Thinking of Traveling? Get These Tips to Keep Yourself Flu-free!

Consultant Infectious Diseases Physician
Member of the Malaysian Influenza Working Group
  1. On board the plane, you have an 80% chance of getting the flu if there is an infected person–who may or may not have symptoms–sitting one row in front or behind you, within 2 seats to either side.
  2. Flu viruses can survive for up to 48 hours on certain surfaces, including your overhead compartment handle, seat-belt buckle, video screen, food tray, arm-rest, and control panel.
  3. You can try disinfecting the items mentioned in the above point, but it would be impractical to disinfect everything you will touch when you land, such as your luggage bag, trolley, the toilet flush, car door handle and so on.

Tip 1: Follow the COVID-19 SOPs when possible
Masking, although no longer promoted in most countries, may help reduce the chances of catching the flu.

However, it is less effective when those around you are not masked. This is where the next tip comes in.

Tip 2: Get the flu shot
The additional protection conferred by the annual flu vaccination is therefore recommended to prevent the disease.

When injected, the vaccine introduces inactivated flu viruses into the body. These have been killed and are unable to cause disease.

Instead, they stimulate your body to produce antibodies that will spring to your defense if you happen to be exposed to the flu.

Allow 2 weeks to reach the desired level of immunity before flying off.

It gives you a better shot at beating the flu and reducing your risks of heart problems 

Flu vaccination helps prevent severe flu-related infection, hospitalization, and death . It is also associated with a 34% lower risk of major adverse cardiovascular events . There was also an 18% reduced risk of death reported in patients with heart failure .

In people with type 2 diabetes, flu vaccination has been associated with a reduced risk of heart failure by 22%, stroke by 30%, heart attack by 19% and pneumonia by 15% .

With the COVID-19, flu, & RSV triple threat in the northern hemisphere, the flu shot is a good bet 

Noting that flu viruses mutate constantly, Datuk Dr Christopher Lee explains that currently available flu vaccines have been updated to effectively fight virus sub-types that are circulating in the northern hemisphere at this time.

“This will help reduce your risk of contracting the disease. The flu vaccination is recommended for those travelling abroad, especially high-risk groups as the importation of flu cases through air travel can result in the spread of flu within the community,” he adds. “So, if you have not been vaccinated against the flu, now is a good time to get it done. The annual flu vaccination is your passport to healthy holidays. Don’t leave home without it.”

This article was contributed by the Flu Prevention is An Act of Love campaign under Immunise4Life, a major initiative to promote life course vaccination by the Ministry of Health, Malaysian Paediatric Association, and the Malaysian Society of Infectious Diseases & Chemotherapy. Learn more at (link opens in a new tab).