World travel health alerts 17th of July 2019

World travel health alerts for 17th of July 2019.

Flu mutates, cases mounting, Toddler meningococcal death

The number of flu cases for the 2019 season has been mounting nationally with more than 120,000 laboratory confirmed cases and 228 people killed. Additionally one of the flu strains has mutated, according to World Health Organisation Influenza Centre spokeswoman Professor Kanta Subbarao. Despite this health experts are reminding the public to be vaccinated and that it is not too late to be protected this winter. 

The death of a toddler from meningococcal meningitis in the Hunter New England area last week brings the regions total death toll to 4 cases this year, according to New South Wales Health. It is not yet known what strain was responsible. The National Immunisation program offers protection to infants by providing free vaccines for meningococcal strains A, W and Y, in addition to meningococcal C that has been offered since 2003, as well as older high school students since 2017 in response to an increase in cases of meningococcal W in recent years. 

Machupo virus identified

The Bolivian Health Ministry confirmed on July 3rd that the death of two people was caused by Machupo virus (MACV), an arenavirus transmitted to humans through rodents (a haemorrhagic fever also known as black typhus). The diagnosis was confirmed by the state-run National Institute of Health Laboratories, the National Center of Tropical Diseases and the Atlanta, Georgia-based Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The initial patient was as a resident of Caranavi, a town in northern La Paz, who infected 3 treating doctors, one of whom died with the initial patient.Two infected doctors remain hospitalised and 2 other possible cases remain under observation.

WHO Certification of malaria-free status

The World Health Organisation awarded certification of malaria-free status to China last month, this became the joint goal of 13 ministries, including health, finance, industry, and education. An impressive result for a country which went from 30 million cases in the 1940s to zero indigenous cases in 2017. The WHO awards this certification to countries that have proven beyond reasonable doubt, that the chain of indigenous transmission has been interrupted nationwide for at least the previous 3 consecutive years.

Advice for travellers

Travelvax recommends that travellers discuss their itinerary with their healthcare provider, to determine if malaria is an issue for their trip or not. For advice, call Travelvax on 1300 360 164. More on malaria.

First EBV now Measles

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced the launch of a campaign to vaccinate 67,000 children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo's (DRC's) Ituri province against measles. "Latest health data from DRC point to around 115,000 cases of suspected measles in the country, far more than the 65,000 tally last year," UNICEF said in a press release. 

First patient diagnosed with Ebola in Congolese city of Goma dies

The World Health Organization (WHO) will reconvene the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations to consider whether the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is a PHEIC (public health emergency of international concern), after the first patient in the city of Goma dies. Goma, a border city with a population of one million, lies next to the Rwandan town of Gisenyi and has transport links to other parts of the DRC and beyond.

Advice for travellers

Measles is a highly contagious virus and can cause serious illness in people of all ages. Most cases reported in Australia are linked to overseas travel - both developing and developed countries. 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.

England - PHE issues advice to people travelling to Egypt

Public Health England’s (PHE’s) scientists are warning travellers after a number of people, including children, have returned with a serious illness caused by E. coli infection, after having visited the region of Hurghada. E. coli can cause an unpleasant diarrhoeal illness with stomach cramps and occasionally fever. 

Advice for travellers

Travellers' diarrhoea (TD) is the most common illness of travellers to developing countries, causing illness in up to 70% of western travellers staying for two weeks or more. Characterised as loose, watery, frequent bowel movements and sometimes associated with vomiting, TD is generally a short, mild illness lasting an average of 3 - 5 days. However, it can be more severe and debilitating, especially among younger travellers.

Bed bugs prompt action for alpine huts

Remote Alpine mountain huts are battling an infestation of bed bugs transferred from hut to hut by hikers in their luggage and sleeping bags. The German Alpine Club has introduced drastic guidelines to tackle the bugs, including asking guests to place luggage in special bags overnight to prevent the insects spreading. Another hut the Münchner Haus, on the Zugspitze mountain on the German-Austrian border, obliges hikers to microwave their sleeping bags on the way in to kill the bugs.

Polio type 2 confirmed

The Chief Director of Ghana’s Ministry of Health has advised that it has detected polio virus type 2 in the environment in Tamale in the Northern region of Ghana, which constitutes a public health emergency. [According to another media report, "The type 2 strain of the polio virus was confirmed earlier this week by the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research (NMIMR) to be similar to the type that broke out in Nigeria recently". 

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, however vaccination is recommended for travel to affected regions and is a requirement for travel to/from some countries. If at risk, adults should have a booster to the childhood series. More on polio.

Malaria cases double those of dengue in June; Surging dengue in the South

There have been at least 66 cases of malaria reported in Delhi this year, 57 of those in the month of June, which is more than double the number of cases of dengue reported.

According to the report, till July 13 this year, 27 cases of dengue have been reported, three in May, two in April, four in March and one each in February and January. India has set 2030 as the target year for eliminating malaria, it has however only managed to reduce its disease burden by 24% between 2016 to 2017 according to the World Malaria Report 2018. The report noted that there are 1.25 billion Indians–94% of its population, still at risk of malaria.

South India is in the grips of dengue again, the disease has so far claimed six lives and affected 6,210 this year, according to the Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare in Lok Sabha of the five worst-hit states, four are in South India: Karnataka (1303 cases, 0 deaths), Tamil Nadu (988 cases, 0 deaths), Telangana (767 cases, 0 deaths) and Kerala (469 cases, 4 deaths), said Ashwini Choubey.

Advice for travellers

Travelvax recommends that travellers visiting malarious regions discuss their itinerary and preventative medication with their healthcare provider. For advice, call Travelvax on 1300 360 164. More on malaria.

Dengue occurs throughout India – both in urban and rural areas. The virus is spread by two types of Aedes mosquitoes. Both breed in shady places close to dwellings and bite mainly during the daylight hours, making them difficult to avoid when 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 oil of lemon eucalyptus (or PMD) when outdoors to all exposed skin. Read more about dengue fever and preventing insect bites.

 

Dengue counts surge, first cases of malaria since 2011

Malaysia’s popular tourist spot Sabah, has recorded 2,707 dengue cases with six deaths this year as of July 6, according to Sabah Health director Datuk Dr Christina Rundi. Dr Rundi said, it was the responsibility of individuals not just the municipality to assist with minimising the spread of infection, by inspecting and clearing possibly mosquito breeding places.

Dr Noor Hisham Abdullah, Health director-general Datuk said that since July 11, there have been 15 malaria cases involving Orang Asli children aged four to 10 from Kampung Pagar and Kampung Ser­dang. These are the first cases reported from the region since 2011 and are believed to be Plasmodium vivax malaria.

More polio cases surface

According to the Pakistan National Institute of Health (NIH), there have been another 4 cases of polio in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and Punjab provinces on [Sun 14 Jul 2019], bringing the total number of these cases to 45 this year. The NIH confirmed that so far this year [2019], 35 polio cases have been reported in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, followed by 5 cases in Punjab. Three cases of polio virus have emerged in Sindh, while 2 have emerged in Balochistan. 

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, however vaccination is recommended for travel to affected regions and is a requirement for travel to/from some countries. If at risk, adults should have a booster to the childhood series. More on polio.

Declared polio free

Papua New Guinea (PNG) health officials are confident that they have been able to bring the polio outbreak under control, with a mammoth cross-country vaccination campaign, after the first polio case was discovered a year ago in the Lae province. Headed by the World Health Organisation, thousands of workers were recruited in a mass campaign to vaccinate as many as 3 million children across PNG. At this time international certificates of vaccination are still required to enter and leave PNG. 

National dengue fever warning

The Philippine Minister of Health Francisco Duque declared a state of national alert as a result of more than 106,630 cases of dengue reported in the first half of the year and 456 deaths, the majority of cases have been in children under the age of five. This is an increase of 85% compared to the same period last year.

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. 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.

Singapore recorded 666 new dengue cases last week alone

Singapore’s National Environment Agency (NEA) has recorded 666 new dengue cases in the last week alone in a worrying record breaking spike.  A total of 7,374 cases have been reported so far this year, which is five times more than the number of cases recorded during the same period last year (1,481 cases).

Worst measles outbreak since 1992 slows down

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has recorded 14 new measles cases between the 3rd and the 11th of July, signalling a slowdown in the spread of the disease, which has infected 1,123 people this year in the worst U.S. outbreak since 1992. Disease outbreaks have not been reported in any new states since June 10.

Advice for travellers

Measles is a highly contagious virus and can cause serious illness in people of all ages. Most cases reported in Australia are linked to overseas travel - both developing and developed countries. 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.

Mass vaccination campaign

Venezuela’s Ministry of Health is spearheading a mass polio vaccination campaign for more than 3.1 million children under the age of five in Venezuela, with support from UNICEF and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO). According to United Nations (UN) it is estimated that about 3.2 million children need assistance inside the country.