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Swine flu nothing for truckers to snort at

WASHINGTON -- There's concern among truckers and traders that escalating fears over swine flu could restrict the flow of goods between the Canada-U.S.-Mexico borders.

Increased health checks at airports and land ports could very likely be put in place in the coming weeks if additional cases of the severe flu surface in the U.S. or Canada.

So far, the flu -- which has claimed at least 100 deaths in Mexico -- has been diagnosed in dozens of people throughout the U.S. and Canada. Only one death -- an infant from Mexico who traveled to Texas for treatment -- has been confirmed in the U.S. No deaths so far have been reported in Canada. 

If the flu continues dominate headlines, trade between all three NAFTA nations could be impacted, officials warn. 

"ATA is aware that, depending on how aggressively the swine flu continues to spread, certain government actions might be taken which could impact trucking operations, especially cross-border operations with Mexico and Canada, and potentially at a domestic level," the American Trucking Association said.

Truckers are among the first professionals to
be called on during a pandemic.

The situation could also delay a resolution between the U.S. and Mexico in the ongoing cross-border truck dispute and Mexico's retaliatory tarrifs. 

Avian flu may have been a false alarm, but contingency plans that many companies developed at that time could come into play if the more contagious swine version infects more people.

Because of the traveling nature of their jobs, truckers, in particular, are being told to be extra vigilant.

The ATA recommends carriers familiarize themselves with the Department of Homeland Security's Pandemic Influenza guide to preparedness, response and recovery has a section devoted to guidelines for highway and motor carriers.

The documents focus on business continuity planning and outline actions motor carriers should take and questions they should ask to prepare for a flu pandemic. They also instruct carriers on preserving essential operations to avoid disruptions in essential freight services.

In Canada, the federal Public Health Agency has a website to keep Canadians informed on the swine Influenza.                 

The Canadian Trucking Alliance began working with the government during the SARS outbreak to create a strategy to help carriers deal with a pandemic emergency, but the status of that document remains unknown.

Truckers are widely considered crucial responders during a pandemic because of their ability to get emergency supplies and food to affected areas.

Because of that, experts recommend that truckers are among the first professionals -- along with police and paramedics -- get priority treatment. 

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