Health Alerts
  • Australia: Zika import to QLD; Cruise gastro woes; Another measles scare in Melbourne

    A Queensland man who returned home to Mackay in October after a holiday in Cuba has been diagnosed with Zika virus infection. Read more. Cuba is one of the countries in an updated European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) map on current Zika virus transmission that is classified as Category 1: Area with new introduction or reintroduction with ongoing transmission.

    AN outbreak of gastrointestinal illness due to highly infectious norovirus struck on one of the world’s largest cruise ships as it sailed from Singapore to Hobart – 195 people suffered gastro symptoms and were treated on board. A full disinfection of the vessel will be carried out in Sydney, the next port of call. Read Facts About Noroviruses on Cruise Ships from the US CDC. Read more

    TWO shopping districts in Melbourne have been named as potential risk areas for measles infection. A woman who is believed to have contracted the virus overseas visited those areas recently (Melbourne CBD and Brunswick) while infectious. 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).

    Brazil: States’ warning over mozzies

    Eight state capitals are on alert after investigations showed high levels of mosquito larvae in urban areas, indicating a likely rise in the risk of infections such as dengue fever, chikungunya and Zika virus. Maceió, Manaus, Salvador Vitória, Recife, Natal, Porto Velho and São Luis were identified by the Minister of Health, as were a further 1,139 municipalities. 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.

    Japan: Early start for flu season

    The first of the month brought with it news that the flu season has started. Highest rates of influenza have been recorded in the prefectures of Okinawan Nagasaki, Ehime, Miyazaki and Ishikawa. Read more

    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 influenza vaccination and good hygiene (i.e. handwashing and cleaning) for all travellers over 6 months.

    Kenya: Cholera on the rise

    Of the 116 suspected cholera cases in Mombasa County, 34 have been confirmed and there have been 7 resulting deaths. Strict hygiene measures have been introduced to curtail the outbreak, including banning the sale of bottled water (from ‘unscrupulous water bottlers’) and food from hawkers and unlicensed premises. Read more. ProMED reports on cholera, diarrhoea & dysentery in Africa can be found here

    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

    Marshall Islands: Mumps spreads further

    Children and young adults aged 10 to 19 years make up the majority of the 1,204 suspected mumps cases (to Nov 19th) in the capital Majuro and Ebeye in the Kwajalein Atoll. Further spread of the infection to the outer islands has now been identified. 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.

    New Zealand: Alert for family gatherings

    A peak in the cycle of whooping cough (pertussis) infections has led to a warning over the Christmas period for families to ensure pregnant women and infants are vaccinated, and for siblings and relatives to avoid close contact with young babies if suffering from a cough. This comes after the Ministry of Health declared a national outbreak - 1,315 pertussis cases have been reported this year. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Travelvax recommends Australians travelling overseas check their immunisation status for childhood diseases such as whooping cough (pertussis), diphtheria, measles, mumps, and rubella at least 6 weeks before departure. Read more about pertussis.

    Pakistan: Second strike for polio in Karachi

    An infant who had not received the full course of vaccines is the second case of polio diagnosed in Karachi over the past 3 months. His case takes the national toll for the year to 6. Read more

    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. Vaccination is recommended for travel to affected regions; for travel from certain countries there are Temporary Recommendations regarding vaccinations, as outlined by the WHO. If at risk, adults should have a booster to the childhood series. More on poliomyelitis.

    Samoa: Dengue threat requires action

    A NZ news source quotes a local politician asking for schools to be closed until the current dengue outbreak is over. He had been visiting schoolchildren undergoing treatment for symptoms of dengue in overcrowded hospital wards. Read more

    South Africa: Limpopo’s typhoid alert; Listeria deaths reach 36

    The district of Sekhukhune, west of Kruger National Park and in the province of Limpopo, is on alert after samples of water from a canal showed the presence of typhoid bacteria. Drinking tainted water from the canal sickened 60 children and caused the deaths of 2 last month. Read more

    GAUTENG, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal have all reported cases of listeriosis, however no specific source of infection has been named as yet. There have been 557 confirmed cases and 36 deaths to date. 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 against typhoid is itinerary specific, but is generally recommended for those staying or travelling extensively in rural areas, as well as for adventurous eaters. All travellers visiting endemic areas should follow safe food and water guidelines, and adopt strict personal hygiene practices.

    United Kingdom: Measles warning for residents, travellers

    Health authorities have been notified of measles infections in 3 major cities (Leeds, Birmingham and Liverpool) – all those infected had not received the full course of vaccinations. Advice from Public Health England is to check all immunisations are up to date, particularly for those planning travel to Europe where a large outbreak has been underway since January 2016. Read the ECDC monitoring report here

    Advice for travellers: Measles occurs in developing and developed countries and unvaccinated travellers are at particular risk, both in transit and during their stay. 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 at least 6 weeks before departure. Read more about measles.

    United States of America: Typhus in Texas; Cross-country mumps

    Texas has seen a 16-year spike in the incidence of murine typhus, a bacterial infection transmitted by fleas that have fed from infected rodents and cats. Humans usually contract the infection after they scratch a flea bite, causing the insect’s faeces to contaminate the site. Of all US states California, Texas and Hawaii report more cases of murine typhus. Read more from the CDC on murine typhus. Read more

    MUMPS infections are spreading among students of Syracuse University in New York State – a Dec 5 update confirmed 51 cases and a further 81 probable. Hawaii’s mumps tally now sits at 636 with 513 cases in Honolulu, 72 on Hawaii, 48 on Kauai and 3 on Maui (as of Nov 30). Read more. The rise in the prevalence of mumps is also occurring in the municipality of Anchorage, Alaska - the case count since August has climbed to 86. Read more

    Venezuela: Diphtheria deaths

    Two more children have died of diphtheria in the NW state of Mérida, taking to 6 the number of fatalities from the vaccine-preventable disease. In total, 35 suspected or confirmed cases have been recorded this year. Read more (translate from Spanish). Diphtheria has also struck Rohingya refugees housed in temporary settlements in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, with at least 110 suspected infections and 6 deaths already identified by international aid agencies. A WHO press release warns that these ‘cases could be just the tip of the iceberg’. Vaccination campaigns have been carried out in East Java and are planned for 3 other Indonesian provinces (West Java, DKI Jakarta and Banten) in response to a spike in cases of diphtheria this year. An Indonesian news source quotes Ministry of Health figures for January-November: 593 cases and 32 deaths from 95 districts in 20 provinces. Read more about diphtheria from the US CDC. 

  • Brazil: Vax campaigns for São Paulo

    A Nov 24th WHO assessment on the yellow fever risk in São Paulo state notes that the 2 human cases (since June ’17) together with the presence of the virus in primates in São Paulo City and ‘municipalities that were previously considered not at risk for yellow fever, are a public health concern …Currently, the number of unvaccinated people in São Paulo City remains high at around 10 million.’ The concern is that current shortages in vaccine supplies could affect control measures if the virus continues to spread. Read more from the World Health Organization (WHO).

    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.

    Bulgaria: Hep A spike in Plovdiv

    The 2 separate hepatitis A outbreaks that have been ongoing since late July in the central province of Plovdiv have produced at least 144 infections to date. Children under 15 years of age from the municipalities of Rakovski and Sadovo make up almost three-quarters of cases. According to the Minister of Health, the outbreaks are due to ‘inadequate sanitation and poor personal hygiene, not by unsafe water or food. Read more. Meanwhile in the eastern Ukraine region of Kharkiv contaminated drinking water has been blamed for an outbreak of hepatitis A in one district. Read more (translate from Russian).

    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: More dengue for Red Sea city

    There has been further confirmation of the presence of a dengue fever outbreak in the popular diving resort of Hurghada on the Red Sea coast, with a ProMED post detailing 2 recent infections in Russian travellers (latest disease onset was mid-November). 

    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.

    Kenya: Disease threats from rains

    A senior health official has issued a warning on the current threat of infectious diseases such as typhoid fever and cholera during the rainy season: ‘Floods are already causing burst sewers, water shortages and increase of mosquitoes in most parts of the country’, he said. The cholera toll for this year is now 3,244 (with 60 deaths), the two most recent in Mombasa. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Typhoid 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 generally recommended for those staying or travelling extensively in rural areas, as well as for adventurous eaters. All travellers visiting endemic areas should follow safe food and water guidelines, and adopt strict personal hygiene practices. Read more about typhoid.

    Madagascar: Plague risk subsiding

    After nearly four months, the worst of the plague epidemic appears to be over, with ‘a cumulative total of 2 384 confirmed, probable and suspected cases of plague, including 207 deaths …from 57 of 114 (50%) districts’.  The WHO has advised caution and continuing public health measures with another 5 months to run in the annual peak season. Read more.

    Malaysia: Malaria spikes in Sabah; Provincial dengue data

    Sabah has recorded a 170+ percent increase in cases of malaria this year over the same period in 2016 - 1,660 till Nov 11th. Towns most affected are Ranau (273 cases), Keningau (270), Tenom (171), Kudat (110) and Nabawan (110). At the same time, dengue fever has decreased in incidence, with 2,074 cases reported – 374 from Kota Kinabalu. In other provinces, Selangor had the highest count of dengue fever cases, followed by Kuala Lumpur, Johor and Perak. Read more. A WHO update on dengue in the Western Pacific Region can be found here

    New Zealand: Mumps upsurge in north

    Northland, a local government region situated at the tip of the North Island has recently experienced a rise in mumps cases – 24 for the year in Dargaville. By comparison, the 2016 total was 6 mumps notifications. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Easily preventable through vaccination, measles and mumps are highly contagious diseases that can cause serious illness in people of all ages. Many cases reported in Australia are linked to overseas travel to both developing and developed countries. Travelvax Australia recommends travellers check their status for these and other routine childhood immunisations, such as tetanus, diphtheria and whooping cough (pertussis) at least 6 weeks before departure. 

    Nigeria: Highest malaria burden: YF confirmed in 4 states

    The 2017 World Malaria Report released by the WHO this week reveals that the burden of malaria is carried by the 15 countries that account for 80% of all cases: Nigeria (27%), DR of the Congo (10%), India (6%) and Mozambique (4%). The report also states that from 2014 to 2016 ‘the malaria case incidence rate remained unchanged globally and increased in all WHO regions except in the WHO European Region.’ A WHO news release calls for increased domestic and international funding now that progress has stalled following ‘unprecedented global success in malaria control.’

    FOUR states have now confirmed yellow fever (YF) cases - Kwara, Kogi, Kano & Zamfara – but a further 10 have reported suspected infections, according to the most recent update provided by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). Almost two-thirds of cases were 20 years of age and under. Testing of 133 suspected cases has so far revealed at least 30 positive results for YF. The NCDC this week announced a further 14 monkeypox cases and 3 new states producing infections (Imo, Katsina & Nasarawa); there have now been 56 confirmed infections. Read more.

    Advice for travellers: For most travellers, Africa presents a significant malaria risk. Travellers can discuss their itinerary and the need for anti-malaria medication with a trained travel health professional at their nearest Travelvax clinic. For details call 1300 360 164. Read more about malaria

    Peru: Chickenpox deaths reach 6

    Complications resulting from chickenpox (varicella) infections have led to the deaths of 6 children in two regions - Piura and La Libertad. According to a local news report, complications occur in approximately 40% of infections. La Libertad has reported a total of 115 chickenpox cases this year. The varicella vaccine is not included in the National Immunisation Schedule. Read more (translate from Spanish). 

    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.

    South Africa: Malaria alert for NE

    Warnings are in place for travellers to the north-east (parts of Limpopo & Mpumalanga provinces, including Kruger National Park & some private game reserves) following a mild winter and early start to the malaria season. The National Institute for Communicable Diseases advises ‘Travelers from non-endemic areas to malaria endemic areas and countries are vulnerable to the disease and need to take preventative measures.’ Read more.

    Thailand: Measles data released

    Young children and infants under 4 years of age make up the highest number of measles cases from this year’s nationwide total of 2,637. Details on the figures show that over 88 percent of infections were in Thai nationals, the remainder were foreigners. Read more.

    Uganda: RVF in central region

    The National Rapid Response Team has been dispatched to the neighbouring districts of Mityana and Kiboga following the deaths of 2 men from Rift Valley Fever (RVF). Read more.

    Advice for travellers: Rift Valley fever (RVF) is an acute viral disease that typically infects domesticated herd animals. It is generally found in eastern and southern Africa where sheep and cattle are raised, as well as in West Africa, Madagascar, and more recently Saudi Arabia and Yemen. People are infected after exposure to blood, body fluids, or the tissue of RVF-infected animals, or from the bite of an infected mosquito. The virus presents a low risk to travellers, but is another reason to use personal insect repellent and take other steps to minimise insect bites in places where it occurs. Read more about RVF.

    United States of America: Hep A surges in Utah

    A vaccination campaign and education on personal hygiene have not been enough to stem Utah’s hepatitis A outbreak – late in September there were 23 confirmed infections (largely among the homeless or drug users) but this week authorities in Salt Lake County announced there were now 87 cases. Hygiene kits are to be distributed starting from next month. Read more.

    Pacific: Dengue in Wallis and Futuna

    Local transmission of dengue fever has been noted, with 7 suspected cases undergoing testing. A news report announced the declaration of a dengue epidemic with the south of Wallis as the focus of the outbreak. Read more.

  • 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.