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Air Travel Tips Amidst Swine Flu Fears

| April 29, 2009

Swine Flu FearsAmidst fears of the spread of swine flu, many travelers are left wondering what to do when it comes to air travel.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued this release Tuesday to assist airline flight deck and cabin crew in identifying passengers who may have the Swine Flu:

During the swine influenza outbreak, extra vigilance is required to identify and report passengers with respiratory symptoms or fever. Any passenger who appears ill, or who reports not feeling well, should be observed or queried for the following signs or symptoms:

* Feeling feverish or temperature greater than 100°F (37.8°C) if measured. For children, feeling warm by parent’s report.
* Sore throat
* Cough
* Stuffy or runny nose

Any passengers observed to have or who report having two or more of these symptoms should be reported immediately to the CDC Quarantine Station of jurisdiction where the plane is expected to land.

Flight and cabin crew should follow airline guidelines for preventing spread of infection when interacting with these travelers.

As for your safety when traveling, The New York Times travel health expert, Dr. Mark Gendreau recommended the following tips:

Postpone travel if you are sick. Although it is recommended you postpone travel until you are no longer infectious, in reality this recommendation is not commonly followed by passengers, especially since few travelers purchase travel insurance. In fact, it’s a good idea for all passengers to postpone any nonessential air travel during times of a national or international health emergency, such as the current swine flu outbreak, especially to countries where the outbreak is large.

Minimize exposure while aboard aircraft by keeping the air vent over your seat on low and pointing it so that the airflow is just in front of your face. This may prevent any infectious droplets from landing on your mucous membranes. Most infectious agents gain a foothold in our body through entering the mucous membranes of our eyes, nose and mouth.

Make good hand hygiene part of your travel routine. Good hand hygiene is paramount in reducing the risk of disease transmission. Studies show markedly reduced rates of influenza transmission in public spaces that have alcohol-based hand sanitizer dispensers. The product should have an alcohol content of at least 50 percent to be effective against viruses.

Consider a face mask. Face masks may help but only need to be used when outbreaks become widespread and are declared a pandemic. The most commonly used simple face masks only filter about 62 percent of very small particles, compared to about 98 percent for professional-grade face masks (these are typically designated N-95). Simple face masks are designed to prevent large droplets that are coughed or sneezed from contaminating the environment rather than protecting the wearer. Bring an extra mask along, and kindly offer it to anyone coughing or sneezing who looks sick. This will keep any droplets from landing on you.

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Category: airport, layover, transportation, travel

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