While the Chinese Lunar New Year's is still over two weeks away (Jan 28th), in the next few days hundreds of millions of people across Asia will be preparing to travel - mostly from big cities, back to their birthplace - to spend revered time with family. And it is not just in China.
In Korea it is called Seollal. While in Vietnam it is celebrated as Tết Nguyên Đán ; the Feast of the First Morning. Tết for short. By whatever name, the Lunar New Year is undoubtedly the most important holiday in all of Asia
Chunyun, or the Spring Festival travel season, begins about 15 days before the Lunar New Year and runs for about 40 days total, during which time more than 2 billion passenger journeys will be made (mostly via crowded rail and bus) across Asia.
During this time poultry sales in China often reach record levels, as duck and chicken are popular dishes served during these reunion dinners. It is probably no coincidence that the first outbreak of the H7N9 virus emerged during and just after the 2013 Spring Festival.
After two years of declining winter H7N9 epidemic numbers, avian H7 appears to be spreading with renewed vigor, already responsible for 130+ infections very early in the season. Family gatherings, and crowded public transport, have at least the potential to exacerbate this year's epidemic.
Granted, each year we look closely at the Hajj, Carnival in Rio, the Super Bowl, and every two years at the Olympics, with similar concerns. While major epidemics have not erupted, all have been linked to smaller outbreaks of various viral and bacterial illnesses, and all have the potential to help seed emerging strains of viral and bacterial diseases around the world
- In 2010, in The Impact Of Mass Gatherings & Travel On Flu Epidemics , we looked at a study published in BMC Public Health, that looked at and attempted to quantify the impacts of mass gatherings and holiday travel on the spread of an influenza epidemic.
- And in 2011, in Viruses With A Ticket To Ride, we looked at a study that appeared in BMC Infectious Diseases, that looked at the incidence of ARI (Acute Respiratory Infection) presenting within 5 days of train or tram travel in the UK. They found that recent bus or tram use within five days of symptom onset was associated with an almost six-fold increased risk of consulting for ARI.
- The EID Journal: Respiratory Viruses & Bacteria Among Pilgrims During The 2013 Hajj found 8 of 10 pilgrims tested showed nasal or throat acquisition of respiratory pathogens during their pilgrimage, and another study by the same author found the most common cause of hospitalization during the Hajj is pneumonia (20%).
As it does every year, the CDC has published (and updated) their travel advice for those planning to visit Asia during this upcoming holiday season.
Lunar New Year
Watch - Level 1, Practice Usual Precautions
The Year of the Rooster begins on January 28, 2017, and many travelers will visit Asia to celebrate the Lunar New Year. If you are traveling to Asia, plan ahead for a safe and healthy trip.
Travelers should be aware that Zika virus is present in some areas of Asia. Because Zika can cause serious birth defects if a woman is infected during pregnancy, pregnant women should consider postponing nonessential travel to these areas. See CDC’s Zika Travel Information page for specific countries with Zika.
Every destination has unique health issues that travelers should consider. To find specific information about the places you are traveling, visit our destination pages. In addition to being up-to-date on routine vaccines, you will find vaccine and medicine recommendations, along with many other tips for safe and healthy travel.
What can travelers do to protect themselves?
Before your trip:
During your trip:
- Schedule an appointment with your health care provider as soon as possible before your trip – ideally at least 4-6 weeks before you leave. Pregnant women should not travel to areas with Zika, which includes some countries in Asia. Talk to your doctor or health care provider about vaccines and medicines recommended for your destination. Travelers who want to reduce their risk of seasonal flu should receive the flu vaccine at least 2 weeks before departure. See the Travel Clinics webpage for help in finding a travel medicine clinic near you.
- Talk to your doctor or health care provider before your trip if you are considering pregnancy in the near future.
- Consider travel health and medical evacuation insurance.
- Pack a travel health kit.
After your trip:
- Choose safe transportation: Motor vehicle crashes are the top killer of healthy US citizens in foreign countries. Read about ways to prevent transportation injuries by visiting the Road Safety page.
- Reduce your exposure to germs: Wash your hands often, and avoid contact with people who are sick. Read more about reducing your exposure to germs in the “Stay Healthy and Safe” section of the destination page.
- Prevent mosquito bites: Diseases spread by mosquitoes, such as Zika, malaria, dengue, chikungunya, and Japanese encephalitis, are common throughout Asia. Read more about ways to prevent bug bites by visiting the Avoid Bug Bites page. You may also need to take prescription medicine to protect against malaria or get a vaccine against Japanese encephalitis. Talk to your doctor or nurse about prevention steps that are right for you and your destination.
- Prevent sexual exposure: To avoid sexual transmission of Zika, use condoms every time you have sex or do not have sex with your partner who has traveled to or lives in these areas.
- Follow food and water safety guidelines: Eating contaminated food and drinking contaminated water can cause illnesses such as hepatitis A, typhoid fever, and travelers’ diarrhea. Read about how to prevent these diseases by visiting the Safe Food and Water page on the Travelers’ Health website.
- Do not touch birds, pigs, or other animals, and avoid farms and poultry markets: Bird flu strains, such as H7N9 and H5N1, are flu viruses that have been seen in Asia.
- If you feel sick during your trip:
- Talk to a doctor or health care provider as soon as possible if you feel seriously ill, especially if you have a fever.
- For more information about medical care abroad, see Getting Health Care Abroad.
- Avoid contact with other people while you are sick.
- If you are not feeling well after your trip, you may need to see a doctor or health care provider as soon as possible. If you need help finding a travel medicine specialist, see Find a Clinic. Be sure to tell your doctor or health care provider about your travel, including where you went and what you did on your trip. Also tell your doctor or health care provider if you were bitten or scratched by an animal while traveling.
- Many people infected with Zika or other viruses like dengue and chikungunya do not feel sick. If a mosquito bites an infected person while the virus is still in that person’s blood, it gets infected and can spread the virus through bites. If you travel to an area with Zika, dengue, or chikungunya, you should take steps to prevent mosquito bites for 3 weeks after your trip. Even if you don’t feel sick, you can spread these viruses to uninfected mosquitoes that can spread the virus to other people through bites.
- Zika virus can also be transmitted through sex. Use condoms every time you have sex or do not have sex after your return, even if you do not feel sick. See the CDC page Protect Yourself During Sex for guidance about how long to use condoms or not have sex after travel.
- If your doctor or health care provider prescribed antimalarial medicine for your trip, keep taking your pills after you return home. If you stop taking your medicine too soon, you could still get sick.
- Malaria is always a serious disease and may be deadly. If you become ill with a fever, either while traveling in a malaria risk area or for up to 1 year after you return home, you should seek immediate medical attention and should tell the doctor about your travel history.
- For more information, see After Your Trip or Getting Sick after Travel.