How the swine flu affects your travels

Today, the WHO classified the swine influenza A (H1N1) outbreak as a “public health emergency of international concern.” And while more cases of swine flu were confirmed on Monday in the United States, Canada and Europe (Update: Britain is now also directly affected with one case), country organizations began to take actions, particularly by preventing and monitoring travellers to and from their countries.

Furthermore, financial markets have already “penalized” Mexican airports whose shares traded substiantially lower today: The airport owners are among the “most vulnerable” stocks amid the flu outbreak, UBS AG analysts wrote in a note today in which they cut Mexican equities to “underweight” writes Bloomberg.

It’s pretty clear that this latest threat of an influenza pandemic is going to have further implications on the economy. But how does it affect travellers? Various countries have already tightened their airport checks. Australia, for example, has trained airport staff to spot people with flu like symptoms. According to an article any passengers with flu-like symptoms would be met by quarantine officers. In addition, all incoming international flights would have to make an onboard announcement telling passengers to seek immediate medical advice if they felt unwell with flu symptoms.

Hong Kong, the epicenter of a SARS outbreak six years ago, announced some of the toughest measures anywhere on Sunday in response to a swine flu outbreak in Mexico and the United States, reports The New York Times.

So, what should you do if you are travelling to or from North America in the near future? Here is some advice:

  1. Travelling to Mexico: in general it’s probably safe to say that if you can postpone your trip, then do so, otherwise check your countries latest travel advice (the UK foreign office’s one can be found here, Germany’s here, Ireland’s here, the USA’s here and Canada’s here). If you decide to go, then do make sure you check with your airline if the flight is still leaving as today several charter airlines (e.g. TUI in Germany) have cancelled their flights to Mexico.
  2. Travelling from Mexico: be aware of extra precautions at Mexican and foreign airports. Prepare for additional screenings and questioning. Check your destinations country latest immigration advice. Your airline or travel agency should be able to help you.
  3. Travelling to/from other North American destinations: expect delays at the airports due to tightened security and passenger screenings. Check with your local airline for the latest uptodate travel information.

[Picture from Flickr – some rights reserved]