Health Alerts
Argentina: Capital’s confirmed dengue

In just under four months there have been 47 dengue fever cases in the capital, Buenos Aires – none of those infected had travelled outside the country so the dengue was locally acquired. Read more (translate from Spanish). In neighbouring Paraguay, information available up to late March revealed a total of 2,184 confirmed dengue cases (& 10 deaths), but there were a further 12,347  infections that were considered ‘probable’. While some municipalities in Asunción had a drop in cases, numbers rose in Zeballos Cué, Botánico and Roberto L Petit. Read more (translate from Spanish).

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.

Botswana: Late malaria for 2 regions

The end of the annual peak malaria transmission season is approaching but cases have climbed recently owing to late rains in southern and central areas. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) bulletin, there have been 339 confirmed cases and two deaths for the year to mid-April. 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. More on malaria.

China: Onset of HFMD season

Health authorities in Beijing expect a rise in the incidence of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) this year as the city heads into the peak season for the infection; and the situation is likely to be mirrored on a national level. Children under five years of age make up more than three-quarters of all cases. Read more (translation required).

Advice for travellers: Parents of young children should be aware of that seasonal epidemics of HFMD occur throughout Asia. The virus mainly affects young children and 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.

Europe: Study: Measles outcomes severe in babies

Results from a study on the ongoing measles outbreak were outlined at a recent conference and included: ‘37,365 measles cases reported to the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) from 1 January 2013 through 31 December 2017. The researchers found 81% of all reported cases were patients who were not vaccinated.’ And ‘children younger than two years old were at a higher risk of dying from measles than older patients’.

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.

India: Dengue alert sounded

It has been revealed that over 40 percent of children living in Kerala’s capital district have tested positive for previous dengue fever infections so their risk of severe complications from a subsequent infection is raised. Authorities are concerned the upcoming monsoon (and peak dengue) season could bring higher death rates even if actual dengue numbers drop. Read more 

Japan: Golden measles risk

The increase in holiday travel over Golden Week (starting at week’s end) could well bring a surge in measles cases after local authorities in Okinawa said their numbers have increased from ~40 on April 13 to 70. Also six more healthcare-related cases have occurred in Aichi prefecture after an infected teenager who had travelled to Okinawa sought medical care on return to Nagoya. Read more. Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control measles statistics reveal they have had a total of 23 cases since the end of March, 15 of those in April. One news source stated that over 5,000 people may have been exposed to the virus through contact with infected individuals.

Nigeria: Lassa season assessment

A WHO assessment of the Lassa fever outbreak offers some caution with the news that case numbers are finally on the decline: ‘This declining trend needs to be interpreted with caution as historical data shows that the high transmission period has not passed. … This is the largest outbreak of Lassa fever ever reported in Nigeria.’ Edo, the only state to report a new case this past week, has been the source of over 40 percent of all cases this year. Read more

Advice for travellers: Lassa fever is a low risk for most travellers. Rodents shed the virus in urine and droppings and it’s then passed on to humans through direct contact, touching objects or eating food contaminated with these materials, or through cuts or sores. While Lassa fever is mild or has no observable symptoms in about 80% of people infected with the virus, the remaining 20% have a severe multisystem disease. Read more on Lassa fever.

Philippines: Safe from measles program underway

Authorities in the City of Parañaque, a southern municipality within Metro Manila, have instituted a campaign – Ligtas Tigdas – aimed at tacking the rising incidence of measles infections in children and pregnant women. Nationally, there have been 950 confirmed measles cases but the number of suspected cases is many times higher at 5,450. Fifteen deaths have resulted from the outbreak; the majority of those were unvaccinated. Read more

Reunion Island: Dengue count tops 1,800

No let-up in the dengue epidemic with 428 more cases reported in the week to Apr 22, taking the yearly total to 1,816. The west and south of the island continue to be hardest hit. Read more (translate from French).

South Africa: Post-holiday malaria warning: Listeria update

On April 19 the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) issued an alert as holiday travel has brought about a rise in the incidence of malaria. The organisation was responding to an increase in malaria cases in returning travellers from both within and outside the country, with particular mention of the provinces of NE Limpopo, eastern Mpumalanga, and northern KwaZulu-Natal. EVEN though the source of the listeria outbreak has been identified, the NICD’s Apr 22 report lists several reasons why cases could still emerge: ‘The incubation period of listeriosis can be up to 70 days; The implicated products have a long shelf life and it is possibly that despite the recall some products have not been removed from retail or consumer’s homes and; Cross-contamination at retail and in the home can occur.’ Read more on listeriosis.

Sri Lanka: Western districts’ dengue highs

With over 16,000 dengue cases recorded across the country, it’s Colombo that has recorded the highest figures this year (2,470), followed by Gampaha, Batticaloa and Jaffna. Read more

Switzerland: Tick-borne infection spreads

In 2017 there was a four-fold increase in human tularemia infections (rabbit fever), with 130 cases reported. The bacterial illness, which is found in animals such as rabbits and rodents, is most commonly transmitted to humans through the tick bites; however it can also occur through skin contact or ingestion of infected animals or contaminated water. More on tularemia. Read more

Thailand: Dengue spike in south

The 220 dengue fever cases recorded in Phuket this year puts the tourist hotspot at the top of the mosquito-borne infection register, on a per capita basis. Also reporting high numbers: Samutsakorn (Bangkok Metropolitan Region), Ranong and Pangnga. The rainy season is set to start next month with more dengue fever certain to follow. Read more

United Kingdom: Measles alerts climb

News sources from around the country are reporting on local measles cases, many of which are associated with travel to Europe: London, Sussex & Surrey, South West and in Gloucestershire (also experiencing a rise scarlet fever cases).

United States of America: Hep A gains ground

Homeless people and illicit drug users have borne the brunt of the hepatitis A outbreak that is increasing its reach. This week’s reports have come from the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and West Virginia

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.

Vietnam: Malaria toll highest in 4 provinces

Information provided by the Health Ministry on malaria (April 25th was World Malaria Day): Binh Phuoc and three provinces in the Central Highlands (Gia Lai, Dak Lak and Dak Nong) reported the majority of the 1,700+ malaria cases to date this year. While the country as a whole experienced a drop in the incidence of malaria in 2017, the four provinces reported growing numbers. Read more

Zimbabwe: Cholera emerges in more areas

Updated cholera case numbers provided in a WHO regional weekly bulletin: 28 probable cases and one death, taking the total to 36 cases (confirmed and suspected) and three deaths. Although there has been a decline in cases, more parts of the city and peri-urban areas have been affected (Chitungwiza city, Belvedere, Mount Hampden, Southlands and Eastview. Read more. In the same bulletin, testing of a cholera strain behind one of two outbreaks in Congo has identified multi-drug resistance. Two departments have reported cholera, Likouala and Plateau, but it’s the outbreak in Mpouya District in Likouala that is of more concern due to the presence of resistant bacteria. In the Eastern and Southern Africa region, the incidence of cholera has climbed in Zambia, Somalia and Tanzania, however active transmission is occurring in eight of the 21 countries. Read the WHO regional report.

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