The recent events of the H1N1 influenza virus and its simultaneous grip of the media and public attention as well as rapid spread may have been the best thing that could happen to travel health. Further, I hope the virus has shown that international borders and cultural differences were not factors in this illness and its transmission.
Following the Virus
The real-time updates, global tracking maps, use of twitter and other social media sites and various other media sources served to rapidly spread the information about H1N1, even if the information was not always accurate. Fortunately, use of social media and ease of communication allows for information to travel around the world at a rapid rate. Almost as fast as the virus did. I personally found the use of these social media sites very useful for receiving and sending information and am glad to see medical and public health professionals making use of these services.
Everybody at risk
As people watched the number of suspected and confirmed cases pop-up on maps, along with infection rates and death tolls on the nightly news, they were united with others around the world who shared similar concern. Most viruses do not care about religion, race or social standing, they just infect. This was truly a “global uniter” of fear and risk of illness.
Travelers have long know that they are capable of acting as the perfect vehicles to spread things around the globe. Travelers can spread cheer, wisdom, passion and illness. As seen by the rapid spread of the virus, airlines were a major factor in global disease spread. The intense media attention and global effect of the recent H1N1 virus should have shown that all people of the world are interconnected, especially by international travelers. Exaclty like the “six-degrees of seperation” game, epidemiology is showing the world is frighteningly small and closely linked. Travelers need to realize their position in the global health chain and the responsibility of international travel, especially when it comes disease spread.