Swine Flu Facts for Airline Passengers

Travel Special: Swine Flu Facts for Airline Passengers

The current swine flu outbreaks have caught a lot of us by surprise; here’s your chance to learn more about it, and learn how to protect yourself, especially when traveling.

1. Don’t panic: There is a lot of fear out there – but fear of the unknown is perfectly natural, and most of us know very little about swine flu. This is a case where knowledge truly is power-so keep reading and follow our links-and let the panic subside.

2. What is it? Swine flu is similar to regular flu. It is contagious and its symptoms can vary from mild to severe. There is no vaccine, but it can be treated with anti-viral drugs. And no, you cannot get it by eating well-cooked pork. Visit Centers for Disease Control for more information about swine flu.

3. Where is it? Outbreaks are heaviest in Mexico followed by the U.S., where cases are scattered across the country, with most appearing in New York and California. The disease has now found its way into Europe and beyond. All the confirmed cases in the U.S. have been described as mild, but Mexico has reported deaths that are expected to be linked to swine flu. You can read more about the spread of swine flu from the CDC or view this world-wide map of outbreaks and swine flu cases.

4. Can you catch swine flu on a plane? Yes, but it’s not all that easy. Dr. Mark Gendreau, writing for the New York Times, says those at greatest risk to swine flu are passengers with “close personal contact” with a contagious person, for example, if an infected seatmate on a plane has a sneezing fit. You’re also at risk if you are?”seated within two rows of a contagious passenger.” This is why sick people, or people who know they’ve been exposed to swine flu, are being urged not to travel.

5. What to know before you go: As of this writing, the U.S. government is urging that travelers avoid “non-essential travel to Mexico.” And there are reports that travelers entering certain countries from Mexico or parts of the U.S. could be screened for flu symptoms, and possibly quarantined (quarantines for swine flu have occurred in Israel). Do not fly if you are ill or have been exposed to someone with swine flu.

6. Can I change my airline ticket? Many U.S. airlines and other international carriers are allowing travelers to change tickets without penalty. Check airline website or call for more information.

7. Take action: One of the simplest and most effective ways to prevent swine flu is to wash hands thoroughly and often. If using a hand-sanitizer, use one that is at least 50% alcohol. Also, avoid shaking hands and kissing.

8. Keep up-to-date: For travel information, check your favorite news website often, as well as these useful sites: U.S. State Department, Centers for Disease Control (click on “Travelers’ Health”), and the World Health Organization, plus your airline’s website.

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Published: April 28, 2009