Health Alerts
  • Argentina: Local dengue reported in NE

    Over 50 confirmed and 26 suspected dengue fever cases have been reported in the NE province of Chaco; most of those infected had no travel history so are deemed to be locally-acquired. The majority of the confirmed cases (42) were in the area of Charata, known for a large meteorite field nearby - Campo del Cielo. Read more. In neighbouring Corrientes province, authorities are monitoring the capital and surrounding areas following notification of 27 dengue fever cases. Read more (translate from Spanish).

    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.

    Belize: Hep A in border town

    Up to 14 suspected and confirmed cases of hepatitis A have been reported in the towns of Benque and Arenal in the central west, near the Guatemalan border. Health authorities are instituting control measures and food hygiene training for schools and food services. Many Guatemalan students cross the border to attend schools in Benque (Benque Viejo del Carmen) in order to receive an English language education. 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.

    Brazil: Another YF case in EU traveller; Seven year malaria lapse ends

    Another European traveller to Brazil has been diagnosed with yellow fever – the eighth such case this year. As with previous cases, the Czech national was not vaccinated against yellow fever prior to travel. According to a European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) assessment: ‘The outbreak is currently showing a decreasing trend and as the vector activity season in Brazil is coming to an end’. A May 9th Flutrackers update on case numbers can be found here. HEALTH authorities in the southern state of Paraná are awaiting results from malaria testing on up to 90 residents of the city of Foz do Iguacu after having revealed this week that a local farmer was hospitalised in March for treatment of malaria it is believed he contracted while fishing in Porto de Areia, some 75kms to the north-east of the city. The last locally-transmitted malaria cases (3) to be reported in the area were in 2011. The Scottish Fitfortravel website advises that strict mosquito avoidance measures should be taken when visiting the area, site of Iguaçu or Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfalls in the world. 

    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

    Cambodia: Fears of dengue peak to come

    The 1,200 dengue fever cases reported in the first quarter of the year represent a rise of more than 200 percent over last year’s, leading health officials to warn that this year could bring a peak in the dengue cycle – the last major outbreak occurred in 2012 causing 400,000 cases and 160 associated deaths. Read more. And in Thailand, the onset of the rainy season brought news that the number of dengue fever infections to date has topped 7,500 (southern districts most affected) already and authorities anticipate higher case numbers this year. Read more

    China: Anthrax warning for central province

    An outbreak of anthrax in central Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region provoked a travel warning in Russia for any of its nationals planning on visiting the area. According to a social media post, there has been further spread from rural areas to Yinchuan City. Read more

    Advice for travellers: The anthrax bacterium is transmitted to people in the form of spores which are can produce disease through consuming contaminated meat, through inhalation or via contact with the wool, hair or hide of infected animals. The majority of cases have occurred in people involved in the livestock industry, so infection is a low risk to travellers. Read more about anthrax

    Democratic Republic of Congo: WHO reports on Ebola outbreak

    Testing has confirmed two cases of Ebola virus disease (EVD) near Bikoro, a north-western town that sits on Lake Tumba (Equateur province). The World Health Organization (WHO) report notes: ‘In the past five weeks, there have been 21 suspected viral haemorrhagic fever in and around the iIkoko Iponge, including 17 deaths.’ A comprehensive program is being put in place to control and contain the outbreak, but there are fears of further spread as the affected area is part of a domestic waterway network, providing transport to major cities on the Congo and Ubangi Rivers. Neighbouring countries have been notified of the outbreak; Kenya and Nigeria have started screening arrivals at airports and land borders using thermal guns. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Ebola 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 travellers visiting infected areas. Read more about Ebola.

    Denmark: Possible hep A ties to Morocco

    European health authorities are investigating a number of hepatitis A cases in from various regions in Denmark, the Netherlands and Germany – two had a history of travel (to Morocco). The ECDC has assessed the situation and noted the possibility of a ‘multi-strain, multi-country foodborne outbreak. The circulation of the strains has been observed in Morocco in the past. The outbreak is possibly ongoing also in Morocco where a number of European travel-related cases may have been recently infected.’ Read more from the ECDC

    Fiji: Men. meningitis, dengue updated

    The Minister of Health and Medical Services presented an update on the meningococcal meningitis outbreak on May 3rd, pronouncing that the success of the recent public awareness campaigns has resulted in no further deaths over the last five weeks. The minister also provided current details: ‘a total of 58 cases from January 1 to April 22 … 24 confirmed cases and 34 suspected or probable…38 from the Central Division, 17 from the West, 2 from the North and 1 from the Eastern Division.’ Most cases were under 19 years of age, ‘close to 40 percent under age 5’ and ‘all deaths this year in the under 5 age group’. A vaccination campaign targeting the 1 to 19 years of age cohort is due to start on May 14th. Dengue outbreak news was also supplied during the conference: case numbers are decreasing in all areas. Of the almost 3,200 dengue infections, the Northern Division reported 1,443 followed by Western (908) and Central (825). Read more

    Advice for travellers: Advice on the prevention of meningococcal infection, as stated on the Fiji Ministry of Health and Childhood Services website, includes: Practicing good hygiene such as covering mouth and nose when coughing or sneezing and washing hands; don’t share utensils, cups/glasses, drinks at social gatherings, cigarettes, or kava bowls. If planning travel to Fiji, discuss whether vaccination against meningococcal meningitis would be appropriate for your itinerary with your travel doctor.

    India: Rise in malaria for SW

    The district of Dakshina Kannada in the state of Karnataka (including the capital Mangaluru) has recorded over two-thirds of the 941 malaria cases recorded this year to the end of March. This represents an increase on last year’s figures and puts in some doubt the plan to eliminate malaria from the state by 2025. 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. 

    Japan: More measles cases

    In an update on the measles outbreak that started just over a month ago: the case count in Okinawa is now up 91 (most under 50 years of age) and a further 17 in Aichi prefecture. Officials in Okinawa are advising high risk individuals to avoid the area, known for its domestic tourism. 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.

    Kenya: Tandem outbreaks after rain

    Two outbreaks – cholera and chikungunya – underway since the beginning of the year are expected to flare as heavy rains produced flooding and damage to infrastructure. Nearly one-quarter of a million people have been driven out of their homes by the floods and there have been 112 deaths. Active cholera transmission is occurring in five counties, while chikungunya continues in the counties of Mombasa, Lamu and Kilifi. Read more. Floods have affected the local populace in five states of Somalia while in Uganda, authorities are advising the public on clean water and sanitation after an outbreak of cholera was declared in two locations in Kampala City. 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

    Malaysia: New rabies death in Sarawak

    Another human rabies death, the third this year, has been reported in the district of Simunjan, SE of Sarawak’s capital Kuching. It is believed the rabies was transmitted through a dog bite, however this hasn’t been confirmed. 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. If bitten or scratched, urgent post-exposure treatment is required. Vaccination is normally recommended for those staying for more than a month, especially travellers planning to live in, or travel extensively through, rural areas; however the final recommendation is itinerary-specific. Read more on rabies.

    Reunion Island: Dengue count nears 2,600

    A May 7th update from the Indian Ocean Health Agency (L'ARS Océan Indien) on the dengue fever outbreak: in the most recent reporting week there were an additional 356 confirmed cases, taking the total to 2,598 for the year. More areas of the island are now involved, with six new communes recording cases in recent weeks. Western districts remain those most affected. Read more (translate from French).

    Singapore: Three red alert dengue clusters

    The number of dengue fever infections in Jurong West, a residential area in the island’s west, now sits at 70 and includes three associated deaths. This is one of three active high-risk clusters the National Environment Agency (NEA) is monitoring. The national cumulative case count for the year to May 5 is 867, with the peak season approaching. Read more

    South Africa: Diphtheria in NE; Fly larva infections

    Two years after the last reporting of diphtheria in the NW province of KwaZulu-Natal, three cases (2 confirmed, 1 suspected) have occurred since the end of March. The patients were aged from 10 to 20 years; two of them have subsequently died from the infection. Read more from the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD). WET weather has led to the tumbu fly spreading beyond its usual geographical limits. Last week the NICD advised that it was providing guidance on several maggot infestations reported in humans in North West Province and, to a lesser extent, Gauteng. The flies lay their eggs onto clothing; on hatching the larvae burrow into the skin causing itchy sores that enlarge, resembling a painful boil – a condition known as Myiasis. NICD advice on prevention: ‘washing should not be laid on the ground to dry. Ironing of clothes will kill eggs or larvae.’ More on Myiasis from the CDC. Read more

    Spain: Measles in Catalonia

    Health workers comprise seven of the 13 measles cases diagnosed since late March in Tortosa, south of Barcelona, with more suspected cases undergoing testing. Read more (translate from Spanish). 

    Tanzania: Rains boost mozzie numbers

    Heavy rains in Zanzibar have hampered fumigation drives put into place following an outbreak of chikungunya earlier this year in Stone Town and other isles. The mosquito-borne infection has flared again; currently Zanzibar’s main hospital is treating 50 patients for symptoms of chikungunya each day. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Chikungunya virus is spread by the same daytime-feeding mosquitoes that transmit dengue fever. There is no vaccine and preventing infection relies on avoiding mosquito bites. Apply an effective repellent during daylight hours (and evening, if area is brightly lit) to all exposed skin. Read more about chikungunya and avoiding insect bites.

    United Kingdom: Seasonal insect pest stings; Beverages’ bacterial loads

    The emerging larvae of oak processionary caterpillars in numerous London locales has health officials warning of the detrimental effects the white-haired insect can have on people and animals (and oak trees). The hairs contain a toxic protein that can produce reactions such as skin irritation, vomiting, asthma and conjunctivitis. The advice: Don’t touch! (and report sightings to the Forestry Commission). Read more. THREE cinema chains are responding to a BBC report on the ‘unacceptably high levels of bacteria’, including salmonella, found in drinks and ice sold at some of their branches. Read more

    United States of America: Multi-state food/water-borne infections

    The extensive hepatitis A outbreak is now in its 15th month and the number of cases has exceeded 1,200 across at least six states. While the overwhelming majority of those sickened have been homeless or illicit drug users, a spill-over of infections to people who work as food handlers is now being reported. The hepatitis A vaccine series is included in the routine US immunisation schedule for children aged 1-2 years. Read more. TWENTY-nine states have reported E. coli infections linked to the consumption of contaminated lettuce grown in the Yuma, Arizona. This week the CDC announced that the number of cases had reached 149 - almost half required hospitalisation. Read more

    Vietnam: Rabies in NW, national disease data

    Three people died of rabies last week in the NW province of Lào Cai (location of Sapa), taking the national year-to-date toll to 18. Most cases occur in rural areas where people are unaware of the dangers of the infection and how to prevent and treat at-risk exposures. The health department has warned that the highest incidence of rabies each year is from May to August. Read more. WHILE in other news, data from the health ministry reveals there have been 135 measles infections across the country this year and numbers of hand, foot and mouth disease rose in late April taking the total to 7,000 cases. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Parents of young children should be aware of that seasonal epidemics of HFMD occur throughout Asia. The virus mainly affects young children and symptoms include fever, oral lesions, and rash on the hands, feet and buttocks. There is no vaccine or preventative medication, but good hand hygiene will greatly reduce the risk of infection.

  • Brazil: YF update; More mozzie worries for Rio

    In the most recent reporting week (Apr 17-24), another 61 human yellow fever (YF) cases and 22 associated deaths were recorded in the states of Rio de Janeiro (36), Minas Gerais (14) and São Paolo (11). YF outbreaks among non-human primates were also occurring in those states, with 16 of the 18 epizootics in São Paulo. A vaccination campaign aimed at immunising the entire population of 77 million inhabitants continues. Read more. IN THE first quarter of the year, the state of Rio de Janeiro has experienced a three-fold increase in chikungunya cases, almost reaching the 2017 total of 4,305. The city of Rio recorded over 850 cases, mostly from the western districts of Campo Grande, Guaratiba and Santa Cruz. Read more (translation required).

    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

    Chile: Rapa Nui dengue

    Following reports in mid-April of four dengue fever cases on Easter Island, an Apr 27 update announced that number has risen to 14. Health Ministry response has been to declare a health warning which allows for the necessary powers to manage the outbreak and halt it – assembling teams to fumigate the island and distribute mosquito nets and repellents. Up to 80 percent of the population was infected with dengue in 2002, the first major outbreak recorded after the virus was introduced in 2000. Read more (translation required).

    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.

    Europe: Measles woes continue

    Lower than required vaccination rates in many EU countries, compounded by the highly infectious nature of measles, and there is more news on expanding outbreaks: This week, from the Czech Republic, 70 of the more than 100 measles cases notified to authorities this year were in the capital, Prague. A news report stated that the situation has necessitated the closure of the emergency dept. of ‘Prague's largest hospital Motol … until next weekend’. Also updates from Estonia, Ukraine and Portugal.

    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.

    Fiji: Vaccine set-back

    The government has announced there will be a delay in the provision of meningococcal vaccines to all individuals under 19 years of age. The World Health Organization (WHO) and UNICEF had been approached for assistance in procuring the more than 300,000 doses needed. Read more

    France: Chickenpox cases mount in 5 departments; Dengue-transmitting mozzie hits new areas

    The rate of chickenpox infections is more than double the seasonal norm in Burgundy-Franche-Comté (SE of Paris), while increases have also been seen in Brittany, and to a lesser extent in Hauts-de-France, Nouvelle-Aquitaine and Normandy. Around one-third of those infected are under five years of age. Read more (translation required). THE MOSQUITO vector behind the 2017 chikungunya outbreak in Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur is now present across 42 of the 96 departments - up from six in 2010 (see map). Warnings have been issued ahead of the warmer months, with real concerns that imported viruses from countries experiencing outbreaks (i.e. dengue in Reunion) could spread to local communities. 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.

    Mexico: Mumps infections intensify in 5 states

    Mumps notifications reached 2,619 by the second week of April with nearly one-third of infections in the 25 to 44 years age group (20 percent were 20-24yo). Most affected states have been: Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Quintana Roo, Jalisco and Chihuahua. Outbreaks have occurred involving university students in Mexico City, Sonora and Chihuahua. Read more (translation required).

    Advice for travellers: These outbreaks of mumps highlight 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.

    Nepal: Varicella in valley; Al fresco malaria

    A media release from a Kathmandu hospital states that it is treating three to four children for symptoms of chickenpox every day, and there has been a rise in cases across the valley. Read more. LOCAL health officials in Nawalparasi District - within the Terai and lying to the west/north-west of Chitwan National Park – have attributed at least some of the 21 malaria cases they have recorded to people sleeping outdoors during hot weather. It is hoped through the actions of the National Malaria Control Program to eradicate malaria by 2016. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Travellers visiting this lowland region of Nepal should discuss their itinerary and the possible need for anti-malaria medication during a pre-travel medical consultation. For details call 1300 360 164. Read more about malaria

    Nigeria: Lower intensity of Men. meningitis season

    Forty-six of the 713 people with suspected meningococcal meningitis have succumbed to the infection in the NW state of Katsina, a significantly lower figure than during last year’s devastating outbreak when there was a ~10 percent death rate from the more than 4,600 cases. The outcome was attributed to an extensive vaccination campaign and prompt antibiotic treatment. 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. Nigeria 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.

    Pacific: Regional dengue, mumps reports

    The dengue fever outbreak that began late last year in Wallis and Futuna has worsened with a news report stating ‘it has spread to the centre of the island’. The situation has prompted meetings of interest groups including government and local officials. THE MOST recent post from ReliefWeb outlines health issues in regional countries: ongoing outbreaks of dengue fever in New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu; mumps in Vanuatu and two states of Micronesia (Chuuk, Yap) and an Apr 19 update on the meningococcal outbreak in Fiji (see separate post).

    Pakistan: Province's malaria upswing

    An announcement this week from the director of malaria control in the province of Balochistan disclosed that 29 of the districts are reporting malaria and the incidence is increasing. Currently up to 7,000 children are infected with malaria each year. On a national level, annually more than 1.6 million people are infected with the malaria parasite. Read more

    Reunion Island: ‘Unprecedented’ dengue outbreak, over 2,100 cases

    According to the WHO, the risk of exportation of the dengue virus from the current ‘unprecedented’ outbreak to other countries with a competent mosquito vector is ‘heightened’. It also notes that studies established ‘in previous years asymptomatic cases contributed to the transmission cycle and since the proportion of asymptomatic cases was high, the virus has continued to spread unnoticed until now’. While the advice is not to restrict travel, the recommendations include: the use of personal protection measures (effective insect repellents, suitable clothing etc) and ‘Insecticide-treated mosquito nets afford good protection for those who sleep during the day (e.g. infants, the bedridden and night-shift workers), but also during the night to prevent mosquito bites, if the lights are kept on.' As of Apr 29, there have been 2,119 cases across the island, with western districts hardest hit. Read more

    Singapore: HFMD for month tops 12,000

    More than 3,800 cases of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) have been notified to authorities over the last four weeks, taking the cumulative yearly total to 12,309. Case numbers started to climb in early March. Read more. Reports of HFMD in China show a drop from last year’s figures for the same period – nearly 142,000 cases and six associated deaths to Apr 20. Read more. And in Taiwan, HFMD infections climbed by 20 percent last week taking the yearly total to more than 5,000 cases - not classified as an epidemic as yet however. Read more. Thailand had recorded over 10,000 HFMD cases to Apr 30. Read more

    Advice for travellers: HFMD mainly affects young children and symptoms include fever, oral lesions, and rash on the hands, feet and buttocks. There is no vaccine or preventative medication, but good hand hygiene will greatly reduce the risk of infection. Read more about HFMD.

    Thailand: Measles update

    Bureau of Epidemiology data on measles cases across the kingdom this year: over 700 cases with the majority in the central, NE, north and southern provinces. One-quarter of cases were aged 15 to 24 years of age, followed by 25-34 years cohort. Last week the health department in Victoria (Australia) advised of an imported case of measles originating in Thailand (mirroring the outbreaks underway in Okinawa & Aichi Prefectures, Japan, and in Taiwan).

    United States of America: Spring increase in rabies reports

    With the warming of the weather people spend more time outdoors, wild animals become more active and so the rabies risk increases. This week, ProMED posted details of four separate incidents of human exposure to rabid animals that took place over the last seven days in the states of Alabama, Massachusetts, New York and South Carolina.

    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. If bitten or scratched, urgent post-exposure treatment is required. Vaccination is normally recommended for those staying for more than a month, especially travellers planning to live in, or travel extensively through, rural areas; however the final recommendation is itinerary-specific. Read more on rabies.

    Venezuela: Measles, malaria among the multiple health troubles

    A paediatric hospital in the capital Caracas is treating between five and seven children for measles infections every day; in total over 450 since the end of last year. Lack of isolation facilities has led to children who are in-patients becoming infected with measles during their stay. The outbreak has spread beyond the Capital District to seven other states. Read more (translation required). And measles is not the only health issue hammering the country, malaria cases increased by almost 70 percent in 2017 – the greatest increase of any country. Read more

  • Argentina: Capital’s confirmed dengue

    In just under four months there have been 47 dengue fever cases in the capital, Buenos Aires – none of those infected had travelled outside the country so the dengue was locally acquired. Read more (translate from Spanish). In neighbouring Paraguay, information available up to late March revealed a total of 2,184 confirmed dengue cases (& 10 deaths), but there were a further 12,347  infections that were considered ‘probable’. While some municipalities in Asunción had a drop in cases, numbers rose in Zeballos Cué, Botánico and Roberto L Petit. Read more (translate from Spanish).

    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.

    Botswana: Late malaria for 2 regions

    The end of the annual peak malaria transmission season is approaching but cases have climbed recently owing to late rains in southern and central areas. According to a World Health Organization (WHO) bulletin, there have been 339 confirmed cases and two deaths for the year to mid-April. Read more

    Advice for travellers: Malaria is endemic in many areas of southern Africa. Travelvax recommends that travellers visiting this region discuss their itinerary and preventative medication at their nearest Travelvax clinic, or with their healthcare provider. For advice, call Travelvax on 1300 360 164. More on malaria.

    China: Onset of HFMD season

    Health authorities in Beijing expect a rise in the incidence of hand, foot and mouth disease (HFMD) this year as the city heads into the peak season for the infection; and the situation is likely to be mirrored on a national level. Children under five years of age make up more than three-quarters of all cases. Read more (translation required).

    Advice for travellers: Parents of young children should be aware of that seasonal epidemics of HFMD occur throughout Asia. The virus mainly affects young children and symptoms include fever, oral lesions, and rash on the hands, feet and buttocks. There is no vaccine or preventative medication, but good hand hygiene will greatly reduce the risk of infection.

    Europe: Study: Measles outcomes severe in babies

    Results from a study on the ongoing measles outbreak were outlined at a recent conference and included: ‘37,365 measles cases reported to the European Centre for Disease Control (ECDC) from 1 January 2013 through 31 December 2017. The researchers found 81% of all reported cases were patients who were not vaccinated.’ And ‘children younger than two years old were at a higher risk of dying from measles than older patients’.

    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.

    India: Dengue alert sounded

    It has been revealed that over 40 percent of children living in Kerala’s capital district have tested positive for previous dengue fever infections so their risk of severe complications from a subsequent infection is raised. Authorities are concerned the upcoming monsoon (and peak dengue) season could bring higher death rates even if actual dengue numbers drop. Read more 

    Japan: Golden measles risk

    The increase in holiday travel over Golden Week (starting at week’s end) could well bring a surge in measles cases after local authorities in Okinawa said their numbers have increased from ~40 on April 13 to 70. Also six more healthcare-related cases have occurred in Aichi prefecture after an infected teenager who had travelled to Okinawa sought medical care on return to Nagoya. Read more. Taiwan’s Center for Disease Control measles statistics reveal they have had a total of 23 cases since the end of March, 15 of those in April. One news source stated that over 5,000 people may have been exposed to the virus through contact with infected individuals.

    Nigeria: Lassa season assessment

    A WHO assessment of the Lassa fever outbreak offers some caution with the news that case numbers are finally on the decline: ‘This declining trend needs to be interpreted with caution as historical data shows that the high transmission period has not passed. … This is the largest outbreak of Lassa fever ever reported in Nigeria.’ Edo, the only state to report a new case this past week, has been the source of over 40 percent of all cases this year. 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.

    Philippines: Safe from measles program underway

    Authorities in the City of Parañaque, a southern municipality within Metro Manila, have instituted a campaign – Ligtas Tigdas – aimed at tacking the rising incidence of measles infections in children and pregnant women. Nationally, there have been 950 confirmed measles cases but the number of suspected cases is many times higher at 5,450. Fifteen deaths have resulted from the outbreak; the majority of those were unvaccinated. Read more

    Reunion Island: Dengue count tops 1,800

    No let-up in the dengue epidemic with 428 more cases reported in the week to Apr 22, taking the yearly total to 1,816. The west and south of the island continue to be hardest hit. Read more (translate from French).

    South Africa: Post-holiday malaria warning: Listeria update

    On April 19 the National Institute for Communicable Diseases (NICD) issued an alert as holiday travel has brought about a rise in the incidence of malaria. The organisation was responding to an increase in malaria cases in returning travellers from both within and outside the country, with particular mention of the provinces of NE Limpopo, eastern Mpumalanga, and northern KwaZulu-Natal. EVEN though the source of the listeria outbreak has been identified, the NICD’s Apr 22 report lists several reasons why cases could still emerge: ‘The incubation period of listeriosis can be up to 70 days; The implicated products have a long shelf life and it is possibly that despite the recall some products have not been removed from retail or consumer’s homes and; Cross-contamination at retail and in the home can occur.’ Read more on listeriosis.

    Sri Lanka: Western districts’ dengue highs

    With over 16,000 dengue cases recorded across the country, it’s Colombo that has recorded the highest figures this year (2,470), followed by Gampaha, Batticaloa and Jaffna. Read more

    Switzerland: Tick-borne infection spreads

    In 2017 there was a four-fold increase in human tularemia infections (rabbit fever), with 130 cases reported. The bacterial illness, which is found in animals such as rabbits and rodents, is most commonly transmitted to humans through the tick bites; however it can also occur through skin contact or ingestion of infected animals or contaminated water. More on tularemia. Read more

    Thailand: Dengue spike in south

    The 220 dengue fever cases recorded in Phuket this year puts the tourist hotspot at the top of the mosquito-borne infection register, on a per capita basis. Also reporting high numbers: Samutsakorn (Bangkok Metropolitan Region), Ranong and Pangnga. The rainy season is set to start next month with more dengue fever certain to follow. Read more

    United Kingdom: Measles alerts climb

    News sources from around the country are reporting on local measles cases, many of which are associated with travel to Europe: London, Sussex & Surrey, South West and in Gloucestershire (also experiencing a rise scarlet fever cases).

    United States of America: Hep A gains ground

    Homeless people and illicit drug users have borne the brunt of the hepatitis A outbreak that is increasing its reach. This week’s reports have come from the states of Ohio, Kentucky, Michigan, Utah and West Virginia

    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.

    Vietnam: Malaria toll highest in 4 provinces

    Information provided by the Health Ministry on malaria (April 25th was World Malaria Day): Binh Phuoc and three provinces in the Central Highlands (Gia Lai, Dak Lak and Dak Nong) reported the majority of the 1,700+ malaria cases to date this year. While the country as a whole experienced a drop in the incidence of malaria in 2017, the four provinces reported growing numbers. Read more

    Zimbabwe: Cholera emerges in more areas

    Updated cholera case numbers provided in a WHO regional weekly bulletin: 28 probable cases and one death, taking the total to 36 cases (confirmed and suspected) and three deaths. Although there has been a decline in cases, more parts of the city and peri-urban areas have been affected (Chitungwiza city, Belvedere, Mount Hampden, Southlands and Eastview. Read more. In the same bulletin, testing of a cholera strain behind one of two outbreaks in Congo has identified multi-drug resistance. Two departments have reported cholera, Likouala and Plateau, but it’s the outbreak in Mpouya District in Likouala that is of more concern due to the presence of resistant bacteria. In the Eastern and Southern Africa region, the incidence of cholera has climbed in Zambia, Somalia and Tanzania, however active transmission is occurring in eight of the 21 countries. Read the WHO regional report.

    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