Travel Health Alerts

Shifting disease patterns and outbreaks affect the recommendations and information we provide to travellers during a pre-travel consultation. Each week Travelvax updates the current travel health alerts to reflect those issues which could affect travellers heading to a particular region or country. We do this by scanning the websites of health agencies such as the World Health Organization and the European and US Centers for Disease Control, as well as international news media. Simply click on the point on the map of your area of interest for more details on the current health alert. We also include Advice for Travellers which gives background information and tips. If you have any further questions, of course you can give our Travelvax infoline a call during business hours on 1300 360 164.

World travel health alerts for 19th of April 2018

Vax rates in 3 states below 50%

The populations of São Paulo, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia states are under notice from the Ministry of Health (MOH) - find their nearest health clinic and get a yellow fever vaccination promptly. The three states are well short of the 95 percent vaccination coverage needed to protect the population adequately – their rates are between 41 and 55 percent at this stage. From a MOH update: ‘From July 1, 2017 until April 10, the Ministry of Health registered 1,127 confirmed cases of yellow fever. In total, 5,052 cases were reported, of which 2,806 were already discarded and 1,119 were still under investigation…the yellow fever virus today circulates in metropolitan regions of the country with the largest population, reaching 35.6 million people living in areas that have never had a recommendation of vaccine.

Advice for travellers

Yellow fever virus is a mosquito-borne disease found in tropical and subtropical areas in Central/South America and Africa. While it can be severe, yellow fever infection is a very rare in Australian travellers. However, under the International Health Regulations (IHR), proof of vaccination may be required of any traveller entering or leaving an area at risk of yellow fever transmission. Read more about yellow fever

Hep A risk from strawberries; BC norovirus spreads

Products that contain frozen strawberries imported from Egypt have been withdrawn from sale amid concerns they might be contaminated with hepatitis A virus. Packs of the frozen fruit had already been recalled and more recently mixed juices/smoothies that included the suspect fruit have been added to the recall list. Read more. Across the border in the USA, over two million eggs have been recalled from sale after an outbreak of salmonella was linked to a producer that supplied eggs to retailers and restaurants in nine states. There have been 23 confirmed salmonella infections attributed to the eggs thus far. Read more. PUBLIC health authorities have acknowledged that British Columbia oysters contaminated with norovirus are still in the marketplace after the number of infections increased from 40 to 126 and two further provinces reported cases – Alberta and Ontario. While the source of the outbreak has been confirmed, the source of the contamination has not. More advice can be found on the Public Health Agency of Canada website.

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.

Local and regional measles

There has been a spike in measles infections affecting mainly the capital Prague and, to a lesser extent, the Central region; however another six regions are also reporting cases. Read more (translation required). Also read an update on the outbreaks in France (new data), Greece, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Romania as provided by the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) which notes ‘of particular concern is the situation in France and Italy, with cases almost tripling in France since the previous update in March, and more than doubling in Italy.’ Read more . There is also a separate reportfrom Valencia, Spain

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 travellers check their immunisation status for measles and other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) and mumps 6 weeks before departure.

Outbreak news updated

The Minister for Health and Medical Services announced updated figures in the meningococcal C outbreak: for the year to April 12, a total of 46 cases and four related deaths. Twenty-seven cases were from the Central Division, followed by 16 in the Western Division and one each in Eastern and Northern Divisions. The Ministry had noted a rise in meningococcal cases in the latter months of 2017. Read more.

Advice for travellers

Meningococcal meningitis is an acute bacterial disease transmitted from person-to-person through close (kissing, sharing eating utensils) or extended contact. Risk factors include extensive travel in crowded conditions or close living quarters. More about meningococcal meningitis.

Western state’s measles spate

Actual numbers of measles infections are many times higher than official figures in the coastal towns of Kutch district in Gujarat state, according to some reports, after six outbreaks occurred in the first three months of the year. A large mobile workforce and low vaccination rates among the local population have attributed to an increase in the incidence of the highly infectious viral illness. Read more

Measles cases top 112

More than 110 measles cases and one associated death have been reported in the north-eastern counties of Wajir and Mandera, bordering Somalia and Ethiopia. The region’s low vaccination rates have caused health authorities to reinforce the message on the importance of routine immunisations for children. Read more

Meningitis belt update

The number of meningococcal meningitis cases hasn’t been disclosed for three health districts in the regions of Maradi and Tahoua, but the epidemic threshold has been exceeded; a further four districts in Maradi, Tahoua and Est have reached epidemic levels. Read more (translate from French).  Across the meningitis belt region of Africa this season, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria and Burkina Faso have recorded the highest rates of meningococcal meningitis. Read more

Advice for travellers

Meningococcal meningitis is an acute bacterial disease transmitted from person-to-person through close (kissing, sharing eating utensils) or extended contact. Risk factors include extensive travel in crowded conditions or extended contact with local people in crowded places. Niger lies in North Africa’s ‘meningitis belt’, where meningitis outbreaks occur in the dry season (Dec-April) and just prior to the rainy season (May-June). If you plan to visit this region, call Travelvax Australia’s free travel health advisory service (1300 360 164 - toll-free for landlines) for further advice. Read more about Men. meningitis.

Lassa numbers fall; Cholera in NE spikes again

News on a positive note regarding the Lassa fever outbreak, with the latest NCDC Sitrep stating last week’s five new confirmed cases were ‘the lowest weekly case count since the first week of January 2018.’ The outbreak, which has struck 21 states, has killed one-quarter of those infected. The annual ‘season’ for Lassa fever extends until June. In Liberia, Lassa fever cases have been confirmed in four central counties (Nimba, Montserrado, Bong and Grand Bassa). Read more. THREE deaths have been recorded from over 700 cholera cases in the NE state of Borno, near Lake Chad. International aid agencies are in the region providing immunisations and other disease prevention initiatives. 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.

Measles prompts CDC travel advisory

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has issued a travel advisory for the Philippines in view of its large ongoing measles outbreak. The advice includes ensuring MMR vaccinations are up to date. In other regional measles news: A visiting Taiwanese national infected with measles has sparked at least 40 more cases in Okinawa, Japan, before travelling by bullet train to Nagoya, increasing the likelihood of a further outbreak. Read more

Dengue epidemic continues, leptospirosis cases climb

With a further 396 locally-acquired dengue fever cases in the last week, the total for the year now sits at 1,388 - the majority of cases are from the western and southern areas of the island. The regional health agency expects current mosquito densities and weather conditions to intensify and prolong the outbreak. Read more (translate from French). There has also been a hike in the incidence of leptospirosis this year, with 65 cases compared with approx. 15 throughout all 2017. Most cases were admitted to hospital and one-third required high dependency care. Read more

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.

Flu season lingering

While most countries in the current influenza transmission zones have declining flu numbers, Eastern Europe (in particular Russia & Latvia), Egypt and Kazakhstan continue to report infections. Read the latest World Health Organization (WHO) global influenza update.

Advice for travellers

Seasonal flu is the most common vaccine-preventable travel-related illness because it is a potential risk during every stage of the journey. Whether you are travelling within Australia or overseas, Travelvax recommends vaccination, if available, for all travellers over 6 months.

MERS advice for pilgrims

The ECDC has issued recommendations for pilgrims travelling to Mecca for the Umrah, including advice relating to the MERS Co-V outbreak: ‘avoid close contact with animals, particularly camels, when visiting farms, markets, or barn areas. Most commonly, coronaviruses are transmitted by respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes… Pilgrims may be at increased risk of infection in crowded baths, packed transportation and confined accommodation.’ From the most recent update from EMRO (March), Saudi Arabia had reported 1814 MERS cases, including 708 related deaths.

Cholera SE of Harare

Cholera has broken out in the settlement town of Stoneridge, about 15km SE of the centre of Harare. The Health and Child Care Secretary announced eight cases and two deaths over the past fortnight and added that numbers may be under-reported. Clean water supply and sanitation infrastructure are poor in the affected area and there is a marked risk of more water-borne diseases. A previous cholera outbreak in Chegutu, Mashonland West, was resolved in late March. 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