Going on a trip? Stop and get a flu shot at the airport

Luggage? Check. Passport? Check. Flu shot? If you’ve yet to get yours, you can take care of the task on the way to your next flight at clinics set up in several airports around the US.

Among the nearly 20 airports that will be offering flu shots beginning within the next few weeks are Atlanta, Boston Logan, O’Hare, Denver, Honolulu, LAX, JFK, and San Francisco. Costs range from $20 to $35, which is about what you’d pay at most clinics, unless your insurance covers it. Hours vary by location, but all are open from at least 8am to 4pm on weekdays. Currently, airport locations are only offering the regular seasonal flu vaccine. The H1N1 flu vaccine may be offered at these locations when it becomes available.

I’ll confess: I have never gotten a flu shot. I try my best to avoid being poked with a needle so the thought of actually requesting it seems counter-intuitive. I know I should get it though. 200,000 people were hospitalized for the flu last year, and travelers like myself who spend a lot of time breathing recycled air in the close quarters of planes may be at an increased risk. There’s also this little thing you may have heard of, called the H1N1 “swine” flu, which the CDC expects will reach pandemic proportions. It just makes sense to get the vaccine. And now getting a flu shot won’t even require a special trip to my doctor. I’m out of excuses. I may have to muster up some courage at the airport bar first, but it looks like my next vacation will start off with a flu shot.

Check out full details on airport clinic hours and costs here.

Mexico City offers free health insurance to tourists

After near-hysteria over Mexico’s outbreak of the H1N1 (swine) flu virus crippled the country’s tourism industry and resulted in record low hotel occupancy rates, Mexico City’s tourism is slowly rebounding. To help get tourism back to its pre-“aporkalypse” levels, the Mexico City Tourism Ministry is unveiling a new plan that officials hope will help convince people that it is safe to visit.

Any tourists who stay in one of Mexico City’s hotels will receive free health insurance. Under the plan, tourists are covered for not only treatment of the H1N1 virus, but also for any other disease or accident they suffer from while staying in Mexico City. Prescription drugs, emergency dental care, hospital stays, and ambulance transportation are also covered. There’s even assistance in case of robbery, luggage loss, or the delay or cancellation of a flight.

Mexico City normally welcomes around 7 million (international and domestic) visitors each year. When news of the H1N1 flu broke, tourists began to disappear and hotel occupancy rates plummeted, reaching as low as 5% in April, according to USA Today. Now they are around 59%, but the industry is still feeling the pinch. Officials hope that the offer of free health insurance may help sway those who were considering a trip to Mexico, but were concerned about the risk.

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[via Los Angeles Times]

Bowermaster’s Adventures — Swine Flu and Tokyo

The direct flight from New York to Tokyo is one of the longest, thirteen hours and forty-five minutes, looping across Canada and the Bering Sea before paralleling Kamchatka and the eastern islands of Japan. It’s a long way to travel for humans and viruses alike … though I have to admit I hadn’t thought about the latter until we touched down at Narita International Airport and found among the departure cards we needed to fill out included one labeled “contagion.”

Alex Nicks and I have come to spend a few days filming tuna auctions at Tsujiki, the world’s largest fish market – all under one open air roof are sold four hundred different fish species (700,000 tons sold each year, taking in $5.5 billion a year) and employing 60,000-65,000 wholesalers, accountants, auctioneers, company officials and distributors. The next few days promise to be fun and wild, thanks to the constant whir of all those people focused on the matter at end: selling and buying big fish.

But when we land at Narita, even before we could stand and stretch after the long flight, the plane was boarded by a dozen Japanese men and women cloaked in blue surgical gowns, caps and masks. We were instructed to stay in our seats as one of the insurgents, carrying a portable thermographic imaging gun to detect fevers, pointed in our faces, clicked the trigger and quickly assessed whether or not we were swine flu carriers. As the besmocked team moved aisle by aisle through the plane one of the stewardesses whispered that they recently quarantined eight passengers who arrived on a Northwest flight “for five days.” While I have no idea what that encompasses – locking them in a small airport room, sliding sushi and water under the door? – I’m certainly hoping it doesn’t happen to us.
They are clearly looking for symptoms of flu, including coughs and colds. A week ago three Japanese were quarantined upon arrival in Tokyo after testing positive in preliminary checks. They were a high school teacher in his 40s and two teenage boys who had been on a school trip to Canada where they visited Ontario on a home stay program with about 30 other students, taking part in various programs hosted by a local high school in the town of Oakville. They were isolated upon arrival, on April 24, and are still recovering at a hospital near the airport.

Looking down the aisle as the blue-gowned, therm-armed team does its job I wonder if that’s our fate too? A couple days ago thirty-seven passengers and two flight attendants on an American Airlines flight from Los Angeles were detained overnight for similar reasons. They were released after tests revealed that an ill passenger was not contaminated with the new H1N1 influenza A strain, or swine flu.

Cleared after one hour, they gave each of us our very own face mask and sent us on our way. When we finally arrived in downtown Tokyo I spot random individuals on the street wearing white surgical masks. Taxi drivers, worker bees on lunch break. One thing I note is that it’s different here than in China, where many of the half billion city dwellers wear masks every day to keep away heavy airborne particulates created by coal burning, auto exhaust and general, everyday pollution of the air.

In Japan, as neat and orderly a country as you can find, it appears they are concerned only about swine flu. Stopping into a drugstore I ask the manager how the sales of masks are going and he says “about 50 percent higher than usual and we are running out …. If this keeps up, it’s going to be a very, very good year.” I think he was talking about his pharmacy’s bottom line.

Gadlinks for Monday 7.20.09


In keeping with the beach theme today on Gadling, here are some beach-related travel reads for you, this glorious summer Monday.

‘Til tomorrow, have a great evening!

More Gadlinks HERE.

Thailand closes internet cafes for two weeks

A heads up for all those traveling to Thailand in the next two weeks: the country’s public health minister, Witthaya Kaewparadai, announced plans to close tutorial schools and Internet cafes nationwide in a bid to prevent the spread of the H1N1 virus.

The announcement was made following the death of a Phuket University student last week. Schools and internet cafes are asked to spend the two weeks carefully cleaning equipment to prevent the spread of infection.

The closure went into effect yesterday, July 13th and is scheduled to end on the 28th of July.

Thailand’s decision to close Internet cafes is believed to be a world first. So, if you know anyone traveling in the “Land of Smiles”, don’t be alarmed if they aren’t responding to your emails.