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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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Puerto Rico

No Profile is available at present

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 16 Jan 2020 02:45:27 +0100 (MET)
By Ivelisse RIVERA, con Leila MACOR en Miami

Yauco, Puerto Rico, Jan 16, 2020 (AFP) - Living out in the open, their nerves on edge after a series of earthquakes that have shaken Puerto Rico, some 5,000 people are hoping that their president, Donald Trump, will heed the island's plea to be designated a disaster zone and free up much-needed aid.   Since December 28, more than 1,000 tremors have rattled the US island territory in the Caribbean, which just two years ago was devastated by two powerful hurricanes in quick succession.

In Yauco, one of the areas worst hit by the earthquakes, dozens of people were sitting on cot beds Wednesday in the parking lot of a municipal stadium, sheltered from the sun by white tents and blue tarps handed out by the federal disaster management agency, known as FEMA.  "The most difficult thing is the psychological aspect," said Wilfredo Rodriguez, 31. His house had been fractured by the seismic movement and he has spent a week living with his kids, aged six and 10, under an awning.    "We are living in constant fear of another powerful tremor," he said.

He only returns to his house to wash, then hurries back to the shelter. "We worry that there'll be a more powerful tremor while we are inside the house," he said.   Throughout the day, volunteers arrive to hand out food and toys for the children who fill the shelters: schools have been suspended because the buildings are not sturdy enough to withstand another quake.    The island's earthquake detection system has registered 1,104 tremors in the past two weeks alone, of which 186 could be felt by the population. By comparison, during the whole of 2019 there were 6,442 tremors, of which just 62 could be felt by people on the island.

Further south, in Guanico, Juan Santiago decided to move into a shelter on Saturday after a tremor of 5.9 on the Richter scale hit the island. "The mountain shook and rocks and earth started to come down," said the 30-year-old.  "My house has a crack in it and is about to fall down," he added. His home had weathered the Category Five winds of Hurricane Maria in September 2017 and of Hurricane Irma which followed it just two weeks later.   "It's different to a hurricane. What is happening now is much nastier," he said.

As he was talking the earth shook again, a tremor of 5.2 magnitude. Vehicles rocked like hammocks in the wind, but the quake-hardened victims barely reacted.   The houses in this part of the island are mostly rudimentary constructions built by the people who live in them with scant resources available in the mountains, where no regulations stipulate that buildings should be earthquake resistant.    The government of Puerto Rico said that as of Monday, there were 4,924 people living in 28 shelters in 14 municipalities. There were no figures on how many buildings had been damaged or destroyed.

- Seeking disaster designation -
Puerto Rico's governor Wanda Vazquez Garced called on Trump to declare the earthquake a disaster and clear the way for desperately needed aid. Trump had declared an emergency days before, but the governor wanted more.   The declaration of an emergency frees up to $5 million dollars in aid for the island, although Congress can bump that figure up. But if the situation is designated a disaster, there is no ceiling on funding, a FEMA spokesman said.   On Wednesday, the government said it would release $8.2 billion in delayed hurricane relief that had been stalled after the president threatened to divert Puerto Rico's emergency funds to help pay for his wall on the US-Mexico border.

In the past few days there have been growing calls among Democratic lawmakers for Trump to declare the situation in Puerto Rico a disaster.   It is a delicate subject, as Trump has accused the government of Puerto Rico of incompetence and of siphoning off hurricane relief money, triggering a public spat between the president and the mayor of San Juan, Carmen Yulin Cruz, as well as the former governor Ricardo Rossello, who was forced to step down last summer amid massive protests.   The Puerto Rican leaders accused Trump of treating the population of the island like second class citizens.
Date: Sat, 11 Jan 2020 15:43:12 +0100 (MET)

Washington, Jan 11, 2020 (AFP) - A 5.9 magnitude earthquake rocked Puerto Rico Saturday, the latest in a series of powerful tremors that have shaken the US territory in recent days, the US Geological Survey reported.

The latest quake occurred at 8:54 am local time (1254 GMT) around 13 kilometres (eight miles) southeast of Guanica, a town on the island's southern Caribbean coastline that was hard hit by earlier quakes.   The USGS revised its initial report of a 6.0 magnitude quake to 5.9.   It follows a 6.4 magnitude quake Tuesday that killed one person, knocked
out electric power and caused widespread damage.

Puerto Rico Governor Wanda Vazquez declared a state of emergency after Tuesday's quake, which forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid.    Puerto Rico's electric power authority reported outages in the towns of Ponce, Lares, Adjuntas and San German after the latest quake.   The Pacific Tsunami Information Center in Hawaii issued a statement saying there was "no significant tsunami threat" but a small possibility of tsunami waves along coasts nearest the epicentre.

The island is still recovering from Hurricane Maria, which came ashore more than two years ago as a devastating Category 4 storm.   Starting December 28, a wave of tremors have swept the island, putting residents on edge.   The 6.4 quake on January 7 came a day after a 5.8 magnitude quake; it was followed by major aftershocks.   Saturday's quakes were also preceded by a string of smaller tremors.
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 23:44:45 +0100 (MET)
By Ricardo Arduengo

Guayanilla, Puerto Rico, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - Puerto Rico's governor declared a state of emergency on Tuesday after a powerful 6.4 magnitude earthquake killed at least one person in the south of the island and caused widespread damage.   Governor Wanda Vazquez said the declaration would allow for the activation of National Guard troops in the US territory still recovering from a devastating 2017 hurricane.   The US Geological Survey said the quake struck at 4:24 am (0824 GMT) with the epicenter off the coast of the southern city of Ponce, and was followed by more than a dozen aftershocks.

Tuesday's quake was the most powerful in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28.   Scientists initially sent out an alert about a potential tsunami but it was later canceled.   The island's electricity authority said the quake had forced an automatic shutdown of the power grid, already severely damaged by Hurricane Maria more than two years ago.   The worst damage appeared to be in towns on the southwest coast, including Ponce, Guayanilla and Guanica.   El Nuevo Dia newspaper said a 73-year-old man died after a wall fell in his home in Ponce. Eight others there were reported injured.

Two power plants in Guayanilla sustained major damage, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority said. The city could be without power for two weeks, its mayor Nelson Torres Yordan said.   Celebrity chef Jose Andres announced that a charity he runs, World Central Kitchen, had started serving meals and distributing solar-powered lamps in quake-hit areas.   Vazquez announced that $130 million in emergency aid funding will be disbursed.   On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake.   One woman on Twitter said she had been "wrenched from sleep."   "Everybody is awake & scared all over," she posted.   In Guayanilla, the Inmaculada Concepcion church, built in 1841, was heavily damaged.   Volunteers salvaged statues and other valuable items from the ruins as a priest consoled distraught parishioners.

- 'Be safe' -
A 5.8 magnitude quake on Monday toppled some structures, caused power outages and small landslides, but did not result in any casualties.   It also destroyed a popular tourist landmark, Punta Ventana, a natural stone arch that crumbled on the island's southern coast.   Vazquez, the governor, said government employees were being given the day off on Tuesday to take care of their families.   "We want everyone to be safe," she said.   She said ports were undamaged and there are several weeks' supply of gasoline, diesel and natural gas stored so people need not worry about shortages.

The White House said President Donald Trump had been briefed and Pete Gaynor, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), had been in touch with the governor.   Trump's administration came under severe criticism for its response to Hurricane Maria.   The Category 4 storm destroyed the island's already shaky power grid, overwhelmed public services, left many residents homeless and claimed several thousand lives, according to government estimates.
Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 12:52:34 +0100 (MET)

Washington, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - A strong earthquake struck south of Puerto Rico early Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, the latest in a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28.   The shallow 6.5 magnitude quake struck 13.6 kilometres (8.5 miles) south of the city of Ponce, the USGS said, revising down its initial reading of 6.6.   The quake struck just off the US territory's southern Caribbean coastline at 4:24 am local time (0824 GMT).   "The whole island is without power," the director of Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority, Jose Ortiz, told local media.

Puerto Rico's governor Wanda Vazquez Garced posted on Twitter that the government's security protocols had been activated.   She said government employees were not expected at work, adding: "We want everyone to be safe."   On social media, people wrote of being shaken awake by the force of the quake.   One woman on Twitter said she had been "wrenched from sleep", adding "Everybody is awake & scared all over."

Dramatic images also shared on social media appeared to show widespread damage in the town of Guayanilla, home to around 20,000 people, as well as nearby Guanica.   The mayor of Guayanilla told local news channel NotiUno that the town's church had collapsed in the incident.

An alert issued by the Tsunami Warning Center immediately following the earthquake was later cancelled.   Tuesday's quake was the strongest of a series of tremors that have shaken the island since December 28, topping Monday's 5.8 quake.   That earthquake toppled houses and caused power outages, but there were no reports of casualties.
Date: Mon, 6 Jan 2020 18:04:21 +0100 (MET)

Miami, Jan 6, 2020 (AFP) - A 5.8-magnitude earthquake shook Puerto Rico Monday, toppling houses and causing power outages and small landslides but there were no reports of casualties, the US Geological Survey said.   The quake, just off the US territory's southern Caribbean coastline, was felt throughout much of the island, including the capital San Juan.

Some 250,000 customers were hit by electric power outages after the quake, which struck at 6:32 am local time (1032GMT).   Images posted on social media showed houses tumbled from their supporting pillars, cracks in walls, cars crushed under collapsed houses and small scale landslides.   The quake was the strongest of a series that have rippled through the island since December 28, and it was followed by at least eight aftershocks, officials said.   No tsunami alerts were issued.
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Lithuania

Lithuania US Consular Information Sheet
May 19, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Lithuania is a stable democracy undergoing rapid economic growth. Tourist facilities in Vilnius, the capital, and to a lesser extent in Kaunas and Klaipeda, are simi
ar to those available in other European cities. In other parts of the country, however, some of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries may not be available. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Lithuania for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required to enter Lithuania. As there are no direct flights from the U.S. to Lithuania, U.S. citizens should be aware of passport validity requirements in transit countries. American citizens do not need a visa to travel to Lithuania for business or pleasure for up to 90 days. That 90-day period begins with entry to any of the “Schengen Group” countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden. Multiple visits to Schengen countries may not exceed 90 days in any 6 month period. Travelers remaining in Lithuania for more than 90 days within any six-month period must apply for temporary residency.

Lithuanian authorities recommend applying or a residency permit through a Lithuanian embassy or consulate before initial entry into Lithuania, as processing times can run beyond 90 days. All foreigners of non-European Union countries seeking entry into Lithuania must carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs of hospitalization and medical treatment in Lithuania. Visitors unable to demonstrate sufficient proof of medical insurance must purchase short-term insurance at the border from a Lithuanian provider for roughly $1.00 per day. The number of days will be calculated from the day of entry until the date on the return ticket. Children residing in Lithuania must have written permission to travel outside the country from at least one parent if their parents are not accompanying them on their trip. This policy is not applicable to temporary visitors. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Lithuania and other countries. Visit the Embassy of Lithuania web site at www.ltembassyus.org for the most current visa information.
Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passport upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passport may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information abut customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Civil unrest is not a problem in Lithuania, and there have been no incidents of terrorism directed toward American interests. Incidents of anti-Americanism are rare.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, 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: Lithuania is a relatively safe country. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Large amounts of cash and expensive jewelry should be secured in a hotel safe or left at home. Crimes against foreigners, while usually non-violent, do occur. Pickpocketing and thefts are problems, so personal belongings should be well protected at all times. Theft from cars and car thefts occur regularly. Drivers should be wary of persons indicating they should pull over or that something is wrong with their car. Often, a second car or person is following, and when the driver of the targeted car gets out to see if there is a problem the person who has been following will either steal the driver’s belongings from the vehicle or get in and drive off with the car. Drivers should never get out of the car to check for damage without first turning off the ignition and taking the keys. Valuables should not be left in plain sight in parked vehicles, as there have been increasing reports of car windows smashed and items stolen. If possible, American citizens should avoid walking alone at night. ATMs should be avoided after dark. In any public area, one should always be alert to being surrounded by two or more people at once. Additionally, criminals have a penchant for taking advantage of drunken pedestrians. Americans have reported being robbed and/or scammed while intoxicated.
Following a trend that has spread across Eastern and Central Europe, racially motivated verbal, and sometimes physical, harassment of foreigners of non-Caucasian ethnicity has been reported in major cities. Incidents of racially motivated attacks against American citizens have been reported in Klaipeda and Vilnius.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on these serious problems is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
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. For more information about assistance for victims of crime in Lithuania, please visit the Embassy’s web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/service/crime-victim-assistance.html.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical care in Lithuania has improved in the last 15 years, but medical facilities do not always meet Western standards. There are a few private clinics with medical supplies and services that nearly equal Western European or U.S. standards. Most medical supplies are now widely available, including disposable needles, anesthetics, antibiotics and other pharmaceuticals. However, hospitals and clinics still suffer from a lack of equipment and resources. Lithuania has highly trained medical professionals, some of whom speak English, but their availability is decreasing as they leave for employment opportunities abroad. Depending on his or her condition, a patient may not receive an appointment with a specialist for several weeks. Western-quality dental care can be obtained in major cities. Elderly travelers who require medical care may face difficulties. Most pharmaceuticals sold in Lithuania are from Europe; travelers will not necessarily find the same brands that they use in the United States. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation can cost thousands of dollars or more. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services, particularly if immigration status in Lithuania is unclear.

Tick-borne encephalitis and lyme disease are widespread throughout the country. Those intending to visit parks or forested areas in Lithuania are urged to speak with their health care practitioners about immunization. Rabies is also increasingly prevalent in rural areas.
The Lithuanian Government does not require HIV testing for U.S. citizens. However, sexually transmitted diseases are a growing public health problem.
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.
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. All foreigners of non-European Union countries seeking entry into Lithuania must carry proof of a medical insurance policy contracted for payment of all costs of hospitalization and medical treatment in Lithuania (please see entry/exit requirements above). 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 Lithuania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
The Police allow Americans to drive in Lithuania with an American driver’s license for up to 90 days. Americans who reside in Lithuania for 185 days or more in one calendar year and who wish to continue driving in Lithuania must acquire a Lithuanian driver's license. The foreign license must be given to the Lithuanian Road Police to be processed by the Consular Department of the Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which in turn sends it to the U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section, where the owner is expected to claim it.
Roads in Lithuania range from well-maintained two- to four-lane highways connecting major cities to small dirt roads traversing the countryside. Violation of traffic rules is common. It is not unusual to be overtaken by other automobiles, traveling at high speed, even in crowded urban areas. Driving at night, especially in the countryside, can be particularly hazardous. In summer, older seasonal vehicles and inexperienced drivers are extra hazards. Driving with caution is urged at all times. Driving while intoxicated is a very serious offense and carries heavy penalties. The speed limit is 50 km/hr in town and 90 km/hr out of town unless otherwise indicated. The phone number for roadside assistance is 8-800-01414 from a regular phone and 1414 from a GSM mobile phone.
Seatbelts are mandatory for the driver and all passengers except children under the age of 12. During the winter, most major roads are cleared of snow. Winter or all-season tires are required from November 10th through April 1st. Studded tires are not allowed from April 10th through October 31st. Drivers must have at least their low beam lights on at all times while driving. Public transportation is generally safe.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at www.tourism.lt and at www.lra.lt/index_en.html.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lithuania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lithuania’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 www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Lithuanian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary importation into or export from Lithuania of items such as firearms and antiquities. Please see our Customs Information.
Telephone connections are generally good. American 1-800 numbers can be accessed from Lithuania but not on a toll-free basis; the international long distance rate per minute will be charged. Local Internet cafes offer computer access. ATMs are widely available. Most hotels and other businesses accept major credit cards.
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 available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Lithuanian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lithuania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or possessing or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. For more information about arrest procedures in Lithuania, please visit the Embassy’s web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/arrests.html. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children’s Issues web page.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Lithuania are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Lithuania. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Akmenu Gatve 6, tel. (370) (5) 266-5500 or 266-5600; fax (370) (5) 266-5590. Consular information can also be found on the Embassy Vilnius web site at http://vilnius.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 5, 2007 to update sections on Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 7 Aug 2019 01:17:58 EEST
Source: Xinhua News Agency [edited]

The rate of tick-borne encephalitis in Lithuania remains the highest in Europe, announced the country's Center for Communicable Diseases and AIDS (ULAC) on [Tue 6 Aug 2019].

According to ULAC, the rate of tick-borne encephalitis cases was 16.6 cases per 100 000 population in 2017, based on the latest data provided by the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) in its latest annual epidemiological report.  "In Lithuania the rate of encephalitis remains the highest in Europe," said ULAC.

Lithuania was followed by the Czech Republic and Estonia with the rate of 6.4 cases per 100 000 population, according to ULAC.  ULAC notes the largest proportion of tick-borne encephalitis cases is at the age group of 45-64 years and the lowest among the children of the age of 0-4 years.  "ULAC medics remind vaccination is the most reliable protection from tick-borne encephalitis," said ULAC in the announcement, noting vaccines have a reliability rate of 98 percent.

ULAC's warning comes amid increasing number of tick-borne encephalitis cases this year [2019] in Lithuania, a Baltic country with a population of around 3 million.  More than 90 cases of tick-borne encephalitis were reported during the 1st half of the year [2019] in Lithuania, 1/3 more compared to the same period last year [2018], according to local data by ULAC.

According to the ECDC's report, the highest prevalence of tick-borne encephalitis historically is found in the Baltic countries. Tick-borne encephalitis usually reaches its seasonal peak during the warmest months -- July and August.

Tick-borne encephalitis is a human viral infectious disease of central nervous system caused by infected ticks, usually found in woodland habitats. The disease manifests itself with symptoms similar to fever, fatigue, headache, nausea, and can cause meningitis.
=====================
[Cases of tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) have been reported before (see ProMED mail archive Tick-borne encephalitis - EU (Czech Rep., Latvia, Lithuania) http://promedmail.org/post/20040624.1677). Given the high rate of TBE cases in Lithuania reported above, there doubtless have been cases occurring there annually in recent years.

A report in Eurosurveillance Weekly in 2004 stated, "Tick-borne encephalitis (TBE) is endemic in virtually all countries in Central and Eastern Europe. It is caused by several closely related but distinct flaviviruses. 3 subtypes are recognised at present: a Far-Eastern subtype, a Siberian subtype and a European subtype. The Siberian subtype is associated with Russian spring-summer encephalitis and is transmitted predominantly by the tick _Ixodes persulcatus_, whereas the European subtype causes central European encephalitis and is transmitted by _Ixodes ricinus_.

The clinical spectrum of acute TBE ranges from symptoms of mild meningitis to severe meningoencephalitis with or without myelitis. The incubation period of central European TBE is 7-14 days. Onset is generally biphasic. The 1st phase involves a non-specific influenza-like illness with fever, headache, nausea, and vomiting, lasting about a week. After a period of remission lasting a few days, the fever returns with aseptic meningitis or encephalomyelitis. The case fatality rate is 1-5 percent and about 20 percent of survivors have neurological sequelae. Residual motor defects are rare." - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Lithuania:
Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2019 15:49:43 +0200

Vilnius, July 3, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuania declared an emergency on Wednesday as a severe drought hit the Baltic EU state, threatening to slash this year's harvest by up to half.   Apart from jeopardising crops, scant rainfall has also drastically reduced water levels in some rivers, threatening fish stocks and shipping activities.

The formal declaration of an "emergency situation" will allow the government to compensate farmers for some losses as well as help them to avoid EU financial sanctions should they fail to reach production goals.   "Farmers believe their harvest can be slashed by 40 percent or 50 percent, while fish stocks are also endangered," environment minister Kestutis Mazeika told AFP.

Mazeika said "nobody has any doubt" that global climate change is behind the prolonged and more intensive dry spells and heatwaves in recent years.   He also appealed to neighbouring Belarus to increase the water level in the Neris river by allowing more water to flow from its reservoirs.   Last month was the hottest June ever recorded with soaring temperatures worldwide capped off by a record-breaking heatwave across Western Europe, satellite data showed Tuesday.   Lithuania also registered its hottest-ever June, with a peak of 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) recorded on June 12.

Over the last week, firefighters have fought wildfires triggered by the heat in peat bogs in western Lithuania and neighbouring Latvia.   Elsewhere in Central Europe, Polish authorities said this week that varying degrees of drought have put grain crops at risk in 14 of the EU country's 16 regional districts.   The Czech Academy of Sciences said it expects drought to affect the entire country, with 80 percent of the territory facing "exceptional to extreme drought".
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2019 15:12:32 +0200

Vilnius, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuanian temperatures have hit record June highs, meteorologists said Thursday, as a heatwave forced school closures and threatened to reduce harvests in the draught-hit Baltic region.   Kaisiadorys in central Lithuania was the hottest place at 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, the highest-ever temperature recorded for June in the country, weather forecaster Paulius Starkus told AFP.   Six people drowned in the Baltic EU state on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the year to date, while some schools put classes on hold or cut lessons short due to the heatwave.

Scientists say the extreme weather is in part a result of climate change.   "Lithuania used to have heatwaves but now they occur more often and are more intense due to climate change," Vilnius University climatologist Donatas Valiukas told AFP.   Starkus said a downpour with thunder and hail could follow in some areas on Thursday afternoon.   Agriculture Minister Giedrius Surplys told lawmakers that some areas were experiencing "a real climatic draught" threatening harvests, while hydrologists warned that river water levels posed a threat to fish.   Demand for air-conditioning has also soared in recent weeks.   Lithuania's hot weather is expected to last through the week, then temperatures may ease below 30 degrees Celsius starting Monday.   Fellow Baltic state Latvia is also experiencing unusual heat for June, with temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius.

In recent days, Latvia's western region of Kurzeme saw thunderstorms with hail damaging buildings, smashing greenhouses and tearing power lines.   Two people have been hospitalised in the northern Latvian town of Cesis after a tree fell on their camper van while they were inside.    Fellow Baltic state Estonia had a heatwave last week and is now experiencing rainy and windy weather.   Poland has also been experiencing high temperatures this month, which has resulted in increased air-conditioner use. The power transmission system operator PSE said that on Wednesday there was record electricity demand for a summer morning at nearly 24.10 gigawatts (GW).   Forty-two people have already drowned in Poland this month, according to the government security centre RCB.
Date: Sat 30 Mar 2019
Source: PM News Nigeria [abridged, edited]

Measles in Lithuania is up to 310 cases this year [2019] compared to 30 cases for 2018 in total. The number of measles cases is projected to increase further in Lithuania, as people have lost their collective immunity to this highly contagious viral disease, Director of Lithuania's Centre for Communicable Diseases and AIDS (ULAC), Saulius Caplinskas, said on Fri [29 Mar 2019].  "The collective immunity has been lost, as a 95 per cent measles vaccination coverage rate is considered as minimum to prevent an outbreak. There are new suspected cases of measles; blood samples are being examined. I have no doubt that in the nearest future, there will be new cases,'' Caplinskas was quoted as saying by local news website lrt.lt.

Recent data from ULAC shows that the proportion of children vaccinated against measles in the country has decreased from 97 per cent in 2009 to 92.2 per cent in 2018 due to parents' reluctance to vaccinate their kids.  According to ULAC, every year, some 5000 children are not vaccinated in Lithuania. "Measles outbreaks feature certain upswings and descents, yet we will have to live under the threat of measles for a while,'' Caplinskas said.

In total, 310 cases of measles have been registered as of Fri [29 Mar 2019] in Lithuania this year [2019], compared to 30 cases for the whole of 2018, ULAC data showed.  The largest number of cases, 149, was registered in Kaunas, Lithuania's 2nd largest city. In Vilnius, the capital, 39 measles cases have been registered to date. Measles is a highly contagious, serious disease caused by a virus, says the World Health Organization.
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2018 13:38:41 +0200

Vilnius, Oct 11, 2018 (AFP) - Lithuania's parliament on Thursday passed a law that will allow doctors to prescribe marijuana-based medicine in the Baltic EU state.   The lawmakers voted 90-0 with three abstentions in favour of the legislation that will now go to President Dalia Grybauskaite to be signed into law.   "It is a historic decision to ensure that patients can receive the best possible treatment," said lawmaker Mykolas Majauskas who tabled the bill.

Other European countries have legalised cannabis for medical purposes including Austria, Britain, Croatia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece and Italy among them.   "Of course, it does not mean cannabis will be available to get at a drugstore to smoke before going to a nightclub," Majauskas said.   The law will come into force in May next year. Selling the drugs will require a licence from the state regulator.    Recreational use of marijuana remains illegal in Lithuania, a Baltic state of 2.8 million people.
More ...

Brazil

General

 Brazil is the largest country in South America and extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean to the depths of the Amazon basin. The climate varies throughout the country but generally it experiences a humid

tropical climate.

Safety & Security

The level of crime in many of the main urban centres is certainly rising and tourists need to be aware of the risks involved in travelling particularly in the evening hours. It is wise to use an official taxi for any journeys after dark. It is sensible not to flaunt any personal wealth and to use the hotel safety boxes for any valuables and your travel documents. The amount of crime against tourists tends to be greater in areas surrounding hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs and other similar establishments that cater to visitors, especially at dusk and during the evening hours. There are frequent reports of theft on city buses and such transportation should be avoided. A number of the main cities have established specialised tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia all continue to experience a high incidence of crime.

Road Safety

Throughout this huge country the state of the roads varies greatly. In many regions the roads are dirt tracks and assistance would be hard to obtain for those travelling off from the main tourists routes. Bag snatching from traffic lights occurs in the main cities. If considering hiring a car make certain that your travel insurance is sufficient.

Jet Lag

After your flight you will experience a degree of jet lag. Travelling from Europe this will be less than when you travel home but nevertheless it will still cause your body to complain for 24 to 48 hours. Try to have a more relaxing time for the first few days (and also after returning home if possible!). Be careful not to fall asleep by the pool and then awaken with sunburn which could ruin your time abroad.

Medical Facilities

In any country of this size the level of medical care will vary greatly. This is particular true out side the main tourist resorts. English speaking doctors should be available but the level of hospital care can be worrisome. Make certain you carry sufficient supplies of any medication you may require for your entire holiday. Essential drugs (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy etc) should be divided for security.

Sun Exposure and Dehydration

The hot humid tropical climate often leads to quite significant problems for the Irish traveller. Make sure you cover your head when out in the sunlight and drink plenty of fluids to replenish that lost through perspiration. Replace the salt you loose by eating crisps etc orby putting salt on your meal (providing there is no contraindication).

Visiting the Iguassu Falls

These huge waterfalls border Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. There is only minimal risk of malaria and so malaria prophylaxis is not generally recommended. Also, Yellow fever is not transmitted in this area but mosquitoes can abound. Sensible insect bite precautions should be followed at all times.

Food & Water

Many tourists who visit Brazil stay in the main resorts along the southern coast. The food and water preparation in the hotels is normally excellent but eating food from street vendors is generally unwise. Shell fish (bivalve oysters, mussels, clams etc) are unwise even in a five star hotel. Check the water from the cold water tap in your room. If you can’t easily smell chlorine (swimming pool style) don’t use it even for brushing your teeth. If travelling around the country (Caribbean coast or into the Amazon regions) take significantly more care.

Rabies 

This viral disease occurs throughout Brazil and it is usually transmitted through the bite from an infected warm-blooded animal (eg dogs, cats & monkeys). Any contact should be avoided but if it occurs treat it very seriously and seek competent medical attention immediately after you wash out the area and apply an antiseptic.

Malaria

The risk of malaria is significant all year throughout the Amazon regions. There is insignificant risk for those staying along the coast up as far as Fortaleza and for those remaining in this region prophylaxis is not usually recommended. The risk in the region of Brasilia is also thought to be minimal though this is an area which has unusually experience an outbreak of Yellow Fever recently, and so the situation will require review.

Mosquito Borne Diseases  Apart from malaria the other two main diseases transmitted by mosquitoes which cause problems in Brazil are Dengue Fever (mainly along Caribbean Coast but has been reported much further south) and Yellow Fever (mainly in the Amazon Basin but thought to be spreading to other regions). Avoidance techniques are important at all times throughout the day. Swimming **************************************** Most of the main tourist swimming pools will be well maintained and the smell of chlorine will be evident. If sea swimming is on your agenda make sure you go where there are plenty of others and never swim alone. Look for warning signs and pay attention to local advice. Be very careful of local currents which can be dangerous. Vaccinations **************************************** The Brazilian Embassy is advising all travellers to Brazil to have vaccination cover against Yellow Fever. Also for your personal protection it is wise to consider some further vaccines. Generally we would recommend the following vaccination cover; * Yellow Fever (mosquito borne) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water borne) * Hepatitis A (food & water borne) For those travelling more extensively or staying in the country for longer periods we would usually suggest that further vaccines are considered including Hepatitis B, Meningitis and Rabies. Summary **************************************** Many travellers to Brazil will remain perfectly healthy and well providing they follow some sensible precautions. Further information is available from either of our centres regarding any recent disease outbreaks.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue 21 Jan 2020
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

For the 1st time in 20 years, Brazil health authorities are reporting a confirmed case of Brazilian haemorrhagic fever.  During this 20-year period, there were 4 cases in humans, 3 cases acquired in a sylvan environment in the state of Sao Paulo, and one due to infection in a laboratory environment in Para. The disease is considered to be extremely rare and highly lethal, and treatment is according to the patient's clinical condition and symptoms.

The disease incubation period is long (on average 7 to 21 days) and begins with fever, malaise, muscle pain, a rash on the body, sore throat, stomachache, and soreness behind the eyes, headache, dizziness, sensitivity to light, constipation, and bleeding from mucous membranes such as mouth and nose. As the disease progresses, there may be neurological impairment (drowsiness, mental confusion, changes in behavior and convulsion).

Between the onset of symptoms (30 Dec 2019) and death (11 Jan 2020), the current patient passed through 3 different hospitals in the municipalities of Eldorado, Pariquera-Acu and Sao Paulo, the last being the Hospital das Clinicas of the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Sao Paulo (HCFM USP). There was no history of international travel.

During his hospitalization, tests were carried out to identify diseases such as yellow fever, viral hepatitis, leptospirosis, dengue and Zika. However, the results were negative for these diseases. Complementary tests were carried out at the Special Techniques Laboratory of the Albert Einstein Hospital, which identified an arenavirus which causes Brazilian hemorrhagic fever. This result was confirmed by the Medical Research Laboratory of the Institute of Tropical Medicine, Hospital das Clinicas, USP Medical School, and Adolfo Lutz Institute.

In addition, SVS/MS has already communicated the fact to the World Health Organization and the Pan American Health Organization (WHO/PAHO), in accordance with established international protocols.

At this time, the source of the patient's infection has not been confirmed. What is known is that people contract the disease possibly through the inhalation of particles formed from the urine, feces and saliva of infected rodents. Transmission of arenaviruses from person to person can occur when there is very close and prolonged contact or in hospital environments, when personal protective equipment is not used, through contact with blood, urine, feces, saliva, vomit, semen and other secretions or excretions.

The employees of the hospitals through which the patient passed are being monitored and evaluated, as well as the family members of the confirmed case in Sao Paulo.

On Mon 20 Jan 2020, the Ministry of Health convened a meeting with representatives of all parties involved in the case: Secretariat of Sao Paulo, Hospital das Clinicas, Faculty of Medicine, University of Sao Paulo, Hospital Israelita Albert Einstein and the National Councils and State Health (Conass and Conasems). The purpose of the meeting was to verify the current scenario and the search and monitoring actions of people who had direct contact with the patient.

The Ministry of Health also offered support to the Sao Paulo Department of Health by sending a team of technicians to actively search for people who had contact with the patient and for environmental investigation.
--------------------------------
Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts
<promed@promedmail.org>
and
Barry Atkinson <Barry.Atkinson@phe.gov.uk>
via Mary Marshall
==================
[These are the 1st documented cases of Sabia virus infection in a long time. This confirmed case was an adult who lived in Sorocaba, Sao Paulo state.

The genome of the virus responsible for the disease was about 90% similar to the Sabia arenavirus according to Epidemiological Bulletin 03 (see below). One hopes that the environmental investigation will provide information about the circumstances under which the infection was acquired. A rodent reservoir was doubtless the direct or indirect source of the virus, as it is for other arenaviruses such as Machupo virus that causes Bolivian hemorrhagic fever. The rodent reservoir of the virus has not been identified.

The above report is a machine translation of an official report from the Brazil Ministry of Health

The Brazil Ministry of Health in its Epidemiological Bulletin No. 03 published an extensive overview of Sabia virus with a helpful epidemiological diagram (<http://portalarquivos2.saude.gov.br/images/pdf/2020/janeiro/20/Boletim-epidemiologico-SVS-03.pdf> in Portuguese). The bulletin provided the following references that report the original Sabia virus cases:

References:
Coimbra, Terezinha Lisieux M. et al. New arenavirus isolated in Brazil. The Lancet, v. 343, n. 8894, p. 391-392, 1994.
Gonzalez, Jean Paul J. et al. Genetic characterization and phylogeny of Sabia virus, an emergent pathogen in Brazil. Virology, v.221, n.2, p. 318-324, 1996. - Mod.TY

HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Sun 19 Jan 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

With the arrival of summer when the occurrence of diseases transmitted by mosquitoes, such as yellow fever, increases, the Brazilian Ministry of Health is alerting the population to get vaccinated against the disease.  The alert is mainly focused on the population that lives in the South and Southeast regions of the country due to the confirmation of 38 monkey deaths in the states of Parana (34), Sao Paulo (3), and Santa Catarina (1). In total, 1087 reports of suspected monkey deaths were recorded in the country.

The alert is given because the regions have a large population and a low number of people vaccinated, which directly contributes to the cases of the disease.

The target public for vaccination is people from 9 months of age and 59 years of age who do not have proof of vaccination.

Regarding human cases, 327 suspected yellow fever cases were reported in the same period, of which 50 remain under investigation and one has been confirmed.

The yellow fever vaccine is offered in the National Vaccination Calendar and distributed monthly to the states. In 2019, more than 16 million doses of the yellow fever vaccine were distributed throughout the country. Despite this availability, there is a low demand from the population for vaccination. For 2020, the portfolio acquired 71 million doses of the vaccine, enough to serve the country for more than 3 years.

In 2020, the Ministry of Health will gradually expand yellow fever vaccination to 1101 municipalities in the Northeast states that were not yet part of the vaccination recommendation area. Thus, the whole country now has a vaccine against yellow fever in the routine of services.

Another change in the calendar was that the children started to have a booster vaccine at the age of 4. The decision came because recent scientific studies have shown a decrease in the child's immune response, which is vaccinated very early, at 9 months, as predicted in the child's National Vaccination Calendar. Since 2017, the Ministry of Health has followed the guidelines of the World Health Organization (WHO) to offer only one dose of the yellow fever vaccine in a lifetime.
=========================
[The current expansion of yellow fever in South America raises concern for public health and also about potential conservation problems for susceptible non-human primate species in the continent. Yellow fever virus was introduced into the Americas approximately 400 years ago, yet the complex interactions that were established after its introduction are far from being elucidated. There is a need for more research on the eco-epidemiology of the disease in the continent, especially in the presence of the persistent anthropogenic global environmental change. - ProMED Mod.PMB]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Brazil:
Date: Wed 15 Jan 2020
Source: Food Safety News [edited]

Seventeen people are suspected to have been poisoned and one person has died in Brazil after drinking beer. Sixteen males and one female aged 23-76 years old are thought to have suffered diethylene glycol poisoning. Four cases have been confirmed, and the remaining 13 are under investigation as they have showed similar symptoms, according to the Minas Gerais State Department of Health.

The 1st person was admitted to a hospital on 30 Dec 2019 suffering from acute renal failure and neurological issues such as facial paralysis, blurred vision, and sensory alteration. For suspected cases, the earliest onset of symptoms is 19 Dec 2019. The average number of days between onset of symptoms and hospitalization was 2.5 days.

The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Supply (Mapa) has told Cervejaria Backer to recall all products manufactured from October 2019 to the current date. The company has challenged this as it believes only Belorizontina branded beers could be affected.

Analyzes on samples of Belorizontina and Capixaba products made by the brewery have confirmed presence of the contaminants monoethylene glycol and diethylene glycol. The latter substance has also been found in the blood of some of those sick. Both substances are used as antifreeze in the brewing industry.

Mapa has stopped Cervejaria Backer's Tres Lobos unit in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, for precautionary reasons. A total of 139,000 l [36,720 gal] of bottled beer and 8480 l [2240 gal] of draft beer has been seized, and tanks and other production equipment were also sealed.

Only monoethylene glycol is used in the production process, according to the company.

However, tests on a cooling tank used in the production of Belorizontina beer batch L2 1354 came back positive for diethylene glycol. The substance had been detected in samples of 2 beers from batches L1 1348 and L2 1348 provided by family members of patients. Capixaba beer from batch L2 1348 was positive for monoethylene glycol and diethylene glycol.

Bottles from the families of victims and the company were found to be intact and showed no signs of tampering.

Officials believe the beer was contaminated sometime between the 2nd half of November [2019] and the start of December 2019. Several lines of enquiry are being followed including accidental contamination and possible adulteration by a former employee.

A statement from the company said it was focused on patients and their families.

Brewery officials said the firm was collaborating with official enquiries and internally investigating to find out how the lots identified by police were contaminated. Results of independent tests are pending.
======================
[Diethylene glycol (DEG) is a colorless, virtually odourless, hygroscopic liquid with a sweet taste typically used in antifreeze solutions and as a solvent for many products. When consumed, DEG causes severe systemic and neurologic complications, including coma, seizures, peripheral neuropathy, and hepatorenal failure. A patient in an acute condition appears inebriated but has no alcohol on his or her breath. DEG is commonly used in the commercial preparation of antifreeze, brake fluid, cigarettes, and some dyes. It is an excellent solvent for many relatively insoluble substances. DEG is also commonly used in human medications, such as acetaminophen and sulfanilamide, either intentionally or accidentally, leading to episodes of human poisoning, several being fatal.

Pathologic examination has demonstrated severe demyelination, with lesser axonal damage, of virtually all cranial and peripheral nerves sampled (Rollins, Filley, McNutt, Chahal, & Kleinschmidt-DeMasters, 2002). DEG ingestion is often associated with limb weakness, multiple cranial neuropathies including hearing loss and optic nerve involvement, areflexia, and CSF cytoalbuminologic dissociation, mimicking GBS [Guillain-Barre syndrome] (Baldwin and Sran, 2010; Rollins et al., 2002; Zhou, Zabad, and Lewis, 2002). The neurophysiological pattern seen was not thought to be typical for GBS in which conduction velocity slowing and distal latency prolongation are commonly seen in subsequent studies several days after the onset of symptoms.

Additionally, DEG has been used as an illegal adulterant in wine. Because of its toxicity, DEG is not allowed in food and drugs. DEG affects the CNS, heart, respiratory system, liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Biochemical changes associated with toxicity include elevated hepatic enzyme levels, as well as increased serum BUN and creatinine levels. The clinical presentation is characterized by a nonspecific febrile prodromal illness, and within 2 weeks, followed by anuric renal failure, pancreatitis, hepatitis, and neurologic dysfunction, progressing to coma. Histopathology of kidney tissue demonstrates acute tubular necrosis with regeneration and interstitial edema. DEG poisoning shows extensive tubular necrosis; however, the oxalate deposition is of EG (ethylene glycol) poisoning, which causes renal and cerebral damage, and has not been observed in DEG poisoning. Similar to EG, DEG is not toxic, but its metabolites are.

Acute kidney injury is usually the main cause of death, appearing between 8 and 24 hours after exposure to lethal doses of diethylene glycol. Diethylene glycol poisoning can also result in hepatic disease, pancreatitis, and neurologic abnormalities, which appear up to a few days after exposure. Laboratory findings in clinical assessment of diethylene glycol can include an elevated osmolar gap, elevated anion gap, elevated creatinine, and acidosis. Direct quantitation of diethylene glycol and HEAA in serum, urine, and CSF has also been reported, but there is limited clinical guidance on how to use this information beyond confirming exposure.

Extracted from

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Minas Gerais, Brazil: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/4517>]
Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2020 21:55:41 +0100 (MET)

Rio de Janeiro, Jan 15, 2020 (AFP) - Widespread complaints over foul-smelling drinking water in Rio de Janeiro have triggered a run on supermarket bottled water, though the public utility denied any health risk Wednesday.   Rio governor Wilson Witzel set alarm bells ringing in a Twitter post on Tuesday, saying the situation -- fuelled by social media rumours -- was "unacceptable" and calling for a "rigorous investigation."

Moving to calm growing fears, public water utility Cedae attributed the problems to the presence of geosmin, a harmless organic compound, insisting the resulting earthy-tasting tap water was safe to drink.   "The results of the analyses show the presence of geosmin, at a rate sufficient to change the taste. But there is no risk to health," Sergio Marques, the official in charge of water quality, told a press conference.   Cedae later said it had fired the head of the Guandu treatment plant, which supplies nearly 80 percent of Rio's drinking water.   It said the supply from Guandu would be treated with carbon in the coming days to get rid of the geosmin.

According to O Globo newspaper, nearly 70 districts of the capital have been affected.   It reported that more than 1,300 cases of gastroenteritis were recorded over the last 15 days in Santa Cruz in the west of Rio, where water quality complaints were rife.   Cedae's president Helio Cabral apologized "to the whole population for the problems in the water supply," which began earlier this month.

The problem has been exacerbated by false rumours circulating on social media that the water was toxic.   Despite assurances, many Rio citizens were taking no chances. In supermarkets, mineral water stocks have been selling out and long queues are formed as soon as they are replenished.   Geosmin is also responsible for the earthy taste in some vegetables.
Date: Tue, 10 Dec 2019 03:09:17 +0100 (MET)
By Allison JACKSON

Sao Paulo, Dec 10, 2019 (AFP) - Gripping the deadly snake behind its jaws, Fabiola de Souza massages its venom glands to squeeze out drops that will save lives around Brazil where thousands of people are bitten every year.   De Souza and her colleagues at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo harvest the toxin from hundreds of snakes kept in captivity to produce antivenom.    It is distributed by the health ministry to medical facilities across the country.

Dozens of poisonous snake species, including the jararaca, thrive in Brazil's hot and humid climate.    Nearly 29,000 people were bitten in 2018 and more than 100 died, official figures show.   States with the highest rates of snakebite were in the vast and remote Amazon basin where it can take hours to reach a hospital stocked with antivenom.   Venom is extracted from each snake once a month in a delicate and potentially dangerous process.

Using a hooked stick, de Souza carefully lifts one of the slithering creatures out of its plastic box and maneuvers it into a drum of carbon dioxide.    Within minutes the reptile is asleep.    "It's less stress for the animal," de Souza explains.    The snake is then placed on a stainless steel bench in the room where the temperature hovers around 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit).    De Souza has a few minutes to safely extract venom before the snake begins to stir.      "It's important to have fear because when people have fear they are careful," she says.

- Antivenom 'crisis' -
The snakes are fed a diet of rats and mice that are raised at the leafy institute and killed before being served up once a month.   After milking the snake, de Souza records its weight and length before placing it back in its container.    The antivenom is made by injecting small amounts of the poison into horses -- kept by Butantan on a farm -- to trigger an immune response that produces toxin-attacking antibodies.

Blood is later extracted from the hoofed animals and the antibodies harvested to create a serum that will be administered to snakebite victims who might otherwise die.   Butantan project manager Fan Hui Wen, a Brazilian, says the institute currently makes all of the country's antivenom -- around 250,000 10-15 millilitre vials per year.

Brazil also donates small quantities of antivenom to several countries in Latin America.    There are now plans to sell the life-saving serum abroad to help relieve a global shortage, particularly in Africa.    About 5.4 million people are estimated to be bitten by snakes every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). 

Between 81,000 and 138,000 die, while many more suffer amputations and other permanent disabilities as a result of the toxin.   To cut the number of deaths and injuries, WHO unveiled a plan earlier this year that includes boosting production of quality antivenoms.   Brazil is part of the strategy. It could begin to export antivenom as early as next year, Wen says.   "There is interest for Butantan to also supply other countries due to the global crisis of antivenom production," she says.
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Vanuatu

Vanuata US Consular Information Sheet
February 10, 2009
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Vanuatu consists of more than 80 islands in a Y-shaped archipelago, 1300 miles northeast of Sydney, Australia.
It is an independent parliamentary democracy a
d a member of the British Commonwealth, with a primarily agricultural economy.
Tourist facilities are limited outside the capital, Port Vila, which is located on the Island of Efate.
The National Tourism Office of Vanuatu can be contacted at PO Box 209, Port Vila, Vanuatu, telephone (678) 22515, 22685, 22813, fax (678) 23889, e-mail: tourism@vanuatu.com.vu.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Vanuatu for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A valid passport and onward/return ticket and proof of sufficient funds are required.
Visas are not required for stays up to 30 days after which an extension of the stay of up to 120 days is possible.
For further information on entry requirements, particularly for those persons planning to enter by a sailing vessel, please contact the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Vanuatu to the United Nations,
800 Second Avenue, Suite 400B, New York, N.Y. 10017, Telephone: (212) 661-4303; fax: (212) 422-3427, (212) 661-5544, e-mail: vanunmis@aol.com
Travelers who plan to transit or visit Australia must enter that country with an Australian visa or, if eligible, through Electronic Travel Authority (ETA). The ETA replaces a visa and allows eligible travelers a stay of up to three months in Australia. An ETA may be obtained for a small service fee at http://www.eta.immi.gov.au/. Airlines and many travel agents in the United States are also able to issue ETA’s.
Travelers may obtain more information about the ETA and Australian entry requirements from the Australian Embassy at 1601 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Washington, DC
20036, tel. (202) 797-3000.
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:
Civil disorder is rare; however, U.S. citizens are advised to avoid public demonstrations and/or political rallies if they occur.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Although violent crime is rare in Vanuatu, the level of criminal activity has increased in the past year. Typical crimes in Vanuatu are theft, burglary and sexual harassment/assault. Tourists, therefore, should take reasonable precautions to avoid exposing themselves to undue risk especially in Luganville (Espiritu Santo island), Lakatoro (Malekula island), and Lenakel (Tanna island).
Women have sometimes been victims of sexual assault or harassment in Vanuatu; therefore, it is advisable that women travelers not travel alone.
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 U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby for assistance.
The Embassy staff can assist you to find appropriate medical care, to 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 Vanuatu is 112.
Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
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 available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Vanuatu’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Vanuatu 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.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Vanuatu and Australian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Vanuatu of items such as firearms, certain prescription drugs, wooden artifacts, exotic animals, food, and sexually explicit material.
Other products may be subject to quarantine.
It is advisable to contact the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Vanuatu to the United Nations,
800 Second Avenue, Suite 400B, New York, N.Y. 10017, Telephone: (212) 661-4303; fax: (212) 422-3427, (212) 661-5544, e-mail: vanunmis@aol.com and the Australian Embassy for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information sheet.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and proof of U.S. citizenship are readily available.

Natural Disasters:
=====================
Vanuatu is prone to sudden tidal movements, tropical storms, and cyclones. The Pacific cyclone season lasts from November through April.
Local media and hotels will convey cyclone alerts issued by local authorities, and detailed weather information is published by the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center, Météo-France in New Caledonia and the Fiji Meteorological Service.
Volcanoes/Earthquakes: Vanuatu is situated on in active seismic zone, and prone to volcanic eruptions and earthquakes, sometimes followed by tsunamis.
The risk level of Vanuatu’s many active volcanoes can change on a daily basis. Travelers to areas where there are volcanoes can contact the Department of Geology and Mines at 22423 to obtain information about the activity of a volcano.
Please contact the Vanuatu Tourism Office prior to traveling to areas where volcanic activity may occur.
Detailed information about earthquakes is available from the National Earthquake Information Center of the United States Geological Survey.
If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency
(FEMA) and from the Naval Pacific Meteorology and Oceanography Center.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities are limited.
The nearest reliable medical treatment is in Australia or New Zealand.
There are two hyperbaric recompression chambers in Vanuatu; one in Luganville, on Espiritu Santo Island, and the other in Port Vila, on Efate Island.
Please note, however, that diving-related injuries may require medical evacuation to Australia or New Zealand.
There is a paramedic service in Vanuatu called ProMedical, which is manned by Australian and New Zealand personnel. They also handle any medical evacuations.
Serious injuries requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States or elsewhere can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for their services.
Pharmacies in Vanuatu are found only in urban centers and at missionary clinics.
They are small and may be inadequately stocked.
Travelers should bring adequate supplies of their medications for their stay in Vanuatu.

Travelers who anticipate the possible need for medical treatment in Australia should obtain entry permission for Australia in advance.
Entry permission for Australian can be granted by the Australian High Commission in Port Vila, but it may be easier to obtain a visa or ETA prior to leaving the United States (See the section above on Entry/Exit Requirements).
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 web site.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site. Malaria is prevalent in some areas.
Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
The Government of Vanuatu does not impose any entry restrictions for persons with the HIV/AIDS virus, as long as they include the information on the arrival form.
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 Vanuatu is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Vehicular traffic in Vanuatu moves on the right.
Travel on highways outside of major towns can be hazardous.
Drivers and passengers are advised to wear seatbelts.
There is no country-wide road network; roads are generally in poor repair.
Because Vanuatu is a chain of islands and atolls, most long-distance travel is by air or sea.
Only the capital city of Port Vila (on Efate Island) and the town of Luganville (on Espiritu Santo Island) have consistently paved roads, which have a maximum speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour.
These paved roads can be quite narrow in spots; drivers should take care, especially at night or along unfamiliar routes.
The roads in all other areas are mostly unpaved or dirt tracks.
Drivers on all roads should give way to traffic coming from the right, and to traffic coming from the left at a round-about.
Travelers must take care when driving off main roads to avoid trespassing on communal land.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
For specific information concerning Vanuatu driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the National Tourism Office of Vanuatu or the Vanuatu Mission to the United Nations at vmsnyc@attglobal.net
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Vanuatu, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Vanuatu’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.
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:
The U.S. Embassy in Papua New Guinea
provides primary assistance for U.S. citizens in Vanuatu.
The Embassy is located on Douglas Street, adjacent to the Bank of Papua New Guinea, in Port Moresby.
Use that address for courier service deliveries.
The mailing address is PO Box 1492, Port Moresby, N.C.D. 121, Papua New Guinea; the telephone number is (675) 321-1455; after hours duty officer telephone number is (675) 683-7943; fax (675) 321-1593.
American citizens may submit consular inquiries via e-mail to ConsularPortMoresby@state.gov.

Americans living or traveling in Vanuatu are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Port Moresby through the State Department’s travel registration web site, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Vanuatu.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
*

*

*
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Vanuatu dated July 18, 2008, to update sections on Crime, Special Circumstances and Medical Facilities.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2019 17:52:50 +0200 (METDST)

Wellington, July 31, 2019 (AFP) - A strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck near the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu Thursday, the US Geological Survey said, but no tsunami warning was issued.   USGS said the quake hit about 178 kilometres (110 miles) northwest of the capital Port Vila at 2:02 am (1502 GMT Wednesday) at a depth of 179 kilometres.   The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami threat from the quake.   USGS said there was a low likelihood of casualties and damage.   Vanuatu is part of the "Ring of Fire," a zone of tectonic activity around the Pacific frequently subject to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.
Date: Wed 19 Dec 2018
Source: BBC [edited]

A baby on a small Pacific island has become the 1st person given a vaccine delivered by a commercial drone. UNICEF arranged for the drone to be flown some 40 km (25 mi) across rugged mountains in Vanuatu that otherwise take hours to cross. About 20% of children in Vanuatu don't receive important vaccinations because the supply is too difficult. The UN children's organisation hopes that drone delivery will in the future be of vital importance in remote areas.

"Today's small flight by a drone is a big leap for global health," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said. "With the world still struggling to immunize the hardest-to-reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child."

While drones have been used before to deliver medicine, UNICEF says this was the 1st time globally that a country had contracted a commercial drone company to get vaccines to remote areas.

Two companies competed for the project on Vanuatu, and it was Australia's Swoop Aero that won the bid after successful trials earlier this month [December 2018]. Its drone carried the vaccines in a Styrofoam box with ice packs and a temperature logger to a remote village on the island of Erromango, from Dillon's Bay on the west of the island to Cook's Bay on the east. The medicine was then used by local nurse Miriam Nampil to vaccinate 13 children and 5 pregnant women.

Without the drone, Cook's Bay is only accessible on foot or by boat; both of those options take hours compared to the 25 minutes it took for the drone to reach the village. Medical supplies also have to be kept at a cold temperature.

"It's extremely hard to carry ice boxes to keep the vaccines cool while walking across rivers and mountains, through the rain, and across rocky ledges," Ms Nampil said. "As the journey is often long and difficult, I can only go there once a month to vaccinate children. But now, with these drones, we can hope to reach many more children in the remotest areas of the island."
Date: Tue, 18 Dec 2018 09:43:37 +0100

Sydney, Dec 18, 2018 (AFP) - A one-month-old on a remote island in the Pacific archipelago of Vanuatu became the first child to be immunised in a commercial trial of drone-delivered vaccines, the UN children's fund UNICEF said Tuesday.   Aid agencies hope the successful run in the country, where one in five children is not fully immunised, could eventually help governments and organisations reach others in far-flung places around the world.  "Today's small flight by drone is a big leap for global health," UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore said in a statement.   "With the world still struggling to immunise the hardest to reach children, drone technologies can be a game changer for bridging that last mile to reach every child."

While this is not the first time that drones have been used to deliver vaccines, it is the first time such a method has been deployed in Vanuatu, which has 83 islands, most only accessible by boat.   It is also the first time a commercial contract is being used for routine immunisations, UNICEF said.   A key requirement for the deliveries is maintaining the temperatures at which the vaccines are carried.   In warmer places such as Vanuatu, transportation across limited roads has its challenges.   In the trial, the drone travelled across almost 40 kilometres (25 miles) of rough and mountainous terrain from the west of the southern island of Erromango to its east, arriving at the remote Cook's Bay.

The vaccines were kept in styrofoam boxes that carried ice-packs and a temperature sensor that would be triggered if it exceeded the required range. A total of 13 children and five pregnant women were vaccinated by a registered nurse, UNICEF added.   "As the journey is often long and difficult, I can only go there once a month to vaccinate children. But now, with these drones, we can hope to reach many more children in the remotest areas of the island," the nurse, Miriam Nampil, told UNICEF.   The agency said Vanuatu's government was considering incorporating drone deliveries of vaccines into their national immunisation programme, and with the supply of other health aids.
Date: Wed, 22 Aug 2018 01:34:08 +0200

Sydney, Aug 21, 2018 (AFP) - A 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit the Pacific island nation of Vanuatu on Wednesday morning, the US Geological Survey said, but no tsunami warning was issued.   The quake struck at a moderate depth of 30 kilometres (19 miles) with the epicentre just off the northern tip of Vanuatu's sparsely-populated Ambrym island.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no tsunami risk.    "Shaking would have been felt throughout the whole of Vanuatu," Geoscience Australia senior seismologist Eddie Leask told AFP.   "But it's hard to tell whether it will cause damage. It's reasonably shallow but it all depends on the buildings, soil type and so on."

On its website, Geoscience put the potential damage radius at 63 kilometres.   The nearest city, Lakatoro, is 78 kilometres away, with the capital Port Vila 187 kilometres north of the epicentre.   "We get a lot of five and six magnitude quakes coming through Vanuatu," added Leask.   "We'd expect to see smaller aftershocks, and even a bigger one."   The Vanuatu Disaster Management Office told AFP it was not aware of any immediate damage.

Vanuatu, with a population of about 280,000 spread over 65 inhabited islands, is regarded as one of the world's most disaster-prone countries.   It sits on the so-called "Pacific Ring of Fire," making it vulnerable to strong earthquakes and volcanic eruptions, while powerful cyclones also regularly lash the islands.   A 7.0-magnitude quake struck in 2017, but no damage was reported.
Date: Fri, 27 Jul 2018 05:34:13 +0200

Wellington, July 27, 2018 (AFP) - Vanuatu renewed a state of emergency on the volcano-hit island of Ambae Friday and ordered the compulsory evacuation of all residents.   A series of eruptions at the Manaro volcano that began last September intensified this week, sending a 12 kilometre (7.5 mile) column of ash spewing into the atmosphere.

The Vanuatu Meteorology and Geo-hazards department has described the volcano as a "danger to direct safety to life" and warned people to stay three kilometres from its vent.   "The local population from Ambae and from neighbouring islands will continue to hear rumbling, volcanic explosions (and) smell volcanic gases," it said.

The Red Cross reported that a thick cloud of ash had covered the Pacific island, choking crops and cutting visibility to two metres in some areas.   Foreign Minister Ralph Regenvanu said the government had decided to order the island's population to be evacuated.   "Cabinet has reimposed the state of emergency and ordered the compulsory evacuation of the entire population of Ambae," he tweeted.

The island has already undergone two evacuations since September. In the first one, just after the volcano started rumbling, authorities scrambled to temporarily remove all 11,000 residents using ferries and small private boats.   The second evacuation in May was better organised, with thousands of people shipped to camps set up on neighbouring islands.   However, it was not compulsory and many villagers indicated they wanted to stay.   It is unclear whether the government is planning to make the latest compulsory evacuation permanent.
More ...

Thailand



*****
Travel in Health in Thailand
*****
General Introduction:
Irish travellers are going to Thailand in great numbers. The relatively cheap cost and also the contrast in culture has captured many hearts. Some are travelli
g for a once off 2 week trip and for others the exploration of Thailand will take longer. It is truly a beautiful country and the people have a charm all of their own but nevertheless your journey can be so very easily ruined by taking health risks.
Water-Borne Disease:
In most of the major cities of Thailand the water supply is well chlorinated and so the risks associated with drinking mains tap water are limited. However many of the bedrooms will not be supplied with mains water so take care. Smell the water and if there is a distinct chlorine odour then it should be safe. Also remember that when you travel around the country, especially around the northern regions, the water supply may be grossly contaminated and so never drink the water or use it for brushing your teeth. Also no ice in your drinks under these circumstances.
Food-Borne Disease:
There is a good selection of food in Thailand and you should have no great difficulty in finding food to suit your taste. In the majority of the restaurants the food is well cooked and maintained in a healthy sterile fashion. These are the places to eat. As you walk around the cities you will see many street traders selling food stuffs from their carts. The level of hygiene is very low and frequently the food will be contaminated. Never indulge yourself by eating from street vendors.
Mosquito-Borne Disease:
Under this title most travellers will only consider the possibility of developing malaria. This is of course one of the most important illnesses transmitted via mosquitoes but by no means the only one in Thailand. For most travellers to Thailand there will be no need to take malarial prophylaxis as the cities are deemed to be free of malaria. This does not mean that you will not be bitten by mosquitoes and develop some of the other diseases such as Dengue Fever or perhaps Japanese Encephalitis. Many travellers also develop a very severe reaction to the mosquito bite and so for all these reasons it is prudent to avoid being bitten whenever possible.
Entertainment-Borne Disease:
It would be wrong not to emphasize the very high risk which travellers face if they are unwise enough to indulge in any form of sexual activity in Thailand. The percentage of street girls with the Aids virus is rising each year and is now thought to be over 80%. This figure may be an underestimate. Be especially careful if you have taken any alcohol. The cities of Bangkok and Pattaya are thought to be among the main centres of HIV transmission throughout the world and within the next few years the extent of the Aids problem in S.E. Asia will have exceeded Africa. There is limited availability of condoms.
Road-Borne Disease:
The traffic situation in Thailand is severe. The motorbikes have no insurance as they are too often involved in accidents. Use only regular taxi cabs and fix your price before you leave.
Vaccination Schedule:
There are no compulsory vaccines for entry into Thailand from Ireland. Nevertheless the usual recommended vaccines include Polio, Typhoid, Tetanus and Hepatitis A cover. For those trekking or staying for longer periods then cover against Hepatitis B and Rabies would be worth discussing.
Most travellers should start their vaccines about 4 to 5 weeks before they leave Ireland.
Note:
For the vast majority of Irish travellers a holiday in Thailand will be a time of great pleasure and, later, fond memories of the people, their customs and the countryside. Just remember that illness can occur so follow some good common sense rules and so you can enjoy yourself
and Travel in Health.

Thailand

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2020 16:12:29 +0100 (MET)
By Nina LARSON

Geneva, Jan 13, 2020 (AFP) - A new virus from the same family as the deadly SARS disease has spread beyond China's borders for the first time with a case emerging in Thailand, UN and Thai officials said on Monday.   Thai doctors diagnosed a Chinese traveller with mild pneumonia on January 8 later confirmed to have been caused by the so-called novel coronavirus -- which has already given rise to 41 pneumonia-like cases and one death in China.   The outbreak has caused alarm because of the link with SARS (Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome), which killed 349 people in mainland China and another 299 in Hong Kong in 2002-2003.

The UN health agency (WHO) confirmed that the outbreak in the city of Wuhan was caused by a previously unknown type of corona virus, a broad family ranging from the common cold to more serious illnesses like SARS.   "Laboratory testing subsequently confirmed that the novel coronavirus was the cause," WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic told AFP in an email, referring to the case in Thailand.   WHO said it might soon host an emergency meeting on the spread of the new virus.   Thai Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul stressed to reporters in Bangkok Monday that a 61-year-old Chinese woman who had travelled from Wuhan "was infected with the virus from outside Thailand".   Thai health officials said on Monday she was recovering.   Authorities in Wuhan said a seafood market in the city was the centre of the outbreak. It was closed on January 1.   There is so far no indication of human-to-human transmission of the virus.

- 'Not unexpected' -
Scientists in Hong Kong's Department of Health said on Saturday that genetic sequencing of the virus from a Wuhan patient, published online by a Chinese expert, indicated it was 80 percent similar to SARS found in bats.   WHO said on Monday it was not surprising that the virus had spread beyond China.   "The possibility of cases being identified in other countries was not unexpected, and reinforces why WHO calls for ongoing active monitoring and preparedness in other countries," it said in a statement.   Thai authorities have been on high alert, with airport officials checking all passengers coming from Wuhan to the kingdom's major airports.   An official from the Public Health Emergency Operation Center told AFP the infected woman travelling from Wuhan had been intercepted on arrival in Thailand, after airport officials determined she had a fever.

WHO said it had issued guidance on how to detect and treat people with the new virus and stressed that China's decision to rapidly share the genetic sequencing of the virus made it possible to quickly diagnose patients.   WHO has not recommended any specific measures for travellers or restrictions on trade with China, but stressed on Monday it was taking the situation seriously.   "Given developments, WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus will consult with Emergency Committee members and could call for a meeting of the committee on short notice," it said in a statement.   During such meetings, experts determine whether the UN health agency should declare an international health emergency -- a designation used only for the gravest epidemics.
Date: Mon, 23 Dec 2019 04:22:26 +0100 (MET)
By Sophie DEVILLER and Jonathan KLEIN

Ban Ta Klang, Thailand, Dec 23, 2019 (AFP) - Separated from their mothers, jabbed with metal hooks, and sometimes deprived of food -- many Thai elephants are tamed by force before being sold to lucrative tourism sites increasingly advertised as 'sanctuaries' to cruelty-conscious travellers.   Balanced precariously on hind legs, two-year-old Ploy holds a ball in her trunk and flings it towards a hoop, e of many tricks she is learning in Ban Ta Klang, a traditional training village in the east.   Here young elephants are "broken" to interact with tens of millions of tourists who visit Thailand every year, many eager to capture social media-worthy encounters of the kingdom's national animal playing sports, dancing and even painting.

Villagers in Ban Ta Klang who have been working with the large, gentle animals for generations say taming is necessary for safety reasons and that the force is not excessive.       "We do not raise them to hurt them... if they are not stubborn, we do nothing to them," said mahout Charin, as he stroked Ploy's head affectionately and spoke of her as part of his family.   Charin makes about $350 a month in a profession that was handed down from his father and grandfather.    "I have always lived with them," he added.   But animal welfare advocates argue the taming technique -- where babies are removed from the care of fiercely devoted mothers at the age of two -- is cruel and outdated.   It is also little-known, one of many murky aspects of an evolving elephant tourism trade often kept from view of tour operators and travellers.

- Big business -
Elephants were phased out of the logging industry about 30 years ago, leaving their mahouts unemployed.   So they turned to Thailand's flourishing tourism industry, a burgeoning sector of amusement parks offering elephant rides and performances.    A tamed elephant can now fetch up to $80,000, a colossal investment that then requires gruelling hours of work and increasingly bizarre stunts to be recouped.    Mae Taeng park in the northern city of Chiang Mai receives up to 5,000 visitors per day and charges an entrance fee of about $50.   Many come to see Suda, who holds a brush in her trunk and paints Japanese-style landscapes for visitors who can later buy the prints for up to $150 before taking an elephant ride through the hills.    As tourists become more aware of the potential cruelty of such activities, a growing number of places have opted to use the term 'sanctuary' or 'refuge'.

Many do not permit rides or animal performances. Instead tourists are encouraged to feed, groom and care for elephants, gaining an unforgettable experience with one of nature's most majestic creatures.   But charities warn that even seemingly benign options, like bathing them, could still be problematic.    "Bathing with elephants...is often stressful for elephants and mahouts especially when dealing with groups of excited young people," Jan Schmidt-Burbach of World Animal Protection told AFP.   "The best option is to leave it to the elephant to decide if and how to bath and ask tourists to stand back to observe and enjoy this moment without interference."   But even this may not be enough.    Some animal rights experts warn it can be hard to discern the treatment of the animals after the crowds have gone home. Some reported cases of elephants at so-called sanctuaries being chained for long hours, forced to sleep on concrete, and malnourished.

- Ethical tourism? -
Of the 220 elephant parks identified across the country, even if many promise ethical tourism, "only a dozen ensure truly satisfactory living conditions", according to WAP.   It is working with ChangChill, a small organisation near Chiang Mai, bordered by a river in the middle of rice terraces.    In a few months, it changed its methods to give elephants more space, fewer interactions, and an environment resembling life in the wild.     "We don't force them to do what they wouldn't instinctively do," says director Supakorn Thanaseth.    As a result, they are "less sick, calmer". 

The risk of accidents with tourists has decreased as the animals are less stressed, though mahouts still have a hook in a bag for emergencies.    ChangChill hopes to become profitable in the current high season, but it will only be able to receive around 40 tourists a day to visit its six elephants as part of its aim to put the creatures first.    That is a drop in the bucket when Thailand has nearly 4,000 "domesticated" elephants.   Thai authorities are reluctant to reintroduce them into natural habitats, as advocated by some NGOs, because of a lack of space and potential conflict with humans.

The compromise, some argue, is to better regulate the sector and improve standards.   But there is little impetus to enact more stringent rules that would cut into the Thai tourism industry, which welcomed more than 38 million visitors this year.    A committee of several animal welfare associations submitted recommendations to the government last year advocating stricter controls for elephants in captivity.   But according to activist Sovaida Salwala from Friends of the Asian Elephants, an NGO who helped compile the report, their requests "remain unanswered so far".   In fact, there is some evidence the animals' situation is getting worse.    Schmidt-Burbach said their last research in 2015 found some 1,771 elephants whose welfare was in question.    He explained: "There are 357  more elephants in poor conditions compared to our 2010 study."
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2019 09:12:36 +0100 (MET)

Bangkok, Nov 21, 2019 (AFP) - A shallow 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit north-western Laos near the Thai border early Thursday, the United States Geological Survey reported, alarming locals who felt buildings shake as far away as Bangkok.  The quake hit at 6:50am (2350 GMT Wednesday), roughly three hours after a 5.7-magnitude earthquake in the same region triggered an immediate suspension to Laos' largest-capacity power plant located near its epicentre.    Tremors could be felt more than 700 kilometres (435 miles) away in the Thai capital, where Pope Francis is currently on a four-day visit.    "The shaking... was the main shock from a quake in Laos at 6:50 am and was felt in northern and northeastern Thailand and Bangkok and suburbs," said Sophon Chaila, an official at the Thai Meteorological Department.

The department said the quake affected nine provinces in Thailand and there were four lesser aftershocks.    It also became a top trending topic on Twitter in Thailand, as locals shared videos of swaying overhead lights and rattling window blinds in office buildings.    Residents in the Vietnamese capital Hanoi also felt buildings sway.    "The ceiling lights were shaking quite strongly. I felt dizzy and scared," said Hanoi resident Tran Hoa Phuong, who felt the earthquake in her 27-storey apartment building.    After the first quake, the 1,878-megawatt Hongsa Power Plant -- Laos' largest-capacity thermal energy generator -- immediately suspended operations according to a statement from the Thai-owned company.

No "fundamental" damages or injuries have been found so far, "merely damages to the external texture of the buildings", it said, adding that Hongsa is expected to take 24 hours to complete its inspection.    Photos shared by Thai news showed portions of the power plant's walls had collapsed, and debris littered its premises.    Nearby Xayaburi dam project, one of Laos' largest hydropower dams, has seen "no impact" so far, and is continuing to generate electricity "as normal", said a statement from CK Power.   Information is slow to trickle out of the closed communist state, and there were similarly no official reports of injuries after the twin quakes hit early Thursday.

Impoverished Laos has ploughed ahead with ambitious dam-building projects that critics say lack transparency and stringent safety measures.   The cost was laid bare last year when a massive hydropower project collapsed in southern Laos, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless.   Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday and has a busy agenda Thursday meeting officials and the Thai king before he leads a mass in the evening.    There was no word from his team on whether he felt the quake.    Powerful earthquakes occasionally strike hard in Southeast Asia.   In 2016 a 6.8-magnitude quake struck Myanmar, killing at least three people and damaging temples in the ancient temple town of Bagan.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 05:28:34 +0100 (MET)

Bangkok, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - A French tourist has died after falling from a waterfall while trying to take a selfie in Thailand, police said Friday.   The accident happened Thursday afternoon on the tropical island of Koh Samui, whose palm-fringed, white-sand beaches are a magnet for both backpackers and high-end tourists.   The 33-year-old man fell from Na Mueang 2 waterfall, the same spot where a Spanish tourist died in a fall in July, Lieutenant Phuvadol Viriyavarangkul of the island's tourist police told AFP.

"It took several hours to retrieve his body because the waterfall is slippery and steep," he said by phone, adding that the spot is roped off and there is a sign warning tourists of the danger.   "His friend said he was trying to take a selfie and then he slipped and fell."   Thailand is largely considered a safe destination for tourists and typically draws more than 35 million visitors each year.    But the industry took a hit in 2018 after a ferry carrying Chinese visitors in the country's south sank last year, killing 47 people.   The accident highlighted lax safety rules in the tourism sector and authorities have been scrambling to restore the country's image since.
Date: Sat, 26 Oct 2019 11:56:37 +0200 (METDST)

Bangkok, Oct 26, 2019 (AFP) - Hundreds of dead fish washed ashore on a luxury tourist resort on Thailand's south coast, officials said Saturday, blanketing a long stretch of pristine white sands in a rotting stench.   Some 300 metres (950 feet) of beach on Naka Yai island was littered with dead ponyfish, Phuket provincial fisheries chief Siripong Panasonthi told AFP, adding authorities were working to determine the cause of the deaths but had ruled out pollution in the water.   "We have checked the water quality... It cannot cause the fish to die en masse," Siripong said.   He said he believed the catch of ponyfish -- which, when caught alive are sold to make animal feed but are worthless when dead -- had been dumped by local fishing trawlers.
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Myanmar (Burma)

Myanmar (Burma) US Consular Information Sheet
October 09, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Burma (Myanmar) is an underdeveloped agrarian country ruled by an authoritarian military regime.
The country's government suppresses all expression of
opposition to its rule.

After a long period of isolation, Burma has started to encourage tourism.
Foreigners can expect to pay several times more than locals do for accommodations, domestic airfares, and entry to tourist sites.
Tourist facilities in Rangoon, Bagan, Ngapali Beach, Inle Lake, and Mandalay are superior to tourist facilities in other parts of the country, where they are limited.
Please note that visitors should travel with sufficient cash to cover their expenses for the duration of their visit.
Traveler’s checks and credit cards are not accepted anywhere, and ATM machines are nonexistent in Burma.
(See "Currency" and “U.S. Treasury Sanctions" below.)
Read the Department of State's Background Notes on Burma for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The Government of Burma strictly controls travel to, from, and within Burma.
Since October 1, 2006, Burmese authorities have often prohibited entry or exit at most land border crossings, unless the traveler is part of a package tour group that has received prior permission from the Burmese authorities.
A passport and visa are required for entry into Burma.
Travelers are required to show their passports with a valid visa at all airports, train stations, and hotels.
Security checkpoints are common outside of tourist areas.

Burmese authorities rarely issue visas to persons with occupations they deem “sensitive,” including journalists.
Many journalists and writers traveling to Burma on tourist visas have been denied entry.
Journalists -- and tourists mistaken for journalists -- have been harassed.
Some journalists have had film and notes confiscated upon leaving the country.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, many governments have initiated procedures at entry/exit points.
These often include requiring documentary evidence of relationship and permission for the child's travel from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian. Having such documentation on hand, even if not required, may facilitate entry/departure.
Information about entry requirements as well as other information may be obtained from the Burmese Embassy (Embassy of the Union of Myanmar) at http://www.mewashingtondc.com/,
2300 S Street NW, Washington, DC
20008, telephone 202-332-4350 or the Permanent Burma Mission (Mission of Myanmar) to the U.N. 10 East 77th St., New York, NY 10021, (212-535-1311) 212-744-1271, fax 212-744-1290.

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: U.S. citizens traveling in Burma should exercise caution, register with the U.S. Embassy and check in for an update on the current security situation.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports or photocopies of passport data and visa pages at all times so that if questioned by Burmese officials, they will have proof of U.S. citizenship readily available.

In September 2007, the Burmese Government brutally cracked down on peaceful demonstrators, using gunfire, rubber bullets, batons, and tear gas against them and those observing in the vicinity.
The authorities killed at least 30 people during the crackdown and arrested more than 3,000.
On September 27, 2007, security forces shot and killed a Japanese journalist in the Sule Pagoda downtown area during a demonstration. The Burmese Government has a standing law, which is sporadically enforced, that bans all gatherings of more than five people.

On May 7, 2005, three large bombs simultaneously exploded in Rangoon at two crowded shopping areas frequented by foreigners and at an international trade center, killing at least 20 people and wounding several hundred.
On April 26, 2005, an explosive device detonated at a busy market in Mandalay, killing at least three people.
Although other smaller-scale bombings have occurred in Burma in recent years, including in early 2007 and early 2008, the 2005 bombings were more sophisticated and specifically targeted more highly trafficked areas than those used in other bombings.
However, there is no indication that these attacks targeted American citizens or U.S. interests.
The perpetrators of these bombings have not been identified.

In light of these incidents and the possibility of recurring political unrest, Americans in Burma should exercise caution in public places and be alert to their surroundings.
Furthermore, Americans in Burma should avoid crowded public places, such as large public gatherings, demonstrations, and any area cordoned off by security forces.
The Embassy also advises U.S. citizens not to photograph or videotape the military or police, because doing so could be interpreted as provocative.
Burma experienced major political unrest in 1988 when the military regime jailed as well as killed thousands of Burmese democracy activists.
In 1990, the military government refused to recognize the results of an election that the opposition won overwhelmingly.
Major demonstrations by opposition activists occurred in 1996 and 1998.
In May 2003, individuals affiliated with the Burmese regime attacked a convoy carrying opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi in Sagaing Division; dozens were killed or injured.

Ethnic rebellions still smolder in regions along Burma’s borders with Thailand, China, India, and Bangladesh, and anti-personnel landmines along border areas pose an additional danger. Occasional fighting between government forces and various rebel groups has occurred in Chin State and Sagaing Division near India and along the Thai-Burma border area in Burma's Shan, Mon, Kayah (Karenni), and Karen states.
From time to time, the Governments of Burma and Thailand have closed the border between the two nations on short notice.
In January 2005, regional governments announced a major regional law enforcement initiative aimed at dismantling the operations of Southeast Asia's largest narcotics trafficking organization, the United Wa State Army.
At that time, the Burmese Government stated that it could not guarantee the safety of foreign officials or personnel from non-governmental organizations traveling or working in Wa Special Region 2 (northeastern Shan State).

U.S. citizens have been detained, arrested, tried, and deported for, among other activities, distributing pro-democracy literature and visiting the homes and offices of Burmese pro-democracy leaders.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may also result in problems with authorities.
Burmese authorities have warned U.S. Embassy officials that those who engage in similar activities in the future will be jailed rather than deported.
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.

Up–to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. - 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except for 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:
Crime rates in Burma, especially toward foreigners, are lower than those of many other countries in the region.
Nevertheless, due in part to the poor economic situation in Burma, the crime rate has been increasing.
Violent crime against foreigners is rare.
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, to 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.

See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Burma are inadequate for even routine medical care.
There are few trained medical personnel.
Most foreign drugs on sale have been smuggled into the country, and many are counterfeit or adulterated and thus unsafe to use.
Travelers should bring adequate supplies of their medications for the duration of their stay in Burma.
HIV/AIDS is widespread among high-risk populations, such as prostitutes and illegal drug users.
Malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis, and other infectious diseases are endemic in most parts of the country.

In early 2006 and throughout 2007, brief avian influenza outbreaks resulted in the death of domestic poultry and some wild birds. In December 2007, the World Health Organization and Burmese Ministry of Health confirmed Burma’s first case of human infection with the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
The young girl infected with the virus during a poultry outbreak in eastern Shan State in late November responded well to treatment and fully recovered.
Travelers to Burma and other South Asian countries affected by avian influenza are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any other surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.
Current information about avian influenza A (H5N1) and pandemic influenza can be found via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) web site at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/avian/ or at AvianFlu.gov.
For additional information on avian influenza as it affects American citizens residing abroad, see the U.S. Department of State’s Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.

Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Burma.
For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Burma.
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 (CDC) 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 and other health information, 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 Burma is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Rangoon's main roads are generally in poor condition.
Traffic in the capital is increasing rapidly, but heavy congestion is still uncommon.
Some roads are in serious disrepair.
Slow-moving vehicles, bicycles, animals, and heavy pedestrian traffic create numerous hazards for drivers on Rangoon's streets.
Drivers must remain extremely alert to avoid hitting pedestrians.
Most roads outside of Rangoon consist of one to two lanes and are potholed, often unpaved, and unlit at night.
Many of the truck drivers traversing from China to Rangoon are believed to drive under the influence of methamphetamines and other stimulants.
Drunken and/or drugged drivers are also common on the roads during the four-day Buddhist water festival in mid-April.
Driving at night is particularly dangerous.
Few, if any, streets are adequately lit.
Most Burmese drivers do not turn on their headlights until the sky is completely dark; many do not use headlights at all.
Many bicyclists use no lights or reflectors.

Vehicular traffic moves on the right side, as in the United States; however, a majority of vehicles have the steering wheel positioned on the right.
The “right of way” concept is generally respected, but military convoys and motorcades always have precedence.
Most vehicle accidents are settled between the parties on site, with the party at fault paying the damages.
In the event of an accident with a pedestrian, the driver is always considered to be at fault and subject to fines or arrest, regardless of the circumstances. Accidents that require an investigation are concluded quickly and rarely result in criminal prosecution.
There is no roadside assistance, and ambulances are not available.
Vehicles generally do not have seat belts.
Child car seats are also not available.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Burma, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Burma’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.
The U.S. Embassy in Rangoon has advised its employees to avoid travel on state-owned Myanmar Airways, as well as on Air Bagan, whenever possible due to serious concerns about the airlines’ ability to maintain their airplanes.
(Myanmar Airways International [MAI] is a different carrier that operates flights between Bangkok and Rangoon.)

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Foreigner Travel within Burma:
Burmese authorities require that hotels and guesthouses furnish information about the identities and activities of their foreign guests.
Burmese who interact with foreigners may be compelled to report on those interactions to the Burmese authorities.
Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance, and travelers must assume their actions, such as meeting with Burmese citizens, particularly in hotel lobbies and rooms, are being closely monitored.
Travelers must assume that telephones and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.

Travelers are not generally required to obtain advance permission to travel to the main tourist areas of Mandalay and the surrounding area, Bagan, Inle Lake, Ngapali, and other beach resorts.
However, some tourists traveling to places where permission is not expressly required have reported delays due to questioning by local security personnel.
Additionally, the military regime restricts access to some areas of the country on an ad hoc basis, and in 2005 stated it could not guarantee the safety of foreigners traveling in eastern Shan State, specifically in Wa territory, also known as Special Region 2.
Individuals planning to travel in Burma should check with Burmese tourism authorities to see whether travel to specific destinations is permitted.
Even if the Burmese authorities allow travel to specific destinations in Burma, it may not be safe to travel in those areas.

Irrawaddy Delta Region: On May 2, 2008, Cyclone Nargis devastated Burma’s Irrawaddy Delta region and surrounding areas, killing over 130,000 people.
The Delta region is still without many basic necessities, and the risk of outbreaks of disease remains high.
The United Nations, ASEAN, and others in the international community, including the United States, provided international relief assistance to meet both immediate and long-term needs.
The Burmese Government has restricted access to this area for people other than relief workers it has authorized.
American citizens should defer nonessential travel to the Irrawaddy Delta region.

The environment in Rangoon, Burma’s most populous city, and other areas outside of the Irrawaddy Delta has gradually improved.
Electrical power and water supply have been restored in most areas and markets are now operating normally.

Customs Regulations:
Customs regulations in Burma are restrictive and strictly enforced.
Customs authorities closely search travelers’ luggage upon arrival and departure from Burma.
It is illegal to enter or exit Burma with items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, gems, and ivory.
On several occasions in the past two decades, foreigners have been detained, searched, and imprisoned for attempting to take restricted items out of the country.

Customs officials also strictly limit what is brought into the country, including bans on pornography and political material or literature critical of the regime or supportive of the opposition.
Travelers have also reported problems bringing in high-tech electronic devices and equipment, ranging from toys to computers.
The military regime has never provided a complete listing of prohibited import items.
For information on restricted items for import into Burma and specific customs’ requirements, it is best to consult the nearest Burmese Embassy (Embassy of the Union of Myanmar) or in Washington DC located at 2300 S Street NW, Washington DC 20008, tel..: 202-332-4350.
You may also contact Burma’s Mission in New York located at 10 E. 77th Street, New York, NY
10021, tel. 202-535-1310, or 212-535-1311, fax 212-744-1290
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products are illegal, and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

Computers, Internet, and E-Mail: The military regime carefully controls and monitors all internet use in Burma and restricts internet access through software-based censorship that limits the materials individuals can access on line.
The government has allowed several cyber cafes to open, but access to the Internet is very expensive, and access to most “free” international e-mail services such as Hotmail and Yahoo is prohibited.
Currently, Gmail (Google mail) accounts can be accessed in Burma, and many locals and resident expatriates use it.
It is illegal to own an unregistered modem in Burma.
Tourists may bring one laptop computer per person into Burma and must declare it upon arrival.
Limited e-mail service is available at some large hotels.
All e-mails are read by military intelligence.
It is very expensive to send photographs via e-mail.
One foreign visitor was presented a bill for $2,000 after transmitting one photograph via a major hotel's e-mail system.
During September and October 2007, the military government disconnected all Internet access across the country for extended periods of time.

Consular Notification and Access: U.S. consular officers do not always receive timely notification of the detention, arrest, or deportation of U.S. citizens.
In addition, Burmese authorities have on occasion refused to give Embassy consular officers access to arrested or detained U.S. citizens.
U.S. citizens who are arrested or detained should request immediate contact with the U.S. Embassy.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry their U.S. passports with them at all times, so that if questioned by local officials, they have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.

Should an emergency arise involving the detention of a U.S. citizen, especially outside of Rangoon, it may be difficult for U.S. Embassy personnel to assist quickly, because travel inside Burma can be slow and difficult.
The Burmese authorities do not routinely notify the U.S. Embassy of the arrest of American citizens, and the Burmese Government has obstructed regular access by consular officers to American citizen detainees.

Photography: Photographing military installations or people in uniform is prohibited by Burmese authorities and could lead to arrest or the confiscation of cameras and film.
It is advisable to avoid photographing anything that could be perceived by the Burmese authorities as being of military or security interest—such as bridges, airfields, government buildings or government vehicles.

Telephone Services: Telephone services are poor in Rangoon and other major cities and non-existent in many areas.
Calling the United States from Burma is difficult and extremely expensive.

Currency: Executive Order 13310, signed by President Bush on July 28, 2003 imposed a ban on the exportation of financial services to Burma.
Travelers’ checks, credit cards, and ATM cards can rarely, if ever, be used.
Although moneychangers sometimes approach travelers with an offer to change dollars into Burmese kyat at the market rate, it is illegal to exchange currency except at authorized locations such as the airport, banks and government stores.
It is also illegal for Burmese to have possession of foreign currency without a permit.
Foreigners are required to use U.S. dollars, other hard currency, or Foreign Exchange Certificates (FEC) for the payment of plane tickets, train tickets and most hotels.
Burmese kyats are accepted for nearly all other transactions.

In recent months, U.S. financial institutions have increased scrutiny of on-line financial transactions taking place on Burmese internet providers.
The result has been that bank accounts of some American citizens working or traveling in Burma have been frozen.
To avoid this potential problem, customers of U.S. banks may wish to avoid on-line banking while using a Burmese Internet Service Provider (ISP).
Those who believe their accounts have been subject to similar restrictions in error are asked to contact the Consular Section of U.S. Embassy Rangoon.

U.S. Treasury Sanctions: As of August 27, 2003, U.S. Treasury sanctions ban the import of almost all goods from Burma into the United States.
This ban includes Burmese-origin products such as gifts, souvenirs, and items for personal use, even if carried in personal luggage.
These sanctions are part of a much larger U.S. sanctions regime for Burma, which includes a ban on new U.S. investment among other measures.
For specific information, contact the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/ via OFAC's Info-by-Fax service at 202-622-0077 or by phone toll-free at 1-800-540-6322.
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 available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Burmese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Burma are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Some foreigners have been denied even minimal rights in criminal proceedings in Burma, especially when suspected of engaging in political activity of any type.
This includes, but is not limited to, denial of access to an attorney, denial of access to court records, and denial of family and consular visits.
The criminal justice system is controlled by the military junta, which orders maximum sentences for most offenses.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children, using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
See our section on Criminal Penalties for more information.
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 Burma are encouraged to register with the Embassy through the State Department's travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Burma.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 110 University Ave., Kamayut Township, Rangoon.
The Consular Section telephone number is (95-1) 536-509, ext. 4240; email consularrangoo@state.gov. Travelers may visit the U.S. Embassy web site at http://burma.usembassy.gov/.
The after-hours emergency number is 09-512-4330, or (95-1) 536-509, ext. 4014.
The Consular Section is open from 8:00 am to 4:30 p.m., with non-emergency American Citizen Services from 2:00 to 3:30 pm, Monday through Friday except on U.S. and Burmese holidays.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 19 to update the sections on Safety and Security, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Special Circumstances, and Criminal Penalties.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 7 Jan 2020 14:53:47 +0100 (MET)

Yangon, Jan 7, 2020 (AFP) - Four children were killed and five injured alongside their teacher as an explosion hit while they collected firewood in an area of Myanmar's Rakhine state beset by fighting between the military and Arakan Army (AA) rebels.   It was not immediately clear what caused the blast or who was behind it.   The conflict has seen scores of civilians killed, hundreds wounded and some 100,000 displaced in the past year as the AA fights for more autonomy for ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

The attack happened Tuesday morning in Htaikhtoo Pauk village in Buthidaung township, deputy administrator Hla Shwe told AFP.   Local media posted a graphic video on Facebook showing people retrieving the victims' bodies and carrying the bloodied injured away as distressed crowds gathered.   "They were looking for firewood on the mountainside," Hla Shwe said by phone, adding the wounded had been taken to nearby hospitals in Buthidaung and Maungdaw.   He declined to say who he thought had been behind the attack.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun confirmed the incident and number of victims, accusing the AA of planting a landmine.   The rebels could not be reached for comment but one local village leader, who asked not to be named, told AFP the number of casualties and lack of blast crater made him doubt it had been a mine.   "Some people say a mine explosion, some say this was from heavy shelling."   The rebels have carried out a series of brazen kidnappings, bombings and raids against the military and local officials in recent months.   The army has hit back hard, deploying thousands of soldiers to the conflict-ridden region.
Date: Wed, 27 Nov 2019 10:44:40 +0100 (MET)

Yangon, Nov 27, 2019 (AFP) - A German tourist was killed and an Argentine woman injured in a landmine explosion in Myanmar, local police said Wednesday, days after the country was shamed over its continuing use of the weapons.   The accident happened near the town of Hsipaw, a popular hiking spot for backpackers who often ride the scenic route by train from Mandalay to reach the mountains.

Tim Geibler, 40, died on Tuesday afternoon near the villages of Pan Nayung and Kwun Haung, a local police officer told AFP, on condition of anonymity.   "Tourists are not permitted to go to that area," he said, adding that a 39-year-old Argentine woman was also slightly injured in the blast.   Local NGO Without Borders, which runs a de facto ambulance service staffed by volunteers, told AFP she had since been discharged from hospital.

A German foreign ministry spokesman confirmed the incident and said its Yangon embassy was in close contact with Geibler's relatives   Huge swathes of Myanmar's restive borderlands are no-go areas for holidaymakers, with various ethnic armed groups fighting the military for more autonomy in shifting violence that has endured for decades.   Two foreign tourists were injured in a mine blast in 2016 in nearby Kyaukme township, according to local media.

Myanmar was one of the top offenders named in the Landmine Monitor 2019 report published last week.   The watchdog said it was the only country in the world where the use of new anti-personnel mines had been documented over the past year.   Both the military and armed groups stand accused of using mines and the country has so far refused to sign the Mine Ban Treaty.
Date: Mon 19 Aug 2019
Source: Mizzima News [in Myanmar, trans. ProMED Mod.YMA, edited]

From 1 Jan to 16 Aug 2019, 544 people were confirmed to have H1N1 infection and 96 of them died, according to the Ministry of Health and Sports.

Among those deaths, the highest deaths were recorded in Yangon region, with 66 deaths. There were also 12 deaths in Ayeyarwady region, 7 in Bago region, 3 in Sagaing region, 2 from Magway region, and one each from Kachin, Rakhine, and (south) Shan states.

Most of these deaths were found to have underlying diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and heart diseases.

In 2018, over 300 people were found to have H1N1 influenza infection. However, no deaths were identified. In 2017, more than 30 deaths out of over 400 confirmed cases were recorded.
=====================
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Myanmar:
14 Aug 2019

48 people died and over 10,757 others were infected by dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) across Myanmar in the past 7 months, according to a release from the Public Health Department under the Ministry of Health and Sports on Wednesday [14 Aug 2019]. As of 27 Jul [2019], Ayeyarwady region registered the highest numbers of DHF infection cases with 1974 cases and 5 deaths, followed by Yangon region with 1788 cases and 15 deaths, the department's figures said. The figures showed that children aged 5-9 years old are mostly infected by the dengue virus with 4473 cases registered during the period. In 2018, a total of 187 people died of the mosquitoborne disease in connection with 3649 cases in Myanmar, with 25 deaths in Yangon. Dengue fever mostly occurs in the rainy season from June to August in the country.

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Myanmar:
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2019 13:49:56 +0200 (METDST)

Mawlamyine, Myanmar, Aug 11, 2019 (AFP) - Myanmar troops and emergency responders scrambled to provide aid in flood-hit parts of the country Sunday after rising waters forced residents to flee by boat and a landslide killed at least 52 people.   Every year monsoon rains hammer Myanmar and other countries across Southeast Asia, submerging homes, displacing residents and triggering landslides.   But this season's deluge has tested disaster response after a fatal landslide on Friday in southeastern Mon state was followed by heavy flooding that reached the roofs of houses and treetops in nearby towns.

Hundreds of soldiers, firefighters and local rescue workers were still pulling bodies and vehicles out of the muddy wreckage of Paung township on Sunday.   "The latest death toll we have from the landslide in Mon state was 52," Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told AFP.   As the rainy season reaches its peak, the country's armed forces are pitching in and have readied helicopters to deliver supplies.   "Access to affected regions is still good. Our ground forces can reach the areas so far," Zaw Min Tun said.   Heavy rains pounded other parts of Mon, Karen and Kachin states, flooding roads and destroying bridges that crumbled under the weight of the downpour.   But the bulk of the relief effort is focused on hard-hit Mon, which sits on the coast of the Andaman sea.   About two-thirds of the state's Ye township remained flooded, an administrator said, as drone footage showed only the tops of houses, tree branches and satellite dishes poking above the waters.

- 'We thought we were dead' -
Families realised they had to leave in the early hours Sunday, packing possessions into boats, rowing towards higher ground or swimming away.    Than Htay, a 40-year-old from Ye town, told AFP that water rose to their waists around 02:00 am and she and her family members started shouting for help.   The heavy rains muffled their pleas but a boat happened to pass by and gave them a ride.   "That's why we survived. We thought we were dead," she said.   Another resident said this year's flooding was the worst they had experienced.

Floodwaters have submerged more than 4,000 houses in the state and displaced more than 25,000 residents who have sought shelter in monasteries and pagodas, according to state-owned Global New Light of Myanmar.   Vice President Henry Van Thio visited landslide survivors in a Paung township village on Saturday and "spoke of his sorrow" while promising relief, the paper reported.   The search for victims continued later Sunday though the rain has made the process more difficult.   "We are still working. We will continue searching in the coming days as well," Paung township administrator Zaw Moe Aung said.   Climate scientists in 2015 ranked Myanmar at the top of a global list of nations hardest hit by extreme weather.   That year more than 100 people died in floods that also displaced hundreds of thousands.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 27 Jan 2020 01:07:04 +0100 (MET)

Wuhan, China, Jan 27, 2020 (AFP) - China's central government said on Monday that the nationwide total of confirmed infections from a deadly respiratory virus had risen to 2,744, with 769 new cases coming to light.   However, it said no new deaths were confirmed outside of Hubei province, which had earlier reported 24 new fatalities to bring the national total to 80 dead.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 22:16:28 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Chinese authorities have ordered the extension of a public holiday in an effort to contain an epidemic that has killed 56 people and infected nearly 2,000 worldwide, state-run media reported.   A working group chaired by Premier Li Keqiang to tackle the outbreak decided on Sunday "to reduce population flows" by extending the Spring Festival holiday which had been scheduled to end on January 30, state news agency Xinhua said.   It was not immediately clear how long the extension is.

The group also ordered changes to "the starting dates of schools" and "people to work from home by working online."   "The meeting stressed that the country is at a crucial time in the prevention and control of the novel coronavirus outbreak, urging Party committees and governments at all levels to take more 'decisive, powerful and orderly, scientific and well-planned' measures to effective curb the spread," Xinhua reported.   In a bid to slow the spread of the respiratory virus, the government had previously locked down hard-hit Hubei, a province in central China that is at the outbreak's epicentre, in an unprecedented operation affecting tens of millions of people.

The previously unknown virus has caused global concern because of its similarity to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) pathogen, which killed hundreds across mainland China and Hong Kong in 2002-2003.   Originating in Hubei's capital of Wuhan, the virus has spread throughout China and across the world -- with cases confirmed in around a dozen countries including as far away as the United States.   Several countries were making arrangements to evacuate their citizens from Wuhan, where an eery calm pervades as new restrictions prohibit most road traffic in the metropolis of 11 million.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 21:47:53 +0100 (MET)

Washington, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - US health authorities said Sunday there are now five confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the United States and more are expected.   Nancy Messonnier, head of the respiratory disease section at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said around 100 people in 26 states are being investigated for the virus, which originated in the Chinese city of Wuhan.

Of the confirmed cases, all five people had travelled to Wuhan, Messonier said during a conference call with reporters.   "Every case we have had in the United States is someone who has had direct contact in Wuhan," she said.   Messonier said there are two cases in California and one each in Arizona, Illinois and Washington state. Until now the toll was three.   While Chinese officials have launched an extraordinary emergency response, Messonier insisted that the health risk for Americans in general remains low "at this time."
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 13:44:57 +0100 (MET)

Lagos, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Nigerian health authorities have announced stepped-up emergency measures to tackle a rise in Lassa fever cases after 29 people died this month.   "As at 24th of January 2020, 195 confirmed cases and 29 deaths had been reported in 11 states," the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) said in a statement Saturday.   A national emergency operations centre had been activated to coordinate the response "to the increasing number of Lassa fever cases" across the country.

Endemic to Nigeria, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but is much less deadly.   The virus is spread by contact with rat faeces or urine. It starts with fever and can, in worst case scenarios, lead to severe bleeding and organ failure.   Nigeria declared an outbreak of Lassa fever a year ago and around 170 people died from the virus in 2019.

The number of cases usually climbs in January due to weather conditions during the dry season.    Almost 90 percent of the recent confirmed cases have been in Edo, Ondo and Ebonyi states in southern Nigeria, but their have also been deaths in the north.

The NCDC said that compared to the same period last year the fatality rate had dropped from 23.4 percent to 14.8 percent.    It encouraged Nigerians to "practise good hygiene and take measures to protect themselves and their families".   Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation with a population of some 200 million, has five laboratories with the capability to diagnose Lassa fever.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 12:18:19 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Two Chinese provinces and three cities have ordered citizens to wear face masks in public, to help control the spread of a deadly virus.   The measure is required in the provinces of Guangdong in the south and Jiangxi in the centre, plus the eastern city of Nanjing, Ma'anshan city in Anhui province, and Xinyang city in Henan, according to local authorities.   China's industry and information technology ministry has said it would "spare no effort in increasing supply" after demand for masks skyrocketed.
Date: Sun, 26 Jan 2020 04:03:51 +0100 (MET)

Hong Kong, Jan 26, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong's Disneyland announced it was shutting its doors on Sunday until further notice over the deadly virus outbreak in central China, a day after city authorities classified the crisis as an emergency.   "As a precautionary measure in line with prevention efforts taking place across Hong Kong, we are temporarily closing Hong Kong Disneyland park out of consideration for the health and safety of our guests and cast members," the park said in a statement.
Date: 26 Jan 2020
Source: MENAFN [edited]

Two more polio cases have surfaced from Landikotal tehsil in Khyber tribal district, after which the number of reported cases in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa has reached 4 this year [2020].

According to the Emergency Operations Centre (EOC), a 2-year-old [male child] from Nekikhel and another child from Torwela have been diagnosed with polio. The samples of these 2 children were sent for laboratory tests in 2019, so these cases will be counted in the tally of 2019, which stands at 141 now.

The 2 cases in Landiktoal were reported 2 days after the emergence of 3 new polio cases in Qambar, Dadu and Sajawal districts of Sindh. Among them, 2 children contracted the crippling disease in 2019, but the cases were confirmed on Friday [24 Jan 2020].

On [21 Jan 2020], the 1st case of polio in Pakistan in 2020 surfaced in Lakki Marwat, the district with the highest number of cases in 2019.

The year 2019 was worse for Pakistan in polio eradication efforts, as 141 cases surfaced in Pakistan, including 96 cases in KP. Most cases in KP surfaced in Lakki Marwat, where 32 children were diagnosed with the crippling disease. In 2018, only 12 cases were reported, while in 2017, 8 cases were reported.

Currently, Pakistan and Afghanistan are the only 2 countries in the world which have not fully eradicated polio. The main cause behind the emergence of so many polio cases is refusal of parents to cooperate with the vaccination teams. According to media reports citing Health Ministry data, over a million parents refused to cooperate with vaccination teams in 2019. Most of the refusal cases were reported in April last year [2019] when rumours spread in Peshawar that many children had fainted after consuming vaccination drops. A total of 1 089 087 parents refused to give vaccination drops to their children in 2019.

The emergence of so many polio cases in Pakistan, particularly in KP, has brought the federal and provincial governments under pressure over their performance and strategy to control the spread of disease.

Experts believe that polio vaccination efforts cannot succeed completely until the refusing parents are convinced to cooperate with vaccination teams.
==================
[The End Polio Pakistan website has not added all of the media reported cases as yet, so it's a bit difficult to follow at times and know which cases were 2019 onset and which were 2020 onset. The above media report clearly states 2019 onset and puts the tally for 2019 as 141 cases, but the media reports from Friday's [24 Jan 2020] report is less clear (see Poliomyelitis update (10): global, Pakistan (BA, SD) http://promedmail.org/post/20200124.6911971).

A good map of Pakistan showing districts and provinces can be found at:
Date: Fri 24 Jan 2020
Source: SciTechDaily [abridged, edited]

Citation: Amman BR, Bird BH, Bakarr IA, et al. Isolation of Angola-like Marburg virus from Egyptian rousette bats from West Africa. Nat Commun. 2020; 11:510.  <https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-14327-8>

Scientists have detected Marburg virus in fruit bats in Sierra Leone, marking the 1st time the deadly virus has been found in West Africa. A total of 11 Egyptian rousette fruit bats tested positive for active Marburg virus infection. Research teams caught the bats separately in 3 health districts.

The presence of Marburg virus, a close relative to Ebola virus that also causes hemorrhagic disease in people, was detected in advance of any reported cases of human illness in Sierra Leone. However, the virus's presence in bats means people who live nearby could be at risk for becoming infected. No outbreaks have been reported to date.

The findings, based on PCR, antibody, and virus isolation data, were officially published today [24 Jan 2020] in the journal Nature Communications. Preliminary findings were announced earlier in December 2018 to ensure rapid notification to the citizens of Sierra Leone and the international health community.

The paper highlights the value of collaborating with government and key stakeholders across human, animal, and environmental sectors to engage at-risk communities about the discovery, address health concerns, and communicate risk-reduction strategies before recognized spillovers occur.

Marburg virus was detected by projects led by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the USAID-funded PREDICT project led by the One Health Institute at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine; Njala University, Sierra Leone; and the University of Makeni, Sierra Leone.

"Finding Marburg virus in bats in Sierra Leone before any known cases in people is a huge success, as public health officials and doctors can now include Marburg virus among the possible causes when diagnosing hemorrhagic fever cases in the region," said Tracey Goldstein, co-principal investigator and pathogen detection lead for the PREDICT project from the UC Davis One Health Institute.

To date, there have been 12 known outbreaks of Marburg virus, with the most recent in Uganda in 2017. The largest and deadliest outbreak occurred in Angola in 2005 when 227 people died. Five of the new strains identified among the Marburg-positive bats in Sierra Leone were genetically similar to the strain that caused the outbreak in Angola. This is the 1st time scientists have detected these Angolan-like strains in bats.

The virus-positive bats were all Egyptian rousette bats, the known reservoir for Marburg virus, which primarily feed on fruit. Infected bats shed the virus in their saliva, urine, and feces. Egyptian rousette bats are known to test-bite fruits, urinate, and defecate where they eat, potentially contaminating fruit or other food sources consumed by other animals or people, particularly children. These bats sometimes serve as a food source for local populations as well. People may be exposed to Marburg virus through bat bites as they catch the bats.

Following the announcement of the preliminary findings by the government of Sierra Leone, the PREDICT team worked with government partners, universities, and other key stakeholders to develop and implement evidence-based public health messaging across national, district, and local community levels in Sierra Leone.  "Over a year ago, we worked with our Sierra Leone government colleagues to inform people across the country as fast as possible of this new health risk and remind people not to harm or come in contact with bats," said Brian Bird from the UC Davis One Health Institute and global lead for Sierra Leone and Multi-Country Ebola operations for PREDICT-USAID. "I'm very proud of that work and our teams now that this full report is available."
----------------------------------------------
Communicated by:
ProMED-mail from HealthMap Alerts
<promed@promedmail.org>
and
Mary Marshall
===========================
[The initial report of this finding, prior to this publication, was posted by ProMED-mail (Marburg virus disease - Sierra Leone (02): bats, additional information http://promedmail.org/post/20181223.6221436) when the virus was detected for the 1st time in fruit bats in Sierra Leone.

According to the CDC (<https://www.cdc.gov/vhf/marburg/index.html>), Marburg virus was 1st recognized in 1967, when outbreaks of hemorrhagic fever occurred simultaneously in laboratories in Marburg and Frankfurt, Germany, and in Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). A total of 31 people became ill, initially laboratory workers followed by several medical personnel and family members who had cared for them; 7 deaths were reported. The 1st people infected had been exposed to imported African green monkeys or their tissues while conducting research. One additional case was diagnosed retrospectively.

The reservoir host of Marburg virus is the African fruit bat, _Rousettus aegyptiacus_. Fruit bats infected with Marburg virus do not show obvious signs of illness. Primates (including humans) can become infected with Marburg virus, and may develop serious disease with high mortality.

Ebola virus is closely related to Marburg virus. "Ebola viral RNA fragments were found in an oral swab from a greater long-fingered bat (_Miniopterus inflatus_), captured in 2016 in Liberia's Sanniquellie-Mahn district, which borders Guinea. The bat, which lives in many parts of Africa, roosts in caves and feeds on insects. Scientists had previously found 2 other Ebola species in a related insect-eating bat, _M. schreibersii_. However, most other evidence has pointed to fruit bats as the carriers of Ebola Zaire, Epstein says [J Epstein, veterinary epidemiologist at EcoHealth Alliance in New York City and a member of the PREDICT consortium]. "What it really says to me is that this is a virus that has multiple hosts, and it might be regionally dependent as to which species carries it."

Supporting the variety of bat hosts for Ebola, the bat implicated in the initiation of the West African Ebola virus outbreak in December 2013 was _Mops condylurus_, long-tailed insect-eating bats, that were previously suspected in an outbreak of the Sudan strain of Ebola virus, which is related to the Zaire strain. - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2020 11:49:16 +0100 (MET)
By Su Xinqi, Jerome TAYLOR

Hong Kong, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - Hong Kong on Saturday declared a new coronavirus outbreak as an "emergency" -- the city's highest warning tier -- as authorities ramped up measures to reduce the risk of further infections.   The announcement came as city leader Carrie Lam faced criticism in some quarters over her administration's response to the crisis.

Of the five people who have tested positive for the virus in Hong Kong so far, four arrived via a newly built high-speed train terminal which connects with the mainland.   That led to calls from some medical experts and politicians to limit, or even halt, arrivals from China, the epicentre of the outbreak with 41 people dead.

Lam held emergency meetings with health officials on Saturday morning after returning from Davos.   "Today I declare the lifting of the response level to emergency," she told reporters.   Schools and universities, which are currently on a Lunar New Year break, would remain closed until 17 February, Lam said.   All mainland arrivals to Hong Kong will now need to sign health declaration forms, she added, while public events including a new year gala and next month's marathon, would also be called off.    "We haven't seen serious and widespread infections (in Hong Kong), but we are taking this seriously and we hope to be ahead of the epidemic," Lam said.

- Tragic past -
Hong Kong has a recent experience of deadly viral outbreaks.    Nearly 300 people were killed by SARS in 2003, a tragedy that left a profound psychological impact on one of the most densely populated places on earth.   The city's ability to combat the crisis was hampered by moves in mainland China to cover up and play down the outbreak, leaving a lasting legacy of distrust among many Hong Kongers.   Animosity towards the mainland has intensified in recent years as Beijing tightens political control over the semi-autonomous territory.

The outbreak also comes at a sensitive time for Lam, who currently boasts record low approval ratings after seven months of pro-democracy protests.   "We must stand united so that we can prevent and control the disease," she said, in a nod to the political unrest.   The often violent protests have battered Hong Kong's reputation for stability and helped tip it into recession, with the recent virus outbreak compounding the city's economic woes.

Hospitals are already struggling with the winter flu season, but officials are isolating anyone with a history of travel to central China and those exhibiting respiratory tract infections that look similar to the virus.   So far some 300 people have been tested and monitored for the virus. Quarantine centres have been set up in remote holiday parks for anyone found to have come into close contact with people who tested positive.   On Saturday, officials announced a newly built but still-empty public housing block would be used for medical staff on the frontline who did not want to risk returning to their families.
Date: Sat, 25 Jan 2020 06:46:59 +0100 (MET)
By Mahmut Bozarslan and Fulya Ozerkan in Istanbu

Elazig, Turkey, Jan 25, 2020 (AFP) - A powerful earthquake has killed at least 20 people and injured more than 1,000 in eastern Turkey, as rescue teams searched through the rubble of collapsed buildings for survivors on Saturday.    At least 30 people were missing following the magnitude 6.8 quake on Friday night, which had its epicentre in the small lakeside town of Sivrice in the eastern province of Elazig.   "It was very scary, furniture fell on top of us. We rushed outside," 47-year-old Melahat Can, who lives in the provincial capital of Elazig, told AFP.   President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said all steps were being taken to aid people affected by the quake, which caused widespread fear.   "We stand by our people," Erdogan said on Twitter.

The Turkish government's disaster and emergency management agency (AFAD) said the quake hit Sivrice at around 8.55 pm (1755 GMT). Turkey lies on major faultlines and is prone to frequent earthquakes.    Turkish television showed images of people rushing outside in panic, as well as a fire on the roof of a building.   Interior, environment and health ministers, who were in the quake zone, said the casulties were in Elazig province and in the neighbouring province of Malatya, which lies to the southwest.

At least 20 people died and 1,015 others were wounded, according to AFAD.   "There is nobody trapped under the rubble in Malatya but in Elazig search and rescue efforts are currently under way to find 30 citizens," Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu said on Friday.   Rescue teams were searching for survivors trapped in a five-storey collapsed building in a village some 30 kilometres from Elazig, according to AFP journalists at the scene. One person was pulled alive from the rubble.   Emergency staff and people waiting at the scene lit fires in the streets to stay warm in freezing temperatures.   Sports centres, schools and guest houses had been opened to accommodate quake victims in Malatya.

- 'Everybody is in the street' -
Sivrice -- a town with a population of about 4,000 people -- is situated south of Elazig city on the shores of Hazar lake -- one of the most popular tourist spots in the region and the source of the Tigris river.   The lake is home to a "Sunken City", with archaeological traces dating back 4,000 years in its waters.

The tremor was felt in several parts of eastern Turkey near the Iraqi and Syrian borders, the Turkish broadcaster NTV reported, adding that neighbouring cities had mobilised rescue teams for the quake area.   "Everybody is in the street, it was very powerful, very scary," said Zekeriya Gunes, 68, from Elazig city, after the quakes caused a building to collapse on her street.   "It lasted quite long, maybe 30 seconds," added Ferda, 39. "I panicked and was undecided whether to go out in this cold or remain inside."

The US Geological Survey assessed the magnitude as 6.7, slightly lower than AFAD, adding that it struck near the East Anatolian Fault in an area that has suffered no documented large ruptures since an earthquake in 1875.   "My wholehearted sympathy to President @RTErdogan and the Turkish people following the devastating earthquake that has hit Turkey. Our search and rescue teams stand ready to assist," Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wrote on Twitter.   In Athens, the Greek premier's office said later that Mitsotakis had spoken by phone to Erdogan.   "The Turkish president... said Turkish teams had the situation under control for now and that it would be re-evaluated in the morning," his office added.

In 1999, a devastating 7.4 magnitude earthquake hit Izmit in western Turkey, leaving more than 17,000 people dead including about 1,000 in the country's largest city Istanbul.    In September last year, a 5.7-magnitude earthquake shook Istanbul, causing residents to flee buildings in the economic capital.   Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate the city of 15 million people, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.