Travel with the flu during holidays and you could end up in quarantine

crowdJust as swine flu activity is slowing, health officials are worried about another increase as people travel for Thanksgiving. And a few weeks after Thanksgiving, more people will be preparing to travel for Christmas, making now a good time to review government recommendations on travel during swine flu season.

Nobody wants another travel scene like last spring in Mexico, when thousands of travelers canceled trips to Mexico after a swine flu outbreak there.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has a whole list of interim guidelines for flight crews regarding the swine flu, and probably the best among them for travelers is that "People with symptoms of novel influenza A (H1N1) virus infection should not leave home or travel."

The CDC also recommends that people at high risk of complications from swine flu -- such as pregnant women, adults over 65, children under 5, and people with chronic illnesses -- may want to consider postponing travel.

For international travelers, the CDC says on its website that "If you are sick with symptoms of flu-like illness, you should not travel. These signs include fever, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, body aches, headache, chills, and fatigue. Some people may also have vomiting and diarrhea. People may be infected with the flu and have respiratory symptoms without a fever."

The United States isn't screening travelers arriving from other countries or departing for other countries. The CDC warns, however, that other countries are conducting entry screening for 2009 H1N1 flu, and the travel of U.S. citizens may be delayed.

A U.S. State Department alert for travel to China warns that in May China implemented a policy allowing it to quarantine arriving passengers who exhibit fever or flu-like symptoms. Home quarantine was permitted for some swine flu cases, but travelers could also be quarantined in a hospital or some other designated facility that the Chinese government chooses, the State Department says.

Other countries may also ask travelers to pass by a scanning device to check temperatures, or may be asked to have their temperature taken with an oral or ear thermometer.

Because of possible outbreak-related delays, including several days of quarantine and unexpected costs, the CDC recommends getting travel insurance and having your medical information available.

Other than not traveling if you have flu symptoms, that's probably the best advice: Buy travel insurance.

Aaron Crowe is a freelance journalist in the San Francisco Bay Area who can be found at
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