IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers| IAMAT |International Association of Medical Assistance to Travellers|

Travel Health Journal

IAMAT - The International Association for Medical Assistance to Travellers

Influenza A(H1N1) – Update #3

Although this A(H1N1) influenza virus is genetically linked to swine, and occasionally to turkeys, scientists believe that the closest relatives of the new strain were previously found in North America and Europe/Asia.

What is still not clear is how humans first contracted this strain of the virus. Scientists are still trying to figure out if the virus recently underwent a mutation or whether there has been insufficient surveillance of swine populations detecting the virus. To better reflect the current understanding of the infection, the World Health Organization is referring to the virus as Influenza A(H1N1).

If you are planning international travel, consult your national public health agency to see if there are any travel advisories for your destination country. It is important to note that so far only certain municipalities in affected countries have reported isolated cases.

If you do travel, you will likely find yourself in crowded or confined areas. Remember to frequently and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and warm water and cover your sneezes or coughs. If you do not have access to soap, bring along a bottle of alcohol-based hand sanitizer. The effectiveness of using facemasks or respirators in crowded places (planes, public transit) to prevent illness from this virus is not conclusive since they do not prevent transmission of the virus and often provide a false sense of security at the expense of recommended health sanitation practices. Ask your healthcare provider if a mask or respirator is recommended for you.

If you are exhibiting flu-like symptoms prior to going abroad, we highly recommended that you consider postponing international travel. If you are currently travelling and have become ill, seek medical attention immediately. See our Medical Directory online to access a IAMAT doctor overseas. If IAMAT does not have an affiliated clinic where you are staying, contact your Embassy or Consulate.

Again, it is important to keep the current situation in perspective. The seasonal flu is a greater threat to your health than the current human swine influenza outbreak. Based on World Health Organization statistics, the seasonal flu severely affects 3-5 million people and causes 250,000 to 500,000 deaths every year. To view up-to-date Influenza A(H1N1) confirmed cases go to the World Health Organization website.

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