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Andorra

General
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This small country is situated between France and Spain. Because of its elevation and proximity to the Pyrenees the climate is generally pleasant throughout the year.
Climate
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During the summer months the temperatures can rise to 30c but there is usually a cooling breeze. Lightening storms can occur during the summer months associated with torrential rain.
Sun Exposure and Dehydration
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Those from Northern Europe can develop significant sun exposure and so remember to use a wide brimmed hat when necessary. The altitude can also lead to significant tiredness and dehydration so take sufficient initial rest and drink plenty of fluids.
Safety & Security
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The level of crime throughout the country directed at tourists is very low. Nevertheless take care of your personal belongings at all times and use hotel safety boxes where possible.
Local Customs
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There are strict laws regarding the use of illegal drugs. Make sure you have sufficient supplies of any medication you required for your trip and that it is clearly marked. The European E111 form is not accepted in Andorra and so it is essential that you have sufficient travel insurance for your trip.
Winter Sports
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Andorra is one of the regions where many travel to partake of their winter sport facilities. Generally this is well controlled and one of the safer regions. Nevertheless, make certain your travel insurance is adequate for the activities you are planning to undertake.
Vaccination
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The only standard vaccine to consider for Andorra would be tetanus in line with many other developed countries of the world.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2018 15:24:06 +0200

Andorra la Vella, Andorra, July 12, 2018 (AFP) - The tax haven of Andorra has long been a favourite destination for smokers looking to stock up on cheap cigarettes, but the enclave said Thursday that it would soon stop advertising the fact.   The government said it had signed up to the World Health Organization's (WHO) anti-tobacco convention, which aims to encourage people to quit smoking and combat contraband sales.   "The goal is to contribute to public health and pursue the fight against trafficking," government spokesman Jordi Cinca said at a press conference.

The tiny principality of Andorra, perched in the Pyrenees on the border between France and Spain, attracts millions of shoppers each year to duty-free stores, where prices of alcohol, cigarettes, electronics and clothes can be up to 20 percent cheaper than elsewhere in the EU.   High taxes on tobacco imposed by many countries to help people kick smoking make Andorra's cigarettes a particularly good deal.   The average pack costs just three euros ($3.50) compared with eight euros in France, which has said it will gradually raise the price to 10 euros a pack by November 2020.

Tobacco sales bring in some 110 million euros a year for Andorra, whose economy is otherwise based almost entirely on tourism.   It is also an enticing destination for smugglers, with French and Spanish border agents regularly seizing cartons from people trying to sneak them out, either by car or by hiking down the mountain trails which criss-cross the Pyrenees.   No date has been set for the advertising ban, which will come into effect three months after the ratification of the WHO accord is voted by parliament.
Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2018 02:41:51 +0100

Andorra la Vella, Andorra, March 16, 2018 (AFP) - The tiny principality of Andorra is witnessing a once in a generation phenomenon -- a widespread strike.   Around a third of civil servants across the mountainous micro-state have walked out to protest proposed reforms to their sector in what has been described as Andorra's first large-scale strike since 1933.

With no negotiation breakthrough in sight, picket lines are expected to be manned again on Friday with customs officers, police, teachers and prison staff among those taking part.   The first major strike in 85 years was sparked by plans from the government of Antoni Marti to reform civil servant contracts.   He has assured officials "will not do an hour more" work under the reforms and that 49 million euros would be allocated for the next 25 years to supplement civil servant salaries.   But government workers are unconvinced with unions warning the reforms could risk their 35 hour working week and pay.

Customs officers involved in the strike interrupted traffic on the Andorran-Spanish border this week, according to unions, while some 80 percent of teachers have walked out of classes.   Strikers have occupied the government's main administrative building and held noisy protests outside parliament calling for Marti's resignation.    "We have started collecting signatures to demand the resignation of the head of government and now nobody will stop us," Gabriel Ubach, spokesman for the public service union, told reporters.
Date: Mon 27 Sep 2017
Source: Contagion Live [edited]

A recent Dispatch article published in the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)'s Emerging Infectious Diseases journal, offers insight into a large norovirus outbreak that sprung up in Spain in 2016 that had been linked with bottled spring water. The Public Health Agency of Catalonia (ASPCAT) reported a staggering 4136 cases of gastroenteritis from 11-25 Apr 2016. Of the 4136 cases, 6 individuals required hospitalization. The CDC defines a "case-patient" as an "exposed person who had vomiting or diarrhoea (3 or more loose stools within 24 hours)," as well as 2 or more of the following symptoms: nausea, stomach pain, or fever.

ASPCAT investigators traced back the outbreak to contaminated bottled spring water in office water coolers. The water came from a source in Andorra, a small independent principality located between Spain and France. Norovirus is a "very contagious virus," according to the CDC, and it is common for individuals to become infected by eating contaminated food. Although it is possible to be infected by consuming contaminated drinking water, this mode of transmission is "rare in developed countries," according to the article.

The investigators collected water samples from a total of 4 19-L water coolers in 2 different offices located in Barcelona, "from which affected persons had drunk; samples 1 and 2 came from 2 water coolers in one office, while samples 3 and 4 came from 2 water coolers in another office. Using "positively charged glass wool and polyethylene glycol precipitation for virus concentration," the investigators tested the samples.

"We detected high RNA levels for norovirus genotype I and II, around 103 and 104 genome copies/L, in 2 of the 4 water cooler samples concentrated by glass wool filtration and polyethylene glycol precipitation," according to the article. The investigators noted that a drawback of using molecular methods is that they are not able to differentiate between particles that are infectious and those that are not. Therefore, they "predicted the infectivity of norovirus in the concentrated samples by treating the samples with the nucleic acid intercalating dye PMA propidium monoazide and Triton X surfactant before RT-qPCR," which allowed them to "distinguish between virions with intact and altered capsids."

In those 2 water samples, they found high genome copy values -- 49 and 327 genome copies/L for norovirus genotype I and 33 and 660 genomes copies/L for norovirus genotype II. This was not an unexpected finding, due to the large number of infected individuals associated with the outbreak. Through "PMA/Triton treatment before RT-qPCR assays," the investigators found that the proportion of infected virions accounted for 0.3% to 5.6% of the total number of physical particles in the water samples, "which was enough to cause gastrointestinal illness."

The investigators also analyzed faecal samples collected from infected individuals who worked at the office in which the 1st 2 water samples were collected. They detected the following genotypes in those faecal samples: GI.2 and GII.17. In the faecal samples collected from the other office, they isolated the following genotypes: GII.4/Sydney/2012, GI.2, GII.17, and GII.2.

"We hypothesize that the spring water was contaminated by all 4 strains (GI.2, GII.2, GII.4, and GII.17) but levels of viral contamination for each genotype were not homogeneous in all bottled coolers," the investigators wrote. "We may have detected only the GII.4 genotype in water samples 1 and 2 because of a higher concentration of this specific genotype or because of bias caused by the sampling, concentration, and molecular detection procedures."

The investigators admit one limitation to their study: the small number of water samples collected and analyzed. They attribute this to the fact that on 15 Apr 2016, 4 days after the onset of the outbreak, the company that produced the drinking water recalled over 6150 containers of water "of suspected quality" as a precautionary measure. The recall prevented the investigators from collecting more samples to assess, according to the article.

Although the exact cause of the contamination has not yet been identified, the investigators posit that "the high number of affected persons from 381 offices that received water coolers, and the many different genotypes found in some patients' faecal specimens" suggest that the spring aquifer had been contaminated by "sewage pollution," and the Andorra Ministry of Health and Welfare banned further use of the spring.

The investigators suggest that assessing commercially-produced mineral waters for different harmful pathogens, such as norovirus would be beneficial. They note, however, that creating, enhancing, and managing such "virus surveillance systems" would be costly. Thus, the investigators suggest taking a "balanced approach to keep both the cost and the time required for the analyses within feasibility limits."  [Byline: Kristi Rosa]
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[The interesting article published in the September 2017 issue of Emerging Infectious Diseases is:
Blanco A, Guix S, Fuster N, et al: Norovirus in bottled water associated with gastroenteritis outbreak, Spain, 2016. Emerg Infect Dis. 2017; 23(9): 1531-34; https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/eid/article/23/9/16-1489_article. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[Catalonia and Andorra can be located on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail map at http://healthmap.org/promed/p/1341. - ProMED Sr.Tech.Ed.MJ]
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2013 22:25:05 +0100 (MET)

ANDORRA LA VELLA, Andorra, Dec 26, 2013 (AFP) - A Spanish skier and a French snowboarder have died in avalanches in different mountain ranges in Europe, officials said Thursday.

The 27-year-old skier, a woman from Barcelona, died Wednesday while going off-piste alone in the Soldeu resort in Andorra, in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, a resort manager told AFP.   Although she was rescued within 10 minutes, after her glove was spotted on the surface, she was unable to be revived despite a helicopter dash to hospital.

In the Italian Alps, close to the border with France, a 24-year-old Frenchman who was snowboarding with three friends on a closed run died Thursday when an avalanche swept over him in the resort town of Les Arnauds.   Local officials said he succumbed to multiple injuries, asphyxia and hypothermia.

Avalanches are common in Europe's ski resorts at this time of year, when early snows are heavy with moisture, and several deaths occur each winter.   Last Sunday, a 35-year-old Frenchman died in an avalanche in the Alps near the Italian border while on a three-day trek with a friend.
Date: Fri 7 Feb 2003 From: Jaime R. Torres Source: EFE Salud, Thu 6 Feb 2003 (translated by Maria Jacobs) [edited] -------------------------------------------------- Close to 300 students in one school and 173 tourists staying in 7 hotels in the Principality of Andorra have been affected by outbreaks of gastroenteritis that, according to local authorities, are not related to each other. Monica Codina, Minister of Health, stated that the outbreak that has affected almost 300 children and 8 adults in the San Ermengol school was detected last Monday [3 Feb 2003] but that it may have started Wednesday or Thursday of the previous week. The epidemiological surveys of a group of pre-school and grammar school students that may also be affected have not been performed yet. Also pending are the results of the microbiological tests of the food and water served in the school dining room, but the minister has indicated that the probable cause of the outbreak is the fact that water pitchers were filled with hoses directly from the faucet. The Minister stated that this outbreak of gastroenteritis is not related to the one that affected 173 tourists, most of them young people on holiday, who where staying in 7 hotels of the Principality. The government is also investigating the cause of this outbreak and has indicated that an anomaly in the system that supplies water to the hotels was detected, requiring a process of chlorination, which has not been carried out due to the heavy snowfall of the past few days. * * * * * * * * * * [The suspicion that defective water supplies may be responsible for all of these independent outbreaks suggests that the etiologic agent may be an enterovirus, hepatitis A virus, or non-viral, rather than one of the noroviruses associated with sudden-onset viral gastroenteritis. Information on the outcome of diagnostic tests in progress would be welcomed. - ProMed Mod.CP]
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Mali

Mali - US Consular Information Sheet
December 19, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Mali is a developing country in western Africa with a stable and democratic government.
The official language is French.
The capital is Bamako.
Faci
ities for tourism are limited.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Mali for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and visa are required.
All travelers must have international vaccination cards with a current yellow fever immunization.
Travelers should obtain the latest visa information and entry requirements from the Republic of Mali Embassy at 2130 R Street NW, Washington, DC
20008, telephone (202) 332-2249.
Inquiries can be made at the nearest Malian embassy or consulate.
Visit the Embassy of Mali web site at http://www.maliembassy.us/ for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY: The U.S. Embassy in Bamako strongly advises American citizens to avoid traveling to the northern regions of Mali.
U.S. Government employees serving in Mali, including those on temporary duty, are required to have approval from the Chief of Mission prior to traveling to areas north of the Niger River, including Timbuktu and areas or north of Timbuktu.
Travelers should exercise caution when traveling in any isolated areas.

In August 2007, Tuareg dissidents attacked and kidnapped civilian and military convoys near the Mali-Niger border.
On January 3, 2008, four Italians were robbed at gunpoint near Araouane, 150 miles north of Timbuktu, by assailants whose affiliation remains unknown.
Tuareg rebels in the Kidal region attacked Malian military units in Tinzawaten and Boughessa in March 2008, in Abeibara in May 2008, and in Tessalit in July 2008.
On October 16, 2008, bandits in the Kidal region of Mali carjacked two vehicles belonging to the International Committee for the Red Cross.

Al-Qaeda in the Land of the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has a presence in northern Mali.
AQIM began as a terrorist group seeking the overthrow of the Algerian government, and has been designated as a terrorist organization by both the United States and the European Union.
On October 31, 2008, in northern Mali, AQIM freed two Austrian tourists kidnapped in Tunisia eight months earlier.
The group has declared its intention to attack Algerian and Western targets.

This recent activity and the porous nature of Mali’s northern borders with Mauritania and Algeria, as well as its eastern border with Niger, reinforce long-standing concerns about security for travel in northern Mali.
The Department of State strongly urges citizens to reconsider traveling to northern Mali, including Timbuktu and Essakane.
Northern Mali hosts several annual music festivals in the desert, including one north of Timbuktu at Essakane, one north of Kidal at Essouk, and another near Menaka.
These are official events sanctioned by the Government of Mali.
Americans planning to attend these festivals or otherwise travel to the northern regions of Mali, despite this caution, are urged to notify the U.S. Embassy about their plans by e-mail at consularbamako@state.gov.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Current information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free within the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside of the U.S. and Canada, on a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Violent crime in Mali is infrequent, but petty crimes, such as pick pocketing and simple theft, are common in urban areas.
Passports and wallets should be closely guarded when in crowded outdoor areas and open-air markets.
Individuals traveling on the Bamako-Dakar railroad are advised to be vigilant for pickpockets, especially at night.
Criminals will not hesitate to use violence if they encounter resistance from their victims.
There are sporadic reports of nighttime robberies occurring on the roads outside of the capital; tourists should not drive outside of Bamako at night.
Travelers should stay alert, remain in groups, and avoid poorly lit areas after dark.

Sporadic banditry and random carjacking have historically plagued Mali's vast desert region and its borders with Mauritania and Niger.
While banditry is not seen as targeting U.S. citizens specifically, such acts of violence cannot be predicted.

On July 1, 2008, six people working as USAID contractors were robbed of their vehicle and all belongings, at gunpoint, by three bandits between the villages of Temera and Bourem, approximately 120 km (75 miles) northeast of Gao along the Niger River.

From May 2008 until July 2008, there were a series of attacks at various Malian government installations.
While most of these have been in eastern Mali, on May 6, bandits attacked a military outpost in Diabali, 175 km (110 miles) north of Segou.
While these actions appear directed exclusively at government security facilities, including military, gendarmerie and national guard bases, bandits have been known to stop cars at gunpoint while making their escape.
Those traveling or living in Mali are strongly encouraged to register with the Embassy to allow e-mail notification should further attacks occur.
Please see the Registration/Embassy Location information at the end of this article.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Mali is:
1212
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Mali are limited, especially outside of the capital, Bamako.
Psychiatric care is non-existent.
The U.S. Embassy in Bamako maintains a list of physicians and other healthcare professionals who may see U.S. citizen patients.
The Embassy cannot guarantee these services or specifically recommend any physicians.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to, or foreign residents of, Mali.
Many American medicines are unavailable; French medications are more easily found.
Available medications can be obtained at pharmacies throughout Bamako, and are usually less expensive than those in the U.S.
Travelers should carry with them an adequate supply of needed medication and prescription drugs, along with copies of the prescriptions, including the generic names for the drugs.
Caution should be taken to avoid purchasing potentially dangerous counterfeit medications when buying on the local market in Mali.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Mali is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
U.S. citizens traveling by road in Mali should exercise caution.
Mali has paved roads leading from Bamako to Segou, Mopti and Sikasso.
During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, some unpaved roads may be impassable.
On many roads outside of the capital, deep sand and ditches are common.
Four-wheel drive vehicles with spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.
The Embassy strongly urges all travelers to avoid traveling after dark on roads outside of urban centers.
The roads from Gao to Kidal and Menaka, and the roads around Timbuktu, are desert tracks with long isolated stretches.
Travelers must be prepared to repair their vehicles should they break down or become stuck in the sand.
Travelers should also carry plenty of food and water.
Drivers drive on the right-hand side of the road in Mali.
Speed limits range from 40-60 km per hour (25-40 miles per hour) within towns, to 100 km per hour (60 miles per hour) between cities.
Road conditions often require lower speeds.
Due to safety concerns, the Embassy recommends against the use of motorbikes, van taxis, and public transportation.
Excessive speeds, poorly maintained vehicles, lack of street lighting and roving livestock pose serious road hazards.
Many vehicles are not maintained well and headlights are either extremely dim or not used.
Driving conditions in the capital of Bamako can be particularly dangerous due to limited street lighting, the absence of sidewalks for pedestrians, and the number of motorcycles, mopeds and bicycles.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
The Malian authority for road safety is the Compagnie Nationale de Circulation Routiere in Bamako at telephone (223) 20-22-38-83.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Mali, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Mali’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Mali is signatory to the Treaty on Cultural Property, which restricts exportation of Malian archeological objects, in particular those from the Niger River Valley.
Visitors seeking to export any such property are required by Malian law to obtain an export authorization from the National Museum in Bamako.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Mali in Washington or the nearest Malian consulate for specific information regarding customs requirements.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection may impose corresponding import restrictions in accordance with the Convention on Cultural Property Implementation Act.
Currency exchange facilities are slow and often involve out-of-date rates.
The U.S. Embassy cannot provide exchange facilities for private Americans.
There are a few ATMs in Bamako that accept American credit cards and debit cards with a Visa logo only.
Maximum withdrawals are generally limited to $400, and local banks charge up to $20 per transaction for use of their ATMs.
There are no ATMs outside of Bamako.
Credit cards are accepted only at major hotels, a few travel agencies, and select restaurants.
Cash advances on credit cards are available from only one bank in Mali, the BMCD Bank in Bamako, and the only card they accept for this is Visa.

The U.S. Embassy does not always receive timely notification by Malian authorities of the arrest of Americans.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passport with them at all times, so that proof of identity and citizenship are readily available in the event of questioning by local authorities.
If arrested, U.S. citizens should always politely insist they be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy (see section on Registration/Embassy Location below).
Photographing military subjects is restricted.
One should also obtain explicit permission from the Malian government before photographing transportation facilities and government buildings.
Taking a photograph without permission in any public area may provoke a response from security personnel or offend the people being photographed.
Taking photos of the U.S. Embassy is also prohibited.
International telephone calls are expensive, and collect calls cannot be made from outside of Bamako.
Please see our Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections that are available to individuals under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Mali’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Mali are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information, see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Mali are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy or through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain current information on travel and security within Mali.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located in ACI 2000 at Rue 243, Porte 297.
The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 34, Bamako, Mali.
The telephone number is (223) 20-70-2300.
The consular fax number is (223) 20-70-2340.
The Embassy web page is at http://mali.usembassy.gov
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Mali dated February 7, 2008, to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 25 Feb 2019 13:05:19 +0100

Paris, Feb 25, 2019 (AFP) - French warplanes struck a group of jihadists in central Mali over the weekend, killing or wounding 15 of them, the defence ministry in Paris said Monday.   The raid -- the second in 48 hours -- took place north of Mopti on Saturday evening,  as French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and Defence Minister Florence Parly were visiting Mali.   Two Mirage 2000 jets, aided by a Reaper drone, took off from Niamey in neighbouring Niger to carry out the strike, which targeted forces from the Macina rebel group in the Dialoube region.   The defence ministry did not specify how many jihadists were killed and how many wounded, saying only they were "put out of action".   France has around 2,700 troops stationed in Mali as part of its Barkhane anti-insurgency campaign in the region, which comprises a total of some 4,500 soldiers.

In addition to French troops, around 15,000 peacekeepers have been deployed in the country as part of the United Nations' stabilisation mission, known as MINUSMA.   But the Malian authorities have struggled to improve security since France intervened in 2013 to drive back Islamic insurgents in the north, and large swathes of the country remain out of the government's control.   In January, UN chief Antonio Guterres said more than half of the attacks by armed groups targeted Malian security forces in the central Mopti region, and around Timbuktu and Gao in the north.   The strike Saturday came a day after France announced that it had killed a top jihadist leader and 10 of his men in Mali.

Djamel Okacha, an Algerian commander with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), was killed Thursday after French commandos, helicopters and a drone hit a column of vehicles he was travelling in north of Timbuktu, French officials said.   Okacha, a jihadist veteran known also as Yahya Abou El Hamame, was "the mastermind and financier of several attacks," the defence ministry said.    US officials had accused him of kidnapping a number of Westerners in North and West Africa.   Philippe and Parly were in Mali at the weekend to beef up support for the country in its fight against jihadism and officialise around 85 million euros ($97 million) of development aid.
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2018 15:24:44 +0200

Bamako, Oct 11, 2018 (AFP) - Three Malian soldiers were killed in a restive central region overnight when their vehicle hit a landmine, sources said Thursday.   The blast happened on the road between Djoungani and Koro, near the frontier with Burkina Faso, a Malian military source said.   "There were three fatalities and four other soldiers were wounded," the source said, adding that reinforcements had been sent to the area.   A local official confirmed the toll and described the blast as "the work of terrorists," a term typically used to refer to Islamist militants.

Mali has been plagued by violence since 2012, when Tuareg separatists staged an uprising in the north, which was then exploited by jihadists to take over key cities in the region.   The militants were largely driven out in a French-led military operation in 2013.   But despite a 2015 peace agreement between the government, pro-government groups and former rebels, large stretches of Mali remain out of control.   In a report in September, the UN said it had recorded 42 attacks by improvised explosive devices over the previous three months. More than a third of these occurred in central Mali.
Date: Thu, 27 Sep 2018 16:21:46 +0200

Bamako, Sept 27, 2018 (AFP) - Seven soldiers and a civilian driver were killed in Mali's restive centre when their vehicle hit a bomb, the defence ministry said Thursday.   Wednesday's "cowardly terrorist attack" took place between the northern city of Timbuktu and Mopti in the centre, a statement said, adding that the soldiers were on an escort mission.
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 23:07:20 +0200

Bamako, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - A six-year-old girl became Mali's first open heart surgery patient on Monday, after a successful procedure performed by a team of Malian and French surgeons that was a first for the African nation.   Fanta Diarra, who was diagnosed with a heart condition when she was just a baby, underwent the operation in what medics hope will be the first of many such life-saving operations for Malians who previously have had to travel overseas for treatment.        "I am happy that I will be operated on. I will be like the other children, I will be able to work, and get married," the bubbly six-year-old told AFP before her surgery.

She is one of some 2,500 children awaiting surgery, of whom about 50 should be operated on by the end of the year at a new cardio-pediatric unit at a hospital in Bamako, opened by the French medical association La Chaine de l'Espoir.      "It's a big day for us. This is the first open-heart surgery, but behind this surgery there are hundreds and hundreds of children who are waiting, so we know this is not the end," said Professor Alain Deloche, a cardiac surgeon and founder of La Chaine de l'Espoir.

The aim is for French surgical teams to perform the operations, while also training Malian surgeons.      "I can see in the eyes of these young Malian surgeons something that looks like pride," he added.    Malian cardio-vascular surgeon, Doctor Baba Ibrahima Diarra, said local teams needed help initially because the operation was new in the country.        But he added: "The final goal is to be independent in time, to be completely autonomous."
Date: Thu 9 Aug 2018

We have received information from sources in Mali that the illness appears to be due to nutritional deficiencies, and not infectious. Symptoms started 3-4 months ago. Patients are improving with nutrition. A total of 224 cases were reported by the community including 35 deaths.

There is a mission report (in French, full PDF available to download), which includes images of the condition
(<https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/sites/www.humanitarianresponse.info/files/assessments/rapport_dinvestigation_mondoro-fv_07-08-2018.pdf>).

In summary: "Clinical investigations have revealed an oedematous syndrome: painful, clinical signs of malnutrition, oral signs of gingivostomatitis, cutaneous syndrome of malnutrition and signs of irritation in children without any infectious syndrome."
=======================
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Irene Lai for this useful information. Indeed the pictures in the report points to protein malnutrition, kwashiorkor, which are followed by oedema especially on the legs. The report specifically notes that there are no signs of infection, even though 2 children tested positive for malaria. However, malaria is endemic in the area and a positive test does not link the symptoms to malaria. It is not clear why an epidemic of malnutrition should  occur in central Mali. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2019 19:08:37 +0100
By Joaquim Nhamirre

Maputo, March 15, 2019 (AFP) - Tropical cyclone Idai battered Mozambican coastal city Beira Friday, leaving half a million people virtually cut off after power lines crashed, airport shut and roads were swamped by flooding that killed 66 people nationwide.   "There is no communication with Beira. Houses and trees were destroyed and pylons downed," an official at the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) told AFP.   Authorities had to close Beira international airport after the air traffic control tower, the navigation systems and the runways were damaged by the storm.   "Unfortunately there is extreme havoc," said the official.   "Some runway lights were damaged, the navigation system is damaged, the control tower antennas and the control tower itself are all damaged.    "The runway is full of obstacles and parked aircrafts are damaged."

Late on Wednesday, the national carrier LAM cancelled all flights to Beira and Quelimane, which is also on the coast, as well as to Chomoio, which is inland.    Power utility Electricidade de Mocambique said in a statement that the provinces of Manica, Sofala and parts of Inhambane have been without power since Thursday.   Officials did not report any confirmed deaths, but local Beira station STV reported a child had died in Manica province west of the city, apparently the victim of a falling roof.   "There was no tsunami-type storm but Beira and Chinde (400 kilometres, 250 miles northeast of Beira on the coast) were badly hit," added the NIDM official.

Another official, Pedro Armando Alberto Virgula, in Chinde, said a hospital, police station and seven schools there lost their roofs and four houses were destroyed.   Virgula added that efforts were under way to assess the damage caused after Idai made landfall late on Thursday.   Local officials said that this week's heavy rains claimed 66 lives, injured 111 people and displaced 17,000 people.   The World Food Programme (WFP) said it would move 20 tonnes of emergency food aid to the affected areas.   The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had warned that the storm could pack winds of up to 190 kilometres per hour (118 miles per hour).

- 'Devastation' -
At least 126 people were killed by the downpour that has struck parts of Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa over the past week, officials said.   Heavy rains in neighbouring Malawi have affected almost a million people and claimed 56 lives, according to the latest government toll.   Authorities there have opened emergency relief camps where malaria and shortages of supplies have led to dire conditions, according to AFP correspondents.

Malawian President Peter Mutharika this week declared a natural disaster.   Mozambique's weather service has warned that heavy rain will continue to batter Beira and surrounding areas until Sunday.   The UN warned of damage to crops, "including about 168,000 hectares (415,000 acres) of crops already impacted by flooding in early March, which will undermine food security and nutrition".   Mozambique and Malawi, two of the poorest countries in the world, are prone to deadly flooding during the rainy season and chronic drought during the dry season.   In neighbouring Zimbabwe, weather services have warned that violent thunderstorms, lightning and strong winds will be experienced in the eastern regions of the country.
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2019 19:00:39 +0100

Niamey, March 15, 2019 (AFP) - Health authorities in Niger said Friday they had found a fake version of a meningitis vaccine after the country had launched a campaign to innoculate millions of children against the disease.   In a statement, the health ministry asked doctors to be vigilant over a "counterfeit" version of a vaccine called Mencevax ACWY.   The fake drug is marked as having been manufactured in December 2016, with an end-date for use by November 2021, it said.   Niger launched a week-long campaign on March 5 to vaccinate six million children against meningitis, which killed nearly 200 people two years ago.   The country lies in the so-called "meningitis belt" stretching from Senegal in the west to Ethiopia in the east, where outbreaks of the disease are a regular occurrence. 

The vaccination programme is against meningitis A, one of the six groups of meningitis bacteria that can cause epidemics.   The ministry's spokesman told AFP the bogus drug had been discovered during a "routine inspection" of a privately-owned pharmacy in the capital Niamey.   An investigation is underway to try to ascertain how many of the fake vaccines have been used, the spokesman said.   Health workers administering meningitis jabs are being asked to take special care about their supply source, and the public are being urged to scrutinise vaccines clearly, even if they buy them in "licensed" pharmacies.   Fake drugs -- medications that are outright counterfeits or whose active ingredients have been diluted -- are a major problem in West Africa.

In the 2017 outbreak, and in an epidemic in 2015 in which nearly 500 people died, Niger sounded the alarm over purported vials of vaccine that just contained water.   Meningitis is transmitted between people through coughs and sneezes, close contact and cramped living conditions.   The illness causes acute inflammation of the outer layers of the brain and spinal cord, with the most common symptoms being fever, headache and neck stiffness.
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2019 02:55:29 +0100
By Khaliun Bayartsogt

Bornuur, Mongolia, March 15, 2019 (AFP) - In the world's coldest capital, many burn coal and plastic just to survive temperatures as low as minus 40 degrees -- but warmth comes at a price: deadly pollution makes Ulaanbataar's air too toxic for children to breathe, leaving parents little choice but to evacuate them to the countryside.   This exodus is a stark warning of the future for urban areas in much of Asia, where scenes of citizens in anti-pollution masks against a backdrop of brown skies are becoming routine, rather than apocalyptic.   Ulaanbaatar is one of the most polluted cities on the planet, alongside New Delhi, Dhaka, Kabul, and Beijing. It regularly exceeds World Health Organisation recommendations for air quality even as experts warn of disastrous consequences, particularly for children, including stunted development, chronic illness, and in some cases death.

Erdene-Bat Naranchimeg watched helplessly as her daughter Amina battled illness virtually from birth, her immune system handicapped by the smog-choked air in Mongolia's capital.   "We would constantly be in and out of the hospital," Naranchimeg told AFP, adding that Amina contracted pneumonia twice at the age of two, requiring several rounds of antibiotics.   This is not a unique case in a city where winter temperatures plunge towards uninhabitable, particularly in the districts that rural workers moved to in search of a better life.   Here row upon row of the traditional tents -- known as gers -- are warmed by coal, or any other flammable material available. The resulting thick black smoke shoots out in plumes, blanketing surrounding areas in a film of smog that makes visibility so poor it can be hard to see even a few metres ahead.   Hospitals are packed and young children are vulnerable, common colds can quickly escalate into life-threatening illness.

- Birth defects -
The situation was so bad that doctors told Naranchimeg the only solution was to send her little girl to the clean air of the countryside.   Now aged five, Amina is thriving. She lives with her grandparents in Bornuur Sum, a village 135 kilometres away from the capital.   "She hasn't been sick since she started living here," said Naranchimeg, who makes the three-hour round trip to see Amina every week.   "It was very difficult in the first few months," she said. "We used to cry when we talked on the phone."   But like many parents in Ulaanbaatar, she felt the move was the only way to protect her child.

The levels of PM2.5 -- tiny and harmful particles -- in Ulaanbaatar reached 3,320 in January, 133 times what the World Health Organisation (WHO) considers safe.   The effects are terrible for adults but children are even more at risk, in part because they breathe faster, taking in more air and pollutants.   As they are smaller, children are also closer to the ground, where some pollutants concentrate, and their still-developing lungs, brains, and other key organs are more vulnerable to damage.   Effects to prolonged exposure range from persistent infections and asthma to slowed lung and brain development.   The risks apply in utero, too, because gases and fine particles can enter a mother's bloodstream and placenta, causing miscarriage, birth defects and low birth weights, which can also affect a child for the rest of their lives.   Researchers are now investigating whether pollution, like exposure to tobacco smoke, has health effects that could even be passed down to the next generation.

- 'Terribly afraid' -
Buyan-Ulzii Badamkhand and her husband need to stay in capital for work, but they have decided to send their two-year-old son Temuulen more than 1,000 kilometres away.   The 35-year-old mother-of-three struggled with the decision, even moving from one ger district to another in the hope her son's health would improve.   But successive bouts of illness, including bronchitis that lasted a whole year, finally convinced her to send Temuulen to his grandparents.   Hours after he arrived, she called her mother-in-law to discuss her son's medicines.   "But my mother-in-law asked me 'does he still need medicine? He isn't coughing anymore," she said.   "I tell myself that it doesn't matter that I miss him and who raises him, as long as he is healthy, I am content."   Respiratory problems are the most obvious effect of air pollution, but research suggests dirty air can also put children at greater risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life.   And the WHO links it to leukaemia and behavioural disorders.   When air pollution peaks in winter, Ulaanbaatar's playgrounds empty and those who are able to are increasingly travelling abroad to wait out the smog.

In desperation, Luvsangombo Chinchuluun, a civil society activist, borrowed money to take her granddaughter to Thailand for all of January.   "We can't let her play outside (in Ulaanbaatar) because of the air pollution, so we decided to leave," she said.   The persistent smog has caused tensions in the city, with those living in wealthier areas blaming the ger residents for the pollution and even calling for the tent districts to be cleared.   But the ger residents say coal is all they can afford.   "People come to the capital because they need sustainable income," said Dorjdagva Adiyasuren, a 54-year-old mother of six.   "It's not their fault," she added.    In a bid to tackle the problem, the local government banned domestic migration in 2017, and a ban on burning coal comes into force from May.   But it is unclear whether the moves will be enough to make a difference.   For Naranchimeg, the problems are serious enough to make her consider whether she wants more children.    She explained: "Now, I am terribly afraid of to give birth again. It is risky to carry a child and what will happen to the child after it is born in this amount of pollution?"
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2019 18:17:56 +0100

Reykjavik, March 14, 2019 (AFP) - Iceland has blocked the millions of tourists who descend upon the volcanic island each year from visiting a canyon that has been overrun since it was featured in a Justin Bieber music video.   An influx of tourists and a humid winter have disrupted the Fjadrargljufur canyon's fragile ecosystem, so the Environment Agency of Iceland has closed the site to the public until June 1.   "During periods of thaw, the path is completely muddy and is practically unusable for hikers," agency advisor Daniel Freyr Jonsson told AFP on Thursday.   "Because the mud is so thick, visitors step over the fences and walk parallel to the path, which rapidly damages the plant life," he added.

Fjadrargljufur is a gorge about 100 meters (yards) deep and two kilometres (1.25 miles) long, with steep green walls and a winding riverbed. The canyon was created by progressive erosion from water melting from glaciers 9,000 years ago.   The canyon was little known to foreigners until the end of 2015, when Canadian singer Justin Bieber featured the site in his song "I'll Show You".   "Visits to the site have risen by 50 to 80 percent per year since 2016," said Daniel Freyr Jonsson, estimating that around 300,000 people visited the canyon in 2018.   A growing number of tourist sites in Iceland have been closed in a bid to
preserve them.

The popular Reykjadalur valley and its hot springs were temporarily closed in April 2018 and a hiking trail overlooking the Skogafoss waterfall is currently shut.   "The infrastructure is not set up to accomodate so many visitors," said Daniel Freyr Jonsson.    "Tourism in winter and spring, the most sensitive periods for wildlife in Iceland, (was previously) almost unheard of in Iceland."   Since 2010 and the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano -- which generated a lot of publicity for the island -- the number of visitors has grown by 25 percent per year on average.   Last year, a record 2.3 million people visited Iceland.
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2019 16:50:58 +0100

Geneva, March 14, 2019 (AFP) - The deadly Ebola outbreak raging in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo should be over within six months, the head of the World Health Organization said Thursday.   Seven months since the outbreak erupted in DRC's violence-torn North Kivu province, WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters there were clear signs the spread of the virus was "contracting".   "Our target is now to finish it in the next six months," he told reporters in Geneva, warning though that increased unrest in the affected area could reverse the progress being made.   "It's always good to plan beyond the horizon to prepare for any eventualities," he said, while voicing optimism that massive efforts to rein in the outbreak are working.

The ongoing Ebola outbreak, the 10th in DRC's history, emerged in North Kivu in August 2018 and then spread to neighbouring Ituri province.    It has claimed 584 lives out of nearly 1,000 believed to have been infected, WHO said.   Security in eastern DRC, a region rampant with rebel fighters, has dramatically complicated the response, with numerous attacks on Ebola treatment centres.   The Doctors Without Borders (MSF) medical charity has also sounded the alarm over increasingly "toxic" relations with local communities, whose resistance to Ebola response efforts have also fuelled the spread.   MSF pointed out that 40 percent of deaths from the extremely contagious virus are occurring in communities rather than in Ebola treatment centres.

- 'Contracting' -
"The Ebola response is failing to bring the epidemic under control," MSF chief Joanne Lieu told reporters in Geneva last week.   But Tedros denied Thursday that this was the case.   "That's not true," he said. "You cannot say it's failing when the outbreak is contracting. It's contracting."   He stressed that over the past seven months, the virus had been contained to North Kivu and Ituri.

"It hasn't spread to other parts of the country and it hasn't spread to neighbouring countries," he said, adding that transmission had been halted in a number of places, including in Beni and Mangina.   "So the cases are now shrinking in certain geographic areas," he said.   Tedros also stressed that the number of new cases had been cut in half since January, with an average of 25 new cases reported each week now compared to 50 at the beginning of the year.   He acknowledged though that violence, unrest and community resistance remained a challenge in Butembo especially, which along with Katwa is where the spread of the virus is now concentrated.   "I don't want to undermine the risk, because it may again (resurge) if the security situation continues to deteriorate," he said, acknowledging that there is still a chance Ebola could spread to other parts of DRC and neighbouring countries.
Date: Thu, 14 Mar 2019 03:42:36 +0100

Kuala Lumpur, March 14, 2019 (AFP) - Over 100 schools in Malaysia have been closed after the dumping of toxic waste into a river caused hundreds of people to fall ill, including many children, authorities said.   A lorry is believed to have dumped the waste in southern Johor state last week, sending hazardous fumes across a wide area and causing those affected to display symptoms of poisoning such as nausea and vomiting.

Over 500 people, many of them school pupils, have received medical treatment after inhaling the fumes, with over 160 admitted to hospital, according to official news agency Bernama.    It was unclear what type of poisonous gas had been emitted near the industrial town of Pasir Gudang.   Education Minister Maszlee Malik initially ordered the closure of 43 schools in the area Wednesday, but later announced that figure had more than doubled.

"The ministry of education has decided to close all 111 schools in the Pasir Gudang area immediately," he said in a statement.    "The education ministry is requesting that all parties take precautions."   Three men were arrested earlier this week over the toxic waste dumping. One is expected to be charged in court soon and could face up to five years in jail if found guilty of breaking environmental protection laws.
Date: Tue 12 Mar 2019
Source: Carmelo Portal [in Spanish, trans. Mod. TY, edited]

The departmental health director, Dr Jorge Mota, confirmed for Carmelo Portal the death in our city of a young 17 year old girl from [a] hantavirus [infection]. "In Colonia department, there are on average 3 cases per year. The evolution of the disease is in thirds. One-third of the [infected] people do not have notable symptoms; another third have serious symptoms, especially respiratory symptoms and ones in all the systems, but with adequate treatment, [the infected people] survive, sometimes with sequelae. There is another third that die. It is those few with the virus that die with an evolution so drastic, such as is the case of this girl, sadly," Dr Mota stated.

The department health director said that hantaviruses are not contagious person-to-person. "It is transmitted from an intermediate animal, the field mouse. Only 3% of these mice have [a] hantavirus. To become infected, one must be in contact with an [infected] mouse's secretions that have dried, are mixed with dust, and are in a closed space, away from sunlight and ventilation. A spa, a shed, or a wood pile [are examples of such a space]. The person had to have been moving around there and inhaled the dust," he explained.

Dr Mota spoke about the epidemiological surveillance that is carried out. "We tracked places where the person was, even those that could be identified 2 months before contracting the virus; sometimes we found the place, but sometimes not." As a preventive measure, Mota stated that in these cases, ventilate these closed spaces for at least half an hour. Wet down floors and shelves with water [with 10% bleach]. Use masks [and gloves].
==========================
[The report above does not mention the circumstances under which the infection might have been acquired nor which hantavirus was responsible for this or earlier cases in Uruguay. Hantaviruses that cause hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (with rodent hosts found in Uruguay) include Laguna Negra virus (_Calomys laucha_), Maciel virus (_Necromys benefactus_), Central Plata virus, Lechiguanas virus (_Oligoryzomys flavescens_, complex of rodents), and Anajatuba virus and Juquitiba virus (_Ologoryzomys fornesi_).

The rodent reservoir hosts shed the virus in its saliva, urine, and faeces, contaminating the environment in which they live and breed.

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map showing the location of Uruguay in South America can be accessed at
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/28995>.

A map of Colonia department in southern Uruguay is available at
<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonia_del_Sacramento>
and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/27367>. - ProMED Mod.TY]
Date: Wed 13 Mar 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [abridged, edited]

The number of measles deaths has topped 1100 in Madagascar. In an update on the measles epidemic in Madagascar, UN health officials report 6607 cases of measles, including 41 deaths, in the week ending 24 Feb [2019]. Cases are reported in children aged 1 to 14 years. Of 114 districts in all 22 regions, 104 are in the epidemic phase, officials report.
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[The number of cases and deaths from measles in Madagascar is horrifying, even more so since the disease is vaccine-preventable. There is no information on how the health sector in the country is responding, but clearly the clinics are overburdened during this devastating outbreak. - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Madagascar:
Date: Mon 11 Mar 2019
Source: Focus Taiwan [abridged, edited]

A Taipei resident in her 20s has been confirmed to be infected with measles and is suspected of having had contact with 247 people during the incubation period, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The woman, who works at a restaurant in the ATT 4 Fun shopping centre in Taipei's Xinyi District might have been infected through coming into contact with foreign tourists in her workplace, said CDC deputy director-general Lo Yi-chun in a statement issued on Mon [11 Mar 2019].

To date, 247 people considered to have had contact with the patient, including her family, colleagues and health care personnel, have been traced. The contact tracing will continue until 27 Mar [2019]. The CDC alerted people who used the same bus and had been to the same places the patient visited to beware of possible exposure to the measles virus. It asked those who might have had contact with the woman to conduct self-health management for 18 days.

The reported new case has brought the total number of confirmed measles cases in Taiwan to 29 since the beginning of this year [2019], 16 contracted at home and 13 from abroad. Among the 16 indigenous cases, 8 have been linked to imported cases, the CDC said.

Lo reminded the public that measles is highly contagious and now is the peak transmission season. Outbreaks in some Asian countries have been growing, including the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, China, India and Indonesia, he said. As of 24 Feb [2019], the number of measles cases in Japan has risen to 258, the highest in the same period since 2009, Lo added.  [byline: Chang Ming-hsuan and Evelyn Kao]
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Taiwan:
Date: Thu 14 March 2019
Source: South China Morning Post [abridged, edited]

Health authorities seek passengers on Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Tokyo flight [1 Mar 2019] after a man [said to be a Cathay Pacific flight attendant] contracted measles, a contagious disease. The man tested positive for the immunoglobulin M antibody that confirms a measles infection. He was admitted to St Paul's Hospital in Causeway Bay after he returned to Hong Kong. He was later declared to be in a stable condition and discharged.

This is the 11th case of measles confirmed in city this year [2019] with at least 7 infections imported. Authorities seek passengers on the Cathay Pacific flight who might have had contact with the 23 year old man.  [byline: Danny Mok]
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Hong Kong: