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How Swine Flu Is Affecting Travel

The H1N1 virus, or swine flu, is spreading quickly throughout the country, with vaccines moving slowly behind. According to reports, nearly 6 million of Americans have already been infected with the virus and about 1,000 have died, with children, pregnant women and young adults at most risk.

While many are travel experts are suggesting increased hand sanitizer, hand-washing, using antibacterial wipes on airplane tray tables and armrests and face masks for flight attendants -- these precautions could be sending the wrong message: panic. (Contrary to popular myth, airplanes are not viral and bacterial playgrounds, but instead have adequate ventilation and filtration, or at least so says the CDC.)

I should point out that H1N1 is a virus and doesn't respond to antibacterial anything, so those hand sanitizers, antibacterial wipes and the like are just there to make customers and clients feel better. However, many hotels are looking into cleaning products that will stamp out viruses to both protect their reputations and their guests. The only problem is that the pandemic came so quickly that few companies had time to create a new cleaner and disinfectant that can pass environmental regulations. The few have made the cut, mostly hospital-grade cleaners, are being tried out in many hotels. Hotels have also added disinfecting to their cleaning regimen, including extra cleaning spent on common areas like elevators, doorknobs, handrails and countertops. Not only is it effective, but it also gives customers "peace of mind." It's a win-win -- not only are hotels cleaning, but guests are seeing them clean and feeling better about staying there.

As for airports and airlines, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention announced that Americans traveling outside the United States should expect some swine flu precautions and screenings:

  • Pass by a scanning device that checks one's temperature. (The device may look like an airport metal detector, a camera, or a handheld device.) In some countries this may be done before disembarking
  • Have temperature taken with an oral or ear thermometer
  • Fill out a health questionnaire
  • Review information about H1N1 symptoms
  • Give authorities address, phone number, and other contact information
  • Be quarantined for a period of time if a passenger on your flight is found to have symptoms
  • Contact local health authorities
If a passenger has a fever, respiratory symptoms or is suspected of having the virus, that person may be asked to:
  • Be isolated from other people until well
  • Have a medical examination
  • Take a rapid flu test (which consists of a nasal swab sample)
  • Be hospitalized and given medical treatment, if testing positive
So far, the U.S. airports and airlines also plan to screen passengers, as well as authorities possibly quarantining those showing swine flu symptoms.

The truth is that there is very little any industry or company can do to avoid the virus, but they can stop adding to the panic and hysteria by offering the few solutions that do exist. The best advice and solution the CDC gives is: if you are sick, don't travel.
I'm in total agreement. Although I think they should have added, "And go get the H1N1 vaccine, too." (If you have a few hours to spare, you can wait in lines at clinics in your area.)

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