Health Alerts
China: Quarantined for bird flu

More than 300 people in Shaanxi province have been placed under quarantine because they were close contacts of the 4 recent cases of human H7N9 avian influenza. Of the 4 cases, 2 have died and 2 remain in hospital – one of them in a critical condition. Read more. Across other provinces, a further 24 bird flu cases were identified over the last reporting week, with the highest number of cases in Hebei (7 cases) and Sichuan (6). Read more. The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection advice for travellers to areas experiencing avian influenza can be found here

Kenya: Mombasa’s dengue spike

The coastal county of Mombasa has recorded a surge in dengue fever with over 350 people infected, according to health authority figures – most cases came from Kisauni subcounty. Plans are underway for the rainy season with efforts to curb the number of transmitting mosquitoes. 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 a 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.

Liberia: Some answers to mystery illness

Investigations into the unidentified illness that had sickened 25 people and killed 11 (as reported in last week’s alerts) have produced some answers, but not all. With the case count now at 31 with 13 deaths, results of samples taken from earlier victims have shown 4 were infected with meningococcal meningitis C strain bacteria. The WHO is still carrying out testing on others to determine the next action needed to stem the spread of infection. 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.

Malaysia: Kedah dengue rise

There’s been a surge in dengue fever cases in the NW state of Kedah this year, with 513 reported to date. Kuala Muda district, near the border with Penang state has recorded 2 of the 3 dengue-related deaths this year. Read more.

Oman: Measles strategy for expats and locals

Foreign workers travelling to Oman are now required to have proof of measles vaccination as the country tries to counter an increase in measles infections. The local population is also targeted, with those adults aged between 20 and 35 the focus of an immunisation campaign starting next week – this has proved to be the age group at heightened risk of infection in Oman. 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), and polio 6 weeks before departure.

Portugal: Hep A count tops 240

In a local update on the hepatitis A outbreak that has spread across many European countries over the past 15 months, Portuguese health authorities have announced that their case count has now hit 242, up from 107 a month ago. The majority (>90%) of cases are in men who have sex with men (MSM) – a potentially higher risk category. Read more (translate from Portuguese). And with the upcoming WorldPride event due to start in Madrid on June 23rd, the ECDC has published its risk assessment for those travellers. See information here

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 significant risk in travellers to 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.

Singapore: 2 more Zika cases in east

The area that encompasses Highland, Kovan and upper Serangoon Roads has delivered the 2 most recent Zika virus cases (& 9 in all) of the 32 recorded across the city-state this year, according to the National Environment Agency website. 

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 Africa: Late malaria surge in Mpumalanga; Measles vax campaign for Gauteng

Malaria notifications in the eastern province of Mpumalanga have spiked this year: 585 compared with 499 over the same April/May period last year. The Bushbuckridge area (which lies ~100kms from the Mozambique border) has been hard hit, reporting 235 local cases including 2 malaria–related deaths over the past 2 weeks. Read more
A measles vaccination campaign targeted at children aged 2 to 15 years has started in Gauteng province as a response to an outbreak of the highly contagious viral illness that has sickened 17 individuals recently. Most cases were recorded in Johannesburg (13), the remainder in Ekurhuleni and Tshwane. 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.

United States of America: Hep A in Colorado, California

Men who have sex with men represent the majority of the 26 Hep A cases reported since the beginning of the year in the US state of Colorado. The number is higher than the average for most years. A news report highlights the Front Range counties on the eastern side of the Southern Rocky Mountains as producing most cases in the current outbreak. Read more. And in California, a Hep A outbreak that is centred mainly on homeless people and illicit drug users has produced 80 cases and 3 deaths in San Diego county. Read more.

Vietnam: Early start for dengue season

The incidence of dengue fever is on the rise. Authorities have advised that, year-to-date, there have been 20,947 cases across the country and 8 resulting deaths. Hanoi has experienced an almost 50 percent increase on last year’s figures for the same first 4 months, with all parts of the city affected. Read more.