Health : H1N1 Influenza 09
The Bulletin was issued on Tuesday, 28 April 2009, 14:53:25, EST.
The Bulletin was updated on Wednesday, 01 July 2009, 16:10:54, EST.
- Australian travellers should note that their travel plans may be severely disrupted due to H1N1 Influenza 09 quarantine measures overseas.
- Some countries have in place compulsory quarantine measures for travellers exhibiting flu-like symptoms, for those travelling with or in close proximity to other travellers suspected of having the virus, or for travellers who have recently visited a country with confirmed cases of the virus. For more information see our Quarantine Section.
- The Australian Government can provide consular support to Australians in quarantine overseas but it cannot influence the length of time for which individual Australians may be quarantined or the selection of quarantine facilities.
- Some countries are introducing public health measures at the point of arrival, such as handing out face masks to travellers who have arrived from countries with confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza 09, including Australia. You may be asked to wear a face mask for a number of days after arriving.
- This Travel Bulletin should be read in conjunction with the Travel Advisory for your destination.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) is monitoring the global spread of the H1N1 Influenza 09 virus.
On 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) raised its global pandemic alert level from phase 5 to phase 6. The move to phase 6 reflects that there has been widespread human infection and community transmission in several parts of the world. In raising the level to phase 6, the WHO noted that, at this early stage, the pandemic can be characterised globally as being moderate in severity.
The WHO provides useful information on its website for individuals and travellers, including regular updates on the location and number of confirmed cases.
Your travel plans could be severely disrupted due to H1N1 Influenza 09 quarantine measures. Travellers should be aware that governments will not compensate people for disruption to travel plans.
No borders have been closed as a result of the influenza outbreak. However, some countries have in place compulsory quarantine measures for those exhibiting flu-like symptoms or for travellers who have recently visited a country with confirmed cases of the virus. Regardless of their own state of health, travellers may be subject to compulsory quarantine measures if they have been travelling with or in close proximity to other travellers suspected of having the virus. These measures may also be applied to transit passengers.
It is also possible that large numbers of passengers or entire flights or ships may be subject to quarantine, or prevented from disembarking, if authorities suspect that passengers with H1N1 are on board.
In some countries, health and quarantine officials have extensive powers to detain people suspected of having H1N1. A growing number of Australians have been temporarily quarantined overseas.
The Australian Government will provide consular assistance as required to travellers who are quarantined. However there are legal and practical limits to the assistance consular officers can provide. Consular officers will be unable to influence the length of quarantine periods or reduce time in quarantine. Countries have designated quarantine hotels/sites, which in some cases may have limited facilities and basic conditions. Consular officers cannot visit quarantine facilities or influence where quarantined travellers are housed. Family groups may be split while in quarantine.
Some countries are introducing public health measures at the point of arrival, such as handing out face masks to travellers who have arrived from countries with confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza 09, including Australia. You may be asked to wear a face mask for a number of days after arriving.
Travellers may also be asked to declare their state of health at international points of departure, including airports and sea ports, prior to travel.
You should follow the instructions of local border control, law enforcement or health authorities. In some cases, failure to do so could result in fines or imprisonment.
For more information, contact the embassy or consulate of the country you plan to visit.
Before heading overseas:
- Travellers at high risk of complications from any influenza (see list of vulnerable groups) should discuss the risks of overseas travel with their doctor before deciding whether to travel.
- Vaccination against seasonal influenza two weeks prior to travel is still recommended, although the degree of protection against H1N1 Influenza 09 is not clear. Consult your health care provider for travel medical advice and further guidance if you have specific concerns.
- If you have flu-like symptoms you may wish to consider postponing your overseas travel or consulting your doctor before departing.
You should also:
- organise comprehensive travel insurance and check which circumstances and activities are not covered by your policy. You should be aware that the Australian Government will not pay for your medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs. Check that your travel insurance will protect you against possible quarantine.
- register your travel and contact details, so we can contact you in an emergency.
- subscribe to the travel advisory for your destination so you can be notified of any updates.
While you are travelling:
Travellers in affected countries and regions should:
- practice hand hygiene (washing and drying of hands).
- practice respiratory etiquette (covering mouth and nose when sneezing and coughing).
- consult a doctor or the nearest hospital immediately in the event of flu-like symptoms developing.
- follow the instructions of local authorities.
After you return:
If you have visited a country with confirmed cases of H1N1 Influenza 09 since March and are unwell with a respiratory illness (fever and cough) on your return to Australia, contact your GP.
The Australian Government has moved to a new PROTECT response phase to manage the outbreak of H1N1 Influenza 09. PROTECT recognises that the infection of H1N1 Influenza 09 is mild in most cases, severe in some and moderate overall and that the Australian Government emphasis is on identifying and treating early infection in the vulnerable.
As of Monday 22 June 2009, border measures including thermal scanners and health declaration cards will NOT form part of the new response.
With respect to school-aged children returning to Australia, the emphasis will now be on excluding children with acute respiratory illness from school.
School exclusions for children who have travelled to affected countries should cease as of Monday 22 June 2009.
As a precautionary measure, Australia has for some years held a limited supply of the influenza antiviral medicine oseltamivir (Tamiflu) at most of its overseas missions. The medicine is intended primarily to protect emergency staff providing consular assistance and other essential services in the event of a widespread outbreak of pandemic influenza.
The holding of Tamiflu at Australian missions overseas is a prudent measure to ensure that Australian officials overseas will be able to maintain essential services to Australians. The limited influenza antiviral medicine supplies held at Australian missions overseas do not allow for provision to other Australians who may be in an affected area.
For more information on H1N1 Influenza 09, you can call the Commonwealth Health Hotline on 1802007 (if calling from outside Australia, toll free on +61 8 840 288 33) or go to www.healthemergency.gov.au. Current information on the global response to human cases of H1N1 Influenza 09 and measures to avoid infection are also available on the WHO’s H1N1 Influenza 09 website.
If you require consular assistance overseas, contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. Contact details for the nearest Australian mission are also shown in the final section of the travel advisory for each country. Alternatively, you can contact the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 from within Australia.
While every care has been taken in preparing this travel information for travellers, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees including any member of Australia’s consular staff abroad, can accept liability for injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained therein. ( Copyright form here