Health Alerts
  • Brazil: More Bahia towns on YF list; Chikungunya cases rise; Rio’s malaria risk; STI strikes central highlands

    The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) updated its yellow fever (YF) travel alert on Apr 13th to include those areas most recently categorised as potential YF risk sites. ‘Yellow fever vaccination is now recommended in all of Espiríto Santo and Rio de Janeiro states; São Paulo state, with the exception of the urban area of the city of São Paulo; and a number of municipalities in the state of Bahia.’ A list of those affected towns in Bahia state is provided.  
    NEW chikungunya data provided to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) for the 2 weeks up to the end of March made up 90 percent of the reported cases for the region. Over 16,750 cases were recorded in Brazil, with Peru (78 cases) and Paraguay second and third (67). Read more
    AT least 5 men (age range 16 to 54 years) have been diagnosed with malaria in Petrópolis, a city in the forested Serra dos Órgãos approx. 70kms from Rio de Janeiro. It is a popular winter tourist destination. According to the CDC, cases of malaria in this region are rare, but mosquito bite avoidance measures are always recommended. Read more.  
    MEN aged 20 to 29 are among the worst hit in an epidemic of syphilis underway in the Federal District. A Portuguese-language report names the cities of Taguatinga, Paranoá and Planaltina as being most affected. Almost 1,300 cases of the sexually transmitted infection were reported there last year. 

    Advice for travellers: Yellow fever virus is a mosquito-borne disease found in tropical and subtropical areas in Central/South America and Africa. While it can be severe, yellow fever infection is a very rare in Australian travellers. However, under the International Health Regulations (IHR), proof of vaccination may be required of any traveller entering or leaving an area at risk of yellow fever transmission. Read more about yellow fever

    China: Bird flu on mainland, Tibet

    A further 14 cases of H7N9 avian influenza were reported in the week of April 9-15, but there are hopes that the change in season, together with measures such as the banning of the sale of live poultry, will bring a drop in the viral disease’s incidence.Read Afludiary report. In a recent update on human cases recorded in Beijing, authorities have advised that there have been 10 cases during the current wave – made up of 4 locals and 6 others who are believed to be itinerant poultry traders from Hebei province. Read more.  And in Tibet, 2 men who also sell poultry at the Lhasa  market where the country’s first case worked have been diagnosed with H7N9 infection. Read more

    Europe: Regional measles threat continues

    The ongoing measles outbreaks was the topic of a WHO press release at the end of March, with concerns that 14 countries in the region remained endemic for the viral illness. This week the US CDC issued travel alerts connected to the outbreaks for Belgium, Italy and Germany. In related news from Portugal, a 17-year-old girl has died in Lisbon from complications of measles infection. She was one of 23 confirmed and suspected cases recorded in the country this year. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Measles occurs in developing and developed countries and unvaccinated travellers are at particular risk, both in transit and during their stay. 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) and mumps at least 6 weeks before departure. Read more about measles.

    Nepal: Chickenpox erupts in central region

    In the south of the Central Development Region, scores of people in Rautahat district have been infected with chickenpox. All age groups have been affected. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Mainly passed from person to person by coughing or sneezing, it causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. While the illness is generally mild in children, it can be more severe in young babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Read more about chickenpox.

    New Caledonia: Dengue toll hits 7

    A news report has announced the 7th death due to dengue fever this season. The woman was a resident of Païta, a town approx. half way between Noumea and the airport at La Tontouta. Government figures on the outbreak have not been updated since Apr 12th when the total case count since Sept 1, 2016 was 2,556. Read more (translate from French). New infections are expected to dip in the early days following the recent activity of Cyclone Cook, but may rise again with standing water offering suitable mosquito breeding grounds. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: 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 an effective repellent containing DEET, Picaridin, or PMD when outdoors to all exposed skin. Read more about dengue fever and preventing insect bites.

    New Zealand: Auckland’s typhoid waning, mumps persists

    While signs are that the typhoid outbreak is slowing, authorities will continue checking contacts of those infected within the affected Mt Roskill church’s wider community. To date there have been 22 cases, with one other likely. Read more.
    MUMPS cases in West Auckland have increased from the 39 reported on Apr 3rd to 55, according to the latest update. School and university students of all ages have been hardest hit in the outbreak.

    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 itinerary specific, but is generally recommended for those staying or travelling extensively in rural areas, as well as for adventurous eaters. All travellers visiting endemic areas should follow safe food and water guidelines, and adopt strict personal hygiene practices. Read more about typhoid fever.

    Nigeria: Plans to halt Men. meningitis epidemic

    An April 17th update issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on the 6 states with Men. meningitis epidemics included the following details. ‘8,057 suspected cases have been reported; 230 (3%) are laboratory confirmed. A total of 745 deaths (9.2%) have been recorded. During the last four weeks, a total of 38 Local Government Areas (LGAs) across six states— Zamfara, Sokoto, Katsina, Kebbi, Niger, and Yobe—reached alert/epidemic threshold status. LGAs reaching the alert threshold trigger intensified epidemic preparedness; a full outbreak response is activated in LGAs reaching the epidemic threshold.’ NCDC Update (Week 17). International agencies, including the WHO, are currently sending vaccines for use in the planned extensive campaign. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Meningococcal meningitis is an acute bacterial disease transmitted from person-to-person through close (kissing, sharing eating utensils) or extended contact. Risk factors include extensive travel in crowded conditions or extended contact with local people in crowded places. Nigeria 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, call Travelvax Australia’s free travel health advisory service (1300 360 164 - toll-free for landlines) for further advice. Read more about Men. meningitis.

    Qatar: MERS count increases again

    With the MERS case reported last month still recuperating, a 25-year old man has been admitted to hospital for treatment of the coronavirus infection. He had no contact with camels and had not travelled outside the country. Read more. ProMED provides details of recent cases that continue to be reported in Saudi Arabia

    Guadeloupe: Alarm over chickenpox spike

    Chickenpox is spreading in the island group, with a sharp increase noted last week (approx.130 cases). According to the French language news report, Saint Martin has also seen a rise in incidence, even referring to it as an epidemic. Read more

    Tonga: Measures to contain typhoid

    The government has responded to an outbreak of typhoid by banning food production for public events and the serving of kava in town halls. Up to 11 cases have been identified, with 5 of those from the village of Veitongo, about 8kms from the centre of Nuku’alofa. Read more.

    United States of America: Lone Star state mumps climbing

    Texas has seen a surge in mumps cases, with health authorities advising that numbers have reached a 23-year peak. Reports have come from across the state – 221 in total for the year. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: The outbreaks of mumps across many areas of North America highlight the importance of current immunisation against contagious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, rubella and measles for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about mumps.

    Vanuatu: Dengue alert continues

    The dengue fever outbreak that started back in November last year has produced at least 2,358 cases – testing was not carried out on the majority of cases so only 446 infections were actually confirmed as dengue. While cases are on the decline, with the recent cyclone activity in the area, as with New Caledonia, there is likely to be an abundance of mosquito breeding sites in the wake of flooding. Read more.

    Vietnam: Diseases spike in north

    According to the Hanoi Preventive Medicine Centre, there has been a rise in the incidence of measles, rubella and whooping cough in the first 3 months of the year; however it is the sharp increase in dengue fever cases that is worrying. Cases underwent a 44 percent growth over the same time 2016, the cooler, dry season of the country’s north. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Rubella is spread by airborne droplets and can cause serious birth defects if infection occurs during early pregnancy. Rubella is the 'R' component in the triple MMR (measles, mumps, rubella) vaccine, one of the routine immunisations which should be current for prior to overseas travel. Travellers should also check their immunisation status for tetanus, diphtheria, and whooping cough.

  • Australia: Mozzie threat over holiday time; Water carries disease threats in Melbourne, Darwin

    NSW’s Health Minister has issued a warning for people planning on spending time outdoors over the Easter break to avoid mosquito bites. The flooding in the north of the state, as well as recent rains in the south, have increased the risk of transmission of diseases such as Ross River fever and Barmah Forest virus. Read more.
    IN Melbourne, 5 people are recovering in hospital after receiving treatment for Legionnaire’s disease; it is believed they contracted the bacteria while in a limited area of the CBD. Decontamination of water systems and cooling towers is currently being carried out. The state health department website at health.vic is advising medical follow-up for anyone with ‘influenza-like symptoms, particularly those with severe pneumonia, who have been around the Melbourne CBD or Southbank areas since the end of March 2017.’ Read more
    NEW building works underway in Darwin are believed to be part of the reason for an uptick in melioidosis cases in the Territory. While the causative bacterium is present in the soil in many areas of the Top End, it takes heavy rains for it to become easier to infect people. So far this year, Darwin has seen 39 cases and 9 deaths. Read more. More on melioidosis.

    Advice for travellers: Cases of Ross River occur throughout Australia, including more temperate southern states. Travellers visiting areas of Australia affected by recent flooding or continuing rain should take measures to prevent mosquito bites. Use a personal effective insect effective ingredient such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus when outdoors and wear long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing – especially at dawn and dusk, the times of day when RRV-carrying insects are most active.

    Bhutan: Continued hope for measles elimination

    The target for eliminating measles is the end of 2018, but it’s hoped that results of tests carried out on 16 cases reported in Samtse, Phuentsholing and Thimphu this year will show that they weren’t indigenous cases, but were caused by imported strains of the virus. Both Samtse and Phuentsholing lie in the country’s west, near the border with the Indian state of West Bengal. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Measles is a highly contagious virus and can cause serious illness in people of all ages. Most of the rising number of cases reported in Australia are linked to overseas travel - both developing and developed countries. Travelvax Australia recommends travellers check their immunisation status for measles and other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) and mumps 6 weeks before departure. 

    Botswana: Malaria rise to persist till May

    The malaria surge first announced in February this year is likely to continue to the end of the current wet season in May. The north-western district of Okavango has been severely hit. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Malaria is endemic in many areas of southern Africa. Travelvax recommends that travellers visiting this region discuss their itinerary and preventative medication at their nearest Travelvax clinic, or with their healthcare provider. For advice, call Travelvax on 1300 360 164.

    Brazil: Yellow fever update

    An area taking in the five states of Espírito Santo, Minas Gerais, Pará, Rio de Janeiro, and São Paulo is the epicentre of the current yellow fever outbreak.. According to the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) April 6th update, there have been ‘2,210 cases of yellow fever reported (604 confirmed, 1,054 discarded, and 552 suspected under investigation), including 302 deaths (202 confirmed, 52 discarded, and 48 under investigation).’ Over the last week or so, southern parts of Espírito Santo and the state of Rio de Janeiro have been seeing a rise in cases, and 4 confirmed infections were reported from Pará (towns of Alenquer & Monte Alegre). The report goes on to say that the urban-dwelling Aedes aegypti mosquito (also the vector of dengue, Zika & chikungunya) does not seemed to have played a part in the spread of the diseas thus far. The PAHO warns that there continues to be a risk of the outbreak widening to include other countries in the region following the reporting of outbreaks in primates in states adjacent to national borders. Read more  More on yellow fever from the World Health Organization (WHO). 

    Canada: Mumps in Manitoba

    There’s been no relief from the reports of mumps cases occurring in many regions of North America. This week it has been announced that Manitoba has recorded almost 100 cases over the past month, bringing the total for the past 7 months to a 20–year high of 290. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: The outbreaks of mumps occurring across several regions of North America highlight the importance of current immunisation against contagious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, rubella and measles for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about mumps.

    Czech Republic: Measles hike in Northern Moravia

    Measles cases in the NW Moravian-Silesian Region have spiked recently, with as many as 38 cases diagnosed. The capital of the region, Ostrava has reported most cases to date. This follows reports of a sharp rise in cases across many countries in Europe, notably Romania and Italy. Read more.

    Ethiopia: Gastro illness strikes near southern border

    An outbreak of ‘acute watery diarrhoea’ (AWD) has struck a southern region near the border with Somalia. A news report gives varying details of the actual case count and death tolls but does note that medical teams have been sent to the area to provide treatment. Read more. And in Somaliland, an outbreak of cholera/AWD has sickened over 400 people and caused the deaths of 28 over the past 12 days. 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

    India: Uptick in chickenpox

    Cases of chickenpox have topped the 1,000 mark in Mumbai during February and March, double the 4-month total for the beginning of 2016 – most cases have been in children. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Mainly passed from person to person by coughing or sneezing, it causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. While the illness is generally mild in children, it can be more severe in young babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Read more about chickenpox.

    Kenya: Malaria spike in central west

    Continuing rains falling in Uasin Gishu County, part of the former Rift Valley province, have led to a spike in malaria cases. Around 100 cases have been recorded over the last 4 weeks and more are expected right up to the start of the dry season in July. Read more.

    Marshall Islands: New outbreak for Majuro

    The hepatitis A outbreak that hit the islands in January has been controlled with an extensive vaccination program, but now mumps is circulating among schools in teh capital, Majuro. Authorities have announced that there have been more than 250 cases in total. Read more.

    Nepal: Leishmaniasis outbreak hits the unwary

    Leishmaniasis, or kala azar (a parasitic disease transmitted by some species of phlebotomine sand flies), has caused at least 2 deaths and sickened many other villagers from the Sarlahi district in southern central Nepal. Calls have been made for more awareness of the disease and its prevention among local people to prevent more cases occurring. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Leishmaniasis is a parasitic disease found in parts of the tropics, subtropics, and southern Europe. There are two main forms – cutaneous and visceral – both transmitted by bites from infected sand flies. There is no vaccine or preventative medication: avoiding infection relies on minimising sand fly bites. Read more on the disease and prevention. 

    New Caledonia: Dengue persists into April

    Three dengue virus serotypes are circulating in the current epidemic declared in early January. The case count for April (till the 12th) increased to 215 from last week’s 63. Read more.

    New Zealand: More news on typhoid outbreak

    The number of infections in the outbreak stemming from the Mt Roskill Samoan Assembly of God Church now sits at 20, with a further case under investigation. Testing of contacts revealed the 2 most recent confirmed cases; however they were not showing symptoms. Read moreSamoan health authorities have requested that any nationals who have recently travelled to Auckland (and in particular to areas around Mt Roskill) be tested for typhoid. 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 itinerary specific, but is generally recommended for those staying or travelling extensively in rural areas, as well as for adventurous eaters. All travellers visiting endemic areas should follow safe food and water guidelines, and adopt strict personal hygiene practices. Read more about typhoid

    Nigeria: Men. Meningitis toll nears 500

    While there are a total of 19 states reporting meningococcal meningitis cases, it’s the states of Zamfara, Katsina, Kebbi, Sokoto and Niger that have borne the brunt of the outbreaks. The most recent report issued by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) on April 6th gave the case count as 3,959 infected with 438 deaths (updated to 4,637 cases & 489 deaths on Apr 11). As mentioned in previous reports, the bacteria's ‘C’ strain is largely responsible and the hardest hit age group is the 5 to 14 years cohort. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Meningococcal meningitis is an acute bacterial disease transmitted from person-to-person through close (kissing, sharing eating utensils) or extended contact. Risk factors include extensive travel in crowded conditions or extended contact with local people in crowded places. Nigeria 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, call Travelvax Australia’s free travel health advisory service (1300 360 164 - toll-free for landlines) for further advice. Read more about Men. meningitis.

    Pakistan: Chickenpox outbreak hits major city

    It’s not just children who are falling ill in a chickenpox epidemic that has struck the city of Faisalabad, adults and the elderly have also been affected. The death toll in the outbreak now sits at 12 as local authorities attempt to source adequate supplies of vaccines for this central region of Punjab province. Read more.

    Peru: Rains add to dengue woes

    At least 3 people have died of dengue fever in the current season, with rains prolonging the threat. In the north-west, Piura's dengue case count is 707, a figure that is 20 percent of the national total. Read more (translate from Spanish).

    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.

    Singapore: Zika, dengue updates

    The area of the first Zika virus cluster of the year remains under surveillance and has produced no further cases; however 4 new cases were identified this week from the Hougang/Serangoon area in the city-state’s east. Read more. Three locations in the north, east and south have produced the most recent dengue fever cases as the year’s case count reached 781 this week. 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). 

    China: Human bird flu first for Tibet, more mainland cases

    A Chinese national, who was known to work with live poultry has been diagnosed with H7N9 avian influenza – he is currently being treated at a hospital in Lhasa. Read more. Chinese authorities announced a further 14 cases for the mainland (in addition to the Tibet case) this week: Beijing (3 cases), Hunan & Jiangsu (2 cases each) and one case each from Chongqing, Fujian, Gansu, Guizhou, Henan, Shandong and Zhejiang. Read more.

    United Arab Emirates: MERS revisits

    The first case of MERS Co-V to occur in the Emirates in 10 months has been announced this week. The man has been hospitalised in Abu Dhabi; however no further details were provided. The Ministry of Health and Prevention is advising people to employ strict personal hygiene measures: ‘wash hands often with soap and water, use hand sanitiser if the former is not readily accessible, cover the nose and mouth with a tissue when coughing or sneezing and throw the tissue into a rubbish receptacle.’ Read more. More on MERS.

    United States of America: Parasitic infection in Hawaii, Maui

    Several confirmed and suspected cases of the parasitic ratworm lung disease, or Angiostrongylus infection, have been reported on Hawaii’s Big Island and Maui recently, leading health authorities to advise locals to ensure fruit and vegetables are washed thoroughly before consumption. Read more

    Zimbabwe: Floods bring disease menace

    The provinces of Matabeleland North, South and Midlands continue to suffer the after-effects of flooding, with a total of 192 deaths among the nearly 135,000 malaria cases reported since January. Read more.

  • Australia: More measles cases surface in Sydney

    A further spread of measles infections has been reported in Sydney – up to 10 people have been diagnosed with the highly infectious disease in the last week alone. This takes the case count for NSW this year to 19. Read more. Several states have reported measles cases imported from overseas recently. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Measles is a highly contagious virus and can cause serious illness in people of all ages. Most of the rising number of cases reported in Australia are linked to overseas travel - both developing and developed countries. Travelvax Australia recommends travellers check their immunisation status for measles and other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) and mumps 6 weeks before departure.

    Brazil: Rio now in YF risk area, situation in 2 states improving

    Information in the latest Pan American Health Organization (PAHO)/WHO yellow fever (YF) update on Apr 4 includes the news that the entire state of Rio de Janeiro, including urban areas of Rio city is now in the risk area for YF infection where vaccination is recommended. This comes as an Apr 3 PAHO report revealed that 5 of the 6 locally acquired cases in Rio de Janeiro state were residents of a city approx. 136 kms from Rio, Casimiro de Abreu (the 6th was further north, in São Fidélis). Data up to Mar 29 showed that, overall, case numbers are declining in the states of Minas Gerais and Espírito Santo but that 'there were 1987 cases of yellow fever reported (574 confirmed, 926 discarded, and 487 suspected under investigation), including 282 deaths (187 confirmed, 24 discarded, and 71 under investigation). The case fatality rate (CFR) is 33 percent among confirmed cases.’ Read more. Additionally, Para state is the latest to report YF – a Mar 31st release by the ECDC noted there had been 4 (fatal) cases in the state. 
    Other countries in the region to be reporting YF cases are Colombia, Ecuador, Peru (9 cases), Bolivia, and Suriname. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Yellow fever virus is a mosquito-borne disease found in tropical and subtropical areas in South America and Africa. While it can be severe, yellow fever infection is a very rare in Australian travellers. However, under the International Health Regulations (IHR), proof of vaccination may be required of any traveller entering or leaving an area at risk of yellow fever transmission. Read more about yellow fever

    China: ‘Mad honey’ risk; Bird flu update, WHO assessment

    News this week that a Hong Kong man became ill after eating honey given to him by a friend who had sourced it from Nepal. The honey was found to contain grayanotoxin, which produces the symptoms of dizziness and shortness of breath. Nectar from a family of plants that includes rhododendrons (Nepal's national flower) contains the neurotoxin, which is then collected by bees to make honey – this can lead to what was first noted in the Black Sea area of Turkey as ‘Mad Honey Disease’. Read more.  
    H7N9 avian influenza cases on the mainland have now hit a 4-year high, with a further 17 cases reported in the week to Mar 31st. Six of the cases were from the province of Hunan, followed by Jiangsu and Guangxi (3 each), Fujian and Guizhou (2 each) and 1 case from Zhejiang. Most had had direct contact with poultry. Read more. The WHO risk assessment of the current wave of infections recommends that: ‘travellers to countries with known outbreaks of avian influenza should avoid, if possible, poultry farms, contact with animals in live poultry markets, entering areas where poultry may be slaughtered, or contact with any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with faeces from poultry or other animals. Travellers should also wash their hands often with soap and water, and follow good food safety and good food hygiene practices.’ 

    Republic of the Congo: Viral disease hits north

    Monkeypox infections continue to spread in the northern province of Likouala 2 weeks after first news of the outbreak. Up to March 28th, there had been 26 unconfirmed cases with 4 deaths. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Closely related to the smallpox virus, monkeypox is mainly found in Central and Western Africa. Rodents are the suspected reservoir, with monkeys and humans as secondary or ‘spill-over’ hosts. People can be infected by eating undercooked ‘bushmeat’ or handling infected animals, making infection a low risk for travellers. Read more on monkeypox

    Europe: Flu season draws to a close

    The flu season is winding down across the continent, with only Greece reporting medium level activity – all other country’s indicators are low. The predominant strain has switched from A(H3N2) to B, as is often the case at the end of the season. The WHO global flu update notes that influenza activity is dropping in North America but remains high in South Asia (mainly India, Maldives & Sri Lanka). A local news report in Taiwan indicates a rise in the incidence of flu recently, with a B strain becoming more prevalent. Read more.

    Mozambique: Cholera outbreak slowing

    There is hope that the cholera outbreak which killed 3 people and sickened a further 1,400 is almost over. A health official announced that this week there had been a reduction in the rate of infections - 200 new cases from the 360 reported last week. 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

    New Caledonia: Dengue scourge - some improvement seen

    For the first time since the dengue epidemic was declared in January, there has been no week-on-week rise in new cases. While it was noted that the numbers were slowing, the outbreak is not over as yet. Official figures show that for the month of April there have been 63 new cases, adding to the cumulative total since Sept 1, 2016 of 2,404. 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 an effective 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

    New Zealand: Typhoid hits worshippers; Auckland mumps rises to 39

    A church in Mt Roskill, a suburb of Auckland 7kms south of the CBD, is the epicentre of a typhoid outbreak that has so far sickened 16 people (plus 2 more suspected cases) and caused one fatality - a woman with pre-existing medical conditions. Parishioners of the Mt Roskill Samoan Assembly of God Church live in southern and central parts of the city and currently the Auckland Regional Public Health Service is tracking 60 contacts of the patients. A factsheet on typhoid has been released by the ARPHS. Read more.  
    IN other news, the city’s health department is also having to deal with an ongoing outbreak of mumps which has produced 39 cases since January. The majority of cases have been in the 10 to 19 years age group; however of those affected there has been an infant of 5 months and an adult male of 51 years. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Typhoid occurs in some Pacific countries, although it presents a low risk for travellers staying in hotels or resorts. Travellers should follow safe food and water guidelines, and personal hygiene practices. Vaccination is generally recommended for travellers staying in rural areas, as well as for adventurous eaters. Read more about typhoid.

    Nigeria: Men. Meningitis tally nears 3,000

    Up to April 3 the outbreak of meningococcal meningitis, due for the most part to the C strain, had generated 2,997 cases with 336 deaths (under half were laboratory confirmed). The epidemic which is now being called the worst in 8 years first started in the state of Zamfara, but is now affecting Katsina, Sokoto, Kebbi and Niger, Kano, Cross River and the capital, Abuja. A massive vaccination campaign is underway. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Meningococcal meningitis is an acute bacterial disease transmitted from person-to-person through close (kissing, sharing eating utensils) or extended contact. Risk factors include extensive travel in crowded conditions or extended contact with local people in crowded places. Nigeria 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, call Travelvax Australia’s free travel health advisory service (1300 360 164 - toll-free for landlines) for further advice. Read more about Men. meningitis.

    Portugal: Lisbon's Hep A spike

    According to local health authorities, the hepatitis A outbreak that has spread across 13 European countries (reported on Mar 2, 2017) has produced 105 new cases since January, many of them in Greater Lisbon. As with the initial post, men who have sex with men have been most affected; vaccination against Hep A is highly recommended when travel, lifestyle or sexual practices increase the risk of this faecal-orally transmitted infection. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Hepatitis A (HAV) is one of the more common infections for overseas travellers. It is a significant risk in most developing countries, especially where sanitation and hygiene are lacking. The virus is transmitted by faecally contaminated food and water, or by handling everyday items, such as craft items, money, door-handles etc. A course of hepatitis A vaccine offers immunity that’s 99%-plus effective and long lasting (20-30 years). Travellers should also follow safe food and water guidelines.

    Saudi Arabia: WHO update - more MERS cases

    Healthcare transmission of the MERS virus at a Riyadh hospital has contributed to the 18 new cases reported in a WHO update this week. Meanwhile details of a new case in Doha, Qatar were released – the man, who has other medical problems, became ill in mid-March but has no history of travel outside the country or contact with camels. Read more.  

    Singapore: Zika count increases by 2

    The National Environment Agency has announced a further 2 Zika virus cases, taking the total for the first 13 weeks of the year to 8. No futher details were available. 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).

    South America: Slow release of chikungunya data

    Once again very few countries provided information on new chikungunya cases for the weekly update. Among those and with the highest count was Bolivia with 297, followed by Guatemala (83), Paraguay (40) and Peru (33). Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Like dengue fever and Zika virus, chikungunya virus is spread by the daytime-feeding Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. The only way of preventing infection is to avoid mosquito bites. Read more about chikungunya

    Sri Lanka: Dengue season hits hard in west

    Of the 26,000 dengue fever cases and 53 related deaths this year, over half have been in the Western Province. As part of its response, the Dengue Control Body has declared alerts for the districts of Colombo, Gampaha, Kalutara, Galle, Matara, Hambantota, Batticaloa, Trincomalee, Jaffna, Ratnapura and Kegalle. Read more.

    United States of America: Mumps updates from 3 states

    News on the ongoing mumps outbreaks that have hit several states shows no contraction yet. Cases continue to be reported in Washington, Arkansas and Louisiana. Across the border in neighbouring Canada, Ontario has hit a 25-year high in cases. Read more

    Advice for travellers: This ongoing outbreak of mumps highlights the importance of current immunisation against contagious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, rubella and measles for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about mumps.

    Zimbabwe: Dire sanitation conditions trigger disease

    The latest news on the typhoid outbreak that has hit Harare and the provinces of Mashonaland West & Central dates from the second week of March. In it the Department of Health & Child Care announced that around 30 percent of cases were in children under 5 years of age. According to the department’s Facebook post, ‘cumulative typhoid figures nationally from 1 January to 16 March 2017 are 1 753 suspected cases, 43 confirmed cases and 5 deaths. However these are part of an ongoing outbreak in Harare City which started on 13 October 2016. To date there are 1 865 suspected typhoid cases, 96 confirmed and 10 deaths reported.’