1. The U.S. declared a public health emergency. What does this mean?
The Department of Health and Human Services declared a public health emergency in the United States. This is standard operating procedure and allows us to free up federal, state, and local agencies and their resources for prevention and mitigation; it allows us to use medication and diagnostic tests that we might not otherwise be able to use, particularly for very young children; and it releases funds for the acquisition of additional antivirals.
2. How will a World Health Organization (WHO) pandemic “phase 6” declaration impact Americans abroad?
The recent WHO declaration may cause some nations to initiate or to strengthen preexisting screening and quarantine procedures for travelers. Americans who intend to travel abroad in the near future should be aware that foreign authorities may check them for symptoms of 2009-H1N1 Influenza and that their travel may be significantly delayed. Americans are also advised to check the website of the embassy of the country they plan to visit for information on H1N1-related restrictions and procedures.
3. Will I be quarantined if I travel to or transit another country after visiting a country with 2009-H1N1 cases?
It’s possible, depending on the local government’s screening and quarantine procedures. Travelers should check with the government of the country they will visit or transit to determine what screening/quarantine procedures are in effect. Private American citizens should be aware that the U.S. Government cannot demand their immediate release if they have been detained or quarantined abroad in accordance with local public health and legal authorities.
An explanation of what is meant by the terms “quarantine” and “isolation” as these relate to contagious disease is available at: http://emergency.cdc.gov/preparedness/quarantine/
4. Where can I obtain medical treatment if I become ill?
Anyone who is ill should consult a physician. Americans overseas can obtain information for local physicians and medical facilities on the local U.S. Embassy or Consulate’s website, via www.travel.state.gov.
5. Can the U.S. Embassy or Consulates overseas provide me with medication, if I get sick?
Due to legal restrictions and a lack of sufficient resources, the U.S. Department of State is not in a position to provide private American citizens traveling or living abroad with medications, medical supplies, or medical treatment. Influenza antiviral medications can be obtained by prescription from a healthcare provider in the United States. If adequate medical treatment or antiviral medications are not readily available at your overseas location or travel destination(s), you should consider discussing with your personal physician the advisability of obtaining an advance supply of appropriate medication for your trip or period of stay overseas. You can obtain more information from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
6. When a pandemic has been declared and I am already overseas, what will the U.S. Government do to help me?
The Department of State is not advising that people residing in countries affected by H1N1 to depart; at this time, we advise that people look at the guidance provided by the CDC and the WHO, and make their own decisions about whether or not they are comfortable staying in a country.
The U.S. Government does not evacuate American citizens from a foreign country in the event of a pandemic. Please see our “Pandemic/Avian Influenza” and “Remain in Country” fact sheets on www.travel.state.gov for detailed explanations of U.S. Government policy regarding Americans abroad in the event of a pandemic.
In general, U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad will work to provide traditional consular protection to American citizens who remain in country. Such assistance includes helping Americans communicate with family and friends, monitoring quarantine/detention conditions as permitted by local health authorities, arranging for transfers of funds or granting temporary subsistence loans, and providing information regarding the availability of medical care (to be paid for by the individual).
Private American citizens should be aware that the U.S. Government cannot demand their immediate release if they have been detained or quarantined abroad in accordance with local public health and legal authorities.