Russian health official checking passengers' body temperature onboard a flight from Atlanta to Moscow upon its arrival in Russia.
The World Health Organization announced that the pandemic of swine flu (H1N1 influenza) is unstoppable; but so thought Napoleon and Hitler about their offensives against Russia... "The world is moving into the early days of its first influenza pandemic in the 21st century," said WHO's director-general, Margaret Chan, "further spread [of H1N1] is inevitable." Russian border and health officials think differently. If you are flying from the United States to Russia (as I did just two days ago), be prepared to fill out a form with your basic personal information and list all the geographic locations you visited in 10 days prior to your arrival to Russia.
While in flight, we were informed that no one would be able to leave the plane until Russian health officials checked everyone's body temperature! If a single passenger had high body temperature, all of the passengers would have been put into quarantine until the doctors found out the origin of the disease onboard. A long flight and free servings of wine produced multiple jokes about the way our body temperatures would be checked.
However, upon the landing, we were truly concerned: How long would it take to check the body temperature of over 200 passengers onboard the Boeing 767 airliner? We expected to see people in white uniforms with a lot of little appliances taking an hour to complete the testing. Our suspense expectations were crushed when a young gentleman in casual clothes (in the picture) went around with a Star Trek tricorder-looking device, pointing it at everyone from far away. Upon exiting the plane, there were half a dozen officials to collect our forms. The temperature testing of the entire plane took less than five minutes. Coincidental or not, but only three swine flu cases so far have been confirmed in Russia.