Health Alerts
  • Burkina Faso: Capital tops dengue tally

    There has been some overall improvement in the dengue fever outbreak with a decline in the incidence of the infection noted; even while more locations have been impacted. The central region (including the capital Ouagadougou) continues to record the majority of cases but all 13 health zones have reported dengue. Read more from the World Health Organization (WHO) update. 

    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.

    Czech Republic: Hep A reported in NW

    An outbreak of hepatitis A in the city of Ustí nad Labem, approx. 90kms north of Prague has produced 276 cases with 16 of those in a recent reporting week. Local health authorities have commenced a vaccination campaign as well as raising awareness of the need for strict hygiene measures. Read more

    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

    Egypt: Red Sea dengue

    A report posted on ProMED gives details of a case of dengue fever in an Austrian tourist who had holidayed last month at the popular Red Sea resort of Hurghada. The case is unusual, being the second only in foreign visitors to the area which is well known for its scuba diving locations.  

    India: Dengue season slowing but not finished yet

    The number of dengue fever cases declined in Delhi this week but the news was not so good for Chennai (Tamil Nadu) and Ludhiana (Punjab) as recent rains allowed the mosquito vector to proliferate again.   

    Madagascar: Plague situation update

    A WHO bulletin notes that while plague notifications have been declining, there was a spike in cases from Nov 13-17 (135 cases, 6 deaths) and the ‘possibility of future flare-ups cannot be ruled out’. The most recent case of pneumonic plague was confirmed on Nov 14th, while onset of illness in the latest case of bubonic plague was a week earlier on Nov 7th. The bulletin also provides updates on Lassa fever in Nigeria, cholera in Chad and Marburg virus disease in Uganda. Read more about the plague from the US CDC.

    New Zealand: No let-up in mumps

    Auckland’s mumps outbreak has had another sporting casualty as a third member of the All Blacks team, currently in the UK, has been diagnosed with the virus. A total of 839 cases have been notified this year up to Nov 20th, according to the city’s regional public health service website. Read more

    Advice for travellers: This lingering outbreak of mumps highlights the importance of current immunisation against contagious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, rubella and measles for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about mumps.

    Pakistan: Chikungunya cases reach 4,700

    Karachi’s suspected chikungunya cases for the year are nearing 4,000 with a further 730 from other areas of Sindh province. Read more

    Advice for travellers: The symptoms of chikungunya fever are similar to dengue fever and both are transmitted by the same mosquitoes – the day-time feeding Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus. Acute joint pain with a rash is typical of chikungunya and while fatal cases are rare, painful joints may persist for weeks or months after the acute phase has ended. There is no vaccine or prevention medication; using an effective, tropical-strength repellent to avoid insect bites is the best form of protection. Read more about chikungunya.

    Portugal: Hep A outbreak lingers

    A spike in the incidence of hepatitis A that emerged in Portugal earlier this year, stemming from an outbreak that mainly affected men who have sex with men (MSM) in Europe, continues with 530 confirmed and suspected cases till late October. Most infections are concentrated in Lisbon and the Tagus Valley. Read more (translate from Portuguese).

    Switzerland: Incidence of tick-borne disease rising

    Fifteen years ago the number of tick-borne encephalitis cases reported nationwide was 52 but that figure has been rising - this year to date there have been 257. The preventive TBE vaccine is elective, however health authorities do encourage its uptake. Read more

    Advice for travellers: A viral infection, tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) can cause fever, vomiting, cramps and paralysis, which can be prolonged. In rare instances, infection can be fatal. Travellers who spend time in regions where TBE is endemic – mainly forested areas of Central and Eastern Europe, Russia, Northern China, and Mongolia – may be at risk. The highest risk is during the warmer months from April to November, especially when hiking or camping in areas below 1500m. VACCINE: While safe and effective vaccines are available in Europe, none are licensed in Australia. However if recommended, vaccination can be obtained in our clinics through a Special Access Scheme. 

    Taiwan: Alert for peak season

    The Centers for Disease Control has issued an advisory on chickenpox as the number of notifications rose sharply over the past 3 weeks – 833 cases were recorded last week alone. The age group most impacted by the spike in incidence is the under 19 year’s cohort. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus. Mainly passed from person to person by coughing or sneezing, it causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. While the illness is generally mild in children, it can be more severe in young babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems. Read more about chickenpox.

    United States of America: Mumps heads north; Hep A outbreak in 6th state

    Mumps outbreaks have hit Hawaii and some mainland states, and now it’s the turn of Alaska. State health authorities have announced the first outbreak in 5 years, with 62 confirmed or suspected cases, most of whom live, or were most likely infected, in Anchorage. Read more

    KENTUCKY is the latest state to be reporting an increase in hepatitis A cases – 13 counties have confirmed infections, however the highest number of cases is from Jefferson County, location of the largest city, Louisville. The Department for Public Health notes that ‘Common risk factors of homelessness or drug use have been identified among 12 of the cases in Jefferson County’. Read more

    Vietnam: Dengue report from north

    A local news source reports on the 113 dengue outbreaks underway in the capital, Hanoi. The year’s total of cases now sits at 36,793 - in the most recent reporting week, there were nearly 450 cases. Read more

    Zambia: Three cholera deaths in capital

    There have been 3 deaths from 2 compounds (Kanyama & Chipata) among the nearly 300 cholera cases in the capital Lusaka, while authorities have started to distribute clean water and create public awareness for increased hygiene measures. 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.

  • Brazil: Chikungunya climbs in NE; Second YF death in SP

    Of Cearà’s 184 districts, only 4 in the NE state haven’t reported suspected or confirmed cases of chikungunya, while dengue, chikungunya or Zika virus infections have been recorded in all bar one district in what is being described in the media as an epidemic situation. The state’s death toll from chikungunya sits at 136 - 105 occurring in the capital Fortaleza. Read more (translate from Portuguese)

    A SECOND man from São Paulo state has been diagnosed with yellow fever – he lived in the same district where up to 90 monkeys were recently found to have died from the viral infection. In October we reported on the death of an elderly man due to yellow fever in the same region - Itatiba/Jundiaí. Read more (translate from Portuguese).

    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

    Democratic Republic of Congo: Cholera now in multiple health zones

    More districts in the southern region of Grand-Kasaï and neighbouring Lomani have been hit in the cholera outbreak that began in late July. A Congo River Basin news source claims there have been 600 recent suspected cases and 45 deaths. Read more (translate from French). 

    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.

    Fiji: Plans to counter rise in dengue

    It was unusual that the peak of the dengue fever season this year occurred in the cooler drier month of May, producing a 3-fold increase in cases over the first 10 months of the year and resulting in 9 deaths. Local authorities have instituted a clean-up campaign to ensure the rainy season that starts mid-November doesn’t bring with it another outbreak. 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

    Finland: Pneumonia strikes SE

    At least 50 people – both young and old - have contracted pneumonia in the SE border region around the town of Virolahti. The local news source stated that the infection ‘is thought to be caused by the mycoplasma bacteria… also known as walking- or atypical pneumonia...’ Read more.

    Greece: Measles cases top 360

    The measles outbreak first reported in May has now produced 368 cases (& 1 death), 152 infections in the last month alone. Since January 2016, across the EU region, there have been over 19,000 measles cases and 46 deaths – countries most affected are Romania (7,759 cases), Italy (4,775) and Germany (898). Of the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) analysis of cases from ‘1 October 2016 – 30 September 2017 with known vaccination status, 86% were not vaccinated. Measles increasingly affects all age groups across Europe; in 2017, 47% of measles cases with known age were aged 15 years or older.’ Read more from the ECDC. 

    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.

    India: Dengue risk remains; Delhi’s smog danger persists

    Data from the agency overseeing the prevention and control of vector borne diseases reveals the states with the highest dengue fever case count this year: Kerala (19,445 cases), Tamil Nadu (19,116), Karnataka (15,303) and Punjab (12,614). Read more. Meanwhile New Delhi continues to report cases – 705 in a recent week, while in Bengal, sales of insect repellents have risen sharply in response to the dengue stats for the year to October: 10,697 cases and 19 deaths. Rainfall received this week is considered likely to increase the risk of dengue infections yet again.

    DELHI’S pollution rating remains at severe while there are reports that a plan to use a helicopter to settle the smog by spraying water cannot proceed as the aircraft is unable to fly in the current hazy conditions. Read more.

    Madagascar: Plague epidemic waning

    The World Health Organization (WHO) issued an update on the plague epidemic, noting that the appearance of new cases is now declining: ‘The last confirmed bubonic case was reported on 24 October and the last confirmed pneumonic case was reported on 28 October. Since plague is endemic to parts of Madagascar, WHO expects more cases to be reported until the end of the typical plague season in April 2018.’ Read more from the WHO. 

    Mozambique: Rise in cholera for NE province

    In the province of Nampula, cholera has struck killing at least 10 people and infecting over 400. Four districts of the north-eastern province have been hardest hit: Memba, Liúpo, Mogovolas and Malema. Read more (translate from Portuguese).

    Nigeria: Yellow fever update

    The number of suspected yellow fever cases resulting from the outbreak first recognised in early September has now reached 179 from a total of 7 states - Kogi, Kwara, Zamfara, Abia Borno, Kebbi and Plateau (confirmed cases from the first 3 states only). Read more from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).

    Tanzania: Cholera spikes near Zambia/Malawi border

    In the country’s south-west, cholera continues to pose a public health threat in 2 adjacent border regions, Mbeya and Songwe - between them they reported over 90 percent of the weekly total of cases. The WHO assessment of the situation notes that the ‘continuous propagation of cholera in Tanzania mainland remains a concern and could result in another upsurge affecting the whole country. Read more.

    United States of America: Legionnaire’s source investigated; Hep A in 5 states; Mumps persists in Hawaii

    Fifteen people have been diagnosed with Legionnaire’s disease – 11 of them had spent time in Disneyland in Anaheim between August and October. As a result of testing 2 cooling towers at the theme park were closed down, however investigations into the exact source of the infections are still underway. Read more

    ALSO in California, the hepatitis A outbreak that initially affected mainly homeless people and those who use illicit drugs has spread to other parts of the community, with an increase seen in gay and bisexual men. Cases have been recorded across 5 states – California, Michigan, Utah, Arizona and Colorado. Limited supplies of Hep A vaccines have curbed the reactive vaccination campaign put in place to tackle the outbreak. Read more

    IN a further update of the mumps outbreak affecting Hawaii, cases reported since late July now number 557: Honolulu (450 cases), Hawaii (61), Kauai (44) & Maui (2). The State Health Dept advises that ‘The disease has been confirmed in children and adults, both vaccinated and unvaccinated.  Nearly 60% of cases have been in adults aged 18 years and older.  There have been 16 reports of complications due to mumps infection (e.g., orchitis, hearing loss).’ 

    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

    Vanuatu: Mumps for capital’s kids

    A mumps outbreak has been ongoing for several months and continues to affect mainly children of school age in Port Vila. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: This lingering outbreak of mumps highlights the importance of current immunisation against contagious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, rubella and measles for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about mumps. 

    Venezuela: Disease burden climbing

    Over 500 measles cases were identified in 6-week period from August to October in the state of Bolivar (chiefly in Caroní municipality), over three-quarters were infants under 12 months of age. The burden of diseases that were once eradicated is growing – measles now added to the existing list of malaria, diphtheria and tuberculosis. Read more.

  • Brazil: Uptick in mosquito-borne viruses

    The state of Minas Gerais has recorded an almost 20 percent rise in dengue fever cases during October compared with the same month last year. It takes the year-to-date figures for dengue infections to 27,045 (13 deaths + 11 under investigation). Chikungunya has also continued to be a public health issue: 17,403 suspected cases and at least 10 related deaths; while there were over 700 suspected Zika virus cases. Read more (translate from Portuguese).

    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.

    Burkina Faso: Surge in dengue causes alarm

    The latest World Health Organization (WHO) weekly bulletin from its African office provides an update on the dengue fever outbreak (reported in our Oct 26 alerts), describing the rise in cases as exponential ‘particularly in the Central Region of the country, around the capital city, Ougadougou.’  

    Cuba: Zika risk now high

    Travellers to Cuba are being warned that the risk of Zika virus infection is now high after 20 Europeans were confirmed to have contracted the virus during travel over the past 3 months. Increased precautions relating to pregnancy – current and planned – are among those being advised if travelling to the region. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Zika’s symptoms include a rash, pain in the joints, and the eye condition, conjunctivitis lasting 4-7 days. Long-term ill-effects are rare, although the joint pain may linger for weeks, even months. Like dengue and chikungunya, Zika is spread by Aedes mosquitoes which bite by day and are found in urban setting, including leafy gardens and outdoor restaurants – even in upmarket hotels and resorts. Transmission of Zika virus has also occurred during pregnancy, breastfeeding, sexually and also through blood or blood products. Travellers should take particular care to avoid being bitten just after sunrise and just before sunset, the main feeding time for Aedes mosquitoes. All travellers, but particularly pregnant women or those planning pregnancy, should seek medical advice before travel to Zika-affected areas. Read information on smartraveller (DFAT).

    Fiji: Dengue season underway

    A senior government official has called on residents to ensure that mosquito breeding sites are cleared as the rainy season begins. The highest dengue figures this year were recorded in the northern province of Macuata on Vanua Levu island, however the official went on to warn that ‘there have been confirmed cases of chikungunya and Zika virus in Fiji that is also caused by mosquitoes.’ Read more.

    India: Some states get respite from mozzie diseases; Delhi takes pollution title

    Relief is on the way for northern states with the anticipated arrival of the cool, dry season that brings to an end the dengue (& other mosquito-borne infections) season. While to the south, in Punjab, persistent reports of dengue fever cases have led authorities to carry on insect fogging in Ludhiana into December – normally this would come to an end in October. Other regions continuing to report dengue outbreaks include Kolkata, Haryana and Maharashtra. And it’s not just dengue that’s causing concern in Delhi, malaria cases hit a 4-year high in 2017 with over 550 cases recorded. Coastal parts of the city of Kozhikode in Kerala have also reported higher numbers of malaria cases. In Chennai a local news source gives details of a rise in bacterial infections, even while dengue fever cases are on the decline. The incidence of diarrhoea, ENT infections, paratyphoid, conjunctivitis and upper & lower respiratory tract infections have risen in the city. Read more.

    THE smog which settled on Delhi this week caused a public emergency to be declared. Conditions in the city are described as being the equivalent of smoking at least 50 cigarettes a day – a ‘gas chamber’ according to the chief minister. Fine particles suspended in the air (PM2.5) reached a level 11 times higher than the recommended standard on Tuesday. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Malaria is widespread in India and occurs year-round in both rural and urban areas, including major cities. Travellers visiting India should discuss their itinerary and the possible need for anti-malaria medication during a pre-travel medical consultation. Read more on malaria in India.

    Kenya: Rains trigger rise in infections

    Recent heavy rains in many regions has caused a rise in cases of diarrhoea with some residents of Mombasa County suffering cholera-like symptoms. Testing is underway to confirm the diagnosis. 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.

    Madagascar: Outbreak showing improvement

    The numbers of people requiring hospitalisation for treatment of plague infection has dropped further as the outbreak’s toll becomes apparent. ReliefWeb expands on the figures: ‘From 1 August to 3 November 2017, a total of 1,947 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of plague, including 143 deaths, have been reported from 51 of 114 districts in the country. Of these, 1,437 (74%) were clinically classified as pulmonary plague, 295 (15%) were bubonic plague, one was septicaemic, and 211 were not yet classified…’. Over two-thirds of cases were reported in the area of the capital Antananarivo (Analamanga Region). 

    Nigeria: Updates on monkeypox & yellow fever outbreaks

    Twenty states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) have reported suspected cases of monkeypox and, as of Nov 2nd, 38 infections were confirmed (with 106 more suspected) from 8 of those states. Read more. In an update on the yellow fever (YF) outbreak reported last month in Kwara state, the WHO details how a widespread follow up resulted in diagnosing a total of 166 YF cases from 6 states (Abia, Borno, Kwara, Kogi, Plateau & Zamfara). ‘Reactive’ vaccination campaigns are planned for those areas identified as having sub-optimal vaccination rates.  

    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.

    Serbia: Capital records measles spike

    Authorities have declared a measles outbreak in Belgrade with 5 cases reported in the city from a total of 65 across the region – all since the beginning of October. 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 travellers check their immunisation status for measles and other childhood diseases such as diphtheria, whooping cough (pertussis) and mumps 6 weeks before departure.

    Uganda: Marburg kills 3

    Marburg Virus Disease (MVD) in Kween district has claimed the lives of the 3 cases previously identified and a high risk contact of one of the cases has been hospitalised following the onset of symptoms. The WHO update issued on Nov 7th noted that the appropriate public health response is being carried out by the Dept of Health with the support of the WHO and partners, and cross-border meetings are planned with Kenyan authorities. As a further note the update offered the following: ‘Uganda has previous experience in managing recurring Ebola and Marburg virus (MVD) disease outbreaks. MVD cases have historically been reported among miners and travellers who visited caves inhabited by bat colonies in Uganda.’ 

    Vietnam: Measles surges in north

    Hanoi and surrounding districts have reported up to 5 new measles cases per week for the last 2 months, prompting authorities to plan a vaccination campaign aimed at children under 5 years of age. One-third of the recent cases were unvaccinated. Read more.

    New Zealand: Mumps cases top 757

    A Public Health doctor in Auckland has described how the largest outbreak of mumps since 1994 in the city has spread largely due to unimmunised segments of the community, and the country is, ‘importing mumps, as well as probably exporting it as well.’ Read more. There have been 757 suspected and confirmed cases during the current outbreak.

    Advice for travellers: This lingering outbreak of mumps highlights the importance of current immunisation against contagious childhood diseases, such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, rubella and measles for travel to any destination – be it a developed or developing country. Read more about mumps.