Swine Flu Update: What Do We Know?

Last Updated: Thursday 5/1

What do we know? We know that more than 1,600 people in Mexico are suspected of having swine flu but that only a handful of cases have been verifed. We also know that more than 150 people in Mexico are suspected to have died of complications from swine flu and that more than the usual percentage of these people were seemingly healthy young adults. We know that there are over 330 confirmed cases outside of Mexico (the largest concentration being from a single high school in Queens in New York City) and that there are a few other confirmed cases in the U.S. in California, Texas, Ohio, and Kansas. We know that one person in the U.S. has died and that only a few people have been hospitalized. We also know that there are a few other cases in the world outside of the U.S. and Mexico. We know that you cannot get swine flu from eating properly cooked pork. Here’s the current CDC swine flu update.

What don’t we know? We don’t know why people in Mexico are dying or why people outside of Mexico do not seem to be dying from this illness. We don’t know if this is going to be a so-called “pandemic.” We don’t know if this is going to get worse or better in the near term.

What are the authorities saying? The CDC’s current travel health warning is saying don’t go to Mexico unless your travel is essential. Here’s what the U.S. Embassy in Mexico is saying. Here’s the U.S. Department of State’s travel alert. Here are the FAQs from the World Health Organization about swine flu.

What should you do? Most airlines are allowing you to reschedule your scheduled air tickets through mid-May if you booked them before the swine flu outbreak, but in almost all cases you must reschedule rather than cancel your travel plans. The airlines include Aeromexico, Alaska Airlines, American, Continental, Delta, Mexicana, and USAirways. Most airlines have some version of this policy in place, so if your airline isn’t listed here, check directly with them.

Several cruise lines have temporarily canceled all of Mexico port calls through May.

Most major hotel companies are waiving cancellation penalties, as are tour operators and packagers, including Pleasant Holiday, Certified Vacation, and GoGo Worldwide Vacations. Most of these companies allow cancellations up through the middle of next week.

Some Canadian and European tour operators and airlines have canceled flights to Mexico through the end of May.

If you are traveling in late May or June, as are many of our forum posters, it’s too early for you to be making these decisions unless you have a cancel-for-any-reason insurance plan. If the health emergency is extended in Mexico, then you can almost be certain the airlines’ policies will be changed again. You should keep up with the latest news.

If you are thinking of going to Mexico this summer, you may very well see some excellent travel deals to try to re-stimulate travel by then (assuming the swine flu emergency has ended).

Everything is still in flux, so expect further changes.

–Doug Stallings

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