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Swine flu: the traveller's view

By admin   30 April 2009 11:28am Europe/London

UPDATE 5 (12 June 2009): The WHO has now declared swine flu a ‘pandemic’. What does this mean? My colleague Adam explains it all in this post.

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UPDATE 4 (29 May 2009): The initial panic over swine flu has now subsided. While the flu will continue spreading, its effects are limited. An Australian who contracted the flu in the USA has claimed that he has ‘had worse paper cuts’

As of today, almost 14,000 cases of the flu have been confirmed around the world. The death total is at 95: 83 in Mexico, 10 in the USA, 1 in Canada and 1 in Costa Rica. 

Travellers should note the following:

* the combined total of swine-flu cases in South and Central America is relatively tiny. So don’t let fear put you off travelling to those regions. 

* China has been quarantining anyone suspected of swine flu. If you’ve come from North America, you might wish to consider the timing of your trip to avoid hassles.

The Thorn Tree thread in this post continues to be the best source of up-to-date information.

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UPDATE 3 (6 May 2009): As the world regains its calm, attention is turning to how Mexico plans to restart its economy post-swine flu. The WHO has kept its alert level unchanged.

Sadly, the flu has claimed a victim in the United States whose health was compromised by preexisting medical conditions. Our hearts and thoughts go out to the families and loved ones of all the victims.

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UPDATE 2 (5 May 2009): CNN quotes Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano as saying that ‘the severity of the flu – how sick you get – is not stronger than regular seasonal flu‘. Meanwhile, Mexican towns are beginning to reopen, according to our Thorn Tree community and news reports.

Keep travelling, and stay informed. If you’ve recently travelled and feel sick, consider seeing a doctor. Check back with us. We’ll keep updating the resources below.

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UPDATE (4 May 2009): The BBC is now reporting that swine flu is in decline, according to Mexican officials. However, this doesn’t mean you should throw caution to the winds. The WHO maintains that the threat may have peaked, but it hasn’t disappeared entirely. Do your homework before arranging travel to Mexico. The resources listed on this page should help.

More substantially, the WHO has emphasised that there is no need to restrict international travel. They note that limiting travel would cause much more disruption to the global community than any limited good it might do.

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It’s tough to escape swine flu headlines these days. You may be wondering what this flu outbreak means for travel. Here’s what you need to know.

First, we urge travellers to remain calm and to stay informed. Learn what the various alerts and warnings mean for you. For example, the WHO’s alert status is now at level 5. This means simply that human-to-human transmission has occurred in more than one country. Level 6, the ‘pandemic’ phase, means that human-to-human transmission has occurred in more than one global region. It does not imply anything like universal transmission.

Similarly, many people have been concerned about the state of emergency declared in the USA and some US states. It’s important to note that a state of emergency is a legal term that defines what the government can and cannot do in specific situations. Nations declare states of emergency in order to access funds and other resources to respond to risks. A state of emergency is not an invitation to panic.

We don’t think that fear and panic are particularly helpful – but we certainly do advise prudence and caution. The WHO continues to emphasise that no restrictions on travel are necessary. However, the Centers for Disease Control advise reconsidering nonessential travel to Mexico.

Our Thorn Tree community is doing a fantastic job providing up-to-date information and resources. Check the dedicated swine-flu thread for regular updates from our staff and community.

In sum, we believe that travellers who stay informed and exercise proper caution can still roam the globe. If the situation changes, we will let you know.

As always, if you have concerns or questions, ask us.