Five ways to get dirty this summer

Grabbing the railing on the subway? For some of us, it’s a fact of life, but I’m told there are plenty of people out there who liken it to shoving your hand in a toilet. According to a recent TripAdvisor poll of more than 4,000 travelers, around one-third consider themselves to be “germaphobic” since the H1N1 swine flu outbreak.

So, where do germaphobes go? I imagine they hang out in hospitals and Reston, Virginia (you can do surgery off the streets there). More interesting is where these clean freaks won’t go: TripAdvisor’s five “germiest” world attractions.

Pucker up for the Blarney Stone: kiss the Blarney Stone, according to legend, and you’ll be rewarded with the gift of eloquent speech … yours and 400,000 other mouths.

Kiss the dead guy’s memorial: people just can’t keep their lips to themselves … if it’s not the Blarney Stone, then it’s Oscar Wilde‘s tomb in Paris.

Chew on the Wall of Gum: at Seattle‘s Market Theatre in Post Alley: there’s a giant wall of gum. And, travelers have begun to add to it. Try to stick yours on it without feeling anyone else’s contribution (blech).

Run with the pigeons in Venice: vendors in St. Mark’s Square have stopped selling food to tourists who feed the birds, because of the situation – I think Alfred Hitchcock made a movie about it.

Tactile Chinese theater in Hollywood: millions of people grind their fingers into the handprints at the Forecourt of Grauman’s Chinese Theater in the film capital of the world.

2000 passengers forced into quarantine on Australian swine flu cruise ship

Bad times for cruise passengers – after a flesh eating bacteria scare earlier this month, it’s an Australian ship that is in trouble this time.

The P&O operated Pacific Dawn was scheduled to cruise around the Great Barrier Reef, but 3 crew members were confirmed to be infected with swine flu.

At the moment, the schedule has been canceled, and the ship is heading towards Brisbane.

Once in port, only Queensland residents will be allowed to disembark, but they will all be forced to undergo a health check.

These 150 passengers will then be transported to their homes, where they will have to stay indoors for at least 7 days.

The remaining 1850 passengers will be forced to stay on board as the ship has been turned into a quarantine area.

The ship will head towards Sydney on Monday and will remain in quarantine until health officials clear every passenger.

The three crew members who were infected have received treatment. Five of the 2000 passengers are in isolation awaiting results of tests.

Update: The passengers have been granted permission to disembark. Medical tests showed no evidence of any further infections. On its previous cruise, a total of 48 passengers were infected. Initial reports show that the confirmed cases of swine flu on this cruise were all picked up on the previous voyage.


The next invasion of your privacy at the airport? Your temperature!

Fueled by a global panic about the Swine Flu, some airports are installing thermal imaging cameras to spot arriving and departing passengers with elevated temperatures.

This technology is new to our continent, but has been used in Asia for years, mainly because of their experience in dealing with avian flu and SARS.

The thermal imaging cameras are placed in strategic locations, and show inspectors a colored image representing your temperature. Passengers with a fever will most likely be pulled aside and submitted to some extra scrutiny.

Of course, the technology could also mean those passengers running to catch their next flight may set off an alarm if the run has made them all hot and sweaty…

It won’t be long until a trip to the airport involves a full body scan and a thermal imaging session, it really is amazing what a little panic about the flu can do! Still, I’m guessing it is better to be safe than sorry, and if this technology can stop sick people from being seated next to me, I’m all for it.

Biden says “Don’t Fly,” White House says “Sorry”

The White House issued a non-apology today, clearly practicing a technique that it will use often over the next four years. Vice President Joseph Biden is famous for speaking without thinking “saying one thing and meaning another.” Today, he announced that he would not only avoid Mexico but also suggests staying away from confined spaces as the spread of swine flu contines.

This is exactly what an ailing airline needs … not to mention the 200,000 people expected to lose their jobs in the U.S. travel and tourism industry this year. But, don’t worry about it, Joe. We know you meant well.

White House officials are playing it safe, “clarifying” the Vice President’s remarks.

The feds hope that nobody was “unduly alarmed.” The best part, though, is that “What the vice president meant to say was the same thing that many members have said in the last few days … And that is, if you feel sick, are exhibiting flu-like symptoms….that you should take precautions, that you should limit your travel.”

Yeah, that’s the same thing, right?

Is swine flu changing your travel plans?

TripAdvisor asked its visitors a simple question: are you changing your travel plans because of the swine flu scare? Plenty of people had answers: 2,857 people, to be exact. The vast majority (61 percent) won’t be deterred by the risk of swine flu, though there’s no indication of how many of these respondents are headed to high-risk areas. Twenty-four percent are making adjustments to upcoming excursions, and 15 percent didn’t have any travel plans to change.

How about you? Are you changing your travel plans? Or, are you ready to push forward?