web Musings of The Global Traveller

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Swine Flu Travel Update

A few days ago I blogged on the impacts of swine flu on travel, what to do about the potential impacts and how savvy travellers can benefit.

This is an update on how the potential impacts are developing. A reminder that for medical advice or up to the minute information on the spread of swine flu, check out the World Health Organization (WHO) website. Note they have now taken to calling it H1N1 Influenza A instead of swine flu.

Current swine flu status

At time of writing the WHO pandemic alert level is 5, which means they think a pandemic is imminent. A pandemic just means this influenza strain is being spread in multiple areas of the world.

WHO is not recommending travel restrictions be imposed at present, although some governments are advising their citizens not to travel to the worst affected parts of Mexico or USA.

While this is still a new strain and it is not yet certain how bad swine flu will be, on the information currently available it does appear to be much weaker than SARS to put this into context. (Note SARS was not an influenza virus, but I compare infection and death rates of swine flu with SARS because many readers remember the impacts that SARS had on travel.)

I have no intention of curtailing my own upcoming travel.

Current impacts on travel

Many countries have introduced elementary screening of international arrivals. These typically are through use of visual checks, thermal cameras (particularly in Asia) or questionnaires. A (extremely) small number of arriving passengers who are unwell may be taken for tests and quarantine.

At least one country has issued a ban on flights from Mexico - Cuba. Other countries may follow suit, although as stated on my how to get to Mexico post there aren't many countries with direct flights (see that post for a list of the main ones). Stopping Mexico to USA or Canada flights is totally impractical, and in the case of USA ineffective when people can easily cross the border by land.

Already some air fares to Mexico from USA, and Mexican hotel rates, are falling.


This is very early in the cycle for a new influenza strain. We don't yet understand how serious (or not) swine flu will be. I expect to post another update on the travel impacts in a few days' time, or sooner if there are significant developments. In the meantime I am already thinking about how I may be able to take advantage of some travel bargains which are sure to arise.

1 comment:

Cheryl's Office said...

Travel health expert Dr. Mark Gendreau addresses questions about the current swine flu outbreak and air travel. Dr. Gendreau is senior staff physician and vice chair of emergency medicine at Lahey Clinic in Burlington, Mass., and assistant professor of emergency medicine at the Tufts School of Medicine in Boston. His special interests include health issues associated with commercial air travel, including transmission of infectious diseases.