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Advice from the CDC on travel and H7N9

By Megan Crawley O’Sullivan, MPH

Avian influenza. H7N9. Bird flu. If you are planning a trip to China, these phrases might have you concerned. There are still many uncertainties regarding the new influenza A (H7N9) virus: it isn’t clear where the virus started or how people are getting sick, and a vaccine is not yet available. Amid these unanswered questions, it’s not surprising that many travelers are doubting their plans. You may find yourself wondering if travel to China is still safe, or if you should cancel your trip.

Travelers should be aware that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is not recommending against travel to China at this time. Currently no sustained person-to-person spread of the H7N9 virus has been found. So, while public health officials will continue closely monitoring the situation and working to determine how the virus is spreading, travelers don’t need to cancel their trips at this time.

However, travelers and their physicians should take this opportunity to remember that healthy behaviors are always important, especially while traveling. CDC is repeating its standard advice to travelers and Americans living in China to follow good hand hygiene and food safety practices and to avoid contact with animals. Simple actions like staying away from animals, eating food that is fully cooked, and washing your hands often can go a long way toward preventing illness (including H7N9). Travelers should also see a doctor right away if they become sick with fever, coughing, or shortness of breath during or after travel to China.

It’s important for travelers to remember that, although new illnesses like H7N9 make it into the news, any international travel can pose a health risk if you aren’t prepared. If you are planning an international trip, you should visit your doctor at least 4-6 weeks before your trip. You may need vaccines or medicine to stay healthy while traveling and your doctor can advise you on actions you can take while you are overseas to make sure your trip is safe and healthy.

For the most up-to-date information for travelers from the CDC regarding H7N9, see the CDC Travel Notice. CDC will also provide updated information on the H7N9 situation as it becomes available. For more information on healthy travel, please visit the CDC travel website and follow them on Twitter @CDCtravel.

Megan Crawley O’Sullivan, MPH is a Health Communications Specialist in the Travelers’ Health Branch, Division of Global Migration and Quarantine, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The new 2014 edition of CDC Health Information for International Travel (commonly known as The Yellow Book) will be released later this year by Oxford University Press.

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