Health Alerts
Australia: Bad flu season: Measles alert

There have been a total of 193,673 laboratory confirmed notifications of Influenza in Australia for 2017, at the start of 4 October. The highest rates have been in NSW, followed by QLD and SA. Influenza activity is past its peak in most States however remains high.  There has been 2.5 times the number of confirmed cases of influenza compared to last year and 370 deaths recorded in 4 states. Read more. FURTHER There have now been 25 cases of measles across NSW in 2017, including more than a dozen in western Sydney. Melbourne has recorded 11 cases in the past fortnight; most of these cases have been linked to the Collins Square office building at Docklands. Read more.

Advice for travellers: The 2017 flu season is well 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. Hand sanitiser is a convenient alternative if soap and water is not available. Read more about Flu.

Canada: Mumps soaring

There have been 252 cases of measles confirmed in Manitoba since June this year, these numbers are extremely high for a region which typically sees 0 to 5 cases per year. Authorities are unsure what is causing this spike; however one possible reason is that mumps can spread more easily when people live in overcrowded housing and in smaller, tight-knit communities. Ontario has reported more than 100 cases and now Peterborough public health is warning residents after 3 cases have been diagnosed in the area.  

Advice for travellers: These consequences of mumps outbreaks highlight the importance of current immunisation against contagious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, rubella and measles for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about mumps.

 

Europe: Measles sky-high; UK measles success

France has seen more than 400 people infected with measles between January to July, in comparison there were only 79 cases last year. Greece has seen 170 cases of measles so far this year, mainly in Roma children under the age of 10 years in the Attica region. In comparison the United Kingdom (UK) has effectively eradicated measles as a public health concern, once again demonstrating the power of vaccinations. The WHO announced the good news after confirming that measles has not circulated in the UK for the past 3 years. 

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. Read more

 

Italy: Local Chikungunya continues

As of 26 September, 183 cases have been notified to the Lazio Region of Italy, which includes the coastal areas of Anzio and Latina as well as the city of Rome. Of the notified cases, 109 are confirmed and 74 additional cases are being investigated (all with a link to the Lazio Region). Three more confirmed cases have also been notified from other areas with a travel history to Anzio. 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. Products are available through Travelvax online

Kenya: Malaria not low risk

A Malaria outbreak has killed 15 people in North Horr [in Marsabit county central northern Kenya near the Ethiopian border] in one week, with 129 others infected. This area is normally considered a low risk area, however heavy rains from July have provided a fertile ground for mosquito breeding. 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. Read more about malaria

Pakistan: New wild polio; Diphtheria threat

There have been 11 cases of wild polio in 2017 compared to 37 in 2016 globally. Pakistan reports - one new wild poliovirus type 1 (WPV1) case which occurred in Lakki Marwat district, Khyber Pakhtoon province. Read more FURTHER a serious threat has emerged for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) [formerly the North-West Frontier Province (NW)] government in Pakistan after 33 cases of diphtheria were reported from the federally administration tribal areas (FATA). 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. More on polio. Diphtheria is among the childhood diseases Travelvax recommends Australians have boosted if needed 6 weeks prior to overseas travel. Read more on diphtheria.

Panama: Pink/red eye; viral conjunctivitis

The Ministry of Health of the Republic of Panama (Minsa) has reported some 68 867 cases of viral conjunctivitis. Most cases have been reported are Coln, San Miguelito [Panam division], Panama Oeste, and Panama Metro. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Pink/red eye, also known as conjunctivitis, is one of the most common eye conditions in children and adults. It is an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the thin, clear tissue that lines the inside of the eyelid and the white part of the eyeball. This inflammation makes blood vessels more visible and gives the eye a pink or reddish colour. Travellers are advised to frequently wash their hands with soap and water, and not to share sunglasses or bath towels. In addition, it is recommended to see a medical professional if they have itching, pain, swollen eyelids, grit eyes, or other discomfort. Read more

Saudi Arabia: New MERS-CoV

The Saudi Arabian Ministry of Health (MOH) announced a new case of MERS-CoV from Tabuk, a city in northwestern Saudi Arabia near the Jordanian border. The man presented with symptoms of MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) infection and is in stable condition. He had direct contact with camels, a known risk factor for contracting MERS. There have been 1,727 cases of MERS - CoV since 2012, including 699 deaths. Read more.

Advice for travellers: Experts advise that simple precautions will prevent infection – as well as colds, flu, traveller’s diarrhoea, and other illnesses. Most importantly, to prevent germs spreading, wash your hands often with soap and water, or use an alcohol-based hand sanitiser, after using the toilet, and before eating or touching your eyes, nose, or mouth. Close contact with a sick person should also be avoided.

South Africa: Rabies KwaZulu-Natal

A female holidaymaker presented at a local veterinary clinic after being bitten by a puppy on Thu 14 Sep 2017 and authorities are very keen to speak to this person, after a puppy was euthanized due to its agressive behaviour and an autopsy revealed rabies. Over the past month cases of rabies have been reported in the King Cetshwayo District (Eshowe to Richards Bay), moving south through the Ilembe District (Ndwedwe and Maphumulo) into Inanda township in Durban - and now in the greater Ballito area. This is an area which until recently had been rabies free, following a partnership between the WHO and the Bill Gates Foundation. Read more

Advice for travellers: Rabies is a significant public health issue throughout  Africa. 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 Africa 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.

United States of America: Early northern hemisphere flu

Alaskan authorities have confirmed more than 70 confirmed cases of influenza in September 2017, for both the North Slope and Northwest Arctic. These increased number of cases detected in northern Alaska may be indicative of an early onset to the flu season. 

Advice for travellers: Seasonal flu is the most common vaccine-preventable travel-related illness because it is a potential risk during every stage of the journey. Whether you are travelling within Australia or overseas, Travelvax recommends vaccination for all travellers over 6 months. Vaccination in the southern hemisphere may not be protective for the northern hemisphere. Read more about Influenza.