Archive for October, 2009

Traveling in a pandemic: The 101 on H1N1

Posted on: October 29th, 2009 | No Comments

sany0396We have no way of telling how serious the H1N1 influenza strain (so called “swine flu”) will be, and so it seems each country handles it differently. Traveling in China, it is common to see people in face masks; they have lived through epidemics before, so they are probably onto something. But the differences between Hong Kong, where health information and face masks are everywhere, and mainland China are significant. My temperature was taken at customs, at any large public event and at hotels. Usually, an electronic sensor was used, but at one hotel in the city of Hangzhou, they used a thermometer. While checking in, I was helped to my room, and after being shown around the room by a porter, another hotel staff member arrived. Wearing a face mask, he held a thermometer and a clipboard. With his weak English and my nonexistent Mandarin, he simply offered the thermometer, and I immediately put it in my mouth. After a second or two, he gestured that I should have put it under my armpit. I embarrassed us both, but all I could think was thank goodness he didn’t insist that it went further south. So now I pay closer attention and try to follow some basic precautions:   

1.      Washing hands frequently

2.      Not touching my face, especially my eyes and mouth

3.      Avoid touching things like escalator railings and door handles

4.      Where it’s appropriate, using a “fist bump” instead of a handshake 

5.      Eating right, taking a mix of vitamins and getting plenty of sleep 

Btw, these tips also are helpful if yo’re in a cholera-stricken place, such as Zimbabwe.