Health Alerts
  • Australia: 2 regions report dengue; Mozzie bonanza bodes ill for VIC; Norovirus strikes NZ cruise

    A Queensland Health update on the dengue fever outbreaks occurring in the state’s Far North now puts the number of locally-acquired cases in Innisfail at 4, and a new case in Mount Louisa, Townsville. Read more.
    HEALTH authorities in Victoria are concerned about the sharp rise in cases of Ross River fever (RRV) this year, with higher numbers reported early this year over those from 2015 and 2016 combined. The Surf Coast, which takes in the popular tourist towns of Torquay and Lorne has had 22 cases (0 in 2015-6) and Greater Geelong has seen 19 cases (4 in 2016). Read more. In other VIC news, sentinel chickens in Shepparton have tested positive for exposure to Kunjin virus, another viral infection transmitted by mosquitoes (& similar to West Nile virus). As with RRV and Murray Valley encephalitis, avoiding insect bites is the only way to prevent infection. Read more. NSW has also seen a spike in RRV cases this year - 430 up to Feb 11th. The Riverina has been hard hit, but also areas of the Hunter-New England and Georges River. Read more.
    A NOROVIRUS outbreak has hit the Sun Princess during a voyage to New Zealand, the second in as many cruises. Qld Health put the number of passengers affected by the extremely contagious virus at 140. Read more.

    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 or PMD 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.

    Bolivia: Yungas yellow fever case

    News this week of a Danish tourist who contracted yellow fever (YF) last month in Caranavi, a town situated in the Yungas region on the eastern slopes of the Andes, around 160km from La Paz. It is not known if he caught the infection from a mosquito bite while in local forests or in the town. His is a rare case of YF in tourists to Bolivia over the last 10 years; he has since recovered from the illness. According to a ProMED post, measures put in place to address the situation include a requirement that all foreigners to endemic zones must show proof of vaccination against yellow fever. 

    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

    Brazil: Six states in YF outbreak, WHO updates advice

    Now 132 towns in 6 states (Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, São Paulo, Bahia, Tocatins & Rio Grande do Norte) are part of the large yellow fever (YF) outbreak hitting the country. To date the Ministry of Health has advised that there have been 1,236 suspected cases (243 confirmed) and 197 suspected YFV-related deaths (82 confirmed). 
    The World Health Organization (WHO) has issued an update extending those areas where YF vaccination is recommended in the states of Bahia, Espírito Santo and Rio de Janeiro. The advice also specifies YF vaccination for travellers who will be attending the Carnival later this month. No YF cases have been detected in Rio (or in the cities of San Salvador, and São Paulo), however it is anticipated that some travellers will visit other areas with the potential for YF infection. 

    Cape Verde: Dengue’s unwelcome return

    After 6 years with no reports of dengue fever, there have been 23 confirmed cases since the beginning of the year – the largest spike was recorded in early January. Over the past 2 years Zika virus infections have been dominant, with 870 cases in 2016 and over 6,700 the previous year. 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.

    Chad: Hep E surge concerns aid agencies

    Am Timan in the country’s south-east is the centre of a hepatitis E outbreak that has now led to 821 suspected cases and 11 deaths – at least 60 new cases are being reported each week. An epidemic has been declared in the hope that more international aid will arrive in the region. Water contamination is believed to be behind the outbreak which has hit an area which shelters displaced people from Sudan’s ongoing conflicts. 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. Read more about hepatitis E and how to prevent it. 

    China: ‘Abnormal’ bird flu situation; Hep A spike

    At a meeting of governmental health agencies in Hong Kong this week, the Secretary for Food and Health issued a warning on the heightened risk of avian influenza (AI) in the region, describing the situation as ‘abnormal’. Prevention and control measures have been put in place, including increased vigilance from local doctors towards people presenting with AI symptoms and the introduction of thermal imaging at border entries. Since November there have been 357 human cases of H7N9 avian influenza infection, mostly from the south and coastal regions of the mainland. Calls for the closure of poultry markets, a known source of the virus, have been increasing. Read more
    THERE has been a spike in hepatitis A infections reported among homosexual men in Hong Kong, most of whom are undergoing treatment for HIV. Free vaccinations have been offered in an attempt to halt further spread of the viral infection which in the wider community is more likely to be spread through contaminated food and water. 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.

    Honduras: Early data on dengue, Zika released

    New figures for the first few weeks of 2017 show there have been 450 dengue fever cases across the country and another 150 cases of Zika virus and chikungunya. Fumigation of mosquito breeding sites is a high priority for the government which is also promoting disease prevention messages. Read more (translate from Spanish).

    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: Measles spreads in Yangon

    In Yangon region, 40 of the 44 municipalities are reporting measles cases - Haling Tharyar, Insein, Twantay, Kyimyintdine and Tharketa have been hardest hit. Vaccinations are underway targeting 300,000 at-risk individuals – children under 15 years of age are a priority. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Preventable through vaccination, measles and mumps are highly contagious diseases that can cause serious illness in people of all ages. Many cases reported in Australia are linked to overseas travel to both developing and developed countries. Travelvax Australia recommends travellers to Myanmar check their status for these and other routine childhood immunisations, such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis), and polio 6 weeks before departure.

    New Caledonia: Dengue death reported, many more cases

    This dengue season has claimed its first life, with the death of a woman in Noumea. The season, which started in September last year has now produced 752 cases, 203 of those for February (up to Feb 16th) and a health emergency has been declared. The majority of the infections have been reported from Noumea. Read more.

    Nigeria: Measures to curb Lassa in place

    More than 80 people in the state of Nasarawa are being monitored for symptoms after coming into contact with a person with Lassa fever. The government this week confirmed the deaths of 8 people from the infection and went on to assure a ready supply of protective equipment for those caring for the ill, adequate isolation wards and treatment drugs. The largest town in Nasarawa state is Lafia, around 200km SW of Abuja, Nigeria’s capital city. Read more.

    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

    Somalia: Cholera cases pass 4,000 mark

    Thirty-eight of the country’s 90 districts have reported cholera cases, with the total since Jan 1st now reaching 4,026 suspected cases and 57 related deaths. The WHO is working with local health authorities to open treatment centres and improve the quality of drinking water. 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

    South America: Regional chikungunya update

    Nine countries in the region have reported chikungunya cases this year. In the latest update issued by the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO), Peru recorded the highest increase with 50 cases, followed by Colombia (37) and Venezuela (12). Read more.

    Advice for travellers: While the epidemic of chikungunya fever continues across the Caribbean and the Americas, the continued presence of dengue & Zika virus highlights the importance of taking measures to avoid mosquito bites. The diseases are spread by the same the day-time feeding Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus 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.

    Spain: Catalonia’s measles surge

    As many as 12 adults have already been diagnosed with measles in Barcelona following the introduction of the virus by a traveller arriving from China last month. Health practitioners in the region have been advised to be on the alert for more cases; the last large outbreak in Catalonia occurred 4 years ago during an international festival. Read more (translate from Spanish).

    United States of America: Rise in STIs; NW mumps numbers swell

    Popular dating apps, a rise in unsafe sexual practices and more young people moving to Las Vegas is believed to be behind a rise in sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in South Nevada. Last year there was a significant hike in diagnoses of gonorrhoea, Chlamydia, syphilis and HIV, with 16,000 cases reported over 12 months. Read more. However, according to a news article, it’s Alaska that has the highest rates of STIs in the country, followed by Louisiana, North Carolina, Mississippi & New Mexico. 
    SPOKANE County in Washington State has now recorded more mumps cases than neighbouring King County, where the outbreak started. The state’s case count now nears 500 - Spokane has reported over 190 confirmed and suspected cases to date. Read more.

    Vanuatu: Dengue hits hard on Tanna

    On the southern island of Tanna, 115 people are being treated for confirmed dengue fever infection from 435 suspected cases. Read more.

    Vietnam: Viral infections strike; Rabies elimination measures: HFMD surge in south

    An outbreak of chickenpox has broken out in Ho Chi Minh City, with more adults than children affected, , while in Hanoi and nearby provinces, a spate of viral conjunctivitis ('pink eye') cases has led to a sharp rise in visits to the National Eye Hospital. Read more  
    A 4-YEAR plan to control rabies has been given the go ahead as the government strives to lower disease rates and resulting deaths. Checks on households with dogs, ensuring the animals are vaccinated is just one of the measures to be used – data shows that 90 people die of rabies each year in Vietnam, with the highest toll in the northern midlands and mountainous regions. Read more
    AUTHORITIES are recommended strict hygiene practices to counteract a spike in hand, food & mouth disease (HFMD) cases. Children have been most affected, with higher rates in the country’s south. At least 2,100 people have been diagnosed with HFMD so far this year - the peak season is still to come. 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.

  • Brazil: No respite in YF outbreak

    The yellow fever outbreak affecting 3 regions has deepened further, with the government supplying vaccines in an attempt to halt the spread– to date, 112 towns are involved. Temporary vaccination recommendations have been instituted in designated areas of the states of Espíritu Santo, São Paulo and Bahia. In the Dept. of Health’s Feb 8th update, data shows that there had been 1,060 notified cases (765 suspected, 215 confirmed) and 166 deaths (70 confirmed & 93 under investigation). Read more (translate from Portuguese).

    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

    Caribbean, Latin America: Slow start for chikungunya; Zika persists

    Chikungunya infections have risen slowly this year, with the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) reporting slight gains in Peru (47 new cases), Colombia (39), Costa Rica (21), Ecuador (9 cases), Nicaragua (6), and Mexico (1). Read more
    ONE year after a Public Health Emergency of International Concern was declared over the Zika virus, the PAHO has announced that the infection has been transmitted by mosquitoes across 48 countries and territories in the region, and 5 have recorded sexual transmission. The number of confirmed Zika virus disease infections now stands at 200,000, with over 50 percent of those recorded in Brazil. 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: Measures to halt bird flu

    Some poultry markets in Hunan province have been closed in response to the rising number of H7N9 avian influenza infections in humans. Read more. The Centre for Health Protection in Hong Kong has advised residents “to maintain strict personal, food and environmental hygiene both locally and during travel” while it continues to monitor new cases on the mainland. This winter’s bird flu surge has produced more cases than the previous season; the overwhelming majority of cases have been exposed to live poultry. 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.

    Europe: High/very high flu activity noted in 4 countries

    Seasonal flu notifications this week include very high intensity and widespread distribution of infections in Hungary, while the level of activity is deemed to be high (and widespread) in France, Germany & Greece. A full rundown of the influenza situation for week 5 can be found on the European Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (ECDC) influenza webpage

    India: Fever repeats in SW; Early seasonal surge in infection rates

    For the 2nd time in nearly a year, enteric fever has struck the village of Nediyiruppu, near Kondotty in the SW state of Kerala. Last year the local water supply was implicated in an outbreak of paratyphoid infection and this time, curd served at a wedding sickened over 200 people. Read more.  
    IN the city of Gurgaon, close to New Delhi, chickenpox infections are on the rise, with between 5 & 10 new cases being diagnosed daily. According to a news article, while the chickenpox ‘season’ doesn’t normally arrive until March, January alone saw 95 cases. 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 Zealand: Measles & mumps alerts issued

    At least 6 measles cases have been reported in a tertiary education institution in Palmerston North. The origin of the initial case is not clear but it is believed that the infection was contracted overseas. Local health authorities are currently offering vaccination to at-risk individuals and isolating those infected. Read more. Mumps case numbers have almost tripled recently, with cases reported in Auckland, Rotarua, Taupo, Welllington & Canterbury. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Easily preventable through vaccination, measles and mumps are highly contagious diseases that can cause serious illness in people of all ages. Many cases reported in Australia are linked to overseas travel to both developing and developed countries. Travelvax Australia recommends travellers check their status for these and other routine childhood immunisations, such as diphtheria & whooping cough (pertussis) at least 6 weeks before departure. Read more.

    Myanmar: Yangon vax drive to protect kids

    A measles vaccination drive is underway in the Yangon region following the reports of nearly 100 of the viral infections in 20 villages. Children in 5 of the most affected townships are being targeted in the campaign. Read more.

    Liberia: Lassa in 3 counties, more at risk

    Contact tracing is underway following the deaths of 2 people in Nimba from Lassa fever – a 3rd person remains under observation in hospital. To date, the counties of Bong, Lofa and Nimba have reported cases but an official in the Health Ministry has warned all Liberians to protect their homes and food against rats, a vector of the disease during the dry season. Read more.

    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.

    Pakistan: Sindh’s hepatitis scourge

    Contaminated water is thought to be behind a spate of hepatitis cases and subsequent deaths in rural areas of Sindh province. The number of people affected is believed to be in the hundreds, with many more unable to afford treatment. It is not stated which of the faecal-oral transmitted hepatitis viruses is involved - A or E. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: The hepatitis E virus is transmitted mainly through faecal contamination of drinking water. Unlike the Hep A virus, there is no vaccine for this strain, which is especially common in communities with lower levels of sanitation and hygiene. More than 60% of all hepatitis E infections and 65% of deaths occur in East and South Asia. Read more about the virus and how to prevent it.

    Philippines: Rise in Zika infections; Deadly disease alert in Zamboanga

    The country’s Zika virus infection case count now sits at 57 according to news reports this week. The ages of those affected span from 59 down to 7 years and twice as many women as men were infected. The majority of cases were residents of the National Capital Region which takes in Metro Manila (20 cases), followed by Calabarzon (18) and Western Visayas (15). Read more
    AN increase in the incidence of diphtheria in Zamboanga City has officials worried. This week a 2-year-old girl died from the infection, her siblings have tested positive to diphtheria and up to 60 other children are considered contacts and remain under observation. Read more.

    United States of America: Mumps persists in Washington & Arkansas

    The current mumps outbreak in Washington State continues in the headlines of the US news media (with an estimated 400 suspected cases), but an earlier surge in cases reported in NW Arkansas is still active, with that infection count now at 2,747 cases. 

    Vanuatu: 210 confirmed dengue cases, more to come

    It’s taking time to get laboratory confirmation of dengue fever cases, but this week the Ministry of Health has released details of the situation as of Feb 3rd: a total of 210 positive dengue infections from 1,315 suspected cases since November 2016. Symptomatic individuals are being urged to seek medical treatment as authorities attempt to stem dengue’s spread through campaigns to remove standing water from around homes, the mosquito vector’s breeding grounds. Read more.

    Vietnam: Varicella surge in north

    Hospitals in Hanoi are experiencing a surge in chickenpox cases, with 20 admitted for treatment in January alone. The sub-tropical climate of the city is conducive to a rise in infections during the cooler, drier months; the virus is also more likely to strike older children and adults. Read more

    Zambia: Anthrax lingers in west

    Five districts in the Western province (Limulunga, Nalolo, Kalabo, Shangombo & Sioma) have been impacted by the anthrax outbreak that started in November last year. Both humans and animals have contracted the disease – of the 67 people infected, 2 have died. Health officials are endeavouring to control the outbreak through animal vaccinations and public awareness campaigns. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: The anthrax bacterium is transmitted to people in the form of spores which are can produce disease through consuming contaminated meat, through inhalation or via contact with the wool, hair or hide of infected animals. The majority of cases have occurred in people involved in the livestock industry, so infection is a low risk to travellers. Read more about anthrax

    Zimbabwe: 2 typhoid deaths in capital

    A local news report puts the typhoid fever case count at 604, including the deaths of 2 children, and reveals that the infection has spread from Mbare in suburban Harare, to the neighbouring townships of Budiriro and Glen View. 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 fever.

  • Australia: Far North’s first dengue case for year

    Queensland Health posted a new alert this week advising of the first locally transmitted dengue fever case for 2017 in Innisfail. According to a news article, there are 2 more possible cases in the area; the dengue serotype is unknown as yet. Innisfail is situated in the Cassowary Coast Region about 90kms south of Cairns. 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, IR3535, or oil of lemon eucalyptus when outdoors to all exposed skin. Read more about dengue fever and preventing insect bites.

    Brazil: YF outbreak ongoing, CDC raises alert level

    The US Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has updated its travel alerts to reflect the current yellow fever outbreak, now listing the area as ‘Alert - Level 2, Practice Enhanced Precautions’. States continuing to report suspected yellow fever cases are Minas Gerais, Espírito Santo, Bahia, São Paulo and Tocatins – a Ministry of Health press release supplies all details of the suspected cases (857) and deaths (135) to date. Yellow fever vaccines are being distributed in affected areas, including districts of Espírito Santo, north-western Rio de Janeiro and western Bahia that border Minas Gerais. Read more (translate from Portuguese).

    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: Manitoba mumps moves north

    The mumps outbreak that has sickened 125 people, many of them university students in Winnipeg, has now spread to the north of Manitoba, with 2 confirmed cases in the city of Thompson and others undergoing testing. 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.

    China: Bird flu infections surge again

    On Wednesday, Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection (CHP) released the avian influenza report for the week of Jan 22-28. In it the details of 10 new H7N9 infections were outlined, including places of residence: 2 cases each in Henan, Hubei, Hunan & Liaoning and one in Guizhou and Shandong. Four of these cases are said to be in a critical condition. The European Centre for Disease Control & Prevention (ECDC) has released an updated rapid risk assessment for travellers to China. 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.

    Europe: Influenza season in full swing

    Regional influenza activity posted by the ECDC identifies high intensity and widespread distribution of infections in the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Switzerland, while the intensity is at medium levels in extensive areas of Denmark, Luxemburg and the Netherlands. Influenza A(H3) remains the predominant infecting strain. Read more.

    Laos: Dengue activity rises

    No dengue fever cases were reported in the capital Vientiane in the first 24 days of last year, but this year there have been 70. Authorities have also announced that 12 provinces currently have high dengue activity, with the national dengue case count sitting at 235. Read more.

    Malaysia: Early start to dengue season for 6 states

    The states of Selangor, Perak, Kedah, Pahang, Penang and Kelantan have shown an increase in dengue fever infections this year. In the most recent reporting week (to Jan21), there had been an almost 10 percent increase over the previous week’s total of 1,876 cases. The country has already recorded 13 dengue-related deaths this year. Read more.

    Marshall Islands: Govt. move over Hep A outbreak

    The hepatitis A outbreak reported in last week’s post has now spread to at least 89 people, with more suspected cases undergoing testing. In order to tackle this health problem, and in anticipation of a rise in insect-borne diseases following recent heavy rains, the government has instituted a health emergency which allows it to concentrate resources in the short- to medium-term. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Hepatitis A (HAV) is a vaccine-preventable viral disease passed on to humans by faecally contaminated food and water, or by handling everyday items. It is a common infection in travellers and is a significant risk in most developing countries where sanitation and hygiene are lacking. A course of hepatitis A vaccine offers immunity that is 99%-plus effective and protects for 20-30 years. Travellers should also follow these guidelines for safe food and water.

    Namibia: Rains bring rise in malaria

    Following recent heavy rains in the northern Omuthiya-Oshikoto region, the number of malaria diagnoses for early January has increased from 25 to 102 over the corresponding period last year. A health official was quoted as saying the hike was ‘linked to environmental and epidemiological changes in the country and in neighbouring countries’. Oshikoto region takes in the eastern part of Etosha National Park; the regional capital is Omuthiya. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: For most travellers, Africa presents a significant malaria risk. Travellers can discuss their itinerary and the need for anti-malaria medication with a trained travel health professional at their nearest Travelvax clinic. For details call 1300 360 164.

    Nepal: Rabies spreads from mongoose population

    Authorities in Lampung district, east of the popular tourist destination of Pokhara, are warning of the risk of rabies from mongoose and other wild animals. There has been a spike in deaths of domesticated animals in the area, considered most likely to be due to bites from rabid mongoose. 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

    New Caledonia: Further rise in dengue

    A slight reduction in dengue fever cases was recorded in the last week of January, with the majority of the 96 new infections coming from suburbs of the capital Noumea. The total number of dengue cases recorded since September 2016 now sits at 473, with 309 of those in January 2017. Read more.

    Pakistan: Measles spreads in northern Sindh

    In the central region of Ghotki, a measles outbreak that has been ongoing for the past 2 months has infected scores of children and caused at least one death. Each day, up to 10 children are taken to local hospitals for diagnosis and treatment. 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.

    Somalia: Measures in place to halt disease

    The World Health Organization (WHO) is working with national agencies to tackle the current cholera outbreak that led to 2,236 suspected cases and 32 related deaths in the first 3 weeks of this year. Vaccination campaigns are planned in order to halt the spread of the disease from regions such as Bay, Banadir and Lower Shabelle to unaffected areas. Read more.

    Thailand: Dengue warning for popular island

    Since the beginning of December, 128 people on the island of Ko Samui have been diagnosed with dengue fever and one death has resulted. Most of those affected were employed in tourist-based capacities such as restaurants and hotels. The director of the local hospital has warned locals and tourists alike to use insect bite avoidance measures. Read more.

    United States of America: Flu update; Mumps in 8 counties of NW state

    Of the now 37 states reporting influenza activity, 10 (plus New York City) are recording high rates: Alabama, Georgia, Kansas, Louisiana, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and Tennessee. Laboratory testing of confirmed cases showed nearly 90 percent were due to influenza A viruses, with A(H3) predominating. Read more
    MUMPS has now spread to 8 of Washington’s counties and the case count is over 300, with another Dept. of Health update due later today. King County has recorded over half of the total number of infections. Read more.

    Vanuatu: Dengue alert raised

    As dengue fever continues to spread in the islands, an orange alert has been put in place for Port-Vila 4 municipal Ward, while Efate rural areas, Lenakel-Tanna, Luganville-Santo and Sola- Banks are under a yellow alert. Public awareness campaigns are ongoing during the current rainy season, as figures confirm an overall increase in dengue cases over the past few years. Read more.