Travel health

Swine Flu update 19 May 09: Foreign Office issues new guidelines on travel to Mexico

The Foreign Office has revised its guidelines on travel to Mexico, and is no longer advising against all but essential travel to Mexico.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) swine flu pandemic alert level still stands at phase 5. This means that human to human transmission of the flu virus has occurred in at least two countries, and a pandemic is imminent, but not certain.

The Foreign Office has revised its guidelines on travel to Mexico, and is no longer advising against all but essential travel to Mexico. This is in light of a recent decline in reported cases of swine flu in the country, after its peak on 26 April 2009. The majority of cases have been reported in Mexico City.

Anyone planning to travel to Mexico or other parts of the world affected by swine flu are strongly advised to arrange for appropriate health and travel insurance before travelling.

According to latest figures released by the World Health Organisation, a total of 9830 people in 40 countries have now been infected with the influenza A (H1N1) virus, with 79 deaths. Countries hardest hit by the disease with the most confirmed cases are all in the Americas – USA (5123), Mexico (3648) and Canada (496).

Outside the Americas, the only countries with more than a hundred confirmed cases are the UK (102), Spain (103) and Japan (159). Seventeen European countries have reported a total of 265 people infected.

Advice for UK travellers to affected areas

If you are travelling to an affected area:

  • consult your GP before travelling. This is even more important if you have a pre-existing medical conditions.
  • before travelling, check the Foreign Office website for travel advice specific for the country you plan to visit. This is updated regularly. For the same advice, telephone 0845 850 2829. The line is available 24 hours a day.
  • where possible, avoid crowds and mass gatherings
  • avoid close contact (within 2 metres) with people who are ill

To minimise your risk of catching the virus, good respiratory and hand hygiene is essential, including:

  • covering mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing, use a tissue
  • throwing tissues away quickly and carefully
  • washing hands regularly with soap and water
  • cleaning hard surfaces (like door handles and remote controls) frequently with a normal cleaning product

Advice for returning travellers

If you have recently visited one of the countries or areas where human cases of influenza have been identified, it is important to monitor your health closely for seven days after your visit to the affected area. There is no need to isolate yourself from other people as long as you feel well.

During this period, if you develop a feverish illness accompanied by one or more of the following:

  • cough
  • sore throat
  • headache
  • aching muscles and joints
  • runny nose
  • severe weakness and fatigue

you should stay at home and contact your GP by ‘phone or seek advice from NHS Direct (0845 4647). It is important your GP is told about your recent travel to an affected area. Depending on the symptoms, further investigations may be necessary.

Doctors have been asked to consider swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection when assessing returning travellers and visitors to the UK who present with flu-like symptoms and have a history of travel to affected areas in the 7 days preceding illness

More information

Flu symptom checker Foreign and Commonwealth Office:

This article was published on Tue 19 May 2009

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