Video: Europe says flu patients can fly

updated 7/30/2009 11:08:18 AM ET 2009-07-30T15:08:18

The European Union's transport chief said Thursday that airlines cannot arbitrarily bar suspected swine flu sufferers from flights.

Antonio Tajani said existing EU passenger rights mean that sick travelers can demand compensation on top of a full refund or a new flight, if they are not allowed to board a commercial flight in the 27-nation bloc.

The European Commission says airlines can only forbid flu patients from boarding their flights on orders from a public health authority or a medical certificate.

Virgin Atlantic has said it could bar flu sufferers from flying unless they have a certificate from their doctor to confirm they are fit to fly.

The World Health Organization says 16,556 people in Europe have caught swine flu, or H1N1, and 34 have died. Drug makers are readying vaccine supplies for September.

WHO has not recommended that countries close their borders or take any travel-related measures to prevent swine flu from spreading, as it has declared the virus to be "unstoppable."

According to WHO, people with swine flu may be contagious before they show any symptoms, like a fever and a cough, so it would make little sense to impose travel restrictions. The agency says countries are entitled to take measures to slow the disease's spread, but that such actions must have a public health justification.

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