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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: Tue, 24 Sep 2019 07:27:34 +0200 (METDST)

Miami, Sept 24, 2019 (AFP) - A strong 6.0 magnitude struck off the northwest coast of Puerto Rico late Monday, the United States Geological Survey said, although no casualties or damage were reported.   The quake struck 62km northwest of San Antonio at 11:23 pm local time (03:20 GMT) at a depth of 10km, the agency said.  San Antonio is home to Rafael Hernandez Airport, a key air link to the mainland US.    In 2010 nearby Haiti was struck by a devastating 7.0 magnitude earthquake that killed more than 250,000 people and crippled the nation's infrastructure.
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:
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Samoa

General:
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Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
the northern parts of the country. Temperatures of between 20C to 35C are fairly standard throughout the year. Generally the winter effects of the American continent only last for short periods.
Safety & Security:
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The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Road Safety:
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Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
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When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.

Currency:
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Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Health Facilities:
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Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
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The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
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Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
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The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
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This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
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There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
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Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 31 Oct 2019 06:17:58 +0100 (MET)

Wellington, Oct 31, 2019 (AFP) - Pre-schools in Samoa were closed Thursday as the tiny Pacific nation seeks to contain a measles epidemic believed to have claimed at least three lives, officials said.   The health department issued a public notice late Wednesday ordering pre-schools closed to prevent the spread of the disease, a spokesman for Prime Minister Tuilaepa Malielegaoi said.   He said the closure of all schools was being considered.

The department said two infants aged eight months and 14 months were believed to have died after contracting measles, along with a 37-year-old adult.   It declared a national measles epidemic in mid-October and this week said there were 314 suspected cases in Samoa, 15 of them confirmed, with most involving children aged under four.   The department urged people to visit vaccination clinics and warned measles was highly contagious, saying "isolation at home" was strongly recommended for those displaying symptoms.   "It is important not to panic but to seek medical advice if you or any member of your family's condition worsens," it said in a public advisory.

Measles typically causes a rash, fever and white spots in the mouth.  More serious complications include blindness, pneumonia, brain damage and severe dehydration.   Experts say Samoa has a low measles vaccination rate of about 30 percent.   The country's vaccination programme was briefly suspended last year when two babies died shortly after being given a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).   Subsequent investigations found the problem was not the widely-used vaccine but the fact that the nurses administering prepared it incorrectly.
Date: Wed 16 Oct 2019
Source: Vax Before Travel [abridged, edited]

The Independent State of Samoa's Ministry of Health (MOH) has confirmed a measles outbreak based upon test results from the Victorian Infectious Disease Reference Laboratory Melbourne, Australia.

In a press statement on 16 Oct 2019, Samoa's MOH revealed 3 new confirmed measles cases; 2 were children under 5 years of age and one was an adult. All patients have been treated and discharged from a hospital.

Previously, on 30 Sep 2019, test results confirmed 4 measles cases, with one fatality.

The deceased child, 14 months of age, was admitted on [8 Sep 2019] with a history of febrile convulsions, cough, and skin rash typical of measles associated with severe dehydration. The verification-of-immunization status for this child revealed that he was not vaccinated against the measles virus.

Samoa is a country consisting of 2 main islands, Savai'i and Upolu, and has a population of 190 000 residents. The country is located south of the equator, about halfway between Hawaii and New Zealand, in the Polynesian region of the Pacific Ocean.

American Samoa is a separate, unincorporated territory of the United States, located southeast of Samoa. As of 2019, the population of American Samoa was approximately 55,000 people.  Previously, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has included Samoa in its June 2019 level 1 travel alert regarding the ongoing spreading of the measles virus.
Additionally, the CDC updated its travel-vaccination suggestions on 2 Aug 2019, to include the diphtheria-tetanus-pertussis, varicella, and the annual influenza vaccinations. The CDC also suggests yellow fever, hepatitis A, and typhoid vaccinations for certain Samoa visitors.

Furthermore, the US Department of State issued a low-level travel advisory in December 2018, saying visitors to Samoa should take normal precautions.  [Byline: Dani Reiter]
Date: Tue 15 Oct 2019, 8:56 AM
Source: Radio New Zealand International [abridged, edited]

The mother of a 1-year-old has told media in Samoa that her son who was highly suspected of having measles has died. The boy had been confined for a week at the Tupua Tamasese Meaole Hospital at Motootua isolation unit for patients suspected of having measles, and died on White Sunday [13 Oct 2019].

The mother told the Samoa Observer that her son was 1st admitted last [Mon 14 Oct 2019].

The Ministry of Health Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Tagaloa Robert Thomsen, said the Ministry could not confirm the cause of the child's death, or even if the child was infected with measles until conclusive testing had been completed.

Dr. Helen Aspasia Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist and senior lecturer at the University of Auckland, said there were too many variables and possible coincidental conditions to draw conclusions about the boy's cause of death until further testing.

But Samoan authorities have feared the possible arrival of the disease - often described as the most contagious of any virus - from New Zealand, which has recently been struck by a record outbreak of more than 1800 cases, mostly in Auckland.

Last week, the ministry's director-general Leauasa Dr. Take Naseri told media that 38 samples of suspected measles have been dispatched to Melbourne for testing.
==========================
Date: Wed 9 Oct 2019
Source: Radio New Zealand (edited)

The Ministry of Health held a news conference in Apia on [Wed 9 Oct 2019] and said if lab results sent to Melbourne were positive, an outbreak would be declared. Our correspondent in Samoa, Autagavaia Tipi Autagavaia, said the sick adult came into contact with an Aucklander who travelled to Samoa for a conference at the end of August 2019.

The Aucklander was diagnosed with the highly contagious viral illness after returning to New Zealand, Autagavaia said.  "A total of 6 people who were the contacts of that person were checked and followed up by the Ministry of Health here. And 1 out of those 6 is likely to be positive," Autagavaia said. "The sample from that person has been sent overseas for a test to confirm whether it's a measles case."

As many as 38 samples from other suspected measles cases in Samoa have also been sent to Australia for testing, Autagavaia said; 25 samples were sent last week and 13 this week, mostly from unwell children under the age of 4 who live in Apia.

New Zealand has had 1731 confirmed cases of measles notified so far this year [2019]. More than 1400 of those are in Auckland, where the worst outbreak in 20 years is concentrated. - Mod.LK]
=========================
Date: Wed 16 Oct 2019
Source: Radio New Zealand (abridged, edited)

Measles epidemic declared in Samoa

Samoa's government has confirmed a measles epidemic. 7 cases had been confirmed, and it said the death of a 1-year-old last week was also likely to be because of measles. In a statement, Samoa's government said test results back from Australia showed 2 adults and 5 children had measles. They have been treated and discharged.

But it also said the death of a baby last week was "highly suspected" to be because of the highly contagious virus, but tests were still being carried out.  None of them were vaccinated.

The Health Ministry said it anticipated more cases, and a measles epidemic had officially been declared in Samoa. It urged people to get vaccinated in clinics across the country, and to avoid crowded areas.
Date: Tue 10 Jul 2018
Source: MSN [edited]

Samoa has issued an immediate recall of the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) following the deaths of 2 infants who reportedly passed away just hours after receiving their shots. The 2 children, a boy and a girl, were both aged about 12 months. They were not related, came from different communities and were vaccinated on [Fri 6 Jul 2018] using the same batch of the MMR vaccine.

Australian forensic experts will fly into the country tonight to help investigate the incident, which happened at the Safotu District Hospital on the island of Savai'i.

In a statement, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele expressed condolences to the children's families and called for a full inquiry."There are already processes that will determine if negligence is a factor," Mr. Tuilaepa said. "And if so, rest assured those processes will be implemented to the letter to ensure that such a tragedy will not be repeated and those responsible will be made to answer."

Health officials said testing was underway to see if the vaccine was responsible, and it has been recalled nationwide as a precautionary measure. The Government has called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) for assistance. Rasul Baghirov, the WHO's Samoa Representative, told the ABC's Pacific Beat program the situation was serious, but it was too early to determine exactly what caused the deaths.

"These deaths are a tragedy and the Government is committed to understanding exactly what happened, for the families of those children, but also to ensure the ongoing safety of the immunisation program," Dr Baghirov said.

He said the investigation would examine the vaccine itself, the injecting equipment and the storage arrangements for the vaccine. The training and conduct of staff would also be looked at, as well as the medical history of the infants' families. An autopsy team from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne will arrive in Samoa tonight to assist the investigation.

Severe vaccine reaction 'very, very rare'. Dr Baghirov said there have been no other reported cases of children dying after being vaccinated using the batch supplied to Samoa.

The vaccines were from India, were safety checked by the WHO and supplied by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"The MMR immunisation is the best way to reduce a child's risk of getting these highly infectious diseases," Dr Baghirov said. "It has been used around the world for many years, providing more than 2 billion children with protection against these diseases. The severe reaction following the administration of MMR vaccine is very, very rare -- that's why we want to really investigate and find out what caused the deaths here in Samoa."

UNICEF's Pacific Representative Sheldon Yett said it was important for people concerned by the case to remember that vaccines are safe.  "Stopping immunisation would be a disaster for children in the South Pacific and around the world," he said. "It does make sense to pause, and do a complete investigation to know what specifically happened here. "But stopping immunisation of course would be a very wrong approach to pursue here."  [Byline: Catherine Graue & Michael Walsh]
======================
[The very unfortunate death of these 2 infants should be investigated immediately, but it is a mistake to completely stop vaccination, which would result in more morbidity and possibly mortality. All vaccines carry a minimal risk, which generally is mild and only very rarely severe. It is not clear whether there were underlying conditions such as a weakened immune system or allergies in these 2 infants that led to complications from the MMR vaccine, or even whether the vaccine was truly the cause of death. The enquiry will look into the vaccine itself, equipment, storage of the vaccine and its administration. It is important to monitor the safety of this very commonly used vaccine, as appears to have been done by WHO in this case. Only a strong monitoring program will reassure the public.

According to CNN report (<https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/10/health/samoa-mmr-baby-deaths-intl/index.html>), "Vaccines prevent almost 6 million deaths worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organization. In countries that widely use vaccines, diseases such as measles have been nearly eradicated, with a 99 percent reduction in cases."

Typically given in 2 doses in early childhood, the MMR vaccine protects against 3 diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.

One dose is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles if the person is exposed to the virus, while 2 doses are about 97 percent effective, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Benefits of vaccines are a matter of fact.

"Most children in the world receive this vaccine or similar vaccines to this," Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland, told CNN. "We have safety data on the vaccine, we understand the effects really well. This type of case is exceedingly rare."

Furthermore, she said, child mortality has gone down in many countries that use these vaccines.

"Every country has a vaccine program that has been demonstrated to be very safe," she added. "At the moment we need to understand what's happened so we can work out strategies to ensure it doesn't happen again. There's a lot we don't know about (the deaths)." - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2018 03:45:09 +0200

Wellington, July 12, 2018 (AFP) - International health experts launched an investigation Thursday into why two Samoan infants died shortly after receiving childhood vaccination injections in a tragedy that has rocked the close-knit Pacific nation.

The tiny country has suspended its vaccination programme and seized all doses for testing after the deaths at the Safotu District Hospital last Friday.   The health department said two one-year-old babies, a boy and a girl, died soon after being administered a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).   A World Health Organisation expert has arrived to investigate and a specialist from UNICEF was also en route, along with a forensic pathologist to carry out autopsies, it added.

"We will investigate the cause and will take the appropriate actions to ensure that the lives of Samoan children will not be compromised in the future," the director-general of health Take Naseri said.   Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi expressed his condolences at the deaths, which have rattled the nation of 195,000 people.   Malielegaoi, who almost lost his grandson several years ago under similar circumstances, said an inquiry would look at whether negligence was a factor.

Medical experts say the cause of the deaths remains unknown and have warned the tragedy should not be exploited by anti-vaccination activists.   "The message is -- please understand vaccination is very safe, it's very appropriate and everyone should still continue with their appointments as currently planned," Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone told Sky News.

University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said almost every child in the world received an MMR vaccine or a similar jab and deaths were extremely rare.   "There are two main reasons why something like this might happen," she said.   "Medical error, where the vaccine is prepared for injection incorrectly and the wrong substance is injected, (or) contamination of the vaccine due to leaving it at room temperature for a long period of time."

WHO data shows measles kills about 134,000 children a year and rubella causes some 100,000 children to be born with birth defects such as deafness.   Concerns about the MMR vaccine surfaced in 1998 when a British study, since discredited, linked it with autism.   While the study was found to be a fraud and the autism link debunked, vaccination rates have dropped in some countries as parents prevent children receiving their shots.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 13:10:01 +0100 (MET)
By Holly ROBERTSON, Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel De Cartert in Hillville

Sydney, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - Bushfires raging across eastern Australia singed Sydney's suburbs on Tuesday, with firefighters scrambling planes and helicopters to douse a built-up neighbourhood with water and red retardant.   Experts have described the conditions as the worst on record, as spring temperatures climbed toward 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) and winds topped 80 kilometres (50 miles) per hour across a zone which has been plagued by persistent drought.   Although the bushfire season is in its infancy, scientists predict it to be one of Australia's toughest ever, with climate change and unfavourable weather cycles helping created a tinderbox of strong winds, low humidity and high temperatures.

Twin blazes in the north shore suburb of Turramurra -- around 15 kilometres (nine miles) from the centre of Australia's largest city -- tore through a eucalypt forest park and sparked spot fires in homes, before eventually being brought under control.   As night fell, authorities said they were bringing another "clearly suspicious" blaze in a national park in the city's southern suburbs under control.    Throughout the day, more than 300 bushfires burned up and down Australia's east coast, fanned by gale-force winds, scorching temperatures and tinder-dry bushland that has brought some of the most dangerous conditions the country has seen.

In Turramurra, gardens smouldered, thick smoke hung heavy in the air and cars, houses and roads were caked in raspberry-red retardant as if hit by a giant paintball.   "It was the embers that floated up that actually went across and set off spot fires in the front yards" resident Nigel Lush told AFP, adding that one roof had been set alight.   Another resident, Julia Gretton-Roberts, said the blaze spread shockingly quickly.   "Next thing I know the fire was opposite our house and it was massive and the police came and grabbed our kids and took them away," she said.   "My daughter is pretty freaked out."   Firefighter Andrew Connon told AFP "a number of homes were threatened but it was contained by the aerial bombing".

- 'Catastrophic conditions' -
From early morning thousands of firefighters spread out across New South Wales in anticipation of what they called "off the scale" fire risk and "catastrophic" conditions.   They were unable to prevent several bushfires from breaching containment lines and trapping residents who had not already evacuated.   New South Wales Rural Fire Service Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons said so far only a dozen buildings had been damaged Tuesday and a handful non-life-threatening injuries were reported, but the crisis was far from over.

Firefighters will be "working on these fires for days and weeks given the enormity of the firegrounds," he said.    Even before unfavourable weather hit, days of fires had killed three people and destroyed at least 150 homes.   "The conditions are expected to get worse," Fitzsimmons said, warning residents in adjacent areas to stay alert.   "Complacency kills," he added.   Up to 600 schools were closed, as well as many national parks, a total fire ban was introduced for the affected area and Rally Australia -- due to be held in Coffs Harbour at the weekend -- was cancelled.   The military pitched in, helping firefighters with logistics and water-dropping sorties using more than 100 aircraft.

- 'We'll fight it first' -
In the town of Hillville a fire that has ripped through an area the size of 25,000 soccer fields approached the home of Daniel Stevens.   Like many, his family -- including his mother nursing a broken leg -- have packed their bags, but have resisted leaving their house and everything they own.    "We'll fight it first," he told AFP, "but if it jumps the fence line into the paddock, we'll go."

In the nearby town of Taree, dozens of people have already moved to a showground that has become a makeshift evacuation centre.   Fifty-nine-year-old Caroline Watson arrived last night with her husband and their dog.    "The fires are just rife. They are absolutely everywhere" she told AFP. "They didn't ask us to get out, but we figured it was coming."

Further south in the Blue Mountains on the outskirts of Sydney, veteran Winmalee firefighter Alan Gardiner said locals were "terrified and on edge".    The town still bears the scars of a 2013 blaze that destroyed 200 homes, and residents are acutely aware that with few roads in and out of the mountains, a decision to leave late can be fatal.   Efforts to burn fuel in a controlled way have been limited by months of drought-like conditions that made it too dangerous.
Date: Tue, 12 Nov 2019 10:03:07 +0100 (MET)

Denpasar, Indonesia, Nov 12, 2019 (AFP) - An Australian tourist who fly-kicked a motorcyclist and assaulted a man in his own home during a drunken rampage was jailed for four months on Tuesday.   The ruling comes after Nicholas Carr's antics were caught in a viral video that saw him carry out a campaign of destruction in Seminyak, a popular tourist area on the Indonesian holiday island.   "The defendant Nicholas Carr is found guilty and is sentenced to four months" in jail, presiding judge Soebandi, who goes by one name, told the Denpasar District Court.    A lawyer for Carr, charged with assault and property damage, said the 26-year-old would not appeal the ruling.    He is expected to be released next month because of time already served.   In August, Carr ran barefoot on to a street and shouted expletives before the apprentice builder slammed into the bonnet of a moving car and then fly-kicked an unsuspecting motorcycle rider.

The biker, who was thrown from the moving scooter, sustained minor injuries -- later the pair embraced during a court hearing as Carr apologised to the victim.   Carr also shattered a convenience store's glass door before stealing a motorcycle.   Later, he broke into a house where he assaulted the sleeping homeowner, leaving him with injuries, police said earlier.    He was eventually caught by locals and police and taken to hospital.    Pictures that circulated on social media showed at the time showed Carr bloodied and bruised, and trussed with hosepipe and rope.   Shortly after his arrest, Carr apologised and admitted drinking more than 10 small bottles of vodka as well as other alcohol.

After a string of embarrassing incidents by tourists, Bali officials recently warned that boorish visitors may be kicked off the island, which attracts millions annually to its palm-fringed beaches, colourful nightlife and ancient temples.   Australian professional rugby league player David Fifita returned home this week after he was briefly arrested in Bali for assaulting a nightclub security guard.   Several days after Carr's arrest, a Czech couple who were slammed for disrespecting a Balinese temple took part in a ritual purification ceremony.
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 16:19:54 +0100 (MET)

Lyon, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - An unusually strong earthquake hit south-eastern France on Monday, injuring four people, one of them seriously, authorities said.   A physicist at a geophysics institute the IPGP said that quakes of this strength are rare in that region, but warned of possible aftershocks and said people should leave fragile buildings.   The quake, with a magnitude of 5.4, was felt in a vast area between the cities of Lyon and Montelimar which are about 150 kilometres (93 miles) apart, the national seismological office said.   "I was leaning against the oven in my mother's bakery when I felt the tremor," said Victoria Brielle, a resident in Privas, some 25 kilometres from the quake's epicentre.   "A customer said her sideboard had moved and all her crockery was broken,"  she said.

Another resident in the area, Didier Levy, who lives in a 15th century castle, told AFP that "chandeliers were still trembling" several minutes after the quake.   Levy, who said his dog starting barking even before humans felt the tremors, added: "I have never experienced anything like it, I could feel the trembling even though these wall are one metre thick."   One person was seriously hurt when some scaffolding collapsed, the regional prefect's office said.   Three other people in the neighbouring Ardeche region were slightly injured.

Quakes in this region are rarely higher than Magnitude 5, said Mustapha Meghraoui of the IPGP's office in Strasbourg.   "We can say that this is a rare one," he added. But he said there might be an aftershock of around 4.5.   "If people are in a fragile house, they would be better leaving it" for something more robust for a while, he said.   The scale of the damage suggested the quake happened at a depth of between five and 10 kilometres, he added. But they were working on a more accurate reading.
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 13:19:54 +0100 (MET)

Goma, DR Congo, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - A local radio station that has been involved in the fight against Ebola in eastern DR Congo said Monday it was closing down after one of its broadcasters was murdered.   Joel Musavuli, head of Lwemba radio in Mambasa in Ituri province, told AFP that the station had been targeted by armed groups hostile to the campaign to roll back the Ebola epidemic.

"Each of us have received threats since last month. We have now decided to stop broadcasting, Musavuli said, adding that he himself had escaped two kidnap attempts.   "We are victims of our commitment to the awareness campaign about the spread of Ebola virus disease. We don't know why the militiamen are targeting us."   Nearly 2,200 people have died since the notorious haemorrhagic disease erupted in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo in August 2018, according to the latest official figures.

The fight against the outbreak has been hampered by local fears and superstititions, exploited by militia groups that are rampant in the remote region.   Several health workers have been killed and media that have supported the campaign have received threats.

Several radio stations in the Mambasa area say they have stopped broadcasting anti-Ebola messages because of intimidation.   On November 2, Lwemba broadcaster Papy Mahamba was killed at his home by unidentified men. His wife was injured and their house set ablaze.    The station said the authorities had failed to take action against the threats. It said it would resume broadcasts after "the state has restored authority in the area".
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 11:38:15 +0100 (MET)

Kuwait City, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - Hundreds of workers at Kuwait's international airport held a one-hour strike Monday to demand better working conditions, threatening to stage longer walkouts in the coming days.    Ahmed Mohammed al-Kandari, a union representative, said workers were calling for improved treatment and to be compensated for daily exposure to pollution and noise.  Monday's strike by Kuwaiti staff did not affect flights, officials said.   The right to strike is guaranteed for citizens in Kuwait, but such actions remain rare in the Gulf country.

Foreign workers do not have the right to strike.  "Airport traffic is very normal," Sheikh Salman Al-Hamoud Al-Sabah, head of the General Directorate of Civil Aviation, told AFP.    Another official, Saleh Al-Fadaghi, the airport's director of operations, also said flights were not affected. "During the one-hour strike, 19 flights were operated as scheduled. There were five departures and 14 arrivals," he told AFP.

Kandari said the purpose of the strike was not to disrupt operations but "to make our voices heard". He added that Kuwaiti workers would hold a further two-hour strike on Wednesday and a 24-hour strike on Sunday if their demands are not met.    Of 4,500 civil aviation employees, 1,500 took part in Monday's strike, he said.
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 2019 10:39:09 +0100 (MET)

La Jonquera, Spain, Nov 11, 2019 (AFP) - Catalan separatist activists blocked traffic on Monday on a motorway linking Spain and France, in a fresh protest against the sentencing last month of nine of their leaders to lengthy jail terms.   Demonstrators cut the AP7 motorway at La Jonquera near the city of Girona in eastern Spain, a day after a repeat general election in which Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez's Socialist emerged as winners but weakened, while far-right party Vox surged to third place on the back of its hardline stance against separatism.   Dozens of vehicles blocked the motorway near the border with France while some 300 people set up a barricade, according to an AFP photographer at the scene.   Some demonstrators began to set up a stage and speakers which they brought to the scene in vans.   Catalonia's regional road department confirmed the motorway was cut in both directions at La Jonquera.

The protest was called by a new, mysterious organisation called "Democratic Tsunami" which last month sent thousands of people to block access to Barcelona airport in a protest which ended in clashes between demonstrators and police.   "This mobilisation is a cry to the international community so that it makes the Spanish state understand that the only possible path is to sit down and talk," the group said in a message sent to its followers on encrypted messaging service Telegram.   Radical separatist group CDR also called on its supporters to head to La Jonquera to block the highway.   Catalonia was rocked by days of mass, sometimes violent, pro-independence rallies after Spain's Supreme Court on October 14 sentenced nine politicians and activists to jail for up to 13 years for their role in a failed secession bid in 2017.   Demonstrators have frequently cut road and rail links between Spain and France while many shops in downtown Barcelona have been shut during the rallies and there are growing concerns about the impact of the unrest on business in Spain's second largest city.
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2019 18:59:25 +0100 (MET)

MOUSOUNI ISLAND, India, Nov 9, 2019 (AFP) - Cyclone Bulbul hit India and southern Bangladesh on Saturday, leaving two dead as authorities in the countries ordered more than two million people to get out of the path of the storm.   The cyclone, packing winds of up to 120 kilometres (75 miles) per hour, has "weakened" and "started crossing" India's West Bengal and Bangladesh's Khulna coast at about 9:00 pm (1500 GMT), Dhaka's Meteorological Department said in a special bulletin.   "It is likely to move in a northeasterly direction" and "weaken gradually, and may complete crossing West Bengal-Khulna coast by midnight tonight," the department said.     Airports and ports were shut down and the deaths were reported before the full force of the cyclone had hit.   One person was killed by an uprooted tree in Kolkata and another by a wall that collapsed under the force of the winds in Odisha state, authorities said.

More than 60,000 people were moved away from the coast on the Indian side of the border.   Bangladesh disaster management secretary Shah Kamal told AFP that "2.028 million" have been evacuated and moved to more than 5,500 cyclone shelters.   He said there was no reports of casualties and rejected reports in local media that dozens of local fishermen were missing on the southern coast.    Bangladeshi troops were sent to some villages, while about 55,000 volunteers went door-to-door and making loudspeaker announcements in the streets to get people away from the danger zone in villages, many of which were below sea level.

- Ports closed, flights halted -
A storm surge up to two metres (seven feet) was predicted along the coast, Bangladesh's Meteorological Department said.   About 1,500 tourists were stranded on the southern island of Saint Martin after boat services were suspended due to bad weather.   Bangladesh's two biggest ports, Mongla and Chittagong, were closed because of the storm, and flights into Chittagong airport were halted.   In India, flights in and out of Kolkata airport were suspended for 12 hours because of the storm.   On the West Bengal island of Mousouni, which lies in the path of the storm, frightened residents took shelter in schools and government buildings because they had not been able to escape.   Military planes and ships have been put on standby to help in emergencies, Indian authorities said.

Bulbul hit the coast at the Sundarbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, which straddles Bangladesh and part of eastern India, and is home to endangered species including the Bengal tiger and the Irrawaddy dolphins.   Bangladesh's low-lying coast, home to 30 million people, is regularly battered by cyclones that leave a trail of destruction.   Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed in cyclones in recent decades.   While the frequency and intensity have increased, partly due to climate change, the death tolls have come down because of faster evacuations and the building of 4,000 cyclone shelters along the coast.   In November 2007, Cyclone Sidr killed more than 3,000 people. In May this year, Fani became the most powerful storm to hit the country in five years, but the death toll was about 12.
Date: Sat, 9 Nov 2019 14:18:27 +0100 (MET)

Beirut, Nov 9, 2019 (AFP) - Several petrol stations in protest-hit Lebanon stopped services Saturday, as reserves ran dry due to a shortage of US dollars to pay suppliers, a syndicate head said.   The shuttering of petrol stations came as demonstrators again took to the street across the country, keeping up their three-week-long movement against a political class regarded as inefficient and corrupt.    "The petrol stations that opened today are the ones that still have reserves. They will close down as soon as supply runs out," said Sami Brax, the head of the Syndicate of Gas Station Owners.   He said if officials do not facilitate access to dollars by Tuesday, "we will be forced to stop imports and close down all petrol stations."

Petrol stations receive payment from customers in Lebanese pounds but have to pay importers and suppliers in dollars.    For two decades, the Lebanese pound has been pegged to the US dollar, with both currencies used interchangeably in daily life.   But banks have been reducing access to dollars since the end of the summer, following fears of a shortage in central bank dollar reserves.   In recent days, banks halted all ATM withdrawals in dollars and severely restricted conversions from Lebanese pounds.   Many Lebanese have had to instead buy dollars from money changers at a higher exchange rate, in what amounts to a de-facto devaluation of the local currency that has sparked price hikes.

The official exchange rate has remained fixed at 1,507 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, but the rate in the parallel market has surpassed 1,800.   "The banks are under pressure from people, both inside Lebanon and abroad," said economist Naseeb Ghabreel, after many rushed to withdraw their dollar savings or convert Lebanese pound accounts.   Since September, petrol station owners have accused banks of failing to provide them with the dollars they need and threatened strikes.    In response, the central bank last month pledged to facilitate access to the greenback for importers of petroleum products, wheat and medicine.   But the measure has not yet gone into effect.

Lebanon has since October 17 witnessed an unprecedented popular uprising against everything from power cuts and poor social security to alleged state corruption.   The government yielded to popular pressure and stepped down last month, with the World Bank urging for the quick formation of a new cabinet to prevent the economy from further deteriorating.
Date: Fri, 8 Nov 2019 19:25:02 +0100 (MET)

Madrid, Nov 8, 2019 (AFP) - Spanish health authorities confirmed Friday a case of a man spreading dengue through sex, a world first for a virus which until recently was thought to be transmitted only by mosquitos.   The case concerns a 41-year-old man from Madrid who contracted dengue after having sex with his male partner who picked up the virus from a mosquito bite during a trip to Cuba, said Susana Jimenez of the Madrid region's public health department.

His dengue infection was confirmed in September and it puzzled doctors because he had not travelled to a country where the disease, which causes severe flu-like symptoms such as high fever and body aches, is common, she added.   "His partner presented the same symptoms as him but lighter around ten days earlier, and he had previously visited Cuba and the Dominican Republic," Jimenez said.   "An analysis of their sperm was carried out and it revealed that not only did they have dengue but that it was exactly the same virus which circulates in Cuba."

A "likely' case of sexual transmission of dengue between a man and a woman was the subject of a recent scientific article in South Corea, Jimenez said.   In an e-mail sent to AFP, the Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), which monitors health and disease in Europe, said this was "to our knowledge, the first sexual transmission of the dengue virus among men who have sex with men."

According to the World Health Organization's website, dengue is transmitted mainly by the Aedes Aegypti mosquito, which thrives in densely-populated tropical climates and breeds in stagnant pools of water.    It is most serious -- and deadly -- in children, especially young girls though scientists don't know why.

Dengue is most commonly caught by people travelling to hotter climates such as southeast Asia, Africa, Australia, the Caribbean and South and Central America.
Date: Sun 10 Nov 2019
Source: The News [abridged, edited]

Another young man is awaiting death in an isolation ward of the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) after developing full-blown rabies, as he was bitten by a rabid dog some 3 months ago but was not administered the rabies vaccine, officials said on Saturday [9 Nov 2019].

"18-year-old Z.K., a resident of Jeva Khan Goth in the Nooriabad area of District Jamshoro, has been brought to the casualty ward of the JPMC with full-blown rabies," Dr Seemin Jamali, the hospital's executive director, told The News.

"According to his family members, the teenager was bitten by a stray dog on the leg around 3 months ago. Unfortunately, neither did the family know about vaccination nor did anybody tell them to get the teenager vaccinated, which resulted in the development of the lethal disease."

Sindh Health Department officials said that this is the 22nd case of rabies in the province this year [2019].

M.K., the ill-fated youngster's father, said that after his son was bitten on the leg, he was taken to a local doctor, who had dressed the wound and given him some medicines but had not asked for the teenager to be vaccinated or referred him to a tertiary-care hospital.

Officials said that right now, dog-bite incidents are on the rise in Karachi as well as in other districts of Sindh, with so far more than 200 000 people falling victim to canine attacks.

They added that the population of rabid dogs is also on the rise, and the animals are not only transmitting the disease to their own species but also attacking humans throughout the province.

Dr Seemin said: "These days any person who is bitten by a dog should be given immunoglobulin as well as the full course of the rabies vaccine to prevent the victim from a painful death. Once rabies is developed in a person, there is no cure for their condition."

She deplored the fact that on the one hand incidents of dog-bite are on the rise and on the other, hospitals in the entire province are facing a shortage of the rabies vaccine, due to which the cases are being referred to the JPMC in Karachi.

"Even the Abbasi Shaheed Hospital, which is considered to be a tertiary-care hospital, is referring dog-bite victims to the JPMC after administering one dose of the vaccine," she said.

"As we don't know the status of their vaccination, we have to vaccinate these patients from zero, but this practice is extremely unprofessional, and it can result in the loss of a precious life."

On the other hand, the shortage of rabies vaccine is becoming a serious issue in Pakistan, especially in Sindh, which requires hundreds of thousands of doses to prevent the people from developing rabies encephalitis.

Pakistan used to get most of its rabies vaccine supplies from Indian biotechnology giants and pharmaceutical companies, but after the deterioration of relations between the 2 countries, Pakistan's next-door neighbour reduced those supplies, while production at the NIH is insufficient to meet the local requirements.

In this scenario, experts say there is an urgent need to control the population of stray dogs in the country by hook or by crook. They believe that at a time when there is not enough rabies vaccine available, the authorities should take measures to save people from canine attacks by reducing the dog population by any means.  [Byline: M. Waqar Bhatti]
=====================
[We have received recently several reports from Pakistan, describing human rabies cases; e.g.
(published 7 Nov 2019),
(published 3 Nov 2019),
(published 15 Oct 2019].

Hopefully, this post will help the professionals involved in getting due attention and required means from the health and municipal authorities for immediate measures undertaken, including timely supply of the required medical preparations.

According to Pakistan's Health Minister, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, (on Fri 8 Nov 2019), dog-bite cases were "mishandled" by citizens, as the victims were often brought to hospitals quite late, and the delay caused their deaths (see <https://www.dawn.com/news/1515803>).

WHO's most recent available position paper addressing rabies vaccines and immunoglobulins is available at

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: