washingtonpost.com
You and the Bird Flu

By Andrea Sachs
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, October 23, 2005

Q. I'm booked on a cruise from Bangkok that stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Nagasaki, Okinawa, Taipei, Nha Grand, Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore. Because of the area's avian flu outbreak, is it safe to go?

Arlene Hewitt, Alexandria

A. Concern over avian influenza, or bird flu, has grown exponentially, especially among travelers to Asia, where a number of people have contracted the disease in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, and have even died from it (latest count: 60). The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention does "not recommend that the general public avoid travel to any of the countries affected by H5N1 [bird flu]," according to its Web site, but the agency is advising travelers to follow certain precautions when visiting these areas with avian flu activity.

The Web site offers suggestions on how to protect yourself pre-departure (example: Assemble a first-aid kit with a thermometer and alcohol-based anti-bacterial gel) as well as post-trip (e.g., monitor your health for 10 days).

However, the most crucial safeguards to follow are during your trip. "Avoid all direct contact with poultry," says CDC spokeswoman Christine Pearson, explaining that the virus is transmitted through nasal secretions, feces and touching. Hence, it's best to skip the poultry markets and farms, though Pearson adds, "If you're going on a cruise, most likely you won't be going to a poultry farm."

In addition, all poultry means dead or alive, so skip shops where birds may have contaminated surfaces, such as butcher shops. As for food, heat destroys the virus, so make sure the meat is well-cooked (on the street and on the cruise ship -- just to be safe). Ditto for eggs and dishes made with, yes, chicken or duck blood. Also, frequently wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based sanitation gel.

For CDC's bird flu info: 800-311-3435, http://www.cdc.gov/travel/other/avian_influenza_se_asia_2005.htm . Or, the World Health Organization, http://www.who.int./

Do you know of any tours for the TT motorcycle races on the Isle of Man? What about hotels and getting around?

Frank Stoddard, Delray Beach, Fla.

For two weeks a year, the verdant Isle of Man, a tranquil 33-by-13-mile island in the Irish Sea, is transformed into a speed-demon motorcycle track. The "Road Racing Capital of the World" has been hosting the TT motorcycle race since 1907, drawing 12,000 international bikers and 40,000 fans to its Snaefell Mountain Course. "It's like a pilgrimage for many motorcyclists," says Greg Harrison, spokesman of the American Motorcyclist Association." The 2006 race takes place May 27-June 9, and many visitors book well in advance.

The 37.7-mile course covers a large slice of the island, including the east and west coasts and the northern area, and spectators can sit along the road and watch the racers. For a list of viewing spots, as well as nearby food, drinks and loos, see the Isle of Man Guide at http://www.iomguide.com/races/tt/tt-mountain-%20circuit.php , or buy a map there. You can also purchase grandstand seats to see the start and podium finish; the $26 tickets are available through the Tourist Information Center (011-44-1624-686766) six weeks before the TT. Besides the race on the second week, there are also trials, vintage-bike parades, exhibits, beach races, entertainment, etc.

To plan a trip, you can fly from such major U.K. cities as London and Dublin, or take a ferry from one of four ports (Hey- sham, England, is the fastest, from two to 3 1/2 hours). Be sure to reserve your ferry in advance; you might also want to spend some extra days on-island to avoid the mass exodus on June 9. The Isle of Man's tourism office has a listing of accommodations, including the Sulby Glen Hotel (011-44-1624-897240, http://www.sulbyglenhotel.net/ ), which overlooks the course.

For easier booking, tour companies offer TT packages that mainly include transportation and accommodations. Isle of Man Everyman Tours (011-44-870-889-0837, http://www.everymann.co.uk/ ), for example, has a seven-night package including air from Liverpool and a mid-range hotel room from $1,400 per person double (expect to pay twice as much for '07 dates, the race's 100th anniversary).

Another option is the Manx Grand Prix (Aug. 19-Sept. 1), which follows the same course. The island also hosts drag races, go-kart competitions and other vehicular event. For details on the Isle of Man TT races: http://www.iomtt.com/ .

For info on the Isle of Man: Isle of Man Government, 011-44-1624-686-766, http://www.gov.im/tourism .

Send queries by e-mail (travelqa@washpost.com), fax (202-912-3609) or U.S. mail (Travel Q&A, Washington Post Travel Section, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071). Please include your name and home town.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2005 The Washington Post Company