Health Professionals

Clinical Updates

6 January 2011

Seasonal influenza – advice for travellers

The United Kingdom is currently experiencing high levels of seasonal influenza activity [1]. The predominant influenza virus type causing infection is influenza A (H1N1) 2009, also known as the swine flu virus. With this increase in activity it is prudent to remind travellers about travel precautions and influenza.

Before you travel

  - These risk groups include healthy adults aged 65 years and older, those aged six months and older with chronic diseases of the lung (e.g. asthma), heart, kidney and liver, diabetics, pregnant women, and persons who are immunosuppressed.

 - The seasonal vaccine contains three inactivated influenza virus types: A (H1N1) (the swine flu type), A (H3N2) and an influenza B type.

  •  Receive appropriate vaccines and other preventive measures for your destination (see the NaTHNaC Country Information Pages).
  •   If you are ill with a respiratory illness you should delay travel.
  •  Consider the level of medical care at your destination including access to anti-viral medications in the event you need treatment for an influenza-like illness (ILI) (fever plus two or more of cough, sore throat, runny nose, muscle aches or headache).
  •  Obtain comprehensive travel health insurance.

During travel

 Influenza is transmitted via the respiratory route and you should exercise sensible precautions:

  •   try to avoid crowding or mass gatherings
  •  avoid close contact (within 1-2 metres) with persons who are ill with an ILI
  •  wash hands with soap and water; use waterless alcohol-based hand gels when soap and water is not available
  •  avoid touching your nose, mouth or eyes, to prevent the spread of germs
  •  cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue promptly
  •  keep hard surfaces (e.g. door handles, countertops) clean using a normal cleaning solution
  •  assure that children follow similar advice

After you travel

If you develop a febrile illness with cough, sore throat, runny nose, headache or muscle aches, within seven days of your return you should:

  •  check your symptoms on NHS Direct or NHS Choices, and if you remain concerned, contact your GP
  •  limit contact with other people
  •  cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze and dispose of the tissue promptly
  •  wash hands with soap and water
  •  keep hard surfaces (e.g. door handles, countertops) clean using a normal cleaning solution
  •  if you develop a febrile illness after return from a  country where malaria occurs, you should seek medical advice urgently.

References

1. Health Protection Agency. HPA National Influenza Report. Last updated 6 January 2011. [Accessed 6 January 2011]. Available at: http://www.hpa.org.uk/web/HPAweb&HPAwebStandard/HPA

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Further information:

Health Protection Agency: Seasonal Influenza

World Health Organization: Influenza Update     

European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention: Influenza

U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Seasonal Influenza (flu)