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  • Flu Precautions to Take Before Traveling Abroad

    Does the US flu season line up with flu seasons around the world? SPS answers this flu and travel question and more.

    October is here, and that means something a lot scarier than Halloween: it’s flu season. Across the US, you’ll start to see clinics, pharmacies, and schools offering flu vaccinations, and it’s probably a good idea to get in one of those lines. Getting hit with the flu is one of life’s least pleasant experiences, and it’s that much worse if you have big travel plans coming up.

    But what if you’re already in another country? Does the US flu season line up with flu seasons around the world?

    In fact, different regions of the world have their own flu outbreaks at a variety of times throughout the year. When you’re traveling somewhere new, check online to find out whether that area has come down with a flu bug. If you check flu trends far enough in advance, you should be able to protect yourself with a flu shot before your travels. Remember that getting a flu vaccine carries the small risk of giving you the flu, so you’ll want to get your vaccine at least two weeks before your travel to ensure that you are healthy when you fly.

    You should also be aware of any other major health concerns you might be faced with where you’re traveling. For example, China, Egypt, India, and a few other countries have ongoing problems with H5N1 Avian Flu. Cities like Shanghai have dangerously high levels of smog that could be hazardous, particularly to people with asthma or other respiratory problems. Do your research and make sure that you’re suitably prepared with appropriate insurance and information, wherever you’re going.

    You should not travel if you have the flu. Getting on a plane with the flu or flu like symptoms is a bad idea all the way around. For one thing, your symptoms could worsen on the flight or in the country you’re visiting, creating an unsafe medical mess. For another, you could infect all the people around you. If you’re clearly sick, you’ll likely get turned away at the gate.

    Now, if you get the flu while traveling internationally, there are a few things you should do. First, call the local US Embassy to get help finding a health care provider near you. Next, call your health insurance provider to find out where you’ll be covered. You’ll also want to make sure that you’re following the local health recommendations. For example, you might be some place where it’s safer to drink bottled water than tap water.

    For more information about the flu and travel around the world, check flu.gov.

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