Since this new strain of the flu virus (H1N1) appeared in March 2009 in Mexico, it has spread to 74 countries. Reports put the figure of affected people at 28,000 globally, with 141 deaths countries around the world.
Global concern has focused on the fact that most people who have become ill are under 60. In Mexico, at least, the virus has been fatal to a number of apparently healthy young people. Mexico, at 106 dead, also has the highest death toll. The rest of the worldwide death toll has been to people with compromised health just as it is with the seasonal flu. Officials aren?t sure of all the reasons for Mexico?s death toll but are concerned about global panic when the pandemic is announced.
In terms of public health, the H1N1 is a new flu virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), patients sick with the disease are showing more severe symptoms than if they had contracted the seasonal flu which they have been exposed to before. Current vaccines do not protect recipients from this new flu. Patients have reported all the usual flu symptoms such as fever, cough, runny nose, body aches, chills and fatigue. They have occasionally also reported diarrhea and vomiting, which are not as common with the seasonal flu. Medical treatment has been effective for serious cases in most healthy individuals.
Even the World Health Organization is anticipating more than one wave of the pandemic to circle the globe. The first wave of a 1918 flu pandemic was mild until a second, more virulent wave arrived six months later killing and estimated 50 to 100 million people.
Officials in each country have taken their own precautions against an epidemic within their borders. Because of concerns about under-reporting, US officials have included suspected cases along with confirmed cases in their reports to the WHO, listing more than twice as many cases as Mexico. Deaths in the US stood at 27 on June 5, with a few more reported since.
Other countries have attempted to combat an epidemic by instituting stringent health screening measures. US officials warn international travelers from the US to expect travel delays in many countries. Additional screening may include various methods of temperature-taking, health questionnaires, and even quarantine. China in particular has quarantined numerous arrivals including a group of visiting Maryland school children and Mayor Nagin of New Orleans.
Travelers themselves often have concerns about the virus especially when traveling to Mexico. The virus has hit the Mexican tourist industry especially hard with hotels down to 25% occupancy.
Travelers often think that by avoiding travel to Mexico or Arizona, they can avoid contracting the Swine Flu. In a pandemic situation the reality is much more complicated. The reality is, even healthy travelers can contract serious health conditions at any time and in any country. The best advice is to take common sense health precautions and make sure to purchase adequate insurance before you travel.
Travel insurance can give you the protection of overseas emergency medical insurance. Some plans also help you to locate competent medical help and even ensure that minor children left unattended because of your illness are returned to your family. Serious conditions often need medical evacuation to the US which is extremely expensive without travel insurance. One case of medical evacuation from Ecuador cost the family $55,000.
The worst case scenario for any family is an overseas death. Without travel insurance, repatriating remains and the personal effects of a deceased loved one can be difficult and expensive. Life insurance can also cushion the financial blow of a loved one?s death with an infusion additional cash to pay for unexpected expenses.