Government cautions holiday travelers on H1N1

The Michigan Department of Community Health said people need to be more cautious than normal while traveling during this holiday season.

There are a few basic steps travelers can take to help stop the spread of the H1N1 virus.

“As best as possible, avoid close contact,” said James McCurtis Jr., public information officer for MDCH.

McCurtis added that people should try to stay at least six feet away from each other.

In the event of becoming sick while traveling during the holidays, he recommends wearing a face mask or covering your face with a tissue.

Dr. Gregory Holzman, state chief medical executive, said there are four rules people should follow.

People should wash their hands with soap and water for 20 seconds or use an alcohol-based gel. They should practice”cough etiquette” by avoiding touching mouths, noses and eyes after coughing or sneezing.

People who are not feeling well should stay home for at least 24 hours. They also should wear a flu mask while traveling.

“It is the basics we’re talking about, but it’s amazing how far the basics can go if everybody did that,” McCurtis said.

MDCH reported that since April there have been 26,868 influenza-like cases in Michigan, which have resulted in 1,530 hospitalizations and 54 deaths.

But according to McCurtis, Michigan sees 1,200 influenza-related deaths during a typical flu season while the nation averages about 36,000.

“We’re not seeing anything here that’s really out of the ordinary,” McCurtis said.

He added that high-risk persons should also consider face masks or respirators, though he cautions that face masks do not protect against small airbornes.

People who are particularly at risk are those under the age of five, those over the age of 65, pregnant women, and those with pre-existing medical conditions.

The H1N1 shot takes eight to 10 days to take effect, while the seasonal flu shot takes up to two weeks.

Over 1.9 million doses of the H1N1 vaccine were allocated to the state of Michigan, which are distributed to counties based on population.

As of last week, all but 100,000 of them had been ordered. It typically takes about two days for doses to arrive once ordered.

Other things for travelers to consider are travel health insurance, visiting the doctor before traveling anywhere as a preventative measure and attempting to travel only when feeling well. recommends preparing a travel health kit, including tissues, pain medicine, and soap..

“Our ultimate goal is to make sure the vaccines aren’t sitting in depots, but are getting into arms and noses,” McCurtis said, adding that “the virus is already here” and all they can do at this point is look for ways to mitigate social disruption.

For more suggestions on preventing the H1N1 virus, visit the MDCH website at or the Center for Disease Control website at