Health Alerts
  • China: H7N9 cases persist into summer

    Since the first human H7N9 cases were identified in 2013, each year the peak avian influenza season has extended over the winter and into the early spring months. This week an Afludiary post offers a commentary on the current situation noting, ‘… this 5th epidemic wave - apparently driven by multiple genetic changes in the H7N9 virus - has been anything but ordinary. In week 25 (June 18-25), Hong Kong reports what would be a summer's worth of H7N9 cases (n=10) in any other year.’ And ‘the pace of H7N9's evolution and adaptation appears to be picking up. The recent spread … has raised new concerns that H7N9 may not remain just China's problem for much longer.’ Read Aust. Dept. of Health advice for travellers to China here

    India: Kerala’s dengue crisis

    The extent of this year’s dengue fever outbreak in Kerala is unprecedented in the state, as authorities confirm over 8,100 cases (nearly 30,000 more are suspected) and 14 deaths (a further 67 are suspected to be dengue-related). Read more. A news article on other current disease risks in Kerala published this week has provided statistics on  mumps (1563 cases), measles (336), leptospirosis (690) and typhoid (235). Read more.

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

    New Caledonia: Dengue dips into cooler months

    Reports of new dengue fever cases have persisted into June, however there’s been a more than 50 percent decline in notifications over May’s figures. As of June 28th, the Directions des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociales had recorded 343 cases for the month (783 in May). Read more.

    New Zealand: South gets viral surge

    Schools in the Otago and Southland regions in the South Island are experiencing a surge in chickenpox cases. This comes as changes to the childhood immunisation schedule are to take effect from July 1st: ‘Funded access of the varicella vaccine will be widened to include one dose for primary vaccination in children at 15 months old and a catch up in general practice of one dose for previously unvaccinated children at 11 years old, who have not previously had a varicella infection (chickenpox).  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.

    Reunion Island: Local dengue spread

    Local dengue fever transmission has contributed 43 cases this year and health authorities have requested that doctors notify them of laboratory-confirmed cases so disease control measures can be instituted. Read more (translate from French).

    Romania: Measles cases top 7,200

    Measles cases have been recorded in 41 counties since the outbreak began in September last year; the total number of infections reached 7,232 (as of June 23rd), with 30 deaths resulting - one further death is currently under investigation. Read more. And in Italy, authorities this week confirmed the death of a 9-year old girl in April was due to measles infection. Read more. The country has recorded 3,074 measles cases this year – mostly among unvaccinated individuals (89% of cases), prompting the enactment of a law which allows fines to be imposed on parents of children over 6yo who are unvaccinated and attending school. 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.

    South America: Influenza takes off

    A round-up of influenza activity issued by the World Health Organization (WHO) this week included reports that the incidence of influenza was on the rise in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay; also in Southern Africa. Influenza notifications in Oceania were ‘low and at inter-seasonal levels below seasonal levels.’ Read more.

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

    South Sudan: Famine conditions generate diseases

    The death toll from a cholera outbreak in Eastern Equatoria State has risen to 60, however there are fears that more cases will be found in remote areas. This outbreak, and a refugee crisis, are being blamed on a famine that has affected the country since early this year. Read more  Reports of ‘acute watery diarrhoea’ in parts of Sudan and the extensive cholera outbreak in Yemen have led Egyptian authorities to institute screening of passengers from those countries, checking for signs of the infectious illness. 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

    Taiwan: Flu spikes

    The availability of government funded influenza tests may be one reason why confirmed flu cases have risen sharply so late in the season. Whatever the reason, there has been a marked increase in reported flu-like illnesses - 118,000 cases (& 6 related deaths) last week alone, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Read more.

    Thailand: Viral disease besets over 20,000 children

    The incidence of hand, foot & mouth disease (HFMD) rose last week, taking the yearly case numbers (mostly children under 4 years of age) to 24,000. Bangkok has seen over three-quarters of the cases, followed by northern areas of the central & southern regions. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Seasonal epidemics of HFMD occur sporadically throughout Asia, mainly affecting young children. Asian countries with recent large increases in reported cases include China, Hong Kong (China), Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Thailand, Taiwan, and Vietnam. 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.

    United Arab Emirates: Travellers contract Legionnaires’

    The news content on NHS (Scotland)’s fitfortravel website gives details of the 65 cases of Legionnaire’s disease (including 3 deaths) that have been reported in European travellers to Dubai over the past 9 months. According to the site, ‘Cases have been reported by the United Kingdom (30), Sweden (8), Germany (6), the Netherlands (6), Denmark (4), France (4), Austria (1), Belgium (1), the Czech Republic (1), Hungary (1), Ireland (1), Spain (1) and Switzerland (1)’. Accommodation was primarily in hotels or rental lodgings (59 cases), the remainder were in private dwellings. Read more.  

    Advice for travellers: Legionnaires' disease occurs worldwide and many of the increasing number of cases reported in Australia in recent years have been linked to overseas travel. Outbreaks have been associated with cruise ships, hotels, and resorts. The bacteria that causes Legionnaires’ disease is found in airborne droplets of warm, fresh water, such as from fountains, spas, showers and the cooling towers of buildings. Over 50s, current or former smokers, those with a chronic lung condition, and the immunocompromised are at higher risk of developing illness after exposure. Read more.

    Vietnam: Dengue rises in Delta

    Three provinces situated in the Mekong Delta region have experienced a rise in dengue fever as the rainy season gets underway. Đồng Tháp, Bến Tre, Cà Mau and Tiền Giang provinces, including Cần Thơ City have been hardest hit. Read more.

  • Afghanistan: More polio - wild poliovirus type 1

    The Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) reported a new case of wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1), the fourth case of WPV1 this year. The patient is from Nawzad district in Helmand province. Afghanistan is one of three countries, along with Pakistan and Nigeria, to still report circulating WPV1. There is low-level transmission in the common reservoir area of the Quetta-Kandahar corridor, between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Polio is a potentially serious viral illness that is spread through contact with infected faeces or saliva. The risk to travellers is generally low. Vaccination is recommended for travel to affected regions. If at risk, adults should have a booster to the childhood series every 10 years. More on polio

    Australia: Early flu data; Fatal JE case ex Thailand

    The Health Department influenza surveillance report that provides data from May 13 to 26 reveals only a slight elevation in activity which is mainly due to the strains causing more illness overseas, the B strains. It goes on to state: ‘There is no indication of the potential severity of the 2017 season at this time. To date, the seasonal influenza vaccines appear to be a good match for circulating virus strains.’ Read more.
    IN an update on the post from June 8th: The Victorian man in his 60s who’d holidayed in Phuket, Thailand in early May has died from Japanese encephalitis (JE) in a Melbourne hospital. The traveller was on a 13 day trip to Thailand and stayed at a local resort. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: A mosquito-borne virus, JE is usually found in many part of Asia, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia and China, although cases also occur in Indonesia and PNG. It is mainly found in rural areas around rice paddies where pigs, wading birds and humans live closely together, however it can occur in or near cities. The risk to short-stay travellers and those who confine their travel to urban centres is low; however the recommendations for vaccination are itinerary-specific. Read more on JE.

    Bolivia: Chikungunya small surge, YF update

    The Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reported 599 more cases of chikungunya since their last report, most of them in Bolivia. The latest total reflects a jump from 165 new cases reported the previous week. Almost 2.5 million people have been sickened by this virus since the first outbreaks in the Caribbean began in 2013. Read more
    INDIVIDUALS residing in, or travelling to, the Amazon Basin in Bolivia should be vaccinated with the yellow fever vaccine at least 10 days before possible exposure to virus. This advice comes after a report that an 18-year-old resident of Potosi who travelled frequently to Villa Tunari, died this week. The youth had not previously been vaccinated against the yellow fever. Earlier this year a Danish tourist was infected with the virus in Caranavi while in a tropical region of La Paz department. Read more (translate from Spanish).

    Advice for travellers: Chikungunya infections continue to spread across the Caribbean and Americas. The disease has symptoms similar to dengue fever and is transmitted by day-time feeding Aedes mosquitoes. There is no vaccine or prevention medication; using an effective, tropical-strength repellent to avoid insect bites is the best form of protection. Read more about chikungunya.

    Brazil: YF outbreak continues

    Brazil is experiencing its largest outbreak of yellow fever in decades. The outbreak is mainly affecting the states of Minas Gerais and Espiritu Santo, which have the largest number of confirmed cases; however, the disease has spread to other regions in the country, affecting 407 municipalities. Read more.

    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. Individuals travelling to the Brazil should be vaccinated at least 10 days before possible exposure to yellow fever virus. Read more about yellow fever

    Chile: Hepatitis A contaminated street food

    According to a local Chilean newspaper, ‘El Mercurio,’ there are concerns about the large number of hepatitis A cases occurring in the Antofagasta region (northern Chile). Recently as many as 74 people have been affected with the virus after purchasing and consuming food from street vendors. Read more (translate from Spanish).

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

    China: Bird flu cases falling at last

    An Afludiary post on this season’s avian influenza that has produced ‘more than a 600% increase in human cases over last year’ also points out that last week's dramatic drop in new H7N9 cases is hopefully a sign that this year's epidemic wave is finally winding down, although it comes roughly six weeks deeper into the summer than usual.’

    France: Measles cases surge

    Measles cases for the year up to May 31st have soared almost 6-fold over last year’s figures for the same period, with epidemic levels reported in Lorraine (in NE France, bordering Luxembourg, Belgium & Germany) and, to a lesser extent, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Occitanie. A Health Dept. disease monitoring report published on June 15 states that the country is at risk of large outbreak, as is currently underway in Romania & Italy.

    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.

    India: Human rabies case numbers compiled, 2014-2016

    The Union Health Ministry of India reported 324 fatalities due to animal bites in 2014: Gujarat reported 7 deaths in 2014 and 8 in 2015, respectively. The figures came down in 2016 when the state reported only 1 death due to rabies. With 146 deaths, West Bengal had the highest rabies death toll, followed by Delhi (39), Jharkhand (34) and Madhya Pradesh (23). According to the ProMED moderator “India's human rabies statistics have been subject to discussions in the past, and are certainly in need of elucidation. The official annual number of human fatalities has been counted in 3-figure numbers, while 5-figure numbers are generally cited by international organisations. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Rabies is a significant public health issue throughout India. For most short-stay travellers the risk is generally low. Vaccination recommendations are itinerary-specific but include those travellers planning to live in, or travel extensively. However, all Australians visiting India and other endemic countries 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. Read more on rabies.

    Kenya: Suspected cholera at Nairobi hotel

    Doctors attending a conference are among the 47 people suspected to be infected with cholera at a hotel in Nairobi. Read more.

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

    Malaysia: Penang’s dengue hotspots identified

    Penang’s dengue toll has climbed to 7 amid the 1,110 cases reported; parts of George Town and Bukit Jambul are considered higher risk due to the numbers of cases. Read more.

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

    Nigeria: Lassa deaths in 2 states

    The threat of Lassa fever has not passed, with news this week of one death in Anambra State and 5 in Ondo. The primary case in Ondo State is a university student, leading authorities to close the facility - Achievers University - for 3 weeks.

    Advice for travellers: Lassa fever is an acute viral illness that occurs in West Africa, notably in Nigeria, Guinea, and Liberia. As many as 300,000 cases and 5000 deaths occur each year. However, Lassa is a remote risk for travellers. Rodents shed the virus in urine and droppings and it is spread between humans through direct contact with the blood, urine, faeces, or other bodily secretions of an infected person. Read more about Lassa fever.

    Palau: Dengue cases top 300, other island news

    A news article this week reported on the nation’s dengue fever case numbers: 200, including 3 deaths. In the same article that provides a round-up of island news, it’s stated that the mumps outbreak on the Marshall Islands is still underway and the recent decline in cases may actually be due to under-reporting ‘and that the real number could be as high as three thousand.’ Read more.

    Singapore: Zika lingers on

    They’re sporadic, but Zika virus cases continue to be reported. Over the past 2 weeks, 2 cases have emerged from a residential area in Kensington Park Drive. Authorities have quickly begun destroying potential mosquito breeding sites in the area. 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). 

    Sri Lanka: Dengue disaster declared

    The dengue epidemic that has taken hold of the country is expected to worsen, with the inundation from recent floods and the soon-to-arrive monsoon rains. The first 6 months of the year have already produced nearly 64,000 cases and 200 deaths in what the Health Minister has called a national disaster. Read more.

    Syria: 17 children paralysed by polio

    The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 17 children in eastern Syria have been left paralysed from a recently confirmed outbreak of polio. This is the 2nd reported outbreak of the crippling disease from the war-torn country, resulting from the inability of health workers to immunise all at-risk children caught in conflict zones. Read more.

    Taiwan: JE season underway

    A woman from the southern county of Pingtung, and another from New Taipei have become the 4th & 5th people to be infected with the mosquito-borne disease in Taiwan this year. Prior to this, the other reported cases were from Kaohsiung (2 cases) and Tainan (1). The transmission occurs mainly between May to October, with a peak in June and July, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Read more about JE

    United States of America: Mumps uptick; Invasive mosquito found; Northern hemisphere influenza

    Mumps outbreaks have affected several states over the past few months (Washington, Texas, Hawaii), and now it’s LA County in California. The year-to-date figures for May covering all health districts of the US indicate there have been nearly 3,200 cases – the LA County has contributed 42 of those. Most cases have come from the Westside that includes the City of Los Angeles Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, Culver City, and Santa Monica. Read more. THE latest update on the mumps outbreak in Hawaii from the Health Department website: as of June 22nd, there have been 119 cases; ‘approximately 45% of cases have been in adults aged 18 years and older.’
    AEDES aegypti, the mosquito species that can transmit Zika, dengue and other viruses, has been found for the first time in Long Beach, California - the mosquitoes were found in North Long Beach. Mayor Robert Garcia says "We are actively informing and encouraging residents and visitors to take necessary precautions to prevent mosquito bites. Read more.
    THE WHO has announced the composition of the Northern Hemisphere flu vaccines for the 2017-2018 seasons. The influenza vaccine is reviewed annually and updated to match circulating flu viruses. For 2017-2018, three-component vaccines are recommended to contain: A/Michigan/45/2015 (H1N1)pdm09-like virus; A/Hong Kong/4801/2014 (H3N2)-like virus & B/Brisbane/60/2008-like (B/Victoria lineage) virus. Four-component vaccines, which protect against a second lineage of B viruses, are recommended to add a B/Phuket/3073/2013-like (B/Yamagata lineage) virus the trivalent vaccine formulation. Read more.

    Venezuela: Malaria cases on the rise

    The number of malaria cases in the Ciudad Guayana have surged in the past 2 years to levels never seen before. According to the Mayor, malaria currently affects more than 50% of the population. The most affected parish of Ciudad Guyana is the city of Pozo Verde, where the locals have been staging protests following the deaths of 3 residents in the epidemic. Read more Read more about malaria in Venezuela.

  • Bangladesh: Mozzies swarm in 23 city districts

    Health officials have listed the 23 Dhaka localities that present a high risk of chikungunya (and dengue fever) infection due to the presence of large numbers of the Aedes mosquito vectors. 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. Apply repellent containing an active ingredient, such as DEET, Picaridin, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus when outdoors to all exposed skin. Read more about chikungunya and avoiding insect bites.

    Brazil: YF increase in 4 areas

    An ECDC Communicable Disease Threats report summarises health department yellow fever data, taking in information up to May 31st. ‘Between 18 and 31 May 2017, Brazil has reported 34 additional confirmed cases of yellow fever in the states of Espírito Santo (24), Minas Gerais (5), Rio de Janeiro (3), Distrito Federal (1) and Mato Grosso (1). These are the first confirmed cases of locally-acquired yellow fever in Distrito Federal and Mato Grosso since the beginning of the outbreak.’ Read the ECDC report here

    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

    Democratic Republic of Congo: Polio confirmed in 2 provinces

    Reports this week of 4 cases of circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV) in the provinces of Haut-Lomami and Maniema. Outbreaks of vaccine-associated polio can occur when unvaccinated people are exposed to the excretions of others who had been recently vaccinated with the oral polio vaccine. ReliefWeb summarises the planned responses to the outbreak, including WHO advice ‘that all travellers to polio-affected areas be fully vaccinated against polio. Residents (and visitors for more than four weeks) from infected areas should receive an additional dose of oral polio vaccine (OPV) or inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) within four weeks to 12 months of travel.’ Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Polio is a potentially serious viral illness that is spread through contact with infected faeces or saliva. The risk to travellers is generally low. Vaccination is recommended for travel to affected regions. If at risk, adults should have a booster to the childhood series every 10 years. For travel to areas affected by endemic or imported polio, the WHO issued temporary vaccination recommendations. More on poliomyelitis.

    India: Kerala dengue surge

    Dengue fever season is here in Kerala’s capital of Thiruvananthapuram, with the rest of the state lagging not too far behind. Up to 150 new cases are being reported state-wide on a daily basis, adding to the year-to-date total of 6,340 confirmed cases – a further 20,000+ infections are suspected. Read more .

    Advice for travellers: Dengue occurs throughout India – both in urban and rural areas. The virus is spread by two types of Aedes mosquitoes. Both breed in shady places close to dwellings and bite mainly during the daylight hours, making them difficult to avoid when 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, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus when outdoors to all exposed skin. Read more about dengue fever and preventing insect bites.

    Iran: Tick-borne infection kills 3

    The tick-borne infection Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) has killed 3 people and sickened 31. An earlier news report stated that one confirmed death occurred in the province of Sistan-and-Baluchestan, while 2 further suspected deaths were in Isfahan and Kermanshah. Read more.

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

    Malaysia: Temperature scanning at border

    The 2 most recent Zika virus cases reported in Singapore – date of symptom onset is over 2 weeks ago – have prompted Johor authorities to implement thermal scanning at border crossings. Those people entering Malaysia at the Bangunan Sultan Iskandar and Second Link entry points will have their temperature checked - if elevated, they will be sent for a medical review. 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).

    Myanmar: Delta’s dengue uptick

    The wet season is only just underway in the Ayeyarwady River delta, but dengue fever is already cutting a swathe through the region’s children. So far this year, over 600 dengue cases and 9 dengue-related deaths have been recorded in the Ayeyarwady region. Read more.

    Nepal: School's out for chickenpox

    There has been a spate of chickenpox infections among children in the western district of Doti (southern areas of Gaira, Jorayal and Goganpani), with up to 7 a day presenting for treatment at local hospitals. 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.

    Niger: Hep E burden in Diffa

    The hepatitis E outbreak confirmed in April in the SE region of Diffa has now sickened 766 people and killed 33. Up to 230 cases were from the province’s capital. Humanitarian aid is in place in the area, providing the clean water and sanitation facilities needed to slow the spread of the virus. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: The hepatitis E virus is transmitted mainly through faecal contamination of drinking water. Unlike the Hep A and B viruses, there is no vaccine for this strain, which is especially common in communities with lower levels of sanitation and hygiene. Infection during pregnancy is usually more severe, producing high rates of maternal & foetal morbidity and mortality. Read more about the virus and how to prevent it.

    Philippines: Dengue toll rises in Central Visayas

    The cities of Central Visayas have seen a rise in the number of dengue fever-related deaths this year, despite an overall drop in case numbers. Cebu City, Mandaue City and Lapu-Lapu City reported high fatality rates, with 28 of the region’s 62 deaths. Read more.

    Romania: Despite efforts, measles persists

    Efforts are being made to control the measles outbreak that has produced over 6,600 cases and caused 29 deaths over its 18 month duration (one report cites higher figures). Read ECDC surveillance report. And in the Ukraine, the incidence of measles has risen sharply this year, with 735 cases recorded, the majority of those from the western oblast of Ivano-Frankivsk, followed by the Black Sea region of Odessa. Read more. In other news on measles: the WHO this week announced that Bhutan and the Maldives have eliminated the viral disease following decades of intensive vaccination programmes. 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.

    Saudi Arabia: MERS spike in Riyadh

    As many as 32 of 35 recent MERS cases are centred on 3 hospitals in Riyadh – two of the clusters are thought to have originated from one patient who had attended 2 of the hospitals for treatment. Recent cases involve healthcare workers, other patients and household contacts. As stated in the CIDRAP report: ‘Though MERS is not easily transmitted between humans, it can spread quickly in the hospital setting, as many patients present with general respiratory illness symptoms, exposing healthcare workers and fellow patients.’ And today Saudi health authorities announced a further 3 MERS cases in Riyadh, one of whom contracted the virus as an in-patient. Read more.

    Singapore: Dengue season onset

    A residential area in Jurong East, Teban Gardens has been classified as high risk for dengue fever infection on the National Environment Agency’s dengue cluster webpage. To date the island-state has recorded 1,242 cases since the beginning of the year, with the peak dengue season now underway. Read more.

    South America: Flu on the rise

    The latest WHO influenza surveillance data indicates that flu activity is low in Southern Africa and Oceania, while in temperate South America, ‘influenza like illness (ILI) levels increased over the prior weeks and crossed the seasonal threshold in Chile and Paraguay. Influenza activity also increased in Argentina, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay, with influenza A(H3N2) viruses predominant.' Read report here.

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

    Sudan: Cholera situation expected to worsen

    National Epidemiological Corporation data on the number of cholera infections and deaths in the country reveal the scale of the current outbreak: more than 23,000 cases and 820 deaths since early May. It is feared that the upcoming rains will lead to a further deterioration of the situation unless more aid is provided. Read more. Similarly the status of Yemen’s cholera outbreak is dire, with nearly 130,000 cases reported and, according to a news report quoting Save the Children, ‘a child is now infected with the disease every 35 seconds’. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Cholera is usually spread in contaminated water. 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 and the available vaccine. 

    Taiwan: Second JE report

    Kaohsiung and now Tainan are the locations of the first 2 cases of locally acquired Japanese encephalitis reported this year. The peak season occurs around this time each year – over the last 4 years there have been between 16 and 30 cases reported each year. Read more .

    Advice for travellers: Taiwan's JE cases mainly occur in the south from May to October, but peaking in June and July. Cases typically occur in rural, rice-growing areas where people live near the host animals, pigs and wading birds. While it is a low risk for most travellers staying in urban areas, expats and travellers spending extended periods in agricultural areas of Asia should consider vaccination. Read more about JE.

    United Kingdom: Chocolate recall over contamination fears

    On June 9th, the Food Standards Agency issued a recall on several date-limited Mars chocolate products sold in the UK and Ireland due to concerns there could be salmonella contamination. Full details are contained in a media release. Read more about salmonella infections

    United States of America: Hep A surges in LA counties

    The homeless community has been hard hit in an outbreak of hepatitis A which has struck at least 2 counties in California. Santa Cruz and San Diego health authorities are promoting vaccination to those people at risk and advising general health measures. To date, 160 people have been infected and 4 deaths have resulted. 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.

    Vietnam: HCMC rabies death; Rains generate trio of diseases

    It has been 7 years since a human rabies was recorded in Ho Chi Minh City, but last week authorities announced that a woman in her 50s from Gò Vấp district had died of the viral infection following a dog bite. She had not sought medical treatment, vaccines in the days after the bite. Read more.
    The Central Highlands have experienced recent heavy rains, bringing with them a rise in cases of dengue fever, diarrhoea and hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD). The province of Dak Lak and its main urban centre of Buon Ma Thuot city have been hardest hit. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Rabies is present in most countries and 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. Vaccination recommendations are itinerary-specific but include those travellers planning to live in, or travel extensively through, rural areas. Read more on rabies