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Originally published April 28, 2009 at 12:00 AM | Page modified April 28, 2009 at 10:30 AM

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U.S. health officials: Skip trips to Mexico

U.S. health authorities are recommending that Americans avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico because of the swine-flu outbreak.

Seattle Times Travel staff

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Swine-flu information

Travel advice: The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has swine-flu information for travelers at www.cdc.gov/travel, including the advisory against travel to Mexico issued Monday. Information on travel to Mexico is also available at the U.S. State Department's travel site, www.travel.state.gov.

Flight changes: Airlines such as Alaska, United, Continental, US Airways and others are letting travelers change flights to Mexico. Details are on airline Web sites.

Travelers at risk: The CDC says travelers who must travel to Mexico and who have diabetes, lung disease or other conditions that put them at high risk of severe illness from influenza should take prescription drugs Tamiflu or Relenza.

Kristin Jackson / The Seattle Times

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U.S. health authorities are recommending that Americans avoid all nonessential travel to Mexico because of the swine-flu outbreak.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued the advisory Monday, saying officials were "concerned that continued travel by U.S. travelers to Mexico presents a serious risk for further outbreaks of swine flu in the United States."

Though the CDC recommendation does not prohibit Americans from traveling to Mexico, it is expected to send Mexican tourism tumbling.

Travel to Mexico already has slumped because of the recession and drug-cartel violence in some cities.

Because of the swine flu, most U.S. airlines already had started allowing passengers to change ticketed flights to Mexico at least into May without the usual penalty fees.

Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, which has one round-trip flight daily to Mexico City and frequent flights to Puerto Vallarta and other resort areas, is allowing passengers with tickets to anywhere in Mexico to change their departure date or destination through May 20, spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said Monday.

"If you're locked into a vacation next week and you can't change that date," Egan said, "you can apply that fare to a different destination," including to places outside of Mexico where Alaska Airlines flies.

Airports were on alert for infected passengers but were otherwise operating normally Monday.

However, airline workers in Mexico City and U.S. Customs and Border Protection staff at U.S. airports are observing passengers for signs of illness and will call for medical aid for those who appear sick.

Officials at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport are working with the state Health Department, CDC, the Transportation Safety Administration (TSA) and U.S. Customs.

"We're on alert, but we're still in normal operations," said airport spokesman Perry Cooper.

If a flight crew were to notify Sea-Tac Airport that a passenger was exhibiting symptoms, a quarantine area would be set up in the terminal's South Satellite, Cooper said.

"There's an area that's normally open to the public that could be closed up and sealed off" while passengers are checked out by CDC workers, he said.

As for cruise travel, there have been no reports of swine flu in popular Mexican ports or aboard ships, the Cruise Lines International Association said Monday.

Lines such as Princess Cruises said it was stepping up screening aboard its Mexico cruises and would treat and isolate anyone who appeared ill.

Those due to depart within the next few weeks on Mexico cruises should contact their cruise lines for information.

Seattle Times staff reporter Sara Jean Green contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2009 The Seattle Times Company

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