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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: Mon, 12 Feb 2018 05:54:19 +0100

San Juan, Feb 12, 2018 (AFP) - Most of San Juan and a strip of northern Puerto Rico municipalities were plunged into darkness Sunday night after an explosion at a power station, five months after two hurricanes destroyed the island's electricity network.

The state electric power authority (AEE) said the blast was caused by a broken-down switch in Rio Piedras, resulting in a blackout in central San Juan and Palo Seco in the north.   "We have personnel working to restore the system as soon as possible," the AEE said.   San Juan's mayor, Carmen Yulin Cruz, said on Twitter that emergency services and local officials attended the scene in the neighbourhood of Monacillos, but no injuries were reported.

Meanwhile, the Puerto Rican capital's airport said it was maintaining its schedule using emergency generators.   The blackout comes as nearly 500,000 of AEE's 1.6 million customers remain without power since Hurricanes Irma and Maria struck the US territory in September 2017.   AEE engineer Jorge Bracero warned on Twitter that the outage was "serious," and advised those affected that power would not be restored until Monday.
Date: Wed, 13 Dec 2017 03:08:12 +0100
By Leila MACOR

Fajardo, Puerto Rico, Dec 13, 2017 (AFP) - Until Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, Jose Figueroa did brisk business renting kayaks to tourists itching to see a lagoon that lights up by night thanks to millions of microorganisms.   Today, things are so dire he's considering selling water to motorists stopped at red lights.   "Now we are trying to survive," the 46-year-old tour guide said.

It used to be that visitors had to reserve a month in advance to get one of his kayaks and paddle around in the dark on the enchanting, bioluminescent body of water called Laguna Grande.   But tourists are scarce these days as the Caribbean island tries to recover from the ravages of the storm back in September.   "We do not know if we will have any work tonight," Figueroa said. "Last week, we worked only one day."    He and another employee of a company called Glass Bottom PR are cleaning kayaks on the seaside promenade of Fajardo, a tourist town in eastern Puerto Rico whose main attraction is the so-called Bio Bay.

The year started off well for Puerto Rico, with the global success of the song "Despacito" by local musicians Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee.   The catchy tune helped promote the US commonwealth island of 3.4 million people, which is saddled with huge debts and declared bankruptcy in May.    But the hurricane turned what should be an island bustling with tourists into one with deserted beaches, shuttered restaurants and hotels full of mainland US officials working on the rebuilding of the island.   "What few tourists we have are the federal officials themselves," said Figueroa.

- Locals only -
The grim outlook spreads up and down the seaside promenade of Fajardo, where many restaurants are closed because there is no electricity.   On this particular day around noon, the only restaurant open is one called Racar Seafood. It has its own emergency generator.   "We get by on local tourists," said its 61-year-old owner, Justino Cruz.   "Our clients are local -- those who have no electricity, no generator, cold food or no food."

Puerto Rico's once-devastated power grid is now back up to 70 percent capacity, but this is mainly concentrated in the capital San Juan.   So while inland towns that depend on tourism are struggling mightily, things are getting better in San Juan as cruise ships are once again docking.   On November 30, the first cruise ship since the storm arrived with thousands of vacationers on board. They were received with great fanfare -- quite literally, with trumpet blaring and cymbals crashing.

- Pitching in to help -
The World Travel & Tourism Council, based in London, says tourism accounted for about eight percent of Puerto Rico's GDP in 2016, or $8.1 billion.   Hurricane Maria's damage has been uneven. Although some tour guides now have no work and many eateries are shut down, hotels that have their own generators are doing just fine.   Thanks to the thousands of US government officials and reconstruction crew members that came in after the storm, the hotels that are open -- about 80 percent of the total -- are pretty much full.

These people are starting to leave the island this month but hotels may receive tourists around Christmas, at least in San Juan, where power has for the most part been restored.   The hurricane "undoubtedly cost billions in lost revenue," said Jose Izquierdo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Company.    But Izquierdo nevertheless says he is "optimistic" and suggests an alternative: put tourists to work as volunteers in the gargantuan reconstruction effort that the island needs.   "We want to look for travellers who want to travel with a purpose, who might have the commitment to help rebuild," said Izquierdo.

The program, called "Meaningful Travel" and launched in mid-November, organizes trips on which residents, Puerto Ricans living abroad and tourists are invited to help the island get back on its feet.   "The plan aims to create empathy with this tourist destination," said Izquierdo.    "We want to be like New Orleans after Katrina, where 10 years after the hurricane, tourism is the driving force of its economy. We want to build that narrative of recovery," he added.   "There are different ways in which the world wants to help Puerto Rico. The best way is to visit us."
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2017 12:39:04 +0100
By Marcos PÉREZ RAMÍREZ

San Juan, Nov 9, 2017 (AFP) - Andrea Olivero, 11, consults her classmate Ada about an exercise during their daily English class at San Juan's Sotero Figueroa Elementary School. The task: list the positive and negative aspects of Hurricane Maria's passing almost two months ago.

The girls only have to look around. There is no electricity and they "roast" in the heat, Andrea says. At the back of the room, computers and televisions collect dust.   "We would like to move past the topic of the hurricane a bit. It is already getting repetitive," Andrea told AFP.   She is one of more than 300,000 pupils in the public education system, although only half of schools are functioning. Barely 42 per cent of Puerto Ricans have electricity seven weeks after Maria struck, killing at least 51 in the American territory.

The lack of power has prompted disorienting timetable changes on the tropical island, to avoid both the hottest hours of the day and the use of dining facilities.   "The children are very anxious. We manage to make progress in lessons and they change the hours again. Everything is messed up and we fall behind," English teacher Joan Rodriguez explained.   "We can't use the computers to illustrate classes," she said. "They are reading the novel "Charlotte's Web," and we wanted to do exercises comparing it to the film version. But we cannot use the television.

- Suspicions -
From October 23, some directors reopened their schools in the western region of Mayaguez and San Juan.   But last Thursday, the Department of Education ordered their closure, insisting they must be evaluated by engineering and architectural firms, then certified by the US Army Corps of Engineers.   One of those schools was Vila Mayo, also in San Juan. The community presumed it would open, as it had been used as a shelter, its electrical infrastructure had been inspected and it had not suffered structural damage.

But Luis Orengo, the education department's director in San Juan, told protesters outside the school it was closed as inspectors' findings had not reached the central government.   "This is unacceptable! The school is ready to give classes but they don't want to open it. Our children cannot lose a year," fumed Enid Guzman, who protested with her 11-year-old son, Reanny De la Cruz.   There are suspicions the stalled reopening of schools is, in part, related to the prior closure of 240 schools over the past year during Puerto Rico's long-running financial crisis.   The fiscal difficulties have seen the island's population drop over the past decade by 14 percent, leading in turn to a fall in school enrolment.

Before the storms, 300 schools were at risk of closure -- and for the president of Puerto Rico's federation of teachers, Mercedes Martinez, the government's aim is clear.   "Secretary (Julia) Keleher seems to have an orchestrated plan to close schools," she said, referring to the education secretary. "Why do you have to wait 30 days to get a certification so a school can open?"   Keleher has announced she expects most schools to be open by the middle of November.
Date: Tue 24 Oct 2017
Source: KFOR Oklahoma News4 [edited]

Puerto Rico has reported at least 76 cases of suspected and confirmed leptospirosis, including a handful of deaths, in the month after Hurricane Maria, said Dr. Carmen Deseda, the state epidemiologist for Puerto Rico.

Two deaths involved leptospirosis confirmed through laboratory testing, and "several other" deaths are pending test results, Deseda said. The 76 cases, up from 74 last week, also include one patient with confirmed leptospirosis who is currently hospitalized.

The island typically sees between 63 and 95 cases per year, she said. Health officials had expected that there would be a jump after the hurricane. "It's neither an epidemic nor a confirmed outbreak," Public Affairs Secretary Ramon Rosario Cortes said at a news conference Sunday [22 Oct 2017]. "But obviously, we are making all the announcements as though it were a health emergency."

Leptospirosis may be treated with antibiotics, but many people recover on their own. "The majority of leptospirosis cases is a mild, subclinical disease with no complications," Deseda said. "But one out of 10 people who have leptospirosis develop severe illness." In the 1st stage of leptospirosis, symptoms vary widely from fever and headache to red eyes and rashes. Some people may have no symptoms at all. But a small number will develop dire complications: meningitis, kidney and liver damage, bleeding in the lungs and even death.

Doctors are required to report any potential leptospirosis cases to health authorities, Deseda said. Those cases must then be tested to confirm the bacteria, since the symptoms can be difficult to tell apart from other illnesses. After that, health officials may look for patterns or clusters and determine whether there is an outbreak.

The lab tests on the suspected cases have been sent to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Deseda said. The turnaround time is about 5-6 days.

Doctors on the island have expressed concerns about burgeoning health crises amid hospitals that are overwhelmed, undersupplied and sometimes burning hot. Influenza is another concern on the horizon, Deseda said. Drinking water is also hard to come by on many parts of the island.

Dr. Raul Hernandez, an internist in San Juan, told CNN that people were drinking water from whatever sources they could find, such as rivers and creeks. If that water contains urine from a [leptospirosis-infected rat], those people will be at risk, he said.

Deseda said people should be discouraged from walking barefoot, drinking or swimming in potentially leptospirosis-contaminated waters.

"These diseases are everywhere, and there's a way to prevent them," she said.
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[Leptospirosis is a zoonotic, spirochetal infection that occurs worldwide and is transmitted to humans by exposure to soil or fresh water contaminated with the urine of wild and domestic animals (including dogs, cattle, swine, and especially rodents) that are chronically infected with pathogenic _Leptospira_. _Leptospira_ may survive in contaminated fresh water or moist soil for weeks to months. Outbreaks of leptospirosis frequently follow heavy rainfall, flooding with fresh water, and increasing rodent numbers.

Parts of Puerto Rico saw more than 30 inches of rain and consequent flooding with recent Hurricane Maria. A map showing the estimated rainfall across Puerto Rico with this hurricane is available at <https://twitter.com/NWSSanJuan/status/910983698597777409/photo/1?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw&ref_url>.

With continued absence of potable water, inadequate sanitation, and flooding in the streets for a large proportion of the population in Puerto Rico, food- and water-borne diseases, like leptospirosis, will be a major problem. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Thu, 19 Oct 2017 16:37:27 +0200
By Ricardo ARDUENGO, con Nelson DEL CASTILLO en San Juan y Leila MACOR en Miami

Utuado, Puerto Rico, Oct 19, 2017 (AFP) - It's been a month since Hurricane Maria ripped through Puerto Rico and Samuel de Jesus still can't drive out of his isolated, blacked-out town.   In fact, much of the US territory in the Caribbean is still a crippled mess four weeks after that fierce Category Four storm.

The bridge connecting Rio Abajo to the rest of the island was swept away when Maria slammed the island on September 20. For two weeks Rio Abajo, located in a mountainous region in central-western Puerto Rico, was cut off and forgotten, without power or phone service.   "We didn't know what to do. We were literally going crazy," said de Jesus, 35.   "Those were difficult, desperate days. We could not find a way out, and the hurricane caused extensive damage," he told AFP.

During the two long weeks following Maria, the 27 families living in Rio Abajo saw their supplies quickly deplete.   De Jesus, who has diabetes, needed to keep his insulin refrigerated. The storm blew away the island's already decrepit power grid, so people resorted to emergency generators.   "But I was running out of gasoline to run the generator," he said.   A helicopter now makes regular deliveries of food, water and medicine because with the bridge washed out, there is no other way in or out of town.

People can't wade across the river because it is contaminated with human waste after a pipe broke when the bridge went.   Some brave souls use a precarious ladder rigged to get across the water, but for most people it is too dangerous.   We need a bridge "to take out our vehicles and leave in case of emergency, or if there is a landslide," he said.   Where the bridge once stood, residents set up a system of ropes, pulleys and buckets to move supplies over the river, which has been contaminated with sewer water since the hurricane.   Over the remains of the bridge locals hung the single-star, red, white and blue flag of Puerto Rico and a sign that reads "the campsite of the forgotten."

- Desperate need for electricity -
Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello visited the surrounding municipality of Utuado on Wednesday to deliver supplies, but he did not stop in Rio Abajo.   "Utuado is certainly one of the most severely affected municipalities in all of Puerto Rico," Rossello said.   "Our commitment is to give it support and aid during the whole road to recovery."   Eighty-one percent of Puerto Rico remains blacked out one month after Maria struck. Clean water for drinking, cooking and bathing is scarce, too.

Puerto Ricans' main obstacle to getting back to some semblance of normality is the slowness of the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority in getting the power grid back up and running.   The lack of power has paralyzed a key industry -- pharmaceutical production -- and most businesses including restaurants are closed or operating at great cost through the use of diesel powered generators.

This nightmare comes about a year after the US government established an external fiscal control board for the island after it declared bankruptcy because of 73 billion dollars in debt.   Economist Joaquin Villamil told AFP that damage from Hurricane Maria is estimated at 20 billion dollars -- four times that of Hurricane Georges in 1998, when measured in 2016 dollars.

Villamil said reconstruction money provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and from insurance companies will have a positive impact on the island's economy in the second half of fiscal 2018 and in fiscal 2019, but this boost will just be temporary.   "From an economic point of view there is not much net gain," said Villamil, who works for a consulting firm called Estudios Tecnicos.   He said the economy has been shrinking since 2006 and Maria will delay any prospect of recovery.   It will take at least until 2026 to get back to the GDP level of 2006, he added.

Making things worse, people are leaving the island for the mainland US. Forecasts are that the population now at 3.4 million will go down to 3.1 million or even less by 2026, said Villamil.   The government of Florida estimates that since October 3 -- the day a state of emergency to deal with an influx of Puerto Ricans was declared -- more than 36,000 people from the island have poured in.
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Swaziland

Swaziland US Consular Information Sheet
February 10, 2009
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Swaziland is a small developing nation in Southern Africa.
Several well-developed facilities for tourism are available.
The capital is Mbabane.
R
ad the Department of State Background Notes on Swaziland for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required.
Visas are not required for tourists and business travelers arriving in Swaziland for short visits (less than 60 days) on standard U.S. passports.
Most travelers visiting Swaziland enter through South Africa.

PLEASE NOTE:
All travelers traveling to South Africa are strongly encouraged to have several unstamped visa pages left in their passports. South Africa requires two unstamped visa pages, excluding amendment pages, to enter the country. Visitors who do not have enough free visa pages in their passport risk being denied entry and returned to the U.S. at their own expense.

For the most current information on Swaziland’s visa requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland, 1712 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009; phone (202) 234-5002.

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:
Public protests, demonstrations, and strikes occur from time to time in Swaziland and are mostly in response to on-going labor relations/difficulties.
When a strike is pending, armed soldiers may be called to augment the police force, and they have used force to disrupt such events.
During the course of such events, police may not distinguish between “innocent bystanders” and protesters.
Americans should avoid crowds, political rallies and street demonstrations.
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, 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:
Violent crime is a concern and is the most significant threat to American citizens visiting or working in Swaziland.
Incidents of petty crime and occasionally violent crime are most prevalent in Mbabane, the capital city, and Manzini, Swaziland’s urban industrial center, but also affect most other urban and rural areas.
Criminals will resort to force if necessary, including deadly force, in order to accomplish their goal.
Gangs are not deterred by confrontations with their intended victims.
Carjacking occurs and, as with other crimes, can be potentially violent if victims do not immediately cooperate.

Congested dark urban areas are particularly dangerous at night and daytime attacks are not uncommon.
The presence of others on the street should not be misinterpreted as an indication of security.
Many victims report being robbed in the presence of large numbers of witnesses.
Pedestrians are cautioned not to wear jewelry or carry expensive or unnecessary valuables in public.
American citizens are also advised against displaying cell phones and large sums of cash, as they are targets for thieves.
Money should only be converted at authorized currency exchanges and never with street vendors.
Exercise caution with using local taxis.
Ensure the taxi you use is from a reputable company.
Never enter a taxi that is occupied by anyone else besides the driver.
It is good practice to call a friend to let them know the plate number of the taxi you are using.
Crime tends to increase during the holiday season from December to January.
Crime victims should immediately report the incident to the nearest police station.
If there is an emergency, the police can be contacted by dialing 999.

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, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Swaziland is 999.
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 in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Swazi laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Swazi 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: Swaziland does not have any unusual customs/currency regulations nor any visa registration requirements.
It is illegal to photograph Swaziland’s government buildings, members of the Swazi armed forces, royal residences and official ceremonies without prior permission from government authorities. Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities are limited throughout Swaziland and emergency medical response capabilities (including ambulance transport) are almost non-existent.
Although the Mbabane Clinic in the capital is small and currently undergoing building renovations, it is well equipped and well staffed for minor procedures. For advanced care, Americans often choose to go to South Africa where better facilities and specialists exist.
Most prescription drugs are available locally or can be imported from South Africa, but travelers are advised to bring sufficient quantities of their own required medication.
A doctor’s note describing the medication may be helpful if questioned by authorities.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Swaziland.
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.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.
Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Swaziland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic accidents in Swaziland may pose an even greater hazard than crime.
Visitors should use extreme caution when driving, given the relatively high rates of speed of drivers on major thoroughfares.
Other hazards include poor lighting and traffic signals; presence of pedestrians, animals, and slower moving vehicles; aggressive driving behavior; and erratic stopping for pedestrian and animals.
Traffic drives on the left in Swaziland, which requires U.S. drivers to exercise particular caution.
Special care should be used in driving at night and in fog, especially in rural areas.
Rural and suburban areas are poorly lit and pose additional safety hazards as pedestrians and animals cross the road.
Many vehicles are poorly maintained and lack headlights.
Extreme caution is recommended if/when using mini-bus taxis, which follow fixed routes and are flagged down by passengers almost everywhere on the streets and roads of Swaziland.
Many of these vehicles fail to meet minimal safety standards.
Drivers frequently overload the vehicles and travel at excessive speeds.
Fatal accidents involving these conveyances are very common.
The Royal Swaziland Police Service set up periodic road blocks and also uses radar to monitor your speed.
Respect the local laws.
If you are pulled over for a moving violation you will be responsible for the consequences.
Always drive with your driver’s license.
Failure to do so will result in a fine.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of the country’s national authority responsible for road safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Swaziland’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Swaziland’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA 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:
Americans living or traveling in Swaziland are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Swaziland.
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 in the Central Bank Building on Mahlokohla Street in the capital city of Mbabane.
The mailing address is Box 199, Mbabane, Swaziland.
The telephone number is (268) 404-6441/5; fax (268) 404-5959. For after-hours emergencies involving American citizens, please dial 268-602-8414.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Swaziland dated August 6, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2017 12:55:52 +0200

Paris, July 24, 2017 (AFP) - Swaziland, which bears the world's heaviest HIV burden, has halved the rate of new infections in five years by boosting access to virus-suppressing drugs, researchers said Monday.   The country where about one in three adults are infected with the AIDS-causing virus, has vastly expanded public programmes to test people for HIV infection and put them on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment (ART).   "Since 2011, national HIV incidence in Swaziland dropped by almost half," a research team led by Velephi Okello of the Swazi health ministry said in a written presentation to an HIV science conference in Paris.   Incidence is the word used by epidemiologists for the rate of new infections in a population.   "Sustaining these achievements will be paramount to Swaziland's success in curbing its severe HIV epidemic," said the researchers.   In 2011, 31 percent of adults (aged 18-49) out of a total country population of just over 1.2 million, were infected with HIV, according to government data.   This made Swaziland the country with the highest national rate of new infections, said the authors of the new study, as well as the highest proportion of people living with HIV.

The latest data, based on blood tests from about 11,000 people aged 15 and over, showed that 27 percent were HIV-positive in 2016.   This translated to an infection rate of 1.39 percent among 18- to 49-year-olds, down from 2.58 percent in 2011 -- a 46-percent reduction.   "Incidence was higher among women than in men," said the report to the International AIDS Society conference. The decline was also steeper for men at 52 percent than for women at 40 percent.   The survey showed that 73 percent of people on ART had achieved suppression of the virus, compared to 35 percent in 2011.   ART not only stops HIV from replicating and attacking a patient's immune system, but also curbs its spread to sexual partners.   The gains were the fruit of a much improved HIV treatment programme, said the researchers.   The number of HIV tests conducted in Swaziland more than doubled from 176,000 in 2011 to 367,000 in 2016, and the share of infected people on ART rose from 37 percent to 74 percent.
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2016 19:48:51 +0200

Mbabane, Swaziland, Aug 11, 2016 (AFP) - Drought-stricken Swaziland Thursday said it would begin sever water rationing in the capital Mbabane after levels in the main dam supplying the city fell to a critical low.   Swaziland Water Services Corporation (SWSC) said the restrictions would begin on Friday and probably last until the arrival of summer rains expected around October.

Under the measure, there will be no mains water for four days a week. Residents will collect water from mobile tanks instead.   "This is because of the dire drought situation which has decreased water levels at the Hawane Dam," said SWSC spokeswoman Nomahlubi Matiwane.   She said water levels in the dam had dropped from 15 percent of capacity in the last few weeks to just nine percent.

Swaziland is one of a number of countries in southern Africa that have been badly hit by El Nino -- a weather phenomenon that is centred on the countries in the Pacific but can affect other regions as well.   In February, dry conditions gripping the agricultural sector prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.   Water resources in the impoverished country of 1.2 million people have more than halved, contributing to higher food prices and poor crops.   Last month aid organisations estimated that El Nino had affected 12.3 million people across southern Africa.
Date: Sat 1 Dec 2012
Source: Observer.org (Swaziland) [edited]

A rabies outbreak has been reported in the Manzini region almost 2 months after dogs were vaccinated countrywide.  The most affected areas are Ludzeludze, Ngabezweni and Dwaleni Power Station, and the outbreak is so bad that the ministry of agriculture has decided to revaccinate canines.

The outbreak was 1st spotted at Ngabezweni when a dog from a legislator's family, a Dlamini, went berserk, chasing after people and barking at its shadow.

Because the dog was a nuisance to the community, they decided to team up against it and stoned it to death then called for veterinary assistance from Ludzeludze Rural Development Area (RDA), who took it for tests.

A few days later, another report was received from Dwaleni (Power) about a troublesome dog, whereby veterinary officers took it for tests. "The dogs tested positive to rabies, and it was then that we resolved to undertake the revaccination exercise. Our investigations also revealed that owners of both dogs did not vaccinate them when the ministry conducted the exercise in September [2012?]. One wonders why people fail to vaccinate their dogs when called to do so, because it is free," said a source from the ministry of agriculture.

It was then gathered that the revaccinating exercise began on Monday [26 Nov 2012], and areas within a radius of 7 km also have to be visited, where all the dogs will be revaccinated.

The source revealed that one of the major challenges that might compromise the revaccinating exercise was the shortage of chemicals [vaccines?].

Reached for comment, Director of Veterinary Services Dr Xolani Dlamini said he was not aware of the matter and had to investigate it further.  [Byline: Faith Vilakati]
======================
[As with the entire African continent, animal rabies is endemic in Swaziland, mainly involving dogs. According to Swaziland's annual OIE reports, the number of cases in dogs for 2011 was 26 and for humans 38 (rate per 100 000 population = 3.2371). For comparison: India, generally regarded to rank high among rabies-stricken countries, reported 162 human cases (0.015 per 100,000) during 2010 (most recent available quantitative information).

During 2011, 60 868 dogs have reportedly been vaccinated in Swaziland. - ProMed Mod.AS]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/r/3psa>.]
Date: Wed 12 Sep 2012
Source: Observer (Swaziland) [summarised, edited]

In an interview with Swazi TV on Monday [10 Sep 2012], many residents said their cows had been dying in the past few days, but they had no idea what was killing them. The Mbelebeleni area in the Manzini region was one of the affected areas where the mystery disease killed about 25 cows.

Minister Clement Dlamini confirmed yesterday [11 Sep 2012] that a mysterious disease was killing cows nationwide. The ministry was currently not in a position to state what kind of disease was killing the cattle. He said the ministry was currently engaged in investigations following many reports that have been received.

He said the ministry had since conducted a postmortem of the dead animals, after which a report would be compiled, and thereafter advice would be given to cattle owners as to what to do next.

Dlamini said that for now, the facts would be known only after the postmortem report had been finalised. He said all regions of the country had been affected.  [Byline: Winile Masinga]
======================
[In the absence of any details on the affected population, clinical signs and denominator, a plausible list of candidate suspected etiologies, infectious or otherwise, cannot be suggested. Postmortem findings and results of laboratory tests will be appreciated. - ProMed Mod.AS]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/r/3psa>.]
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2012 04:07:14 +0200 (METDST)
by Johannes Myburgh

MBABANE, July 29, 2012 (AFP) - In the geography class at St Mark's High School, boys play chess on a board scratched onto a workbench in one corner, while in another a girl knits a scarf while her friends gossip. Swazi teachers have been on strike for more than a month, but so far their abandoned classrooms are the only tangible result of a movement that wants not just salary increases but democratic reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy. "Our ultimate goal is democracy," said Sibongile Mazibuko, president of the  Swaziland National Association of Teachers, who see King Mswati III as the country's biggest problem. "He creates the poverty himself." Teachers went on strike on June 22 demanding a 4.5 percent salary increase. Other public servants joined briefly, but the movement is stuttering after nurses returned to work on Tuesday following a court interdict.

Sporadic protests have drawn hundreds into the streets, where police greet them with rubber bullets, water cannons and batons. Now most teachers go to school only to sign attendance registers, but still don't teach. Police have arrested 41 teachers, and the union has spent almost 150,000 emalangeni ($18,000, 15,000 euros) on legal fees, Mazibuko said. "The protests have become unsustainable. We are looking at stayaways, picketing on the premises," she said. Their financial demands are modest -- they want a 4.5 percent raise, while inflation is around nine percent. It's their political demands that roil the palace, which like to paint a picture of traditional mountain kingdom where the monarch is revered by his subjects. That image has faded as pro-democracy protests mushroomed over the past year, sparked by a crippling financial crisis.

The International Monetary Fund has urged the government to slash its public wage bill as the economy stagnates, but has pulled its team from the country after the kingdom made no progress on reforms. Striking teachers have had their salaries slashed as authorities retaliate against the strikes, receiving as little as 30 emalangeni for their last paycheck. Some were handed dismissal letters and threatened with jail for contempt of court if they didn't report to work, said government spokesman Percy Simelane. "Even if money could come now it would be very difficult to increase salaries," he told AFP. "We need to adhere to this advice or sink."

Teachers point to a 30 percent increase lawmakers awarded themselves in 2010. "If you've paid yourself so much, why can't you pay them?" asked Mazibuko. "The politicians' kids are outside the country. The king's children are outside the country." "They will not invest in educating kids for the poor," she said. Public servants also blame the lavish lifestyle of Mswati and his 13 wives. Forbes magazine rates him as among the world's 15 richest royals, keeping each wife in her own palace. This week opposition groups claimed three of the queens and an entourage of 66 would travel to Las Vegas for a holiday. The lawmakers' big paychecks "could be contributing towards the hefty salary bill that we have," Simelane said. "If it is not (withdrawn) amid the outcry... discontent will be very rife."

But he insisted democratic reforms were not necessary. "We are one of the most democratic societies in the region," he said."The king loves his people. I don't think he can create conditions where people go hungry," he said. About 60 percent of the tiny country's 1.1 million people live on less than $2 a day. The UN World Food Programme says one-fifth of the country experienced food shortages this year. Simelane also justified police violence against protesters. "In most cases provocation of some kind came out," he said. "We have one of the most disciplined police forces in the region." "They normally don't shoot to kill."

Life in Swaziland continues despite the school groundings, the tiny country's troubles far from the international spotlight. Other government workers are also demanding raises, but generally are not downing tools. But Mazibuko is adamant that growing awareness will see her movement succeed. "Little by little people are seeing the light," she said.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 15:37:17 +0200
By Julie Pacorel

Marseille, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - France's second city and key tourist hub Marseille has enforced temporary swimming bans on several beaches amid pollution concerns, disappointing locals and tourists hoping to take a dip as temperatures soar.   Seven of the city's 21 beaches have raised a purple flag -- which means no bathing -- since the start of the month, on days when hygiene inspections revealed high levels of faecal matter.   Marseille is a tourist hotspot, attracting five million visitors per year thanks to its Mediterranean coastline and sun-kissed climate.

But the city, France's largest port, struggles with pollution from industry and shipping.   "It's mostly caused by sanitation problems, but there are also increasing numbers of boats spewing out their grey and black waste before they enter the port," said Sarah Hatimi, head of the water quality programme at Surfrider Foundation Europe environmental group.   Swimming bans are nothing new in Marseille. Last year, authorities enforced 153 bans amid fears of a pollution spike after heavy rainfall.   "This year, we can't say it's because of the rain," Monique Daubet, local councillor responsible for public health, said, adding that spillages from swimming pools and "lots of animal faeces" are part of the problem.   But the city is "proactive", she said, going "even further" than weekly water inspections imposed by a European law to "pay for our own analysis to protect swimmers".

Every morning, inspectors take water samples from each of the city's beaches to test for E. coli and enterococci bacteria, which indicate human or animal defecation.   A laboratory can reveal test results the same morning, whereas the previous weekly tests "arrived far too late, two or three days later," Daubet said.   Despite efforts, Marseille authorities aren't hopeful they can secure a "blue flag" stamp of approval for beach hygiene.   "Our water quality doesn't meet the criteria, which includes, for example, keeping bins at least 100 metres away from the beach".   "Nobody is forcing us to do this," she said. "Rather than complaining, people should be grateful we're closing the beaches!"
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 10:37:11 +0200
By Elizabeth Vuvu

Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Papua New Guinea's volatile Ulawun volcano -- designated one of the world's most hazardous -- erupted Wednesday, spewing lava high in the air and sending residents fleeing.   A pilot for Niugini Helicopters flying near the crater witnessed a column of lava spurting vertically into the equatorial sky, along with ash that has been belching since early morning.   Ulawun, on the remote Bismarck Archipelago chain, is listed as one of 16 "Decade Volcanoes" targeted for research because they pose a significant risk of large, violent eruptions.   Witnesses said lava had cut off the main highway in north of the island.   "The volcanic activity at Mt Ulawun began at 7:00 am this morning after slight rumbling and light emission," Leo Porikura, an official with the West New Britain Disaster Office, told AFP earlier.   "The Rabaul Volcano Observatory has declared a stage one alert warning of a possible eruption."

Witnesses had reported ash spewing out of the 2,334 metre (7,657 foot) summit, sending trails spanning high overhead.    "The sky has turned black," said Kingsly Quou, manager of the nearby Mavo Estates palm plantation.   Quou said that villagers living at the base of the volcano had already been evacuated and he and his colleagues were gathering their belongings.   Japanese satellite imagery and sources on the ground had shown sulphur dioxide and now volcanic ash drifting from the crater.   Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said the ash reached more than 13 kilometres (44,000 feet) into the air.   The bureau's Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a "red" warning to airlines, indicating the eruption was imminent, although there is not believed to be an immediate threat for flight routes.   Thousands of people live in the shadow of Ulawun, despite it being one of the most active volcanoes in the country.

Porikura said people living in the vicinity of the volcano had been instructed to move away to safer areas and a disaster team had been dispatched.   "The disaster team will liaise with the local community, local businesses and local level government authorities to prepare for a possible eruption," he said.   "Three crucial priority areas being addressed include transport plan, care centre preparations and getting the communities in the high-risk areas to prepare for an evacuation," Porikura said.   The nearby Rabaul Volcano Observatory said emissions from the volcano were getting darker, indicating a higher ash content -- which can cause breathing problems, eye irritation and skin irritation because of the high acid content.   A team of experts had visited earlier this month and reported the volcano was "quiet" adding "there is no indication of any change in its state of unrest."   The ash emissions had been proceeded by an increase in seismic activity, Porikura said.
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 10:01:43 +0200

San José, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - A 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Panama-Costa Rica border around midnight on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, revising earlier warnings of "significant damage", as the tremor cut power supplies near the epicentre.   The quake struck at a depth of 26 kilometres (16 miles), about two kilometres from the nearest town of Progreso in Panama, USGS said, updating a previous alert that estimated the depth at 10 kilometres.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, and USGS said "the impact should be relatively localized", reversing an earlier advisory that "past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response."   "Estimated economic losses are less than 1 percent of GDP of Panama," the website said.   According to the National Seismological Network (RSN) in Costa Rica, the quake struck at 0523 GMT Wednesday (11.23 pm Tuesday) with its epicentre located 11 kilometres east of the Panamanian border town of Puerto Armuelles.

The tremor was felt in Costa Rica's capital San Jose and in many parts of the Central American country, according to initial reports, but the national tsunami warning system said there was no risk of a tsunami.   Villagers in the south of Costa Rica fled their homes, fearing aftershocks. Two houses in the region were damaged by the quake, said Alexander Solis, president of the country's National Emergency Commission.

Costa Rica's President Carlos Alvarado said there were power cuts in several communities in the southwest of the country, near the epicentre.   In November 2017 a 6.5-magnitude quake on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica caused buildings to sway in San Jose and contributed to the deaths of two people who had heart attacks.   Further north, two months earlier a 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people in Mexico.
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 03:43:29 +0200
By Béatrice DEBUT

eMalahleni, South Africa, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Tumelo has again lost several days at school because of sickness.   "My eyes are burning. Sometimes I can't breathe," she coughs.   "The doc said there is nothing we can do," says her mother Nono Ledwaba. "We need to take her out of eMalahleni. When she goes to her grandma in Mafikeng, the symptoms disappear."

The 14-year-old lives in house number 3094 of eMpumelelweni township in eMalahleni, part of the Highveld region turned over to mines and power plants that, according to activists, are killing local people.   Her neighbour in 3095, Lifa Pelican, has similar symptoms, which badly set back his schooling. At 25, he never moves without his inhaler, even inside his chilly home with rough-hewn walls.   "If I don't have it with me, sometimes I can't breathe. Sometimes I feel I am going to die," he says.   "These mines get a lot of money and we suffer. There's solar power. We don't need to use these coal plants."   Green energy such as solar and wind power account for less than two percent of electricity production in South Africa, while coal still provides 86 percent.

Lifa's breathing troubles began after he moved to eMalahleni, at the mercy of gritty coal dust and thick whitish smoke of electricity power stations burning fuel day and night.   Relief comes when he visits his father in Nelspruit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, trips that feel like a new lease on life. "I don't use the inhaler."   Tumelo's own troubles began when the family moved to eMalahleni in 2007, when she was a toddler.   The trips to Mafikeng are literally a breath of fresh air -- her grandmother's home is 400 kms from the mines.   "The only solution is to close down the plants, but will this happen?" Ledwaba asks.   eMalahleni, which means "the place of coal", is among the worst places in the world for pollution by nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, according to Greenpeace.

- 'Deadly pollution levels' -
South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development -- a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced.   But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high.   Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits.   They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery.   Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016, say the two NGOs.   They have initiated a suit against the government for "violation of the constitutional right to clean air" -- a legal first in South Africa, the leading industrial power on the continent.

The NGOs contend that the government has failed to reduce deadly pollution levels in the area, just an hour and a half's drive from Johannesburg.   "It has evolved into a public health crisis," says Tim Lloyd, lawyer for groundWork and Vukani.   "The cost of the air pollution to our economy each year is around 35 billion rand (1.8 billion euros, $2 billion)."   In response to the accusations, an environment ministry spokesman told AFP that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions have "shown improvements across all the five monitoring stations" in the worst-affected region of the Highveld.   Criticism by environmental groups "fails to recognise these improvements', the ministry stated, declining to give further details about the data.   "The reality is that the desired improvements will not happen over a short period of time," it said.   Eskom admitted the area's pollution problem "requires urgent attention", adding that domestic coal burning, traffic and mining dust were also to blame.

- 'The life of my kids' -
"When people from other provinces come, they start getting sick with respiratory issues," says Alexis Mashifane, a doctor with a busy practice in Middelberg, 30 kms from eMalahleni.   "When they leave this area, some of them get better."   But many have no choice, saying they are stuck in the toxic region for economic reasons.   "I wish to move away because this place is not right," says Mbali Mathebula, a single mother who is raising a small daughter and a baby girl, both suffering from asthma. "I don't have money to buy a house".

In Mathebula's home at the foot of the Schonland coal mine, five-year-old Princess plays with the useless mask given to her mother at hospital.   Mathebula, a supermarket employee, could not afford a 70-euro ($80) oxygen machine to attach to the mask.   If a child has an asthma attack in the night, Mathebula says she has to wait until the morning and then go to hospital. "Sometimes I don't have money to go there. I must borrow."   Her neighbour Cebile Faith Mkhwanazi has to cope with her three-year-old daughter's asthma attacks.   "I'm thinking of taking them to my mother," she adds, broken-hearted. "So that they stay there forever for their health."
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2019 17:57:30 +0200
By Clare BYRNE

Paris, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - As Europe sizzled Tuesday at the start of a heatwave tipped to break records, drivers on Germany's famously speedy motorways were ordered to slow down and fans at the women's World Cup were showered in health warnings.

Meteorologists blamed a blast of torrid air from the Sahara for the unusually early summer heatwave, which could send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some places on Thursday and Friday.   Experts say such heatwaves early in the summer are likely to be more frequent as the planet heats up -- a phenomenon that scientists have shown to be driven by human use of fossil fuels.

In Germany, where forecasters have warned a June record of 38.5 degrees could be smashed, speed restrictions were placed on some stretches of "autobahns" as the unusually warm weather raised the risks of "blow-ups" -- the hot tarmac breaking up and shredding tyres.   A forest fire was raging north of Cottbus, the second-largest city in Brandenburg state, in an area that was just recovering from a fire in 2018.   It was deemed especially dangerous due to the risk of unexploded ammunition left in the area, which is home to a military training facility.

- 'Hell is coming' -
In Spain, TV weather presenter Silvia Laplana riffed on the doom-filled catchphrase "Winter is coming" from the blockbuster series Game of Thrones to describe what lay in store for the country.   "El infierno (hell) is coming," she tweeted alongside a weather map which showed most of the country coloured scarlet later in the week.   "Of course it's hot in summer but when you have a heatwave that is so extensive and intense, during which records are forecast to be beaten, it's NOT normal," she tweeted.   Temperatures are expected to be particularly sweltering in the northeast of Spain, with a stifling 45 degrees expected Friday in the city of Girona, and 44 degrees in Zaragoza at the weekend.   Five northern provinces were placed on an orange high alert for a heatwave on Wednesday, with another five to be added by the weekend.

- 'Overdoing' the warnings? -
Authorities were also taking no chances in France, where a heatwave in August 2003 was blamed for 15,000 deaths, many of them elderly people who were left to fend for themselves.   In a highly unusual move, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer on Monday postponed national school exams to next week. Paris authorities have banned older models of diesel and petrol cars from Paris on Wednesday, fearing a build-up of pollution.   Health Minister Agnes Buzyn denied the government was being excessively vigilant.   "For all those who know (the risks), obviously it's too much, but if I can avoid unnecessary deaths, I will continue to communicate about prevention," Buzyn told LCI television, referring to the warnings on radio, TV and public transport.

The Red Cross meanwhile urged people to check on vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends, saying the "coming days will be challenging for a lot of people, but especially older people, young children, and people with underlying illnesses or limited mobility."   Players and spectators at the women's football World Cup taking place in cities around France were also being inundated with messages about keeping hydrated.   In a rare gesture by FIFA on Monday evening, fans were allowed to bring their own bottles of water into the Paris stadium where Sweden took on Canada.   Phil Neville, the England coach, was sanguine about the impact of the weather on the tournament, however.   "There's no excuse, the players are ready for it."

Meanwhile, French beekeepers and farming groups said they were bracing for a "catastrophic" honey harvest this year after frost damage in winter, an unusually rainy spring, and, now, unusually high temperatures.   "In the hives, there is nothing to eat, beekeepers are having to feed them with syrup because they risk dying from hunger," added the union, which represents many small farms in honey-producing regions.   In the Baltic region of northeast Europe, crowds have flocked to lakes and rivers to cool down, leading to a spike in drownings.    Twenty-seven people were reporte to have drowned so far in Lithuania where the temperature soared to an unusual high of 35.7 degrees Celsius.
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2019 15:49:33 +0200

The Hague, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - Dutch health authorities said Tuesday they are dealing with a measles outbreak in a devout Protestant fishing village where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country.   Nine children and one adult have been diagnosed with the disease in the village of Urk, part of the so-called "Bible Belt" in the northern Netherlands, the Flevoland province health service said.

The health service said it was "actively monitoring the situation" and examining whether it was necessary to vaccinate or administer antibodies to people who have been in contact with the infected patients.   "In 2013 and previously, the disease occurred more often on Urk. Many people on Urk have experienced this disease and that means that a natural defence has built up," it said.   Only 61.1 percent of people are vaccinated against measles in Urk, one of the lowest rates in the Netherlands, where the national average is 92.9 percent, according to the National Public Health and Environment Institute.

Urk is regarded as one of the most devout of the villages in the "Bible Belt" of conservative Protestant communities running from Zeeland in the south of the Netherlands across the country to the north west.   Ninety-four percent of people in Urk regularly go to church, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, compared to one in six of all Dutch people.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf said that in this devout community of Urk people believe that life and death are in God's hands, and so vaccinations are not permitted.   Urk is considered a "closed' community because of its fisheries culture and Protestant orthodox religion," a European Commission report from 2010 said.

The UN warned in April of a global resurgence of measles -- a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal -- amid a growing "anti-vax" movement worldwide.   The WHO says cases of the once all-but-eradicated disease surged 300 percent in 2018 across the globe.   The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the United States, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of claims that the jab could cause autism, which medical officials have found are baseless.
Date: Thu 13 Jun 2019
Source: I Am Expat [edited]
<https://www.iamexpat.de/expat-info/german-expat-news/giant-tropical-ticks-overwinter-germany-first-time>

Normally, the tropical tick species _Hyalomma [marginatum_] only arrives in Germany with the 1st wave of migratory birds. However, experts believe that this year [2019] the disease-carrying giant ticks have spent the winter here for the 1st time ever. The tropical tick species _Hyalomma_ is not native to Germany and was detected in the federal republic for the 1st time in 2017. The ticks only began to appear in large numbers last year [2018], when a total of 19 specimens were found in 8 of Germany's federal states.

This year [2019], however, discoveries of the ticks were reported unusually early, leading researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and the Munich Institute for Microbiology to conclude that the newly-arrived tropical tick species overwintered in Germany for the 1st time this year [2019]. Over the past few days, 6 of the spidery ticks have been discovered in Germany: 5 on a horse farm in the Lower Rhine and one on a horse in Lower Saxony. "After the 1st evidence of this year [2019], we must assume that these animals can winter in Germany," said Ute Mackenstedt, a parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim.

Accordingly, the ticks are "a significant step further towards establishing themselves here." The _Hyalomma_ tick is native to the dry and semi-arid areas of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. It is distinctive for its long, spidery, striped legs and large body, and can grow up to 2 centimetres [about 0.8 in] in length, 2-3 times larger than their closest European relatives. Usually, the adult _Hyalomma_ ticks stick to sucking the blood of large animals, but they have been known to transfer themselves to human hosts too.

The major factor that distinguishes them from Germany's native tick population is the fact that they are able to actively sense, track, and hunt their warm-blooded hosts over dozens of meters. _Hyalomma_ ticks are also considered a major carrier of a dangerous virus that can cause Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever -- the most widespread viral disease carried by ticks. Currently, there is no vaccine for this, and 10 to 40 percent of cases are fatal.

However, at the moment there is no cause for alarm: none of the tick specimens that were discovered last year [2018] were found to be carrying infectious agents. The size of the ticks means that they are also easier for humans to detect and remove. Moreover, the early appearance of the ticks does not necessarily mean that they have already become native to [established in] Germany. For a significant population to develop, males and females would have to find each other. That can be a tall order when the population is still relatively small. Even if they did find each other, the unhatched larvae would have to rely on an animal host, such as a bird or hare, to develop. [Byline: Aby Carter]
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[Although there may not be immediate concern about _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks posing a human or animal health danger in Germany, if they have truly become established there and their numbers increase, there is a risk of transmission of pathogens such as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, as occurred in Spain, or spotted fever rickettsia such as _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ that has been found in these ticks in Germany.

The only documented _Hyalomma_ spp. tick in Germany was found on a human in the southern part of the country (Lake Constance area) in May 2006, but the possibility of tick transportation from Spain was not ruled out (1,2). The authors state that it is reasonable to suggest that the _Hyalomma_ spp. ticks that were examined had been transported by the birds from Africa.

The fact that a randomly caught bird was infested with _R. aeschlimannii_­-infected ticks is suggestive of the intensive stream of new pathogens transported through Europe by migrating birds

References
----------
1. Rumer L, Graser E, Hillebrand T, et al. _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ in _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks, Germany [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011; 17(2): 325-6; <https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1702.100308>.
2. Kampen H, Poltz W, Hartelt K, et al. Detection of a questing _Hyalomma marginatum marginatum_ adult female (Acari, Ixodidae) in southern Germany. Exp Appl Acarol. 2007; 43(3): 227-31 <https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-007-9113-y>.

A map of the known distribution of _Hyalomma marginatum_ as of 2018 can be accessed at
<https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/hyalomma-marginatum-current-known-distribution-january-2018>.

An image of _Hyalomma marginatum_ can be accessed at the source URL above. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Germany:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/101>]
Date: Mon 24 Jun 2019
Source: ABC News [edited]

India's Supreme Court on Mon 24 Jun 2019 directed state and national authorities to file reports to the court on an encephalitis outbreak in the eastern state of Bihar this month [June 2019] in which 152 children have died.

A senior health department official in Bihar, Sanjay Kumar, said the epidemic is showing signs of slowing with no new deaths on Monday [24 Jun 2019]. The fatalities have occurred in 20 of the state's 38 districts.

The outbreak has been exacerbated by a heatwave, with temperatures in Patna, Bihar's capital, reaching a high of 45.8 C (114.5 F).

"We're hoping with the onset of the monsoon, the epidemic will ease further," Kumar said.

More than 700 cases of encephalitis have been registered since the outbreak began on 1 Jun [2019], officials said. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the illness, which can cause swelling of the brain, fever, and vomiting.

The Supreme Court was responding to a petition filed by a lawyer. "The deaths of children are a direct result of negligence and inaction" on part of authorities, said Manohar Pratap, the petitioner.

The court expressed concern over the deaths and asked the governments to respond within 7 days with details on medical facilities, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the state.

Thousands of Indians suffer from encephalitis, malaria, typhoid and other mosquito-borne diseases each year during the summer monsoon season.

India's central government has sent medical experts to Bihar to help doctors treat the patients.

The Bihar authorities have been sharply criticized because patients were sharing beds in crowded hospital wards with too few doctors. The families who could afford it transferred their children to private hospitals in Patna and other larger cities.

The Press Trust of India news agency on Mon 24 Jun 2019 reported that about 6000 deaths from encephalitis occurred in India between 2008 and 2014.
======================
[The number of cases has increased rapidly from 142 on 22 Jun 2019, to 152 in 2 days in the report above. However, the number of fatal cases reported last week varied widely, from 142 to 1349 (see Japanese encephalitis & other - India (07): (BR) http://promedmail.org/post/20190623.6534477).

One hopes that the assessment of the situation as slowing is accurate. There is no indication in the above report of the etiological agent(s) involved in these cases. Japanese encephalitis is one possibility. The majority of cases have been classified as acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). AES has continued to be attributed to a variety of etiologies, including Reye syndrome-like disease, possible enterovirus infection from polluted water, heatstroke, lychee fruit consumption (especially in recent reports), and scrub typhus (_Orientia tsutsugamushi_). A recent publication states that dengue virus is one of the 3 most common agents identified in AES, but existing surveillance for AES does not include routine testing for dengue. Until the etiology (or etiologies) of these AES cases is determined, effective and efficient prevention of these cases will not be possible. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of India:
Wed 26/06/2019 15:03
http://www.emro.who.int/som/somalia-news/who-and-unicef-somalia-and-partners-call-on-all-somalis-to-vaccinate-children-against-polio.html
https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/poliomyelitis

Mogadishu, 25 June 2019 - Health authorities rolled out a polio campaign yesterday in Puntland and Somaliland to vaccinate more than 940 000 children under 5 years of age to stop an ongoing outbreak of a strain of poliovirus.

The campaign runs from 24 to 27 June 2019, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It targets all children in 12 districts in Somaliland and 9 districts in Puntland.

By the numbers:
  • 945,480 children to be vaccinated
  • 3160 vaccinators knocking on doors
  • 677 team supervisors taking part
  • 1558 social mobilizers sharing messages on vaccination and children’s health
  • 15 children have been infected with the polioviruses so far, since outbreaks began
Somaliland, Puntland and other states in Somalia are currently experiencing outbreaks of 2 strains of poliovirus. Each strain requires a different vaccine. Children need several doses of each vaccine to boost immunity. Even though these viruses are not wild poliovirus, both these circulating strains can infect and paralyse children with low immunity. The last case of wild poliovirus in Somalia was in August 2014.

“It’s vital that parents ensure their children receive this vaccine because it builds immunity against a specific strain of poliovirus circulating in the country. I call upon all caregivers in the areas being covered in this campaign to please ensure children are at home and accept the oral polio vaccine when it is offered. Oral polio vaccines are stored and administered safely, and can save children from paralysis and permanent disability,” said Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia.

“The only way to protect children from all polioviruses is to ensure they receive multiple doses of polio vaccine, through campaigns and health facilities where possible,” said Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “Caregivers need to ensure children receive this vaccine when it is available.”

Somalia’s polio programme has conducted 14 immunization campaigns, including 5 nationwide campaigns, since December 2017 to stop further spread of the outbreaks. Despite these efforts, not all Somalia’s children are being vaccinated, which has resulted in the polioviruses spreading across the country and spilling over to Ethiopia. To address this, polio teams from Somalia and Ethiopia conducted a joint planning workshop in Hargeisa last week, and are coordinating immunization activities along their shared border and in high-risk areas in each country during this round in order to prevent cross-border transmission and spill over.

Concurrent to the polio campaign, polio health workers have also been working to vaccinate more than 650 000 people aged one year and above against cholera in high-risk districts of Somalia.
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2019 16:11:10 +0200

Kinshasa, June 24, 2019 (AFP) - More than 1,500 people have died in a nearly 10-month-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry said Monday.   As of Sunday, 1,506 people have died out of 2,239 recorded cases, it said.   Earlier this month, the virus claimed two lives in neighbouring Uganda among a family who had travelled to the DRC.   Nearly 141,000 people have been vaccinated in the affected eastern DRC provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids.   The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people.   Chronic violence and militia activity in Ituri and North Kivu as well as hostility to medical teams among locals have hampered the response.

On Monday, a crowd of people opposed to the burial of two Ebola victims in the Beni area burnt the vehicle of a health team, local police chief Colonel Safari Kazingufu told AFP.   He said a member of the medical team had been injured in the attack and taken to hospital.    The United Nations in May nominated an emergency coordinator to deal with the crisis. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this month the outbreak currently did not represent a global threat.