World travel health alerts 19 May 2021

World travel health alerts for 19th of May 2021.

COVID-19 update, news

In-depth regional information provided in the WHO May 18 epi update reveals that the largest decline in new COVID-19 cases this week occurred in the European Region, while there was a general downward trend in new cases in the Americas despite substantial increases in Argentina, Brazil and Colombia. Over the past two weeks, the WHO notes that the Western Pacific region’s ‘weekly case and death incidences were the highest reported … since the beginning of the pandemic’, and largely driven by increases in new cases in Japan (up 26 percent, with the third state of emergency extended to the end of May) and Malaysia (up 16 percent). In other news, both Singapore and Taiwan have new restrictions on gatherings and working from home in response to surges in community transmission.

Related news:

- In the USA, more than 600,000 Pfizer vaccines have been administered to adolescents aged between 12 and 15 years following the ACIP’s approval for this age group. Read more

- Northern Territory Health is urging residents of Alice Springs aged 16 years and over to come forward for COVID-19 vaccination ahead of ‘an influx of interstate tourists’ expected at upcoming events planned in the remote community. Read more

-  The European Medicines Agency’s CHMP has approved an extension for the storage of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Comirnaty, with an unopened thawed vial permitted to be kept at normal cold chain temperatures (2-8°C) from the previously recommended five days, now up to 31 days. Read more

- The Australian Academy of Science has launched a new guide about the science of immunisation to help counter misinformation and uncertainty surrounding vaccines for COVID-19 and other diseases. Information ‘is available online as web content, as a downloadable PDF and in print, and there are short easy-to-understand videos to watch and share’. Read more

- More about the Moderna vaccine after news that 25 million doses will be supplied to Australia later this year and in 2022: 10 million protecting against the original SARS-CoV-2 and 15 million booster doses aimed at emerging variants. The Conversation

- An Italian study published in Emerging Infectious Diseases found that a ‘higher percentage of feline samples tested positive, confirming a higher susceptibility and prevalence in cats than in dogs reported in previous experiments’. The first animals tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 ten days after their owners (up to ≥54 days of exposure). Read more

STI spike in Melbourne area; Rodent activity adds to leptospirosis count

The incidence of syphilis is reported to be growing in some of Melbourne’s outer suburbs (namely Brimbank, Melton and Casey), with infections surging among women. Related infections are also trending upwards: a rise in ocular syphilis diagnoses and four babies have died from congenital syphilis over the last three years. There have been calls from doctors for urgent measures to counter ‘an evolving epidemic’ of the STI.  Read more

QUEENSLAND Health is reporting a 70 percent hike over and above the 5-year average of leptospirosis infections this year. A department spokesperson said ‘the rise in cases has coincided with an increase in rodent activity and flooding events this year’, and has had the greatest impact on the regions of Cairns and Hinterland and the Darling DownsRead more

Advice for travellers

Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacterium that enters through wounded skin or mucous membranes. You can get syphilis by direct contact with a syphilis sore during vaginal, anal, or oral sex. Infections can cause long-term complications if not treated correctly with an effective antibiotic. Read more about syphilis and other STIs.

VD polio count rises in 3 African nations

Three African countries have reported to the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI) this week, each with a single circulating vaccine-derived poliovirus type 2 case (cVDPV2): Benin (Northern province), Burkina Faso (Bobo) and Liberia (Bong County), while Saadah in NW Yemen logged one cVDPV1 case, its second for this year. Read more

Advice for travellers

Poliomyelitis 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.

Measles burden highest in northern state

Despite a door-to-door measles immunisation campaign carried out in Amapá last year, suboptimal vaccination rates have seen infections in the northern state rise sharply this year, exceeding 2020’s (12-month) tally in just 18 weeks. A local news source reports that Amapá has recorded more than three-quarters of Brazil’s measles cases in 2021. Read more

Advice for travellers

Measles occurs in developing and developed countries and unvaccinated travellers are at particular risk, both in transit and during their stay. In general the infection is relatively benign, but complications 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.

5 departments reporting most dengue

New cases of confirmed and suspected dengue fever have risen over recent weeks, albeit from a lower base than in previous years. Heading the count are the departments of Concepción and President de Hays, followed by Asunción, Central and Alto Paraguay; three dengue serotypes are in circulation across the different regions. And in the neighbouring Brazilian state of Paraná, the dengue fever case count posted since August 2020 has climbed to more than 16,600 confirmed infections and 22 deaths (eight in the northern city of Londrina). Read more

Advice for travellers

Dengue fever is common in most tropical or sub-tropical regions of the world. The virus is spread by daytime-feeding Aedes mosquitoes and to avoid it and other insect-borne diseases, travellers should apply an insect repellent containing an effective active ingredient, such as DEET, Picaridin or oil of lemon eucalyptus (PMD), to exposed skin when outdoors during the day. In addition, cover up with long-sleeved tops, long pants, and shoes and socks around dawn and dusk, as well as other times when the mosquitoes are active.

Scabies cases mount

Local news sites are reporting a surge in scabies infections amid a shortage of effective preventive and treatment options. State media are said to be suggesting home remedies while also encouraging enhanced personal hygiene measures. Read more

Ebola response during countdown

According to the latest WHO regional bulletin, there have been 26 new suspected Ebola cases, ‘although the number of alerts is falling and there are no active contacts under follow-up’. The WHO is assisting local officials in confronting an ‘Ebola infodemic’ by countering rumours and providing clear information, while also listening to community feedback. In other news, vaccinations continue for healthcare workers and contacts, with another immunisation program targeting high risk people living in the border districts of neighbouring Sierra Leone. Health agencies in Guinea’s southern forested region are also investigating a single, fatal case of Lassa fever in Yomou prefecture, about 50kms SW of N'Zérékoré, and have introduced urgent control and surveillance measures.  

Advice for travellers

Ebola virus disease 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 tourists to the affected countries. Read more about Ebola virus disease.

Dengue in 2 coastal counties

The dengue fever outbreak that started in Mombasa county back in March continues and another has been declared in the northern county of Lamu. Aid agencies are concerned that the April peak in cases was earlier than usual, as it normally occurs in June following the ‘long rains’, so the fear is that the situation could deteriorate further. Read more

Advice for travellers

Dengue is spread by Aedes mosquitoes which breed in shady areas close homes and other accommodation. They bite mainly during the daylight hours and can be found indoors, 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 oil of lemon eucalyptus (PMD) when outdoors to all exposed skin. Read more about dengue fever and preventing insect bites.

Diseases amid conflict in northern province

A WHO update on the cholera outbreak in Cabo Delgado says there have been some improvement despite the ongoing conflict in the province, but the situation remains volatile and diseases such as malaria, acute watery diarrhoea and febrile illnesses persist.  

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.

Dengue toll rises to 11

The territory has now recorded its 11th dengue fatality since April 22, as the number of confirmed cases nears 12,000 with 352 people requiring admission to hospital (to May 12). A ProMED moderator commented that the outbreak is particularly concerning for the greater case numbers, more serious infections and the high rate of hospitalisations. Read more

Advice for travellers

Avoid mosquito bites to protect against dengue fever. To avoid biting insects, apply repellent containing an active ingredient, such as DEET, Picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus (PMD) to all exposed skin when outdoors. 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 also cover up with long-sleeved tops, long pants, and shoes and socks when mosquitoes are most active.