Health Alerts
Australia: Flu season news

Influenza notifications have climbed 4 weeks earlier than last year according to the Australian Influenza Surveillance Report, which also advised that the numbers of cases are highest in the 85+ years age group, followed by children under 10 years of age.  Local reports of spikes in flu cases have come from NSW and QLD

Advice for travellers: The 2017 flu season is underway in the southern hemisphere and Travelvax Australia recommends vaccination for all travellers over 6 months. Seasonal flu is the most common vaccine-preventable travel-related illness, posing a risk aboard aircraft, in crowded airport terminals, and at your destination. Travellers should also avoid close contact with people showing flu-like symptoms, and thoroughly washing hands using soap and water after using the toilet and before eating. Alcohol wipes are a convenient alternative if soap and water is not available.

Canada: Smoke hazard warning

Health warnings have been issued for parts of British Columbia as the numerous bush fires burning produced severe smoke haze. Whistler Mountain and Kamloops are mentioned as 2 of the high risk areas, but Metro Vancouver is also affected and likely to be so for several more days. Read more.

Cuba: Eye infections surge

Highly contagious viral conjunctivitis is spreading rapidly in all areas of Cuba, but highest rates have been recorded in and around Guantánamo, Santiago de Cuba, Holguin and Havana. Outbreaks occur annually in the Caribbean region from September to December. Read more. More on conjunctivitis

India: Rise in monsoon-related diseases; Vax campaign tackles 2 viral infections

Doctors have issues warnings to the local population encouraging measures to avoid infections such as Hepatitis A & E, both more prevalent during the monsoon season. Read more
Countrywide, dengue fever cases have risen almost 12,000 over last year’s figures along with associated deaths (35:46). Regional dengue reports: Pune & Greater Mumbai (Maharastra state), Delhi, Coimbatore (Tamil Nadu), Kerala, while Karnataka has recorded the highest chikungunya figures (10,241 till July 30th). 
Japanese encephalitis infections are climbing in Manipur and Assam, while scrub typhus is believed to be the cause of encephalitis in parts of Uttar Pradesh.  
A MASSIVE vaccination campaign aimed at children aged 9mo – 15 years will get underway this month in the southern state of Telangana. Thousands of children will be immunised against measles and rubella – the state has seen 800 measles cases this year already and up to 3,000 babies have been affected by Congenital Rubella Syndrome (results from infection during pregnancy). Read more

Advice for travellers: Vaccine-preventable Hepatitis A (HAV) is one of the most common infections affecting travellers. It is a significant risk in most developing countries where sanitation and hygiene are lacking, with an estimated 1.4 million cases occurring worldwide each year. The virus is transmitted by faecally contaminated food and water, or by handling everyday items, such as crafts, money, door-handles etc. A course of hepatitis A vaccine offers immunity that’s 99%-plus effective and long lasting (20-30 years). It is also important to follow safe food and water guidelines.

Iran: Tick-borne illness surfaces in east

A spate of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever cases has been reported in eastern regions, with 80 infections and 5 deaths confirmed. The transmission of the tick-borne illness is possibly associated with illegal cattle imports. Read more

Advice for travellers: CCHF virus is transmitted to people either directly by tick bites or through contact with infected animal blood or tissues during and immediately after slaughter. The majority of cases have occurred in people involved in the livestock industry, so infection is a low risk to travellers. Read more about the virus.

Kenya: Cholera spikes in 4 counties

There’s been no respite from the cholera outbreak that started back in April, with a senior health official naming 4 counties as disease ‘hotspots’: Kisumu, Garissa, Machakos and Nairobi. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Cholera is usually spread in contaminated water. For most short-stay travellers, the risk of infection is low. Australians travelling to regions where a cholera outbreak is occurring should adhere to strict personal hygiene guidelines and choose food and beverages with care. Read more about cholera

Malaysia: Dengue tops list

The Health Minister announced this week that, while dengue fever is the most common of the infectious diseases in Malaysia, measures were already in place to curb the viral illness’ spread. Hand, foot & mouth disease, leptospirosis, hepatitis B and HIV make up the remainder of the top 5 infectious diseases. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Dengue is spread by two types of Aedes mosquitoes. Both breed close to dwellings, are found in shady areas and bite mainly during the daylight hours, making them difficult to avoid outdoors. Travellers should cover up with long-sleeved tops, long pants, and shoes and socks when mosquitoes are most active. Apply repellent containing an active ingredient, such as DEET, Picaridin, or PMD when outdoors to all exposed skin. Read more about dengue fever and preventing insect bites.

Mexico: Fresh foods suspect in contamination

A number of food and water-borne infections in British travellers caused by the parasite Cyclospora and apparently originating from hotels of the Riviera Maya are being investigated by UK public health authorities. A National Travel Health Network & Centre news post advises that the ‘foods commonly involved are soft fruits ... and salad products' and also, ‘this is the third successive year since 2015 that cases of Cyclospora infection have been reported in travellers returning from Mexico.’ Read more.

Advice for travellers: A single-celled coccidian parasite, Cyclospora cayetanensis may be a risk for travellers to tropical or subtropical regions where it is found. The microscopic parasite causes watery diarrhoea, nausea, anorexia, abdominal cramps, weight loss and, occasionally, fever that can last for several days – and reoccur - if not treated effectively with antibiotics. Most cases result from consuming food or water containing the parasite, or swallowing contaminated water while swimming. Fruits and vegetables such as raspberries, basil and lettuce washed with contaminated water are common culprits, especially those imported from developing nations. Read more about Cyclospora.

Nepal: Typhus in Chitwan

News of a recent spurt in scrub typhus infections - over half of the 39 recently confirmed cases were in Chitwan, an area in the Terai lowlands renowned for its national park. In 2016, over 400 cases (& >13 deaths) were recorded in Nepal. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Scrub typhus is a bacterial disease passed on to humans by mites that normally live on rodents infected with the disease. Most travel-acquired cases occur when travellers camp, hike, or go river rafting in rural areas in endemic countries. Scrub typhus occurs throughout the Asia-Pacific region, where more than a million cases occur annually. There is no vaccine or prevention medication: avoidance hinges on minimising insect bites. Due to the disease’s 5- to 14-day incubation period, travellers often experience symptoms (fever, headache, malaise, and sometimes nausea, vomiting and a rash) after their trip. Read more about rickettsial diseases.

Philippines: Island dengue toll rises

The death toll associated with dengue fever infections in the province of Negros Occidental has climbed to 15. The most recent death occurred in Silas City, near the provincial capital of Bacolod. Read more.

Portugal: Hep A lingers

In an update on the hepatitis A outbreak, a further 80 cases were diagnosed in the last month, mostly from Lisbon and Vale do Tejo. This takes the year-to-date total to 402 - almost 90 percent of cases were in men and over half of those contracted the virus through sexual contact. Read more (translate from Portuguese).

Singapore: Dengue numbers climb, Zika persists in east

Serangoon North Avenue, the location of the most recent Zika virus cases  – 2 since August 1st - was also the centre of a cluster identified in late June. Read more.  The dengue case count is nearing 1,700 for the year to date – a high risk area as noted on the National Environment Agency website is Bayshore Road, approx. 10kms from Changi Airport. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Zika’s symptoms include a rash, pain in the joints, and the eye condition, conjunctivitis lasting 4-7 days. Long-term ill-effects are rare, although the joint pain may linger for weeks, even months. Like dengue and chikungunya, Zika is spread by Aedes mosquitoes which bite by day and are found in urban setting, including leafy gardens and outdoor restaurants – even in upmarket hotels and resorts. Transmission of Zika virus has also occurred during pregnancy, breastfeeding, sexually and also through blood or blood products. Travellers should take particular care to avoid being bitten just after sunrise and just before sunset, the main feeding time for Aedes mosquitoes. All travellers, but particularly pregnant women or those planning pregnancy, should seek medical advice before travel to Zika-affected areas. Read information on smartraveller (DFAT). 

Taiwan: ex Vietnam - Zika virus import

A man who had been in Ho Chi Minh City for several weeks visiting family has been diagnosed with Zika virus infection on his return to Taipei. Arrival authorities tested him after he was noticed to be suffering a fever. Read more.

United States of America: Homeless hep A burden

There are fears outbreaks of hepatitis A underway in 2 counties near Los Angeles could also affect the city. The infection is spreading among homeless people and has already sickened 295 (with 10 deaths) in San Diego County and 38 in Santa Cruz County. Read more.

Venezuela: Shortages lead to disease spike

Government figures haven’t been updated in months, but other national heath bodies have put the number of diphtheria cases since September last year at 447. Highest case counts have come from the state of Bolivar, followed by Anzoátegui, Miranda, Monagas, Apure, Sucre and Capital District. Doctors are blaming government inaction and a shortage of vaccines and treatment options for the outbreak. Read more (translate from Spanish). More on diphtheria.

Vietnam: Rains bring dengue and more

A 12.6 percent rise in dengue infections over the same period last year has led the prime minister to call for stronger measures to tackle the mosquito-borne virus. Ho Chi Minh City, Da Nang and Hanoi have recorded the highest figures to date – HCMC fared the worst with 12,000 cases since the beginning of the year and 4 deaths. Read more. The rainy season has also brought along a corresponding rise in other infections such as malaria, gastrointestinal illnesses and conjunctivitis. Read more

Yemen: Cholera blow to 5 governates

The latest wave of cholera has caused over 430,000 infections and 24 deaths across a large swathe of the country. A World Health Organization update names the governates with over half of the cases as Al Hudaydah, Amanat Al Asimah, Hajjah, Amran and Dhamar.