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Swine Flu and Travel: What Should You Do?

Should You Stay Home? What If You Get Sick While Traveling? Find Out What to Do

By Miranda Hitti
WebMD Health News

Reviewed By Louise Chang, MD

April 28, 2009 -- Are you rethinking your travel plans in light of swine flu? Here are travel recommendations to keep in mind.

The CDC recommends that U.S. travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico. So does New Zealand's Ministry of Health -- New Zealand has had swine flu cases in college students who recently visited Mexico.

But the World Health Organization (WHO) has not recommended travel restrictions to Mexico or any other countries, because those measures may not be effective in stopping the spread of the virus, says Keiji Fukuda, MD, assistant director-general for health security and environment at the WHO.

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H1N1 Swine Flu

Fukuda notes that individual countries are free to set their own travel policies and to handle swine flu as they see fit.

No one is going to stop you from getting on a plane, train, ship, or car. But there are steps that you can take to limit your swine flu risk.

Here is what the CDC wants you to do if you must travel to an area that has reported cases of swine flu:

  • Check updates from the CDC, WHO, and local health authorities, and follow their guidelines.
  • Before traveling, people in high-risk groups -- such as the elderly and people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, lung disease, or heart disease -- should get the prescription antiviral medications Tamiflu or Relenza to take while traveling in areas that have reported cases of swine flu.
  • Check on health care resources in the area you'll be visiting before you depart.
  • While you're in an area with reported swine flu cases, wash your hands often with soap and water, or if soap isn't available, use an alcohol-based hand gel.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick while traveling, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue when you sneeze or cough, and throw the tissue in the trash afterward.
  • Seek medical care if you are ill with a fever and other symptoms of swine flu, especially if you think you may have had contact with someone with swine flu or severe respiratory illness in the seven days before you got sick.
  • If you're sick, don't travel, except to get local medical care. Try to limit contact with other people, so your germs don't spread.

Once you get home from an area with reported swine flu cases, the CDC asks that you closely monitor your health for seven days. If you get sick during that time, call your doctor or clinic for an appointment. And when you arrive for your appointment, tell you doctor your symptoms, where you traveled, and if you had close contact with someone infected with swine flu.

SOURCES: CDC: "Travel Health Warning: Swine Influenza and Severe Cases of Respiratory Illness in Mexico -- Avoid Nonessential Travel to Mexico." Keiji Fukuda, MD, assistant director-general, health security and environment, WHO

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