you head out, practice appropriate social distancing, and let’s all be thankful for the freedom we have to explore this wonderful world, even if those freedoms have been temporarily restricted for the benefit of others. Doctors orders!

Dr. Solberg in Greenland, after successfully crossing the long-axis of the ice sheet by 4wd as a member of the Expeditions 7 team.


Jon S. Solberg, MD, FAWM, FACEP, is a military- trained, board certified emergency medicine physician; he is a Fellow in the Academy of Wilderness Medicine with a diploma in mountain medicine. His medical exploits have taken him to a jungle hospital in Cameroon, a combat zone field hospital in southern Afghanistan, and across Greenland as the medical officer for the first longitudinal crossing by motor vehicle, to 82.5°N. Passionate about community involvement and education, he teaches wilderness medicine courses, provides direction for EMS, fire departments, and search and rescue groups, and mentors medical students and resident physicians as the Chairman for the Department of Emergency Medicine at the University of North Dakota. He and his wife, Agnieszka, enjoy exploring the backcountry in their Power Wagon and Maule M-5 bush plane.