Published on November 13, 2014

Study: Ebola not affecting holiday travel

Despite recent cases of Ebola in the U.S., a new study performed in Florida shows it hasn't affected plans for American travelers.

Still, medical professionals say people shouldn't let their guard down when it comes to preventing sickness while traveling.

Bill Wright is headed to Washington D.C., a city where just last month doctors were evaluating a woman with Ebola-like symptoms. Now, Ebola is one of the last things on his mind.

"I think right now it's fading very quickly from my concerns, so maybe a month ago or two months ago I would have been thinking more about it, but now it's pretty much passé," Wright said.

Wright feels like many of the nearly 2,000 leisure travelers the University of Florida surveyed recently. Ninety percent said their household's leisure travel plans have not been affected by the recent Ebola cases in the U.S.

While about 30 percent of American travelers are concerned about Ebola and air travel right now, about 60 percent indicated their household is unlikely to avoid traveling in the U.S. because of recent cases.

The study also shows that although four in five domestic leisure travelers believe Ebola is frightening, more than 70 percent don't believe it's likely they'll contract Ebola if they travel by air in the U.S. during the next few weeks.

"We do what we have to do, and if you're going to travel you can't be afraid," said traveler Johnnie Williams. "Just get out there and take care of yourself and do what you need to do."

Taking care of oneself is key, and Kat Pitocchelli, a registered dietician and HeartSmart program coordinator at St. Vincent's HealthCare, said one of the best ways to prevent sickness when traveling on a plane is to use hand sanitizer.

"Where people pick up the most germs is from those little serving trays, which is where they put our food, (and) the air that is actually filtered that we're breathing in through the airplane," Pitocchelli said. "So really we're getting germs from the things that we touch and then putting our hands in our mouths."

Pitocchelli said another way to keep sickness at bay is to stay hydrated.

"The lower humidity on airplanes and the higher altitudes makes us get dehydrated faster than normal, so it becomes really important to stay hydrated, especially when flying," Pitocchelli said.

When it comes to hydration, Pitocchelli said one thing many people don't realize is that their bodies often mistake cues for thirst as cues for hunger. So when they get dehydrated, many times they are eating when they should be drinking, and that becomes even more pronounced when traveling.

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