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Wednesday morning travel notes

Posted by Paul Makishima, Globe Assistant Sunday Editor  April 29, 2009 09:23 AM

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Despite all the concern and all the reporting on the swine flu outbreak it's amazing that we still seem to know so little about it and how serious it really is -- or may be.
The latest is that federal officials are now reporting the first American death linked to the virus. This is from the AP:

*The CDC on Wednesday confirmed the first swine flu death outside of Mexico in the current outbreak, a 23-month-old child in Texas. The child died in Houston, Kathy Barton, a spokeswoman for the city's health department, told KTRK-TV. It wasn't immediately clear where the child was from. Houston spokesman Frank Michel told the Houston Chronicle the child came from Brownsville, in south Texas. Barton said the toddler came from Mexico. Calls by The Associated Press seeking comment from local health officials weren't immediately returned. The first U.S. swine flu death was confirmed earlier by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Dave Daigle.

And more travel companies are reacting to the news:

Air travel tightened to Mexico, the country at the center of the swine flu outbreak, as Canada’s Transat A.T. Inc. joined Europe’s two largest tour operators in suspending flights. Argentina halted direct flights from Mexico City until May 4, and Cuba canceled all 5 daily Mexico flights yesterday for 48 hours, Mexico’s El Economista reported, citing a statement from Cuba’s health ministry. The tour companies’ moves may herald similar steps at airlines as business and leisure fliers adjust plans. While U.S. carriers such as Delta Air Lines Inc. hadn’t scrubbed flights as of late yesterday, some extended the grace period for passengers to change Mexico trips without penalties. (Bl;oomberg News)

And in the LA Times travel blog, Jen Leo is reporting that Carnival Cruise, Royal Caribbean and Norwegian Cruise lines have all decided to temporary suspend port calls in Mexico in light of the growing concern over the swine flu.

In this morning's Globe I saw a particularly useful Q&A for travelers and others by Bina Venkataraman:

Q. How do people catch the swine flu?

A. Public health officials believe the swine influenza A (H1N1) virus is spreading the way that the seasonal flu spreads every year -- when people infected with the flu cough or sneeze and others breathe in airborne droplets containing the virus. People may also be getting swine flu from touching surfaces such as doorknobs contaminated with the virus and then touching their face or mouth. Infected people can spread the flu before they have symptoms, as well as while they are sick.

Q. How can I protect myself and my family from swine flu?

A. Wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Also, you should get plenty of sleep, exercise, manage your stress, eat healthy food, and drink plenty of water. Avoid close interactions with people who are sick and try not to touch surfaces that could be contaminated with the virus. Avoid touching your nose, eyes, or mouth.

Q. Does hand sanitizer work if I can’t wash my hands?

A. Doctors advise using sanitizing wipes and alcohol-based gels when you do not have access to soap, water, and a sink. If you use a gel, rub your hands until it dries. It’s preferable to wash your hands.

If you want to read the rest of it, here is where it is.

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