Backpack to Buggy

Travel with the kids, not for the kids.

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Travel in a Time of Epidemic

April 27th, 2009 · No Comments · Destinations, Experience

A year ago we arrived at Hong Kong International Airport on our way to Bali.  As we headed to the transfer area, we were stopped.  A security official put a device to my daughter’s forehead and pressed a trigger.  She looked at the result, nodded and waved us through.  Hong Kong saw the brunt of avian flu and SARS and as we transited ,primary schools were closed due to a flu outbreak that was killing young children.  They knew not to take chances.

As cases of swine flu emerge worldwide and deaths of healthy adults are reported in Mexico, it is encouraging to see the rapid response by public officials.  While there will be some fear mongering, we are a very interconnected world of travelers.  Even if you haven’t gone anywhere recently, someone you pass by at the grocery store has.  Or someone they passed by was somewhere last week.  Just take a look at this map tracking cases worldwide and you will see an emerging travel pattern.

This should not surprise parents of young children who know you can talk to your sister cross country about the cold your niece has today that will spread like wildfire through your son’s preschool next week.  There is little you can do to stop it, except frequent hand washing, covering up when you sneeze or cough, get a good night’s sleep and get your vitamins.  Most importantly, if you or anyone in your family is feeling ill, stay home!

Some airlines have followed public officials’ lead and are allowing rebooking of travel to Mexico without penalty for those who are concerned about the illness.  (I wish this was a standard practice for those who are sick at all.)  Meanwhile travel stocks are taking another hit as investors remember the impact of SARS on travel.

We did not reschedule our stopover in Hong Kong on our return trip due to the deadly flu outbreak. We let Mirielle play with other children, took her on public transportation and ate at local restaurants.  We were fine.  We weren’t worried in fact.  Then, as with the swine flu risk now, we did the only things we could to prevent infection:  we washed our hands; used tissues; tried to get eight hours of sleep; and, ate our fruits and veggies.

Mirielle at the Hong Kong Airport

Mirielle at the Hong Kong Airport

I am deeply hopeful that this outbreak is brief and the quick response prevents further deaths.  I am also deeply hopeful that paranoia, fear mongering and sensationalism do not cause families to cancel future travel plans.  It is good time to delay a trip to Mexico City, but don’t rush to cancel your August vacation.   In fact, I suspect that this could present outstanding bargains for travelers once the scope of the outbreak is understood.

Now, take a break from our computer and wash your hands.  Seriously.  It is the most important thing you can do to help slow down or stop this disease.

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