Today I received an email from VFS advising as follows:

In view of the spread of the Swine Influenza A (H1N1) all passengers traveling to India will be screened at the International Airports in India on their arrival.

It's nice to be prepared and know what to expect when arriving at an airport, so I was wondering if anyone could explain what this screening actually involves and whether it is likely to cause long delays or other inconveniences.

What procedure is used to screen arriving passengers for H1N1 at international airports?


SARS screening consisted of:

  • thermal arches in the Toronto airport, which detected zero cases of arriving ill people, even though ill people did arrive
  • a questionnaire in many languages asking if you have a fever, which checkin agents were supposed to ask in order to deny boarding - I for one boarded with a fever once and said no to the questionnaire, because I knew it was not SARS (it was not in the general population, I knew the other symptoms I had, etc) and did not want to be denied boarding. Nobody made any attempt to argue with my answer.
  • flights from Toronto being met away from the jetbridge by nurses who came on board, talked to flight attendants, walked the aisles to look at us all, and then released us to take a bus to the terminal

It's likely some or all of these will be in effect on your arrival. They are pretty unobtrusive. An actual test for H1N1 (as opposed to just appearing ill) takes hours or days and will not be performed on every passenger, or even every ill-appearing passenger.

If you have a cold or something else mild, take a fever-reducing medication such as acetaminophen less than 4 hours before you land. A person with the flu will still look really ill even after such a dose. A person without the flu may not, and will thus stay on the unobtrusive end of whatever screening is happening.


I'm not sure on this case, but often (on past panic of pandemia) this was done just with a thermal camera (and staff screening passengers). If I remember correctly on some countries (or airports, e.g. Taipei) they still make such screening (just camera and watching people)

Not 100% effective, but if one is very red in front, or high temperature, this person will be examined further. Without lab analyses, it is impossible to distinguish H1N1 from other flu. In any case, such measure is effective also if they block 30% of ill people.

Please [in general, not to you]: if you have flu, do no travel. Do not be egoistic: you will ruin travel, holidays, honeymoons, etc. of many other people. [Note: airlines could also block ill passengers, but although this is in travel rules, I never heard of people blocked for this]

  • Oh thanks! That sounds pretty unobtrusive :) You might want to mention how you know this... I'll wait a day or two before accepting anything – Zanna Jan 4 '19 at 14:56
  • "Please: if you have flu, do no travel." - with the prices and refund rules, most people will not feel they can afford not to travel once they bought tickets. Flu and likes can be over in 3 days, saving to travel another time may take months to years. I appreciate your stance, but it's just not realistic. – Mołot Jan 4 '19 at 15:19
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    "Not 100% effective" is apparently an understatement: Thermal scanners at airports missed 97% of swine flu. – jcaron Jan 4 '19 at 16:42
  • @jcaron: Nice to know. I was thinking around 30-40%. – Giacomo Catenazzi Jan 5 '19 at 17:25

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