Travellers hit the tourist trail, overshadowed by swine flu
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The summer holidays and travel season are under way as the A(H1N1) virus continues its unrelenting spread across the world. According to the WHO, more than 700 people have died from a total of 94,000 confirmed cases of the flu.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) warned that the A(H1N1) virus was moving around the globe at “an unprecedented speed”, as it stopped giving figures flu cases worldwide.
In its latest report, the WHO said virus has infected an estimated 94,500 people in 120 countries and territories, and caused more than 700 deaths worldwide. The WHO has stopped tallying flu cases, saying registering and reporting individual cases was a huge waste of resources.
The virus is now considered the first global pandemic of the 21st century. As of June 11, the WHO has ratcheted up the alert level to the maximum of 6 on a 6-point scale.
The majority of serious or fatal cases have struck people who were already suffering from other illnesses. Scientists and public health experts say the impact of the virus is likely to worsen over the summer and into the autumn as the new school year begins.
The WHO does not recommend any travel restrictions. General precautions include:
- Limit going to non-ventilated areas
- Wash your hands regularly
- Pay particular attention to the most vulnerable groups, particularly children, elderly
- See a doctor if fever or flu symptoms occur
- Stay well informed about the spread of the virus
Mexico, the epicentre of the epidemic, is the second most affected nation, with 119 deaths, just behind the US figure of 170, according to WHO figures. The North American continent, which has the highest number of confirmed cases, has sufficient antiviral drugs to treat the illness for the next few months.
Travelling to and from the UK
Peak holiday travel could be thrown into chaos in the UK, as British airlines have stepped up measures against suspected swine flu carriers. Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic said they have put in place measures to turn back passengers showing symptoms.
The UK, the worst-hit European country, released estimates last week that there were 55,000 new swine flu cases in the country.
The British health service has identified high-risk groups who should take particular care when travelling. These include include people with long-term conditions, those over 65, children under five and pregnant women.
Those returning to France from abroad are advised to avoid contact with infants aged one year or younger for a period of seven days. In the event that you begin to suffer from a fever or flu symptoms, immediately call your doctor or emergency services (dial 15).
The health ministry recommends that French travellers should check advice given by local authorities when travelling abroad.
Several hundreds cases of A(H1N1) flu have been confirmed in France, where seven flu patients have been hospitalized. No deaths from swine flu have been reported.
According to French health minister, Roselyne Bachelot, France had procured a billion “anti-projection” masks (for those already infected) and 723 million protective masks (for preventative use), as well as 33 million antiviral treatments.
Drug companies worldwide are working on a A/H1N1 vaccine. It is unclear whether one will be ready in time and in sufficient quantities for the autumn, when the virus is expected to return to the northern hemisphere.