Health Alerts
  • 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.’ 

  • Botswana: Surge in malaria

    The North West region is experiencing a protracted malaria outbreak that has so far produced nearly 800 cases, many of them in the district of Okavango. Local officials are planning residual indoor spraying and the distribution of insecticide-impregnated nets to stop the spread. The wet season runs from November to May. Read more. The Health Minister of Namibia updated the country's malaria figures this week, announcing that since January there have been almost 12,000 cases and 18 deaths. 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: Massive effort to control YF outbreak

    International experts have been called in to assist with controlling the yellow fever (YF) outbreak that has spread from infected primates to humans in 4 states: Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. To Mar 24th, data revealed there have been 492 confirmed cases, with 162 deaths and another 1,101 suspected cases. While the infections so far have occurred in forested areas involving their distinct species of mosquitoes, the risk of urban transmission by means of the Aedes aegypti mosquito remains. Read the Mar 28th PAHO/WHO report

    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

    Canada: Mumps spreads across region

    Health authorities in the province of Alberta have reported 51 mumps cases, with 24 of those in the capital Edmonton. Free vaccines are being offered to members of the local population born after 1970. Read more. Outbreaks are occurring across North America, with ongoing spread in the US states of Arkansas, Washington, Kansas, Illinois and California.

    Advice for travellers: These ongoing outbreak of mumps 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.

    China: Marginal fall in H7N9 cases

    A slight dip in the number of human H7N9 avian influenza cases on the mainland was reported by Hong Kong’s Centre for Disease Protection this week, with 18 cases – half of those from the provinces of Guangxi and Hunan. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: While bird flu is often fatal in humans, there has been no sustained person-to-person transmission. Infection occurs after contact with infected birds, which makes the disease a low risk for travellers. Australians travelling to a region where the disease is present or an outbreak is occurring should avoid contact with birds or poultry in marketplaces, wash their hands before and after preparing food, and observe strict personal hygiene. Read more on bird flu and how to avoid it.

    Europe: Measles spread ‘of particular concern’

    The measles outbreaks underway in many parts of the Continent has been addressed by the WHO with a statement noting that the elimination of the disease is threatened by its growing incidence and by low immunisation rates in some areas. While many countries have managed to stop endemic transmission of the virus, 14 have not. Currently the largest outbreaks are taking place in Romania and Italy, while France, Germany, Poland, Switzerland and Ukraine are also reporting significant numbers. Read more

    Advice for travellers: A highly contagious virus, measles occurs in developing and developed countries. 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 6 weeks before departure.

    Laos: Dengue surge, regional data

    In a brief report from ReliefWeb, dengue fever data up to Mar 17 indicates higher activity than for the same period in 2015/6, with 489 cases confirmed. In the same report, Cambodia had recorded 138 cases for the first 11 weeks of the year. Read more.

    New Caledonia: Another dengue fatality

    This week the dengue fever epidemic that was declared in January has claimed a sixth victim – a man in his 30s from Grande Terre’s central west, about 200kms north of Noumea. March case numbers (up to 28th) are the highest monthly total, with 911 recorded. Almost half of the 2,115 cases reported since September are from Noumea. Read more (translate from French).

    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 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.

    Nigeria: Men. meningitis in 5 states; Lassa persists

    Children aged between 5 and 14 years have been hit hard, making up around 50 percent of cases in a meningococcal meningitis outbreak – 5 states are involved, however most cases are in Samfara, Katsina, and Sokoto. Up to Mar 19th, there had been 1407 suspected cases and 211 deaths. A later news report announced 4 suspected Men. meningitis cases in children residing in the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja; 3 died of the infection. Read more.  
    THE Lassa fever outbreak that started back in December is now running in 13 states. In the region, cases are also reported in Benin, Togo, Burkina Faso and Sierra Leone. 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: Unidentified illness hits coast

    An illness that has struck a coastal region near Karachi is believed to be chikungunya fever, but a lack of appropriate tests means that it cannot be confirmed. Local doctors have said that control of mosquito numbers is a priority. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Like dengue fever, Chikungunya virus is spread by the daytime-feeding Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus mosquitoes. There is no vaccine for either and avoiding mosquito bites is the only way of preventing infection. Read more about chikungunya

    Singapore: Appeal for vigilance as new Zika cases emerge

    The National Environment Agency has issued a news release announcing the details of 2 new locally transmitted Zika virus cases – both come from the same household in the ‘heartlands’, a NE residential estate in Hougang. According to the release, “Residents and stakeholders are urged to maintain vigilance and continue to eliminate mosquito breeding habitats, as there could still be asymptomatic or mild, undiagnosed cases which might result in further transmission of the virus if there are mosquitoes in the vicinity.” Meanwhile it has been a somewhat slower start for dengue fever this year, with 684 cases reported for the first 12 weeks of the year; however surveillance of the disease vector (& of Zika too) indicates high numbers of mosquitoes present. 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).

    Solomon Islands: Hope for end of outbreak

    Health authorities this week expressed hope that the drop in dengue fever cases seen this week will continue, but surveillance must be maintained. Read more.

    Somalia: Rush to prevent more cholera deaths

    The WHO is planning to distribute 900,000 cholera vaccine doses to those desperate people caught in drought-struck areas of the country. The international agency and other aid providers are battling an ongoing outbreak that has caused 13,000 cases and 333 deaths already this year. Read more. Read more about cholera.

    South Africa: Malaria alert raised

    In view of the reporting of malaria cases in Western Waterburg, an unusual occurrence as noted in last week’s post, the US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) travel notices for the region now advise alert level 2 – Practice Enhanced Precautions. The notice includes a detailed map together with updated recommendations for malaria prophylaxis. Read more.

    South America: Chikungunya update for region

    Chikungunya figures for the most recent reporting week were added by Paraguay, Peru and Colombia - a total of 185 new cases between them. Read more. In a separate Portuguese language news report, the Brazilian state of Minas Gerais, which is also experiencing a large yellow fever outbreak (see Brazil post), has seen an 8-fold increase in chikungunya cases this year over the previous 12 months figures; 48 new cases are being reported every day. Read more

    Zimbabwe: Floods spark disease threat

    Floods have triggered a surge in malaria notifications over the past 2 months, with almost 90,000 cases and 151 related deaths. The Health Ministry announced this week that the weather has also caused water supplies to become contaminated leading to a heightened risk of typhoid and cholera infections. 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 against typhoid 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.

  • Brazil: Two more states included in vax advice; Chikungunya update

    With no real slowing of the yellow fever (YF) outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) has once again updated vaccination recommendations for travellers – this time for those heading to the states of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. The major urban centres of Rio de Janeiro City and Niterói (in Rio de Janeiro state) and São Paulo City and Campinas (State of São Paulo) are excluded. Investigations of human cases – both suspected and confirmed – and the presence of the virus in primates that live in the states’ forested regions have triggered the new advice. Additionally, 2 human YF cases have been diagnosed in the city of Casimiro de Abreu, approx. 135 kms from Rio de Janeiro (& ~30kms from the coast). A statement from the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) noted that there is no evidence the urban-dwelling Aedes aegypti mosquito is spreading the virus in towns. Up to Mar 20th, the Ministry of Health update singalled that the outbreak had hit 8 states, with 1,561 cases (850 under investigation & 448 confirmed) and 264 deaths (144 confirmed & 110 suspected). Read more.  
    CHIKUNGUNYA figures updated recently to the PAHO show a further rise in cases in Brazil (6,540 confirmed and suspected cases), followed by Bolivia (242), Nicaragua (110) and Paraguay (85). 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

    Canada: ‘Worst’ norovirus outbreak from BC oysters

    Several oyster farms in British Columbia have been closed following a norovirus outbreak that has sickened over 300 people across 3 provinces. The source of infection that contaminated the molluscs has not been determined as yet, but among those being considered are a sewage leak or storm water pollution. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: While it is extremely contagious, norovirus infection is generally short-lived, causing nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea, which may lead to more serious complications among young children, the elderly, and the sick. To minimise the risk, wash your hands after using the toilet and before eating, and practice good hygiene. Read more on norovirus.

    China: 22 new H7N9 cases

    Bird flu cases due to the H7N9 virus continue to mount on the Chinese mainland. The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection puts the figure since Oct last year (up to Mar 18th) at 523 cases. The most recent report adds another 22 cases to the previous week’s total – from the provinces of Guangxi (6 cases); Hunan (5); Guangdong & Guizhou (3 each); Henan (2) and Chongqing, Fujian & Jiangxi (1 case each). Read more.

    Advice for travellers: There are several strains of bird flu and while the virus can be fatal, infection generally poses a low risk for travellers – even for those heading to a region where the disease is present or an outbreak is occurring. Travellers should avoid contact with birds or poultry in marketplaces, wash hands thoroughly before and after preparing food, and observe strict personal hygiene. Read more on bird flu and how to avoid it.

    Ecuador: YF case following lull

    There hasn’t been a documented human case of yellow fever in the country since 2012, but last week the PAHO issued a statement with details of a new case – a man in his early 30s living in the northern province of Sucumbios, bordering Colombia. Read more.

    Europe: Measles’ reach increases

    The European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) released a round-up of measles notifications in the region, including details of the large ongoing outbreak in Romania. Other countries reporting substantial increases on typical yearly numbers are Italy (Piedmont, Lazio, Lombardy, Tuscany & Pescara), Belgium (Wallonia) and Austria. 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.

    Fiji: Dengue cycle revs up

    The Health and Medical Services Minister has asked the local population to take a hand in preventing the further spread of dengue fever to counter a rise in cases during the current wet season. The nation reports dengue infection surges every 5 years now, from the previous 10-yearly cycle. 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.

    Indonesia: Tourists ‘export’ virus

    Over the past few weeks, several states have reported measles cases in Australian travellers following trips to Bali. Western Australia, Qld (Noosa & Gold Coast),   Victoria  and NSW have all reported cases thought to be acquired on the Indonesian island. 

    Malaysia: Dengue hike in peninsular state

    Recent rains in the state of Perak that provided the perfect breeding conditions for mosquitoes have resulted in a rise in the incidence of dengue fever. A State Health Committee official disclosed there were currently “11 hotspots in Kinta district, 17 uncontrolled outbreaks, 47 controlled outbreaks and six new outbreaks around the state.” Read more.

    New Caledonia: No let-up in dengue

    Confirmed dengue fever cases have climbed to 624 this month (up to Mar 22nd) as the epidemic declared in January continues. Noumea has reported almost half of the 1,828 cases since Sept 1st. Read more.

    Nigeria: Men. Meningitis hits north-west

    A spate of meningococcal meningitis infections in the NW states of Zamfara and Sokoto has affected more than 500 people and caused 80 deaths. The local government area of Birnin-Magaji appears to be the centre of the outbreak. Results of early tests show some have proved positive for the bacteria’s C strain. And in Niger, the current meningococcal meningitis season has caused over 500 infections and 34 deaths, with most from 4 health districts ((Niamey 2, Niamey 3, Ouallam & Tillabéry). 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 and Niger lie 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.

    Oman: Tick-borne disease trebles

    Cases of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) have trebled in the first weeks of this year compared to the same period last year. According to the Health Ministry, 6 people have been treated for the infection and a further 3 died. 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 CCHF virus.

    Saudi Arabia: Dengue in west surges

    Public assistance in eradicating mosquitoes is paramount as the city of Jeddah tackles a rise in the incidence of dengue fever – over 500 cases in the first 10 weeks of the year. Four city districts are considered higher risk for the viral infections - Al-Hamdaniyah, Al-Balad, Al-Safa and Al-Aziziyah. Cities such as Jeddah and Makkah in the central west are known dengue endemic areas. Read more.

    South Africa: Unusual malaria spike in Limpopo; Gauteng measles alert

    Perhaps linked to last week’s report on widespread malaria in Botswana, the northern province of Limpopo has seen malaria cases in areas where the parasite is not commonly found. Western regions of the province, including Lephalale and Thabazimbi in the Waterburg district have been most affected with 46 cases reported - no deaths have resulted. Read more.
    HEALTH facilities in Gauteng are on the alert for measles cases after 9 children from southern suburbs of Greater Johannesburg were infected recently. A vaccination drive is underway. 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.

    Sri Lanka: Eastern province endures dengue menace; Flu increasing

    The north-eastern district of Trincomalee is experiencing a devastating dengue outbreak that has so far caused 23 deaths and 22,562 cases. The epicentre of the outbreak is the town of Kinniya, at the western end of Koddiyar Bay. Schools have been closed as authorities try to control the spread that is straining health care facilities. Read more. Towns further south (Batticaloa) and inland (Kantale) have also reported cases. Read more.  
    IN the latest WHO global influenza update, Sri Lanka was one of 3 countries in Southern Asia (also India and the Maldives) reporting an increase in flu cases – mainly A(H1N1). In the northern hemisphere, notifications are declining and most other regions are at inter-seasonal levels. 

    United Kingdom: Mumps strikes northern campuses

    Tertiary education facilities in Edinburgh and surrounding districts have reported a surge in mumps cases recently. Health officials have requested that students ensure their vaccinations are current. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: This 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.

    Vietnam: Weather blamed for spate of infections

    Changeable weather has been blamed for a spurt of infectious diseases that has hit Ho Chi Minh City. Local hospitals have had to cope with increased numbers of hand, foot & mouth disease (HFMD), chicken pox, measles, influenza, diarrhoea, and typhoid cases. It is young children and the elderly who have been most affected to date. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Parents of young children should be aware of that seasonal epidemics of HFMD occur throughout Asia. The virus mainly affects young children and symptoms include fever, oral lesions, and rash on the hands, feet and buttocks. There is no vaccine or preventative medication, but good hand hygiene will greatly reduce the risk of infection.

    Zambia: Cholera hits Luapula, Northern provinces

    Cholera has hit 2 northern districts, near the borders with the DR of Congo and Tanzania. Cases in Chiengi have tipped 54 with no deaths recorded, while in Mpulungu 16 people have been hospitalised. Read more (translate from French).

    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

    Zimbabwe: Malaria in wake of floods

    Deaths from malaria complications have risen to 33 in the SE province of Masvingo. The eastern boundary of the province lies on the border with Mozambique where a recent cyclone brought heavy rains and a rise in malaria (and cholera). Read more.