Travel is one way to raise your flu odds, so watch it

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Forget about fall — it’s flu season. If you’ve been on a
plane, train, ship or any other form of public transportation recently, there
has been someone nearby coughing, sneezing or sniffling.

Travel puts people in close proximity to others who very
likely are carrying a flu virus. So hygiene awareness is key, whether the
concern is H1N1 or seasonal flu. Chicago’s O’Hare International and Midway
airports, for example, have signs and announcements in English and Spanish
promoting healthy practices. And President Barack Obama recently declared the
swine flu pandemic a national emergency.

The message is: Pay attention.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta, CNN’s medical correspondent, reported on
his debilitating bout with H1N1, caught while on assignment in Afghanistan.
Laurie Garrett, Pulitzer Prize-winning health and science writer who wrote
“The Coming Plague” (1994), recently recounted in Newsweek her
encounter with H1N1 while home in the U.S. The symptoms for both: nausea, body
aches, chills, fever, cough, runny nose and fatigue.

H1N1, or swine flu, knows no borders. That’s why airlines
and cruise lines have been preparing for the worst by cleaning planes and ships
and cautioning employees to follow guidelines issued by the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. Those include using infection control and industrial
hygiene practices aimed at prevention, such as thoroughly cleaning planes and
ships.

The Air Transport Association, an industry trade group
representing leading U.S. airlines, said it and its carriers keep in close
contact with the CDC on actions to prevent the spread of H1N1.

United Airlines, for example, said the ventilation system on
its planes uses hospital-grade air filters to control the spread of germs.

The association said that generally, airlines won’t bar
passengers who have health issues, but each airline has the authority to deny
boarding to a person who might pose a threat or who might appear to be ill.
Each airline has its own policy about refunds or rebooking.

Be aware that if you are traveling internationally, other
countries may have you fill out a form about your health or have you pass
through a scanning device that checks your temperature.

Like the ATA, the Cruise Lines International Association,
which represents 25 lines, said it is also in constant contact with the CDC and
international health organizations. As an enhanced screening procedure, all
passengers are required to fill out and sign a health questionnaire before
boarding.

On its Web site, Princess Cruises, for example, says it
rigorously sanitizes its ships with “a disinfectant proven to be highly
effective against the flu.”

If someone becomes ill on a cruise, ships are equipped with
anti-viral medications and can isolate the passenger.

The most important thing you must do, whether flying or
cruising, is to be honest with yourself about your own condition. Follow the
advice of the CDC and other sources to better protect yourself and others:

—Wash your hands often with soap and warm water for at least
20 seconds, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners
and anti-bacterial moist wipes also are effective.

—Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, because you can
spread germs that way.

—Cover your nose or mouth with a tissue when you cough or
sneeze.

—Throw the tissue in the trash afterward. If you don’t have
a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper arm, not your hands.

—If you are sick with a flulike illness, stay home for at
least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care and other
necessities.

You can find more information at www.flu.gov.

Via McClatchy-Tribune News Service.

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