World travel health alerts 7 April 2021

World travel health alerts for 7th of April 2021.

Two countries in polio update

The GPEI announced vaccine-derived polio cases (cVDPV2) in two countries in its latest report: Senegal’s first cases for 2021 (two cases from Diourbel region), while five Afghan provinces each logged one case (Zabul, Wardak, Logar, Hirat and Farah).

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.

Chickenpox rife in NE state; COVID-19 update

Local government officials in the NE state of Bihar have reported hundreds of cases of chickenpox, with infections in all age groups. The virus has been spreading rapidly across several villages in Gaya district. Read more  

IN ITS latest COVID-19 epi update, the WHO reported a 6-week run of increasing case numbers and noted that the SE Asian and Western Pacific regions recorded the greatest rises last week. India (with 11 ‘states of grave concern’), Bangladesh and the Philippines have all reported a sharp surge in new cases as, according to the Apr 6 JH newsletter, ‘India surpassed both Brazil and the US to become #1 globally in terms of total daily incidence’. Turkey, another hotspot, recorded a 43 percent hike in new cases, occupying fourth ranking over the week. Read more. In Thailand, varying levels of control measures have been put in place to manage infection surges ahead of the Songkran holiday next week, with entertainment venues in the districts of Klong Toey, Watthana and Bang Khae ordered to close until Apr 19.

In other COVID-19 news -

-Starting from Ramadan, Saudi Arabia will grant permits for the Umrah pilgrimage to three categories of travellers who have the appropriate documentation/vaccinations. ABC News reports that it’s still uncertain whether, or under what conditions, the Hajj pilgrimage will proceed this year. Read more

- The IATA Travel Pass, which documents the results of COVID-19 tests and any vaccinations received, will be an accepted check for entry into Singapore from next month. Read more

-Carnivac-Cov is a veterinary COVID-19 vaccine developed in Russia and tested on dogs, cats, Arctic foxes, minks, foxes and other animals. Production of the vaccine is expected to commence this month. Read more

-Last week the US CDC announced an update to the conditional sailing orders for cruise companies, providing technical instructions which focus on ‘requiring cruise lines to establish agreements at ports where they intend to operate, implement routine testing of crew, and develop plans incorporating vaccination strategies to reduce the risk of introduction and spread of COVID-19 by crew and passengers’.

Measles outbreaks flare up

Vaccination campaigns are underway in N’Djamena and the nearby region of Batha to contain measles outbreaks that have caused a further 653 suspected or confirmed infections, resulting in four deaths this year. And in the D R of Congo, measles case numbers have rebounded in North and South Ubangi provinces only months after the last extensive outbreak ended. International health agencies are now assisting in a total of seven affected provinces (also Bas-Uélé, Maniema, Equateur, Kasaï Central and Sankuru). Read more

Advice for travellers

A highly contagious virus, measles occurs in developing and developed countries. While generally benign, infection can result in severe illness or death. Travelvax Australia recommends checking immunisation status to ensure protection against measles and other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) and mumps. 

WHO certifies end of ‘public health problem’

According to WHO Africa, ‘robust control and surveillance measures, active (and passive) screening of people at risk and targeted vector control’ are largely responsible for the reduction in sleeping sickness cases, which used to cause hundreds of infections each year as late as the 1990s. Côte d’Ivoire now becomes the second country to have officially eliminated Human African trypanosomiasis, after Togo.

Advice for travellers

Human African trypanosomiasis is rare in travellers, however the tsetse fly, which spreads the disease, is found in many African countries. The aggressive flies are attracted to moving vehicles and bright and dark colours; they can also bite through light-weight clothing. Travellers should cover up well with neutral-coloured, medium weight clothing and apply an effective personal insect repellent at all times when outdoors. Read more on African trypanosomiasis and how to avoid infection.

Ebola countdown stops

The first of five new Ebola cases to be reported in the outbreak epicentre of N’Zerekore province since Mar 4 were announced by the WHO regional office this week, also advising that the death toll had risen by three, taking the total to 23 (suspected and confirmed) cases and 12 deaths. The latest infections were detected when response teams investigated a number of ‘suspicious deaths’ in Soulouta and searches are continuing into potentially infected contacts who have fled the area.  

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.

TCV introduced into national scheme

Liberia is the first African nation to introduce the typhoid conjugate vaccine (TCV) into its national immunisation program; TCV will be given routinely to infants at nine months of age. A catch-up campaign will get underway next month with almost two million children under 15 years set to receive their immunisations. Read more

Advice for travellers

Typhoid fever is endemic in many developing regions, although it generally presents a low risk for short-stay travellers staying in western-style accommodation. Vaccination is itinerary specific, but is usually recommended for those staying or travelling extensively in rural areas, as well as for adventurous eaters and for travel to areas reporting drug-resistant typhoid. All travellers visiting endemic areas should follow safe food and water guidelines, and adopt strict personal hygiene practices. Read more about typhoid fever.

First JE mozzies spotted for 2021

Each year, the Korea Disease Control and Prevention Agency publishes an alert when a species of Culex mosquito, the main vector of the Japanese encephalitis virus, is first detected. The release of the public health alert on Mar 22 corresponded to the sighting of the mosquitoes on the island of Jeju, a popular beach haven located around 100kms south of the Korean peninsula, and was slightly earlier this year due to a warmer winter. Read more

Advice for travellers

A mosquito-borne virus, JE is usually found in many parts 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 does also occur in or near cities. The risk to short-stay travellers who confine their travel to large urban centres and use appropriate mosquito bite avoidance measures is low. The recommendations for vaccination are itinerary-specific. Read more on JE.

Warnings over rabies in Alaska’s wildlife

Alaskan pet owners in Nome, its surrounds and St. Lawrence Island have been cautioned to ensure their dogs and cats are up to date with their compulsory rabies vaccinations after a ‘dramatic increase in positive rabies cases in foxes and dogs’ which has increased the risk of exposure to humans. The rabies virus is endemic in arctic foxes and is spread to the more commonplace red fox and other wildlife (and unvaccinated domestic pets) ‘in late winter and early spring when the Arctic foxes come off the ice’, however the rabies risk is year-round.  Read more

Advice for travellers

Rabies is present in most countries and all travellers should be aware of the importance of avoiding contact with wild and domestic animals, including bats. If bitten or scratched, urgent post-exposure treatment is required. Vaccination is generally recommended for longer stays, especially travellers planning to live in, or travel extensively through, rural areas and also for children; however the final recommendation is itinerary-specific. Read more on rabies.