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China's Quarantine Policy and Alameda, Calif.

By K.C. Summers
Special to The Washington Post
Sunday, June 28, 2009

Q. I'm booked to go to China for only 10 days. I hear about travelers getting off the planes and being quarantined if someone else on the plane has any illness. Is there anything I can do to minimize my risk? Do you know of any travel insurance that will reimburse me if I miss my entire vacation because I am part of a quarantined flight?

Amy Ross, Bethesda

A. Even if you're healthy, there's really nothing you can do to minimize your risk of being detained. Chinese officials will indeed quarantine an entire planeload of people if even one person on board has a fever or otherwise exhibits symptoms of H1N1 influenza, which was recently declared a pandemic by the World Health Organization. The U.S. embassy in Beijing spells it out on the State Department's Web site (http://www.travel.state.gov); a department official said the best you can do is to be aware of China's policy and check the site for any updates before you leave.

Here's how it works: All passengers from affected countries -- that would be us -- are segregated upon arrival and must pass through two thermal-scanning checkpoints. If anyone has a fever or flu symptoms, all passengers and crew members are immediately detained. Officials then decide whether to give physical exams at the airport or to take everyone to a hospital or hotel, where they may quarantine them for up to seven days.

And yes, you can buy trip interruption insurance to cover this situation. Check a comparison site such as InsureMyTrip.com (http://www.insuremytrip.com) or QuoteWright (http://www.quotewright.com) for details. Peter Evans, executive vice president of InsureMyTrip.com, said such insurance is priced at 5 to 8 percent of the trip's cost. He warned that it's important to read the fine print to make sure the carrier covers pandemics; some don't. And know the difference between "travel delay" (a lengthy layover or an overnight quarantine) and "trip disruption," when you lose several days of your trip. InsureMyTrip has a call center, 800-487-4722, to help you sort it all out.

I am traveling with my 13-year-old daughter to Alameda, Calif., in July. We have about five days to be tourists. What are the must-do's in the area?

Cheryl Kennedy, Mechanicsville

Admire the views of San Francisco? No, Alameda has more going for it than its proximity to Fog City. The island city in San Francisco Bay is known for its abundance of pretty Victorian houses, for one thing.

There are also beaches, bird refuges, bike paths and waterfronts to explore. If you like military history, the USS Hornet, a mothballed World War II aircraft carrier, offers tours and a flight-simulator ride; you can even spend the night in the original crew members' quarters. Details: 510-521-8448, http://www.uss-hornet.org.

By the way, if you're visiting over the Fourth, get ready for what's billed as one of the country's largest and longest Independence Day parades: 3.3 miles of marching bands, floats, hula dancers; you get the idea. For more info: http://www.ci.alameda.ca.us/community.

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