Health Alerts
Australia: Whooping cough spikes

Pertussis is sweeping through Riverton [South Australia] with a total of 21 students from Riverton Primary School and 1 student at Riverton Kindergarten confirmed to have contracted the infection since the start of August (2017). The South Australian Health Minister Jack Snelling is urging all South Australians to get vaccinated. He reported back in June (2017) that the number of notifications received had risen alarmingly in the State with a nearly 50% increase (860 cases) compared to 2016 571 cases). Read more.

Advice for travellers: Travelvax Australia recommends that all travellers ensure they are current for whooping cough (pertussis) and all childhood vaccinations, including, diphtheria, measles, chickenpox and tetanus for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about pertussis.

Belize: Pink eye in Americas

According to local news reports, there have been 1108 cases of pink eye (conjunctivitis) reported in Belize up to the end of September 2017, in what they call one of the worst outbreaks since 2005. Belize now joins Panama (as reported last week) and several other Caribbean, Central and South American countries (Bahamas, Brazil, Costa Rica, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Guadeloupe, Martinique, Mexico, Saint Lucia, Saint Martin, Suriname, and the Turks and Caicos Islands) which have all reported outbreaks. 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.

Brazil: MSM Hepatitis A

According to the local Health Department, the city of Sao Paulo is in the throes of an outbreak of hepatitis A as a result of men having sex with men (MSM). There have been since January until the 16th of September been 517 cases of the disease, a very significant increase of more than 8 x the number of cases in 2016 (64 cases). The State Department of Health, in turn, reports that in Sao Paulo state, there have been 394 cases of hepatitis A by the 2nd week of August 2017 compared to just 154 cases in 2016. Read more

Advice for travellers: Hepatitis A (HAV) is a vaccine-preventable viral disease passed on to humans primarily through oral contact with faeces of an infected person. This can occur through contaminated food and water, by handling everyday items and sexual contact. 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.

Central African Republic, South Africa, West Africa: Watery diarrhoea ubiquitously

Acute watery diarrhea (AWD) disease outbreaks (cholera) have been reported in a number of countries in Central Africa, including Ethiopia, Democratic Republic of Congo & Nigeria. In Eastern and Southern Africa, cholera has caused more than 102 800 notifications and 1550 deaths since the beginning of 2017 in Angola, Burundi, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. According to a report in All Africa cited in Prome ‘Somalia accounts for 76.6 % of the total cases reported, followed by South Sudan at 15.9%. Heavy rains have been cited as the main culprit of the outbreak but poor sanitation is commonplace in the affected regions. Conflict and subsequent displacements in such countries as Burundi, Somalia, and South Sudan have exacerbated the outbreak of the water borne disease in the respective countries’. 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.

Fiji: Enteric fever concerns

The Fiji Ministry of Health and Medical services is closely monitoring reports of an outbreak of Typhoid fever, so called enteric fever caused by _Salmonella enterica_ serotype Typhi on Moturiki Island in the Lomaiviti Group. There have been 13 patients diagnosed on Moturiki island and all have received pertinent treatment. Symptoms of classical typhoid include fever, anorexia, lethargy, malaise, dull continuous headache, non-productive cough, vague abdominal pain, and constipation. Diarrhea may develop but usually does not. Read more

Advice for travellers: Typhoid is endemic in many developing regions, although it generally presents a low risk for travellers, vaccination is itinerary specific. All travellers visiting endemic areas should follow safe food and water guidelines, and adopt strict personal hygiene practices and discuss with their doctor if vaccinations are necessary.

Hong Kong: 5th case of JE

The Hong Kong Centre for Health Protection (CHP) has reported its 5th case of Japanese encephalitis (JE) in Hong Kong this year, compared to 2016 and 2015 which saw 2 (imported) and 2 (local) transmissions. There have been sporadic cases of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) infection in Hong Kong in past years. 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.

Madagascar: An old foe

There have been a total of 449 cases of plague (including pneumonic, bubonic and one case of septicemic) with 48 deaths in 20 areas and cities across Madagascar. Pneumonic plague is probably the most serious form of plague; it's when the bacteria infect the lungs and causes pneumonia. The risk of infection with Yersinia pestis for international travellers to Madagascar is generally low, however travellers to rural areas of plague infected areas may be at risk. A Seychellois basketball player taking part in a tournament contracted pneumonic plague and died in a hospital in Madagascar. Read more

Advice for travellers: Travellers should avoid crowded areas, avoid contact with dead animals, infected tissues or materials, and avoid close contact with patients with pneumonic plague. Travellers can protect against flea bites using repellent products for personal protection against mosquitoes, fleas and other blood-sucking arthropods. Read more on plague

Switzerland: Ticks on the rise

According to the Swiss Federal Health Office encephalitis due to tick bites is on the rise in Switzerland with 214 people contracting this serious viral illness from a tick bite and 2 deaths, according to local Swiss newspaper (SonntagsZeitung Sun 8 Oct 2017. The WHO states, "Approximately 10000-12 000 clinical cases of tick-borne encephalitis are reported each year, but this figure is believed to be significantly lower than the actual total. Immunization offers the most effective protection. Read more 

Advice for travellers: A viral infection, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) can cause fever, vomiting, cramps and paralysis, which can be prolonged. In rare instances, infection can be fatal. Travellers who spend time in regions where TBE is endemic – mainly forested areas of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Northern China, and Mongolia – may be at risk. The highest risk is during the warmer months from April to November, especially when hiking or camping in areas below 1500m. VACCINE: While safe and effective vaccines are available in Europe, none are licensed in Australia. However, vaccinations can be obtained from Travelvax through the TGA special access scheme.

United States of America: pesky mossies

Local residents in Southern California are complaining about swarms of small, aggressive mosquitoes biting during the day, often indoors. The County Vector control unit inspected local traps and found A. aegypti_ and/or _A. albopictus_ mosquitoes capable of carrying mosquito borne illnesses such as West Nile, dengue, Zika virus, chikungunya and yellow fever. The concern is that this may lead to the introduction of one of the above named viruses. As of the 27 Sep 2017, there have been 25 cases of Zika virus infections imported into California so far this year (2017). Read more

Advice for travellers: Mosquito borne diseases such as dengue are 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 preventing insect bites.  

Zambia: Copper belt malaria

The Province Health Director Costantine Mwale has told ZNBC News that malaria has continued to plague the Copperbelt Province in Zambia with 400,000 cases reported between January to October 2017. Read more

Advice for travellers: 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