Health Alerts
Brazil: Yellow fever, chikungunya updates

Figures from the Ministry of Health’s May 10th update (computer translated) reveal that there have now been 3,175 yellow fever cases (756 confirmed, 622 under investigation & 1,797 discarded), and 421 deaths (259 confirmed, 47 under investigation and 115 discarded) from 124 towns in 6 states. In the same report it is noted that the most recent cases were in the states of Espirito Santo, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro with dates of onset of symptoms ranging from April 6 to 20. A vaccination campaign, which has been put in place to provide cover for 95% of the affected populations (thereby mopping up areas of low coverage) has involved over 24 million vaccine doses to date. Read more (translate from Portuguese). Chikungunya is still maintaining a presence in the country and even without the most recent figures (since mid-April), Brazil has recorded 43,010 confirmed and suspected cases since the beginning of the year. 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. Read more about yellow fever

China: New province with H7N9 signals no slowing

Warming of the weather would usually signify a decline in the number of human bird flu cases, but this season is proving unusual. In Hong Kong’s Centre for Health Protection weekly update issued on May 16th, a further 23 H7N9 cases were announced; 5 of those from Hebei province. Another province, Shanxi, has since been added to the list of those affected in the current wave of infections (since October last year) after a 66-year old woman was diagnosed with H7N9 avian influenza in the northern city of Datong. 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.

Costa Rica: Trio of mozzie diseases

Health department data on mosquito-borne diseases reported in the first 16 weeks of the year show that there have been 152 Zika virus infections, 1,138 dengue cases and 133 chikungunya cases. The local news report also details the extent of the measures being employed to tackle mosquito breeding sites. 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).

Democratic Republic of Congo: Health agencies on Ebola alert

As many as 21 suspected Ebola virus cases, including 3 deaths, have been reported in the country’s central north province of Bas Uele, putting the World Health Organization and Africa Centers for Disease Control & Prevention on alert. A further 400 people who were contacts of the cases are being monitored for symptoms. Two of 5 laboratory samples taken from early victims have shown Ebola virus present (Zaire subtype). The affected areas are Nambwa (13 cases, 2 deaths), Mouma (3,1), Ngayi (6,0) and Azande (1,0). Read more. Vaccination of healthcare workers and others involved in the care of patients is under consideration, using the experimental rVSV-ZEBOV vaccine. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Ebola is a severe viral haemorrhagic fever found in humans and other primates (such as monkeys, gorillas, and chimpanzees). It spreads through families and friends in close contact with blood and infectious secretions of people with obvious symptoms and, as such, presents a low risk to travellers visiting infected areas. Read more about Ebola virus disease.

India: Monkey fever spike; Dengue in south; Assam’s JE count

Kyasansur Forest disease (also known as monkey fever) has killed 11 people and infected 187 this season in Sindhudurg District, Maharashtra state. Infections have increased by almost one-third over the previous season (which runs from November to the beginning of the monsoon season). Read more.
OVER half of the 3,100 dengue fever cases in the southern state of Kerala have been recorded in the capital Thiruvananthapuram. Read more. And in the city of Tirunelveli in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state, up to 10 people a day are seeking treatment for symptoms of dengue fever. Read more.
TWO cities that sit near the banks of the Brahmaputra River in the state of Assam have borne the brunt of Japanese encephalitis (JE) infections this year. Across the state there have been 39 cases and 9 deaths, with Jorhat and Sivasagar districts hardest hit. 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 very low. The recommendations for vaccination are itinerary-specific. Read more on JE

Malaysia: Selangor’s dengue surge

At least 6 districts in Selangor state, many of them near the Federal Territory of Kuala Lumpur, have reported a surge in dengue fever numbers this year. Petaling, Hulu Langat and Klang districts have between them recorded more than 14,000 cases and 25 deaths. 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.

Myanmar: Dengue in Yangon, Bago region

Dengue fever cases have increased over the year in 20 townships of Yangon, from 254 for the period January to the end of April in 2016, to 954 this year. Read more. Further north, dengue has also hit Pyi District, Bago Region. Read more.

New Caledonia: Dengue toll hits 8 this season

An 8th person, a resident of Noumea, has succumbed to dengue fever during the current outbreak that started in September last year; a further 17 people are being treated in hospital for related conditions. The numbers appear to be slowing, with 339 reported for the month May up to the 17th, according to the Direction des Affaires Sanitaires et Sociales website. Total case numbers for the outbreak have now reached 3,569. Read more.

Niger: Men. meningitis persists, Nigeria cases top 13,400

The death toll from the meningococcal meningitis outbreak that started in January is thought to be at least 179, with many children among those. The numbers of suspected cases now sits at 3,037. Read more. To the south, Nigeria’s Centre for Disease Control updated their Men. meningitis outbreak figures on May 12th, announcing that ‘13,420 suspected cases have been identified … The number of deaths recorded is 1,069’. 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. Both Niger and Nigeria 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.

Niue Island: Dengue case sparks alert

A single case of dengue fever has been reported on the remote island, but with a population estimated to be around 1,600, an alert has been issued. All residents have been advised to take precautions against mosquito bites and report any typical dengue symptoms. Read more. The last substantial outbreak appears to have been in 2012, with ~100 people infected. 

Peru: More support needed for fever patients

Demonstrations have been held by Piura healthcare workers as they struggle to get the government support needed to tackle the current dengue fever epidemic. A news source quoting official data claims there have been 3,150 confirmed cases and a further 12,446 are suspected in the NW region. 300 new cases are reported each day. Read more.

Romania: Measles toll now 25

The 25th victim of the ongoing measles outbreak was announced last week by the health minister, a 2-year old unvaccinated child from Aleșd, 50 km from the Hungarian border. Read more. From January 2016 to May 5th this year, almost 6,000 measles cases have been recorded in Romania and infections linked to the outbreak have been identified in other European countries. The ECDC Communicable Disease Threats Report lists the 14 countries in the region that have reported measles cases this year. 

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 case numbers rise again

ProMED reports on a MERS Co-V update issued by the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office and provides details of the total number of coronavirus cases since Sept, 2012 and the most recent infections. Four of the 5 confirmed cases over the last reporting week are considered nosocomial (healthcare acquired) from the regions of Riyadh (3 cases) and Bisha (1 case). Read more about Middle East Respiratory Syndrome.

Singapore: Zika slows, dengue count nears 1,000

There have been 998 dengue cases since the beginning of the year (up to May 16), with 4 active clusters still producing a small number of cases. On the Zika virus front, no new cases have been detected over the past 7 days. Read more.

South Africa: Rainfall, temps partly to blame for rise in malaria

The National Institute for Communicable Disease update on malaria transmission in the country’s north-east has cautioned that Mopani and Vhembe Districts in the province of Limpopo and Bushbuckbridge in Mpumalanga Province are experiencing an increased incidence of malaria. The situation has been made worse by higher rainfall/temperatures and ‘reduced insecticide spray coverage in some areas’ due to budgetary restraints. 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.

Tajikistan: Dushanbe’s measles spike

A measles outbreak that started in early April has caused 345 infections in and around the capital Dushanbe; over 70 percent of cases have required hospitalisation. Most cases have been in young children aged one to 9 years; that age group is to be targeted in a vaccination drive taking place this month. Read more.

United States of America: Island mumps; Listeria triggers cheese recall; Minnesota’s measles surge

Hawaii’s mumps notifications have hit a 16-year high with 39 for the year, after another 9 residents had their diagnoses confirmed this week - 8 on Oahu and one on Kauai. Read more
OVER 2,700kg of cheese that had been distributed to retailers in California has been recalled after listeria was detected in the product, Quesos De La Costa Queso Duro Blanco. Read more. More on listeria.
THE Somali-American community in the state of Minnesota is at the centre of a measles outbreak that has led to 50 infections among them, and 60 overall. The counties of Hennepin (51 cases), Ramsey (3), Crow Wing (4) and Le Sueur (2) have been affected; further spread to other districts is expected. 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.

Yemen: Cholera alert declared

The extent of the cholera outbreak in the capital Sanaa has deteriorated to such an extent that a state of emergency has been enacted. Across the country, over 14,000 people have been sickened by cholera (resulting in at least 186 deaths) - 2,567 of those cases and 115 deaths were in Sanaa. International aid agencies have requested assistance in managing the crisis. Read more. More on cholera.