How To Travel Amid Flu Fears
No, we're not jumping on the bandwagon here to sensationalize the recent swine flu outbreak, but rather giving you some common sense tips if you're planning on traveling soon.
Here are some questions and answers for travelers regarding swine flu, flights and cruises to Mexico, travel insurance, and how to protect yourself while on your journey.
Can I travel to Mexico?
Yes. Flights continue from the U.S. to Mexico, with most airlines reporting few cancellations and no changes in schedules because of the swine flu outbreak.
Should I continue with a planned trip to Mexico?
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that "continued travel by U.S. travelers to Mexico presents a serious risk for further outbreaks of swine flu in the United States" and "recommends that U.S. travelers avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico." That said, some individuals are going ahead with planned trips, according to interviews with tour group leaders, travelers and online forums.
What about cruises to Mexico?
Some cruise lines have suspended port calls in Mexico, with ships scheduled for Mexico spending additional time at sea or substituting port calls elsewhere. Check your cruise line's Web site or call for details.
If I cancel a planned trip because of the swine flu scare, will I get a refund?
It depends. Most airlines are waiving fees for rebooking flights at least for the next week or two. Some resorts with hotels in Mexico and other locations are permitting travelers to switch destinations if they have availability at say, a hotel owned by the same company in the Caribbean. But you'd have to rebook your airfare to a new destination, which depends on airline availability and may cost more than your original flight. Some travel suppliers are providing refunds or credits toward future vacations; some are not. Call and ask.
If I have travel insurance and cancel a planned trip because of the swine flu scare, will I get a refund?
Again, it depends. If you have a "cancel for any reason" insurance policy, you would get a partial refund. But most traditional trip cancellation insurance will not provide coverage for a trip canceled due to a health warning or fear of traveling, according to Dan McGinnity, vice president of TravelGuard. These plans would only provide coverage for travelers who need to cancel or interrupt a trip because they become sick.
Should I wear a face mask if I'm flying or if I'm in an airport?
The CDC has not recommended the use of masks by the general public. Swine flu is thought to be transmitted by touching something with the virus and then passing it to the nose or mouth or through coughing or sneezing.
Should I fly if I'm feeling sick?
The CDC says: "Do not travel while you are sick, except to get local medical care."
How can I protect myself from illness while traveling?
CDC recommendations are as follows: Wash hands often with soap and water. Use waterless alcohol-based hand gels (containing at least 60 percent alcohol) when soap is not available. Cover mouth and nose with a tissue when you cough or sneeze; if you don't have a tissue, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve, not your hands. To keep germs from spreading, don't touch your eyes, nose, or mouth.
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Copyright 2009 Associated Press