U.S. warns on China swine flu quarantines
(United Press International, June 20, 2009)
The random nature of U.S. travelers to China being placed into seven-day flu quarantines is making travel to the country unpredictable, U.S. officials say.
The U.S. State Department issued a travel alert Friday warning that Chinese officials reacting to the swine flu outbreak are randomly enforcing rules wherein travelers are being placed into long quarantines to guard against the spread of the H1N1 virus.
"Although the proportion of arriving Americans being quarantined remains low, the random nature of the selection process increases the uncertainty surrounding travel to China," the State Department said. "The selection process focuses on those sitting in close proximity to another traveler exhibiting fever or flu-like symptoms or on those displaying an elevated temperature if arriving from an area where outbreaks of 2009 H1N1 have occurred."
The statement said U.S. officials have received reports of passengers arriving from areas where outbreaks have occurred, such as the United States and Mexico, being placed in precautionary quarantine simply because they registered slightly elevated temperatures.
About 48,000 cases of swine fly have been found worldwide, including 519 in China, the World Health Organization says.
Travel Q&A: China's Quarantine Policy
(By K.C. Summers, The Washington Post, June 28, 2009)
Q. I'm booked to go to China for only 10 days. I hear about travelers getting off the planes and being quarantined if someone else on the plane has any illness. Is there anything I can do to minimize my risk? Do you know of any travel insurance that will reimburse me if I miss my entire vacation because I am part of a quarantined flight?
A. Even if you're healthy, there's really nothing you can do to minimize your risk of being detained. Chinese officials will indeed quarantine an entire planeload of people if even one person on board has a fever or otherwise exhibits symptoms of H1N1 influenza, which was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The U.S. embassy in Beijing spells it out on the State Department's Web site (http://www.travel.state.gov); a department official said the best you can do is to be aware of China's policy and check the site for any updates before you leave.
Here's how it works: All passengers from affected countries -- that would be us -- are segregated upon arrival and must pass through two thermal-scanning checkpoints. If anyone has a fever or flu symptoms, all passengers and crew members are immediately detained. Officials then decide whether to give physical exams at the airport or to take everyone to a hospital or hotel, where they may quarantine them for up to seven days.
Alameda Woman Recounts Beijing Quarantine
(KCBS News, June 30, 2009)
ALAMEDA, Calif. (KCBS) - The State Department is warning people with travel plans in China that the country is on the lookout for signs of the H1N1 swine flu virus, and is not hesitating to quarantine passengers as they come off airplanes.
As KCBS' Janice Wright reports, one Alameda family recently spent 15 days in lockdown.
It started out as a joyous trip for an extended family of 15, until the vacationers landed. "They came around with a really quick temperature reading and took everybody's temperature on the airplane," recalled Hillary Woo.
That, apparently, is now standard procedure. Everybody in Woo's group "passed," but somebody seated three rows away registered a fever, landing all of Woo's family in a Beijing hotel, under quarantine.
"Basically, a no-star fleabag hotel," Woo described the conditions.
According to Woo, they all had bed bugs and had to eat in their rooms for 15 days. Along the way, a young niece developed a fever and had to be hospitalized. "Her father was quarantined in a building next door to her. He was not allowed to see her," said Woo.
They are out thousands of dollars, with no refunds on the way. Woo has a warning for anyone heading that way. "Anyone associated with anyone sick will be quarantined," she said. "The government will find you."