Experts say there are signs that the most recent outbreak of H1N1 has peaked in the United States. But epidemiologists warn that Thanksgiving travel could help the swine flu make a comeback. Every year, holiday travel on planes, trains, and buses creates the perfect conditions for outbreaks of all kinds. But experts and commentators fear the 2009 holiday season will be a particularly sickly one. Here's why they're worried, and what to do about it:
- Airlines Should Relax Their Cancellation Fees for Sick Passengers CNN's A. Pawlowski says the cost of canceling or changing their airline reservations makes Americans more likely to try and fly while sick with the flu. "Every holiday travel rush is crazy on its own. But this one comes during the outbreak of the swine flu and in the midst of a recession that has many people watching every penny. It's a perfect storm that forces air travelers to make frustrating decisions."
- Rent a Car Evelyn Rusili of Forbes has a few tips for holiday travelers. "If you suspect you are coming down with the flu, and especially if you register a fever, don't travel. Not only do you face the risk of quarantine, but you're putting your fellow passengers and co-workers in jeopardy. Your firm and your family will understand," she writes. "It will be easier to recover from home where you know your doctors and don't have to deal with the stress of travel. If you are worried about the cost of cancellation, purchase travel insurance beforehand, just make sure you read the fine print and pick a provider that does not make exclusions for pandemics or epidemics."
- Don't Get Up Close and Personal With Your Family The conservative blogger Jules Crittenden dispenses some layman's advice. "I’m not an epidemiologist, but I’m happy to play one on this blog," he writes. "I predict Thanksgiving will give it a boost … just in time for Christmas. (Remember to practice social distancing at midnight on New Years Eve.)"
- Avoid Mecca, If You Can Between November 25 and the 30th, millions of Muslims will make a holy pilgrimage to the Saudi Arabian city of Mecca. At Politics Daily, Ria Misra says the swine flu has officials there worried. "By some estimates, the hajj is the single largest, annual gathering in the world; the pilgrimage of Muslims to Mecca attracts between 2 and 3 million visitors from all over the globe," she writes. "Saudi Arabia is recommending that pregnant women, the elderly, young children and people with some chronic diseases don't attend this year. Additionally, health officers have been stationed at all points of entry, and some airports have even been equipped with heat sensors to detect people with high fevers."