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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 17:04:44 +0200

Harare, April 23, 2018 (AFP) - Thousands of Zimbabwean nurses returned to work on Monday after ending a strike, their union said, adding that fresh negotiations were expected in their stand-off with the government.   Some 15,000 nurses fighting for better work conditions walked out of public hospitals a week ago.  They were rapidly sacked in a hard-line response from the government as it tries to prevent the spread of industrial action in the public sector.   "Nurses have gone back to work today although their grievances still stand," Enoch Dongo, spokesman for the Zimbabwe Nurses Association, told AFP.  

"Some were asked to first fill in dismissal forms and then sign forms for resumption of duty. We haven't heard of any who have been turned back."   Vice President Constantino Chiwenga, who issued the mass sackings accused the nurses of being "politically motivated."   At Parirenyatwa, the largest state hospital in the capital, nurses were back at work with long queues from a backlog of patients.

The nurses are demanding better wages and complaining about lack of basics in government hospitals, including drugs and equipment.   The strike came shortly after a similar protest by junior doctors demanding a raise in allowances, while teachers are also threatening to strike.   After Robert Mugabe's 37-year rule, President Emmerson Mnangagwa has vowed to revive the moribund economy and attract foreign investment to fund better public services.
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 15:04:19 +0200

Beijing, April 23, 2018 (AFP) - Thirty-two Chinese tourists and four North Koreans were killed when a bus plunged from a bridge in North Korea, Chinese officials and state media said Monday.   Two other Chinese nationals were injured in Sunday's accident south of the capital Pyongyang, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang told a regular press briefing.   Lu said China was investigating the cause of the accident and had deployed a team, including medical experts, to North Korea "to assist with the emergency rescue and treatment operations".

The ministry provided few details but China's official Xinhua news agency reported later that the bus had fallen from a bridge in North Hwanghae Province on Sunday night.   China's state broadcaster showed images of a large overturned vehicle, with light rain falling on rescue vehicles at night and doctors attending to a patient.   China was informed about the accident on Sunday night and its embassy personnel in Pyongyang rushed to the scene, the foreign ministry said in a statement.   The vast majority of foreign tourists to North Korea are Chinese, with the Cold War-era allies sharing a long land border and operating flights between the two countries.

Western visitors to the North once averaged around 5,000 a year, but numbers have been hit recently by a US travel ban -- Americans accounted for around 20 percent of the market -- and official warnings from other countries.   Tens of thousands of Chinese tourists are believed to visit the North every year, with many crossing via train through the Chinese border city of Dandong. For some, North Korea provides a window into what Communist China may have looked like decades ago.   Chinese tourism to the North has continued even though Beijing has enforced a slew of United Nations sanctions over Pyongyang's nuclear weapons programme.

- 'All necessary means' -
President Xi Jinping urged China's foreign ministry and embassy in North Korea to take "all necessary means" to handle the accident, and called for an "all-out" effort to help the injured and deal with the deceased, according to Xinhua.

China's state broadcaster CGTN had tweeted that the tour bus had plunged from a bridge prior to official confirmation of the accident. The post was later deleted without explanation.   North Hwanghae province lies south of the capital Pyongyang and stretches to the border with South Korea. It includes the city of Kaesong, an ancient Korean capital with historical sites.

More recently, the area hosted a manufacturing complex operated with the South.   The tour group was travelling by bus from Kaesong to Pyongyang when the accident happened, according to the independent Seoul-based website NK News, which cited an unnamed source.   North Korean roads are largely poor and potholed, and in many areas they are dirt rather than tarmac. Vehicles are sometimes forced to ford rivers or take detours when bridges are unpassable.

But the route from Pyongyang to Kaesong, where the accident reportedly happened, is one of the best in the country.   It runs north-south from the Chinese border to the Demilitarized Zone on the border with South Korea but has little traffic, like all North Korean highways.   Tank traps have been installed along the road in many locations -- sets of high concrete columns on either side of the road that can easily be blown up to create an obstruction for invading armoured vehicles.
Date: Mon, 23 Apr 2018 14:08:33 +0200

Lagos, April 23, 2018 (AFP) - Bolatito Joseph has strong suspicions about what is causing her breathing problems and a mucus build up: a building site near her home and noxious fumes from a rubbish dump close to her church.   "I inhale a lot of dust as a result of the construction work going in my area," said Joseph, a cleaner from the Akute area of Nigeria's biggest city, Lagos.   "I worship at a church in Ojota near a rubbish dump and the stench is... injurious to public health," she told AFP.

Joseph is not alone in having health problems in Nigeria's cities, where questions are increasingly being asked about whether the air is fit to breathe.   In Lagos, in the southwest, the southern oil hub of Port Harcourt and Onitsha in the southeast, Nigerians might be choking to an early death.   Diesel generators that compensate for an inadequate electricity grid belch acrid smoke, combining with emissions from old vehicles and traffic gridlock.   Unregulated industry and burning waste further turns the air foul.

In 2012, the World Health Organization called air pollution "the world's largest single environmental health risk" and blamed it for about seven million premature deaths globally.   Attention has largely focused on efforts to fight pollution in cities such as Beijing and New Delhi, where poor air quality can cause traffic restrictions and school closures.   But in Nigeria, the public is largely in the dark, with data lacking and only a handful of scientific studies exploring the phenomenon.

- Particulate matter -
In 2012, the WHO said there were 46,750 deaths in Nigeria from air pollution, which has been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, as well as cancer.   In megacity Lagos, which is home to some 20 million people, thick plumes of white smoke have been drifting from burning waste at the Olusosun dump site in Ojota for weeks now.   Doctors say it has caused a surge in breathing problems.   Onitsha, in Anambra state, has been ranked the worst city in the world for PM10s -- microscopic particles of dirt, soot, smoke and liquid droplets in the air that can harm human health.   In Port Harcourt -- once dubbed "The Garden City" because of its palm trees and green open spaces -- black soot has fallen from the sky for more than a year.

Rafael Navarro, a Venezuelan working for a global oil major, bought an air quality monitor to confirm his suspicions about what he was breathing. He refused to accept local excuses that the poor air was caused by the Harmattan, the seasonal wind that whips up sand and dust from the Sahara desert and dumps them on the Gulf of Guinea.

"The surprise was that Port Harcourt has many times been in the top five most polluted cities in the world on the AirVisual network," he said.   "That was quite shocking, as I was not aware that our numbers could have been that bad."   Readings since he installed the device in May last year showed huge spikes overnight and in the early morning of PM2.5s, finer particulate matter in the air that are more harmful to health.   Illegal oil refineries in the nearby creeks have been blamed: most operate at night to avoid detection from military patrols.

- Low-cost monitoring -
Ademola Oduguwa, an electronics and electrical engineering graduate who works in Lagos, said data was key to raising awareness and getting something done.   Despite the billions of dollars earned over decades from oil, most Nigerians still live in poverty, making foreign air quality monitors prohibitively expensive.

Oduguwa decided to build a low-cost version for $120 -- less than half the retail cost of Navarro's device. He installed four at locations across Lagos.   "More often than not, we have seen very high pollution levels being registered in all locations... above the benchmarks of the World Health Organization," he said.   He now wants to develop his idea to provide concerned city residents with regular air quality readings.

Campaigners wearing face masks last week marched in Port Harcourt, calling on the Rivers state government to provide daily data on air pollution and start a clean-up campaign.   "We are not just going to lie low, fold our arms and allow government to release things that kill us," said #StopTheSoot group leader Tunde Bello.   Ako Amadi, an environmentalist, said current pollution levels should be publicly available "like temperature" but political will was lacking.   Anyone who raises concerns about the environmental impact of projects or pollution is considered "an enemy of progress", he said.
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 13:38:03 +0200

Le Mont-Saint-Michel, France, April 22, 2018 (AFP) - Authorities on Sunday evacuated Mont Saint Michel, one of France's busiest tourist sites, and were searching for a suspect whom witnesses said had threatened to attack local security forces.   A tourist guide reported the man at around 7:45 am (0545 GMT) after he made threatening comments on a shuttle bus carrying visitors to the rocky islet, a UNESCO world heritage site off the coast of Normandy in northwest France.    Top local official Jean-Marc Sabathe said the man then got into a fight with a cafe owner and made more threats against security forces.

Police tracked the man's first movements on CCTV after several other people raised the alarm but they lost sight of him, triggering the evacuation and a helicopter search for the suspect.   "I have evacuated the mount as a precautionary measure because no one knows the real intentions of this individual," Sabathe told France Bleu radio.   "The man was mixed in with the first visitors of the day. There were no shots fired, no weapons. The village will be reopened as soon as security forces are certain that the individual is no longer on the site."   Local authorities later said the island, which draws more than two million visitors a year with its stunning medieval monastery, would be reopened to the public at 2.00 pm (1200 GMT).

- France on high alert -
Tourists were blocked from entering during the lockdown as around 50 police conducted a house-to-house search.   Holidaymakers were evacuated from hotels and the abbey was shut.   "There was no panic, we were just surprised," said Denis Surfys, a holidaying journalist.   Xavier Bailly, head of the monastery which looms over the island, said police had ordered him to stay at home.   "I'm staying calm, I'm waiting for instructions from the authorities," he told AFP by telephone.   A photograph taken by a local firefighter showed the suspect as a man who appeared to be in his twenties, wearing a white t-shirt and dark trousers.   Mont Saint Michel sits about a kilometre (half a mile) off Normandy and is attached to the mainland by a bridge.

The alert comes with France still on high alert following a string of Islamic extremist attacks since 2015 that have killed more than 240 people.   Security forces have repeatedly been the target of attacks, most recently during a shooting spree and supermarket hostage-taking in the southern city of Carcassonne and nearby Trebes.   Four people were killed in the attack last month, including a police officer who offered to take the place of a woman whom attacker Radouane Lakdim was using as a human shield.   Lakdim, 25, had earlier shot at a group of police officers out jogging, wounding one of them.
Date: Sun, 22 Apr 2018 05:13:55 +0200

Istanbul, April 22, 2018 (AFP) - Istanbul's bright yellow taxis, ubiquitous and perennially honking for custom, appear ingrained in the daily life of the Turkish metropolis.   But could the fast-growing ride sharing app Uber make them a thing of the past?

Uber has enjoyed soaring popularity in Istanbul, where users appreciate the cashless payment system, security and convenience of hailing a cab by phone.   But, as in several other European cities, this has stoked antagonism with official taxi drivers, who have brought legal cases in Istanbul in a bid to have the app blocked in Turkey.   Tensions have also spilt over into violence, with Uber drivers complaining of being verbally harassed, beaten up or even shot at.

- 'Smear campaign' -
Kemal Kuru, an Uber driver since last year, said he was cornered and beaten by a group as he set off for a concert hall in the Sisli district last month on a job.   "I went to pick up a customer around midnight but someone blocked the road and harassed me verbally," he told AFP.   "I got out of the car and all of a sudden 10 people attacked me... My teeth were broken and my lip was split."   Kuru said the assailants could not be immediately identified as they fled into the darkness. But he pointed the finger at taxi drivers. "I believe our income is getting on their nerves and they think we are stealing their customers."   In March, shots were fired at an Uber vehicle in Istanbul's Kucukcekmece district. The driver escaped unhurt.    Uber drivers say they are easily targeted as the vans they generally drive are unusual in the city.

But representatives of official taxi companies condemn such accusations -- widely publicised in the Turkish media -- as a stunt to discredit their business.   Eyup Aksu, head of the main taxi drivers' association in Istanbul, accused Uber of launching a "publicity campaign" in an attempt to influence the pending legal cases.   "Taxi drivers have never resorted to violence against Uber. This is a smear campaign to blacken the reputation of taxis," he told AFP in his Istanbul office.

- 'Taxis changing' -
There are almost 17,400 official yellow taxis in Istanbul, providing an essential and relatively affordable service in a gigantic city where public transport often falls short.   But as new competitors like Uber have emerged, the official taxis have often failed to keep pace with changing times and society.

They have been slow to implement systems to pay by card, install panic buttons that help female passengers in particular feel more secure and are only now considering lights to indicate if the cab is occupied or free.   In a bid to trump Uber, Istanbul taxis are themselves now becoming part of a digital network called iTaksi that allows passengers to order them from their phone.   Aksu admitted some deficiencies in the taxi sector but said taxis were transforming to catch up with Uber's standards.   "We are shifting to luxurious taxi transport. We now have VIP transport in some touristic places and airports," he said.

- 'Pirates' -
Meanwhile horror taxi stories abound in Istanbul -- not just from incredulous tourists but also exasperated locals -- about being over-charged, driven a circuitous route to ramp up the metre or being given fake change.    In a well publicised case, an Istanbul court this month handed a taxi driver a suspended jail term for having taken a Saudi passenger on an epic city tour rather than to the airport as requested.

But Istanbul taxi drivers insist they are working hard to make an honest living from a tough business where margins were already tight and now squeezed further by Uber's presence.   Taxi drivers rent their car from the owner of the licence, whose cost of 1.5 million lira (300,000 euros, $370,000) is well beyond most drivers.  The number of licence plates available for taxis has stayed stable as the city's population boomed, driving up their price.

Taxi driver Burhan Yuksek, looking for passengers in the busy waterside Eminonu district, said his business is suffering "hugely" because of Uber.   "I work by a hotel. We used to receive 40-50 calls daily from the hotel and currently it has dropped to 15-20," he said. "They are pirates. They are stealing our labour and bread."   Taxi drivers feel they have political backing, with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan regularly pictured drinking tea with the taxi community.   In the bigger of two legal actions brought by taxi drivers' associations against Uber, an Istanbul court is due to resume hearing the case on June 4.

- 'Slavery to freedom'-
The tension in Turkey is one of a number of headaches for Uber and its new chief executive Dara Khosrowshahi, who took over last August after founder Travis Kalanick was ousted following a series of scandals.   In London where its drivers number around 40,000, Uber lost its licence over its approach to reporting serious criminal offences and its criminal record checks for drivers.   But it is allowed to operate in the British capital pending an appeal set for later this year.

Uber also put a temporary halt to its self-driving car programme in the United States after an accident involving one of its cars near Phoenix killed a pedestrian.   In service for three years in Turkey, Uber has 5,000 vehicles and 8,000 drivers in Istanbul.   Vedat Kaya, of the Tourism and Development Platform, said Uber represented a "revolt against the taxi monopoly", adding that some 4,500 taxi drivers had already switched to work with Uber.

Former taxi driver Yavuz Sarac, who joined Uber last summer, says he did it after realising he would not own his own business "no matter if I work for 150 years".   "Uber has presented new opportunities. I've owned my business," he said, complaining that taxi drivers were exploited by the plate owners, while the Uber licence was much less costly.    "I earn a living for my family. To me, it is a kind of escape from slavery to freedom."
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2018 01:52:31 +0200

Lima, April 20, 2018 (AFP) - Two German tourists died and 12 other people were injured Friday when their minibus fell into a ravine on an Andean road in southern Peru, police said.   The vehicle, which carried 12 German tourists along with their Peruvian driver and another Peruvian, fell about 20 meters (65 feet) while travelling from the city of Arequipa to the town of Chivay around 3:00 pm (2000 GMT).

The surviving 10 German tourists and their two Peruvian crewmembers were taken to hospital in Arequipa, a police official in Chivay said.   Chivay, home to about 6,500 inhabitants, is located more than 3,600 kilometers (2,240 miles) above sea level in the mountains of the Colca Valley, a popular tourist destination in the South American country.    Hours earlier, another accident occurred in the same region that left seven dead and 18 injured, after a passenger bus fell into a 60-meter (yards) ravine.

A separate bus plunge on Friday, in the northern region of La Libertad, killed at least 11 people when it landed at the bottom of a 200-meter chasm, police said.   Peruvian authorities recommend driving with extreme caution in the winding and narrow Andean routes.    On January 2, 52 people died, while 45 were killed on February 21 -- in both cases after passenger buses fell into ravines of nearly 100 meters.    Almost 2,700 people died in traffic accidents in Peru in 2016, according to official figures. The data for 2017 have not yet been published.
Date: Sat, 21 Apr 2018 00:42:33 +0200

Washington, April 20, 2018 (AFP) - Romaine lettuce is off the menu of US households and restaurants, health authorities ordered on Friday after a spreading E.coli outbreak infected 53 people in 16 states.   The warning from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention covers all types of romaine lettuce from in and around Yuma, Arizona.   "Do not buy or eat romaine lettuce at a grocery store or restaurant unless you can confirm it is not from the Yuma, Arizona growing region," the CDC said on its website.   "Throw out any romaine lettuce if you're uncertain about where it was grown."   The CDC said no deaths have been reported but 31 people have been hospitalized, including five who developed a type of kidney failure.
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 20:55:16 +0200

Yaoundé, April 20, 2018 (AFP) - Two Cameroonian soldiers died and four were seriously injured on Friday after a mine exploded in an anglophone region hit by violence between separatists and the government.   "A Cameroonian army vehicle went over a mine" in Eyumedjock, a town in an English-speaking part of the southwest, a security source told AFP on condition of anonymity.   The source said the blast close to the Nigerian border caused "two deaths and four serious injuries".   Eyumedjock lies between Mamfe, the main town of the Manyu, and Ekok "in an epicentre of violence in the southwestern Anglophone region," the source added.

Since late 2017, anglophone separatists have killed 30 members of the security forces, according to an AFP count based on official statements and including the two deaths on Friday. Other observers in Yaounde believe the toll is higher.   Northwest and southwest Cameroon are home to the English-speaking inhabitants of Cameroon, who make up 20 percent of the population.    Separatist ambitions have long simmered in the two minority anglophone regions in the west of the country, where people complain of being marginalised by the French-speaking elite.   The deep socio-political crisis has gradually turned into a low-intensity armed conflict in recent months.

The separatists, who are fighting for independence, have asked Yaounde and military personnel to leave their territory, calling them "occupation forces".   For three months, armed separatist groups have ramped up violence against the police, kidnapped civil servants and clashed with the army.   As the crisis grows, new separatist groups have appeared, posing on social networks with weapons and a flag of "Ambazonia", the name of the state they want to create.   Cameroonians swept up in the conflict are facing a humanitarian crisis, according to aid groups, as they struggle to reach people in remote areas that have become virtually off-limits.
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:16:40 +0200

Colombo, April 20, 2018 (AFP) - Sri Lanka announced Friday it would establish new police posts and step up patrols at popular resorts after a spate of sexual attacks and violence targeting foreign tourists.   Police chief Pujith Jayasundara said 20 new stations would be established at holiday hotspots to protect visitors from touts and criminals, despite concerns his force was already overstretched.   "I wish we had more men and resources for this job, but we are making adjustments to our deployments to ensure better productivity," Jayasundara said.   He added the measures were decided after a Dutch tourist was sexually harassed and several other tourists were assaulted by a gang at a hotel in the southern resort town of Mirissa last week.

Five Israeli tourists were beaten up in the same area this week and 14 men have been arrested over the two incidents, police said.   Local media reports have catalogued several sexual harassment complaints by
foreign tourists, with many reluctant to make official complaints for fear of drawn-out court proceedings.   Tourism Minister John Amaratunga appealed to victims to come forward and promised to cover the expenses of those who return to the island to help identify perpetrators.   The US State Department warned last year that sexual crimes against women were on the rise in Sri Lanka.

While most reported incidents involved non-physical acts such as cat calls and verbal harassment, there were several serious incidents of sexual threats, groping and rape.   "Incidents have also occurred at tourist beaches and smaller hotels in the Southern province," the travel advisory noted.   In 2014, a Sri Lankan court sentenced a local politician and three of his supporters to 20 years in jail for the 2011 murder of British tourist Khuram Shaikh on Christmas Eve and gang rape of his Russian partner.   Shaikh, a 32-year-old Red Cross worker, had tried to stop a brawl at a southern beach resort when a gang attacked and killed him.   His girlfriend, who was knocked unconscious in the brutal assault, returned to Sri Lanka in 2014 to give evidence and identified one of her attackers in court.
Date: Mon 23 Apr 2018 [published online 1 Mar 2018]
Source: Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd [edited]

The following publication illustrates an unusual source of tularemia reported in Switzerland:

Ehrensperger F, Riederer L and Friedl A:Tularemia after attack of one buzzard on a jogger: A "One Health" case report. Schweiz Arch Tierheilkd 2018; 160:185-188, <> [in German, abstract in English]

A female jogger was attacked by a common buzzard (_Buteo buteo_) and was scratched lightly at the back of the head. One week later she was taken ill with high fever and headache which was later diagnosed as ulceroglandular tularemia in regional lymph nodes, caused by _Francisella tularensis_. Recovery was only achieved after several weeks of systemic antimicrobial treatment (gentamicin/ciprofloxacin).

Tularemia is a well known zoonotic disease, called "rabbit fever", mainly affecting rabbits and hares, but also small rodents. Human infection occurs often following tick bites or bloodsucking insects, or in hunters or slaughterers handling infected animals. Bites by mice have also been reported as a cause of tularemia.

For the first time we report this case of tularemia as a result of an attack by a bird of prey. We assume that the bird acted as a vector just carrying the _F. tularensis_ on its claws or beak, but we cannot exclude an infection of the bird itself. Several other joggers had also been attacked by a common buzzard in the same area shortly after the above described event and one of these also became infected with _F. tularensis_.
Communicated by:
Catherine O'Connor
Epidemic Intelligence team, Public Health England
[ProMED very much thanks Catherine O'Connor for submitting the citation related to this unusual mode of transmission of _F. tularensis_. - ProMED Mod.LL]

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