Our guest blogger is Gary W. Brunette, MD, MS, medical epidemiologist for the Travelers’ Health Branch, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As winter temperatures drop, the holiday travel season heats up. Whether you’re traveling to share some turkey with family or exploring an exotic locale with friends, CDC wants to make sure you don’t overlook an important part of your travel planning-your health.
As always, being sick with the flu could impact your winter travel plans. But this holiday season, both seasonal and 2009 H1N1 flu could threaten your holiday cheer. Here are our best tips for reducing your risk of catching or spreading flu on your trip.
Before Your Trip
Vaccines are the most important tool we have for preventing the flu. This season, we have both a seasonal flu vaccine and a 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Anyone who wants to protect themselves against seasonal flu can get the seasonal flu vaccine. Right now, people in high-risk initial target groups are encouraged to get the 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine. If you are in one of these groups, get your 2009 H1N1 flu vaccine before you travel. Even though supplies of 2009 H1N1 vaccine are increasing daily, it may be difficult for you to find the vaccine in your area. Please be patient during this beginning phase until more vaccine becomes available. There will be enough vaccine available for anyone who wishes to receive it.
Prepare a travel health kit.
Include items in your kit that might be helpful if you get sick, such as tissues, pain or fever medicine, soap, and an alcohol-based hand rub. For other health items to consider, see Pack Smart.
During Your Trip
Travel only when you feel well.
Watch out for symptoms of flu before your trip. If you think you have the flu or otherwise feel ill, delay your travel plans until your fever has been gone for at least 24 hours, without the use of fever-reducing medicines. Even if it means missing out on your plans, staying away from others when you’re sick can help protect everyone’s health.
Follow simple health steps.
Here are some simple things you can do to take care of yourself and keep others well:
- Cover your coughs or sneezes with a tissue. No tissue? Then cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.*
- Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth.
- Avoid close contact with sick people.
Special Considerations for International Travel
Get pre-travel health care.
It’s not just about flu! You may need to get other vaccines or medicines to help you stay healthy on your trip. Check the CDC Travelers’ Health website for health information about your destination. Plan to see a doctor 4 to 6 weeks before you leave.
Think about travel health insurance and travel insurance.
Call your health insurance company to see what services are covered outside the United States. If you need extra coverage, the U.S. Department of State website has a list of travel health insurance and medical evacuation companies.
Due to 2009 H1N1 flu, you could experience travel delays that may affect your activities and lead to unexpected costs. You may wish to consider buying travel insurance that can cover cancellations or changes in your scheduled plans.
To learn more about healthy travel, visit www.cdc.gov/travel.
For more information about 2009 H1N1 flu and travel, visit http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/content/novel-h1n1-flu.aspx.