Health Alerts
Angola: Malaria rate soars in Cabinda

More than 44,000 malaria cases, including 41 fatalities, have been reported in the disputed northern province of Cabinda during January and February. Read more.

Advice for travellers: For most travellers, Africa presents a significant malaria risk, despite efforts to reduce rates and deaths. Australians visiting sub-Saharan countries should discuss their itinerary and the need for anti-malaria medication with a trained travel health professional. Call Travelvax Australia’s travel health advisory service (1300 360 164) for more details.

Brazil: Four states report dengue

Dengue has been reported from various districts in 4 states – Mato Grosso (Sinop, Cuiaba, and Rondonopolis), Minas Gerais (Campo Belo and Passos), Parana (Guira and Londrina), and Sao Paulo (Boa Esperanca do Sul, Osasco, Presidente Prudente, and Taubate). Read more.

Advice for travellers: Dengue continues to affect more tropical and sub-tropical regions and more travellers – 466 Australians have returned from tropical areas with the virus this year to date. Our message is: Don’t get bitten, you can’t get dengue or any mosquito-borne disease. To avoid biting insects, apply repellent containing an active ingredient, such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus to all exposed skin when outdoors. Dengue is spread by two types of Aedes mosquitoes which breed close to dwellings, are found in shady areas and bite mainly during the daylight hours, which makes them difficult to avoid outdoors. Travellers should also cover up with long-sleeved tops, long pants, and shoes and socks when mosquitoes are most active. 

Cambodia: Toddler dies from H5N1

A 2-year-old child from Kampot province has died from H5N1 avian flu – the fourth death among 9 cases involving children this year. The incidence of H5N1 bird flu has accelerated in the past year. Since 2005, Cambodia has had 56 H5N1 cases, 38 of them fatal, with almost half occurring in 2013. Read more.

Advice for travellers: While bird flu is often fatal, it generally poses a low risk for travellers. If you are travelling to a region where the disease is present or an outbreak is occurring, avoid contact with birds or poultry in marketplaces or villages, wash your hands before and after preparing food, and observe strict personal hygiene. Read more on bird flu and how to avoid it.

Cameroon: Polio cases confirmed

After confirming 3 cases of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) from late January, the WHO has elevated its risk assessment for the potential spread of the disease to other countries to ‘very high’. Read more.

Advice for travellers: While polio poses a low risk for most travellers, Travelvax recommends Australians travelling overseas check their immunisation status for this and other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough, mumps, and, in particular, measles 6 weeks before departure.

Canada: Measles spreads in BC

In British Columbia, a measles outbreak which has infected 100 mainly unvaccinated school students has spread into nearby communities of Fraser Valley, east of Vancouver. Read more.

Advice for travellers: As this alert shows, measles is highly contagious virus and occurs in developing and developed countries. While generally benign, infection can result in severe illness and, occasionally, death. As mentioned, we recommend travellers check their immunisation status for all childhood diseases before travel and have primary or booster vaccination, if required.

Caribbean: Chikungunya epidemic eases

With 10,450 confirmed or suspected cases and 4 deaths, the region’s Chikungunya epidemic shows signs of stabilising in some areas and decreasing in others. The exception is French Guiana, where new cases have been detected in Kourou. The latest figures on probably or confirmed cases, along with outbreak status, include: St Martin 3341 cases, 3 deaths (declining), St Barthelemy 544 (declining), Martinique 6738, 3 deaths (stable), Guadeloupe 2329 (declining), French Guiana 31 (increasing). In addition, St Lucia has reported its first 3 suspected cases. Read more

Advice for travellers: Chikungunya virus is spread by the same daytime-feeding mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever. There is no vaccine and preventing infection relies on avoiding mosquito bites.

China: H7N9 hospitalises 2

Guangdong and Hunan reported new H7N9 infections this week, both elderly people who have been hospitalized. As the second wave of infection tapers off, the overall total stands at 395 cases (including 120 deaths) according to FluTrackers

Colombia: Five regions battling dengue

Dengue hotspots include the departments (states) of Norte de Santander – which was reporting an average of 40 cases a day last week – as well as Valle del Cauca, Tolima, Huila, and Antioquia. More than 8000 cases have been officially recorded nationwide. Read more.

Ethiopia: Polio case confirmed

A WHO health update has confirmed a case of wild poliovirus in the Warder Woreda district, Dollo zone (Somali region). It is the 10th case in an ongoing outbreak in the Horn of Africa.

Fiji: Dengue – 11,359 cases, 12 dead

The nation’s dengue epidemic continued its relentless rise over the past week, with 11,359 confirmed and suspected cases, and 12 deaths now reported. Among the divisions affected over recent weeks are Western (2715 cases), Central (880), and Northern (756). Read more.

Ghana: Meningitis hits north

A growing outbreak involving 30 cases of meningococcal meningitis, including 1 fatality, is centred on the northern district of Yendi. The victim was an 18-year-old high school student. Ghana is one of the 21 countries in sub-Saharan Africa’s ‘meningitis belt’, where epidemics of the disease occur during the Dec-June dry season. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Meningococcal meningitis is an acute bacterial disease transmitted from person-to-person by coughing and sneezing. Risk factors include extensive travel in crowded conditions or extended contact with local people in crowded places. South Sudan lies in North Africa’s ‘meningitis belt’, where meningitis outbreaks occur in the dry season (Dec-April) and just prior to the rainy season (May-June). If you plan to visit this region in the near future, call Travelvax Australia’s free travel health advisory service on 1300 360 164 (toll-free for landlines) for further advice.

Honduras: Dengue rates rising

The national dengue tally has reached 1382, including 212 cases of severe dengue haemorrhagic fever. Read more

India: Rains bring typhoid

Almost 400 cases of typhoid have been reported in 2 villages in the Pune district (Maharashtra State), where weeks of heavy unseasonal rain has caused frail sewage systems to overflow. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Typhoid is endemic in many developing regions, although it generally presents a low risk for short-stay travellers staying in western-style accommodation. Vaccination is generally recommended for those staying or travelling extensively in rural areas, as well as for adventurous eaters who like to sample the local cuisine in all its variety. All travellers visiting endemic areas should follow safe food and water guidelines, and adopt strict personal hygiene practices.

Italy: More cruise ship measles

More measles cases have been confirmed from an outbreak aboard a Mediterranean cruise ship. The 27 cases include 21 crew members and 4 passengers. Read more.

Malaysia: TB on the rise; Panang districts battle dengue

The rising number of tuberculosis (TB) cases is causing alarm. More than 4500 were diagnosed in Sabah last year, while many go unreported, the state’s health director said last week. TB causes more deaths than any communicable diseases in Malaysia, its incidence second only to dengue. Read more.
IN Panang, the districts hardest hit by the eastern island state’s 250 recent dengue cases are the capital, Kuantan (141 cases), as well as Temerloh (32), Jerantut (23), and Maran (17). Read more.

Mexico: Dengue focused in 5 states

Of Mexico’s 1923 official cases, more than half have been recorded in Sinaloa, Yucatan, Jalisco,
Guerrero, and Nuevo Leon. Oaxaca State has now reported 93 cases, over 50% of them resulting in severe illness. Read more

Pakistan: Dengue smoulders in Karachi

Karachi reported 7 new dengue cases in the week to Mar 14, bringing the city’s total to 127 and Sindh Province’s total to 137. Read more.

Panama: Dengue deaths reach 14

The dengue death toll has reached 14 from 3067 cases. Of these, 277 infections have been severe. Read more

Paraguay: Dengue spike in Asuncion

In the national capital, the municipality of Asuncion has seen the majority of new dengue cases this year. Nationwide there have been 6000 confirmed or suspected cases. Read more.

Peru: Coastal areas report dengue

Dengue outbreaks have been reported in Piura (50 cases) and Lambayeque (36), two neighbouring regions on Peru’s northwest coast. Read more.

Philippines: Cotabato, Aklan report rabies; Cebu tops dengue count

Rabies deaths have prompted vaccination campaigns in the provinces of South Cotabato (Mindanao Island) and Aklan (Western Visayas).
DENGUE in the Central Visayas region is centred on Cebu City (118 cases), Lapu-Lapu City (87), Dumaguete City (74), and the municipalities of Minglanilla (Cebu Province) and Sibulan (Negro Oriental) with 31 and 30 cases respectively. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Rabies is present throughout the Philippines and occurs in all but a few countries. All travellers should be aware of the importance of avoiding contact with wild and domestic animals – especially dogs, the main source of infection. If bitten, urgent post-exposure treatment is required. Generally, the risk of rabies for most short-stay travellers is low. Vaccination is normally recommended for those staying for more than a month, especially travellers planning to live in, or travel extensively through, rural areas. Read more on rabies. 

Saudi Arabia: New MERS cases

Ministry of Health of Saudi Arabia announced 5 new confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV). Read more

Singapore: Sudden dengue surge

A new peak in dengue cases last week saw the island-state’s 2014 tally rise by 229 cases to 3351. Read more

Somalia: Malaria kills 10 in north

Malaria has killed 10 people since December in an outbreak centred on the northern port city of Bossaso. Read more.

Uganda: Hep E toll rises to 30

An epidemic of hepatitis E in the Napak District (Karamoja subregion) has now killed 30 among more than 1000 cases since mid-2013. Most of the victims were pregnant women living in densely populated areas with poor sanitation and unsafe water. Read more.

Advice for travellers: The hepatitis E virus is usually transmitted through faecal contamination of drinking water, as well contaminated food and infected blood products. Over 60 percent of all hepatitis E infections and 65 percent of all hepatitis E deaths occur in East and South Asia, with 3.4 million cases resulting in 57,000 deaths each year. Read more about hepatitis E.

United States of America: Men. meningitis death on campus: West Nile virus arrives early

A student of Drexel University in Philadelphia has died from bacterial meningitis (serogroup B). Meningococcal B has also been linked to outbreaks at Princeton University and the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), which prompted federal health officials to approve special use of an unlicensed serogroup B vaccine, Bexsero to immunise students and faculty members. Read more.
IN California, Santa Clara, Los Angeles, and San Joaquin County have reported their first cases of West Nile Virus – 2 months early. The state reported 372 cases of the mosquito-borne virus last year. Read more

Advice for travellers: Meningococcal meningitis is an acute bacterial disease transmitted from person-to-person by coughing and sneezing. Risk factors include extensive travel in crowded conditions or extended contact with local people in crowded places. South Sudan lies in North Africa’s ‘meningitis belt’, where meningitis outbreaks occur in the dry season (Dec-April) and just prior to the rainy season (May-June). If you plan to visit this region in the near future, call Travelvax Australia’s free travel health advisory service on 1300 360 164 (toll-free for landlines) for further advice.

Venezuela: Dengue figures climb

With 1117 infections, Aragua State heads the list of states with high dengue counts. Others include Carabobo 890, Falcon 762, Guarico 762, Lara 972, Merida 819, Miranda 652, Nueva Esparta 756, Tachira 653, and Zulia 2687. All four dengue virus serotypes are circulating, with dengue 2 predominant. Read more.