CDC kicks off national travelers' health public awareness campaign

Every holiday season, millions of Americans travel through the nation's airports, seaports, and train stations to spend time with loved ones. Special holiday get-togethers -- and traveling itself -- bring people together but also provide an ideal way for illness to spread.

To help travelers avoid the flu this holiday season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on Nov. 19 launched its largest public awareness campaign about staying healthy while traveling.

"The holidays are one of the busiest travel times of the year," said Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. "People are in close contact --whether they're on a plane, train, ship or just visiting with loved ones. This campaign provides practical advice to help travelers prepare for their trips and stay healthy during their holiday travel."

The CDC is urging people to take the following steps when planning their travel and to stay informed about what to do if they get sick while they're gone, including:

Traveling only when they are feeling well

Getting vaccinated for flu (both seasonal flu and 2009 H1N1 if they are in a priority group)

Washing hands often

Covering coughs and sneezes with a tissue or sleeve

"We know that flu -- and specifically H1N1 this year -- is a big concern for people, but flu shouldn't ruin the holidays," Schuchat said. "By practicing a little prevention, people can enjoy their holidays and stay well at the same time."

The CDC developed the campaign in response to the emergence in April of the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic. Since then, flu has spread throughout the country and around the world. In the United States, it has accounted for millions of cases and more than 4,000 deaths since April.

The campaign will run through the holiday season and use a variety of media, including informational posters at major airports, ports of entry and border crossings; national radio and print advertising; and social media and online outreach. CDC will also partner with local health departments, travel professionals, health care professionals, and colleges and universities to further educate the public.