Health Alerts
Australia: Zika ‘imported’ from Cook Islands

Australia’s first case of Zika virus has been confirmed in Townsville. A resident of the suburb of Kirwan contracted the illness in the Cook Islands. Read more

Advice for travellers: This mosquito-borne disease is circulating in parts of the Pacific and Southeast Asia. Generally milder than dengue and Chikungunya, 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 settings, including upmarket hotels and resorts. Travellers should take particular care to avoid being bitten just after sunrise and just before sunset, the main feeding time for Aedes mosquitoes.

British Virgin Islands: Mozzie diseases target Jost

The tiny island of Jost Van Dyke has recorded 27 of the 47 cases of dengue fever this year, as well as all 7 of the recent Chikungunya infections recorded by the island group. Read more

Canada: Ebola ruled out; 228 cases later, measles ‘contained’

Health officials yesterday ruled out an Ebola infection in a Canadian traveller who had recently visited West Africa. Read more
A VACCINATION campaign and other measures have contained a measles outbreak that infected 228 people in the Fraser Health region of British Colombia, authorities said. Most of the cases involved a community which rejected vaccination on religious grounds. Read more. 

Advice for travellers: A highly contagious virus, measles occurs in developing and developed countries and is often linked to international travel. While generally benign, infection can result in severe illness or death. Travelvax Australia recommends travellers check their immunisation status for measles and other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), mumps, and polio 6 weeks before departure.

Caribbean: Chikungunya nears 16,000 cases

The Caribbean now has 15,913 confirmed, probable, or suspected cases of Chikungunya, up from 10,476 at the end of February. Martinique is worst affected with 8771 cases, followed by St Martin (French side 3422, Dutch side 563), Guadeloupe (2546), St. Barthelemy (554), French Guiana (32), Anguilla (14), Aruba (1), and St. Kitts/Nevis (1). The latest ECDC report noted 3 Chikungunya-related deaths on the French side of St. Martin and 2 on Martinique. In Dominica, Chikungunya activity is increasing: There have been 325 confirmed or suspected cases to March 17. Read more.

Advice for travellers: As mentioned earlier, 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.

Cuba: Cholera cases tick over

23 confirmed cases of cholera were recorded in the first 2 months of 2014, bringing the official tally since July 2012 to 701 cases and 3 deaths. Read more. 

Advice for travellers: Australians travelling to regions where a cholera outbreak is occurring should adhere to strict personal hygiene guidelines and choose food and beverages with care. For most short-stay travellers, the risk of cholera is low, however Travelvax Australia’s travel health advisory service (1300 360 164) can provide further advice on whether you should consider vaccination for your trip. 

Dominican Republic: Cholera cases slow

Cholera rates have slowed this year, with 57 infections and no deaths in January and February. The toll since the beginning of the epidemic (Nov 2010) now stands at 31,532 suspected cases and 467 deaths. Read more

Egypt: Bird flu returns - 2 critical

Unlinked cases of human avian influenza A(H5N1) virus infection involving a woman aged 56 and 4-year-old child have been diagnosed in the neighbouring governorates of Beheira and Damietta. Both are in critical condition. Egypt has now recorded 173 cases (63 deaths) of A(H5N1) since 2005, including unconfirmed cases earlier this year. 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, wash your hands before and after preparing food, and observe strict personal hygiene. Read more on bird flu and how to avoid it. 

El Salvador: Dengue claims baby

A 9-month-old infant is the first fatal cases of dengue this year. Of the 1443 cases, 34 have resulted in severe illness. Read more

Fiji: Dengue tally soars to 15,446

4087 new dengue cases were recorded in the past week, with no fatalities. The spike in cases brings the official total to 15,446, including 12 deaths, according to media reports quoting the health ministry. The youngest victim was an infant aged 2 months, the oldest was 65. Most of the new infections have been in Eastern Division. Read more

French Guiana: Dengue cases skyrocket

The dengue epidemic involving types 1,2, and 4 has surged from 31 cases two weeks ago to more than 1400 suspected or confirmed infections last week. Matoury, Cayenne, and Sinnamary have been hardest hit. Read more. 

Guinea: Ebola toll now 59

The number of suspected Ebola cases (86) and deaths 59) remained unchanged this morning, with 13 cases confirmed. The Zaire strain is responsible for the rapidly evolving outbreak, with patients also being tested for the deadly disease in neighbouring Sierra Leone and Liberia. Read more (WHO).

Advice for travellers: Ebola is a severe viral haemorrhagic fever found in humans and other primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). Bats are thought to be the natural reservoir of the virus. Ebola spreads through families and friends who come into close contact with blood and infectious secretions when caring for ill persons. As such, the virus presents a low risk to travellers visiting infected areas. Read more about Ebola. 

Haiti: Cholera cases fall

Cholera activity has declined in the early months of 2014. To March 10, 3850 new cases were recorded, including 18 deaths. The toll since the epidemic began in October 2010 is now 8546 deaths among 700,541 infections. Of these, 391,751 (60%) required hospital treatment. Read more

India: Spike in 'monkey fever'

The number of cases of tick-borne Kyasanur Forest disease (KFD) has risen from 20 to 74 in the past month in the Shimoga district of Karnataka State. Also known as ‘monkey fever’, the disease occurs in monkeys and humans, mainly during the dry season. With a case fatality rate of 3%-5%, as many as 500 cases of KFD occur in communities located in forested regions each year. Read more

Iraq: Polio surfaces in Baghdad

After 14 years without polio, a 6-month-old boy has been diagnosed with the disease in Baghdad. The virus originated in Syria, but it’s unclear how it reached the capital or how the infant was infected as his family has no links with Syria and had not travelled there recently. Iraq is home to more than 200 000 Syrian refugees. Read more

Liberia: Ebola victims’ final journey

Five people have died from Ebola haemorrhagic virus and a child is being treated in the northern county of Lofa. The victims are from Guinean towns near the border and crossed into Liberia seeking treatment at county hospitals. Read more

Malaysia: More dengue deaths

Nine people died from dengue fever in the week to March 15, bring the year’s toll to 53 and the number of cases to 21,967, compared to 5221 in the same period last year. Read more

Mauritius: Dengue centred on Triolet

Triolet is at the centre of Mauritius’ dengue outbreak with 23 of the 26 cases recorded in the town, 11km from the capital, Port Louis. Six new cases were reported in 2 days last week. Read more. 

Mexico: Severe dengue infections in Jalisco

Dengue virus types 1, 2, and 4, are circulating, along with type 3 in Chiapas State, it was reported this week. More than half of the 93 dengue cases reported in Jalisco State have resulted in severe illness. The state is now the ranked third nationwide for dengue, with Cihuatlan, Puerto Vallarta, Casimiro Castillo, Tlaquepaque, Tonaya, and Tomatlan among the municipalities hardest hit by the disease. Read more

Namibia: Cholera reaches Windhoek

The capital, Windhoek has now recorded 3 confirmed and 39 suspected cases of cholera as the disease spreads from the northern regions of Kunene, Omusati, Oshana, and Ohangwena. In the past 4 months, more than 500 cases and 16 deaths, have now been recorded nationwide. Read more

Pakistan: Dengue still rising in Karachi

Dengue continues its steady rise in Sindh province, with the majority of the state’s 146 cases reported in Karachi. Read more

Peru: Dengue emergency in Cusco

A dengue emergency has been declared in the Cusco regions (La Convención province) after 94 cases of the virus, including the fatal infection of a 45-year-old man with pre-existing hypertension. Read more.

Philippines: Iloilo, Mindanao battle dengue

Two provinces updated their dengue figures this week. Iloilo reported 99 cases, including 2 deaths, with Pavia (11 cases), Sta Barbara (8), New Lucena (7) among the hot spots, while on Mindanao, Zamboanga City has now recorded 463 recent cases. 

Samoa: ‘Pink eye’ closes schools

Hundreds of cases of conjunctivitis (‘pink eye’) have forced the closure of government and private schools on the main island of Upolu, as well as on Savai'i. More than 500 cases have been recorded in urban areas of Upolu alone. Read more

Saudi Arabia: 3 new MERS cases

Three cases of MERS-CoV in adults aged 45, 56 and 75 from Riyadh, all with existing chronic medical conditions. The WHO’s current MERS count is 200 cases, including 85 deaths. Read more

Vietnam: Drastic rise in TB deaths

TB rates have risen dramatically in recent years, with 130,000 new cases each year, including 18,000 deaths. Vietnam ranks 12 out of 22 nations for the incidence of the disease, it was revealed at the launch of a national anti-TB campaign. Read more