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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]
More ...

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;
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Tetanus (childhood booster)
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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: Tue, 19 Nov 2019 09:24:19 +0100 (MET)

Wellington, Nov 19, 2019 (AFP) - The death toll from a measles outbreak raging in the Pacific nation of Samoa has risen to 15, with most of the victims young children, UNICEF said Tuesday.   The UN children's agency said that suspected measles cases had topped 1,000 in the island nation, which has declared a state of emergency and launched a compulsory vaccination programme.   "The epidemic has claimed the lives of 14 children under-five years old and one adult," it said in a statement.   UNICEF said it was in the process of delivering more than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine to Samoa's population of about 200,000.   With the virus sweeping through the South Pacific, the agency said it had also sent vaccines to Tonga and Fiji.

Officials were also helping with preparations for potential outbreaks in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.   It said Samoa, which is by far the worst affected, had low measles vaccination rates of 28-40 percent.   In Tonga and Fiji, which have vaccination rates of 99 percent and 81 percent respectively, the outbreak is more contained and there have been no fatalities.   Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death.   Samoa has closed all schools and kindergartens, as well as banning children from public gatherings, in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.    After initially facing criticism for its slow response, the government had opened a national emergency operations centre to roll out mass vaccinations.
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 06:41:11 +0100 (MET)

Wellington, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - Samoa finalised plans for a compulsory measles vaccination programme Monday, after declaring a state of emergency as a deadly epidemic sweeps the Pacific nation.   At least six fatalities, including five children, have been linked to the outbreak of the virus, which has also hit other island states such as Tonga and Fiji.   Samoa is the worst affected with more than 700 cases reported from across all areas of the country, prompting the government on Friday to invoke emergency powers.

Declaring a state of emergency, the government said plans for compulsory measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) immunisations would be published on Monday.   "MMR vaccinations for members of the public who have not yet received a vaccination injection is now a mandatory legal requirement for all of Samoa," it said.   A national emergency operations centre to coordinate the measles response in the nation of 200,000 people was opened on Monday, with children aged six months to 19 years and non-pregnant females aged 20-35 given priority.

However, no information was immediately available on how the vaccinations would be administered or whether those who were not immunised would face sanctions.   Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death.   Samoa has closed all schools, kindergartens and the country's only university in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.   New Zealand, which is experiencing its own measles outbreak in the Auckland region, will this week send 30 nurses, 10 doctors and 3,000 MMR doses to Samoa.

University of Auckland immunologist Helen Petousis-Harris said even though measles was already widespread, the mass rollout of vaccinations could help limit the number of cases and reduce the death count.   She said it was also important to boost Samoa's low levels of immunisation and help prevent future outbreaks.   "In Samoa, the proportion of people who are immune to measles is very, very low, one of the lowest in the world," she told AFP.   "So if they aren't able to improve that, this is going to happen again."   The country's vaccination programme was briefly suspended last year when two babies died shortly after being given the MMR vaccine.   Subsequent investigations found the problem was not the widely used vaccine but the fact that nurses had prepared it incorrectly.

Neighbouring Tonga last week announced government primary schools and kindergartens would be closed until later this month as the number of measles cases in the kingdom approaches 200.   Fiji has reported four cases but says they are contained to a township west of the capital Suva.
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.
More ...

Russia

General Information
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Russia is one of the largest land masses throughout the world covering an expanse of 6,592,849 sq. miles. The country stretches from the Baltic sea in Europe to the Pacific Ocean in the
east and from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Black Sea in the south. Moscow, the capital city, is situated in the western region of the country. The nation is undergoing profound political and economic changes. There have been Bank closures and this can make access to funds more difficult for travellers.
Safety & Personal Security
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Certain regions of the country are closed to travellers and it is important to confirm your itinerary before leaving. Entry to the Caucasus region is restricted. Kidnapping of tourists is well reported in some outlying regions. Good tourist facilities are present in Moscow, St Petersburg and many of the other large cities but many shortages can occur at times. Crime against foreigners can be a problem and it is essential not to flaunt personal wealth and to take care if you need to travel at night. The underground walkways, subway, train stations and airports are particular risk locations. Don’t share a taxi with strangers.
Customs Regulations
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On entry you will need to complete a form declaring all items of value. Keep this form safe as it will be required on leaving. Take care to obtain receipts for any expensive items to purchase while in Russia.
Stringent controls at Customs when leaving the country may cause significant delays if it is felt that the traveller is trying to export items of historical value.
General Health Precautions
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The medical services available throughout Russia may not reach Western European standards. Severe shortages of even basic medical supplies are regularly reported. It is wise for travellers to ensure that they are in good general health and that dental work should not be required while abroad. Carry an adequate supply of any medications which you normally take, as these may not be available in many parts of Russia. Adequate travel insurance is essential for your trip.
Diphtheria in Russia
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Again, according to press reports, over 4000 cases of diphtheria were reported during the outbreak in the early 1990’s. Approximately 104 deaths occurred. At that stage the disease was mainly found in St Petersburg, Moscow and Krasnodar and in the eastern parts of Valdivostok and Saratov. Vaccination (with Tetanus) is usually recommended for all travellers. As Diphtheria is mainly an airborne disease it is usually wise to avoid local public transport if possible.
AIDS risk in Russia
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The blood supply throughout Russia may not be fully screened against blood borne pathogens and so blood transfusion should be avoided where at all possible. The most common reason that a traveller requires blood is following a road accident. Take special care crossing roads etc. The actual extent of the AIDS problem throughout Russia is uncertain with inaccurate reporting of statistics at this time. Obviously all care should be taken to avoid possible infection. AIDS testing is required for persons staying 3 months or longer.
Hiking in Russia
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Tick-borne encephalitis has been reported in the vicinity of Novosibirsk, Vladivostok and in the Sverdlovsk Oblast.
Pre-exposure vaccination against this disease is recommended for anyone who will be spending prolonged periods outdoors in the infested areas of Russia. Hikers should wear protective clothing and insect repellent against tick bites throughout rural Russia. Any bite should be reported to competent medical personnel as soon as possible.
Insect Bites
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Mosquitoes do occur during the summer months. Though there is thought to be no risk of malaria in Russia itself, though there are reports from some of the surrounding CIS countries. Sandflys may also be found during the summer months in the hotter southern areas.
Food Precautions
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Eat only well cooked foods while they are still hot or fruit that you peel yourself. Always avoid roadside stands and street vendors as the level of hygiene is usually far below acceptable standards. Only purchase ice-cream products from established shops and never from the street side seller. Only pasteurised dairy products should be consumed. Outbreaks of a parasitic disease known as Trichinellosis has been reported from some regions of Russia. This disease is transmitted through eating undercooked meat so all food should never be rare when consumed.
Water Precautions
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Smell the tap water for a distinct chlorine odour. In many regions the water supply may not be potable and so travellers should where possible drink bottled beverages or beverages made from boiled water (tea/coffee). Do not use ice-cubes in your drinks and never use the mains tap water for drinking or brushing your teeth.
Occasional outbreaks of Typhoid, Cholera are reported and the St Petersburg mains water supply has been closely linked with an intestinal parasite, Giardia lambia.
General Vaccine Information
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Due to the general economic situation throughout Russia it is reported that there has been a significant shortage of vaccines to combat diseases such as measles, polio, diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis. This has led to a worsening of the risk for the local population and the possibility that travellers may be more exposed.
Vaccines for Travellers
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Most travellers to Russia will need to consider routine vaccination cover against the following;
Poliomyelitis, Typhoid,
Tetanus & Diphtheria and Hepatitis A.
Longer term travellers or those trekking may also need to consider vaccination cover against Rabies, Hepatitis B, Meningococcal Meningitis and Tick Borne Encephalitis.
Summary
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The majority of travellers to Russia who exercise due caution will remain in good health. Special care must be taken regarding your food and water consumption. Care against accidents and sensible precautions to avoid petty crime are also essential. If trekking about the country check your itinerary carefully and keep those at home in touch with your plans.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 31 Jul 2019 18:00:57 +0200 (METDST)

Moscow, July 31, 2019 (AFP) - Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday called in the army to fight forest fires that have been raging across vast expanses of Siberia for days, enveloping entire cities in black smoke.   Environmentalists have warned that the scale of the blazes could accelerate global warming, aside from any immediate effects on the health of inhabitants.   Around three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land in the centre and east of the country were in the grip of fires on Wednesday, authorities said.

The acrid smoke has affected not only small settlements but also major cities in Western Siberia and the Altai region, as well as the Urals such as Chelyabinsk and Yekaterinburg, and disrupted air travel.   "After reviewing a report from the emergency situations minister, Putin instructed the ministry of defence to join the effort to extinguish the fires," the Kremlin's press service told Russian media.   Some 2,700 firefighters were already working to tackle the blazes, Interfax news agency reported.   The defence ministry told news agencies that 10 planes and 10 helicopters had been dispatched to the Krasnoyarsk region, one of the worst affected.

- Spread by strong winds -
The Kremlin press service said the armed forces in the Irkutsk region, also badly hit, had been put on high alert, without providing further details of military involvement.    The fires, triggered by dry thunderstorms in temperatures above 30 degrees Celsius (86 degrees Fahrenheit), were spread by strong winds, Russia's federal forestry agency said earlier.    States of emergency have been declared in five Russian regions.    People living in these regions have uploaded images to social media showing roads hazy with smoke and the sun barely visible in the sky.   The majority of the fires, however, are raging in remote or inaccessible areas. Authorities make the decision to extinguish them only if the estimated damage exceeds the cost of the operation.   A petition launched on change.org a week ago calling on authorities to do more to tackle the fires has gathered more than 800,000 signatures.

Summer fires are common in Russia but this year they have spread further than usual.   According to the Russian branch of Greenpeace, almost 12 million hectares of forest have been burnt this year -- causing significant CO2 emissions and reducing the future capacity of forest to absorb the carbon dioxide.   A spokesman for the environmental organisation told the Echo of Moscow radio station that the involvement of the military would not "drastically change" the situation with the forest fires.    Deploying army units to the forest could do more harm to the operation than good, Grigory Kuksin said.    The spokesman also criticised authorities for what he said was a delayed response to the crisis.
Date: Mon, 1 Jul 2019 18:20:04 +0200

Moscow, July 1, 2019 (AFP) - Twelve people have died and nine are missing after heavy rainfall flooded dozens of villages in Russia's south-eastern Siberia, the deputy prime minister said Monday.    A state of emergency has been declared in Siberia's Irkutsk region, where dozens of villages have been partially destroyed by floods after river levels began rising dramatically.   "Unfortunately, twelve people have died and nine are being searched for," Vitaly Mutko said during a government meeting in the Moscow region.

Mutko said some 32,700 people in 83 villages were affected by the floods.  "751 were injured, 153 have been hospitalised," he added.  Infrastructure has also been affected, he said, with around 13 roads and several bridges damaged.    Russia's defence ministry said it had sent more than 1,300 servicemen, vehicles, a plane and two helicopters to the affected areas.

Earlier on Monday, the country's emergency situations ministry said it had evacuated 2,273 people.    Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the region on Sunday, on his way back from the G20 summit in Japan.    He held a meeting with local authorities in Bratsk, a city 4,820 kilometres (3,000 miles) east of Moscow on the Angara River.    The Russian leader called on authorities to compensate those who suffered from the floods and to begin work repairing houses.          "Here the summer is short, winter comes quickly, there is very little time," Putin said in a video published by the Kremlin.
Date: Wed, 8 May 2019 11:35:32 +0200

Moscow, May 8, 2019 (AFP) - Seven hikers were missing and feared dead after an avalanche in Russia's Altai mountains, emergency officials said Wednesday, as search parties were dispatched to the area.   Nine people were caught in the avalanche Monday in the so-called Chuya Alps of Russia's Altai republic in southern Siberia, close to Kazakhstan and China.    "Two people managed to get out" and informed authorities on Wednesday, said the head of Altai's emergency services, Andrei Burlakov.   "Since the avalanche is rather large, the search and rescue operations can stretch out to an indefinite amount of time," he said.

The hikers were experienced adults following a complicated mountain route which was approved by the authorities, their instructor Vladimir Yudin told the BFM news website, adding that a comprehensive search would probably have to wait for the summer season.   He said the hikers were part of a group based in the Siberian city of Novosibirsk.
Source: Belsat TV [in Russian, machine trans., edited]

An outbreak [of suspected echinococcosis] among cadets in Ulyanovsk Suvorov Military School, was discovered in early February [2019]. At least, 49 cadets of the military Suvorov school, instead of 26 as reported earlier, are infected with _Echinococcus_.

The Ministry of Defense of Russia excludes that the infection could have been transmitted through the food and believes that it happened by touching contaminated dogs.

Echinococcosis was initially suspected in 5 cadets. Their X-rays showed suspected cysts in the lungs.

On [5 Feb 2019], a criminal case under part 1, article 236 of the criminal code suspected violations of the sanitary and epidemiological rules, which led to mass disease. On [6 Feb 2019], at the Suvorov School, representatives of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation met with the parents of the students. They reported the investigation, rejecting the version of infection through food in the school's canteen. The head of the institution, Vladimir Shkirkov, and the chief parasitologist of the Ministry of Defense, Sergey Kozlov, informed the parents that the cadets could have become ill by stroking an infected dog, Novaya Gazeta newspaper reported. On [14 Feb 2019], the newspaper "Izvestia" published a new version: the students were infected during the use of nasvaya smokeless tobacco mixture made from chicken or camel dung.

The publication refers to an anonymous source close to the investigation, but it gives the opinion of researchers who believe this option unlikely. The newspaper claims to have found several more sick cadets, 2018 graduates. But on [2 Feb 2019] the media reported about disease among staff of the school cafeteria.

The response of the Ministry of Health to [Ulyanovsk Region State Duma Deputy] Alexei Kurinny, it was specified that the ministry had performed a full examination of more than 518 and 305 employees of Suvorov military school.
********************************
Date: Fri 1 Mar 2019
Source: OTR (Public Television of Russia) [in Russian, machine trans.,
abridged, edited]

As of [20 Feb 2019] it is known about 49 cases in the military Suvorov school.

Foci of infection also have been found in the liver, pancreas, brain, eyes, and spleen.
********************************
Date: Mon 4 Feb 2019
Source: Interfax-Russia [in Russian, machine trans., abridged,
edited]

Initially, echinococcosis was detected during routine examination in 5 cadets after X-ray of the lungs. None of them had health complaints. On [4 Feb 2019], Mass Media published information of already 25 cases among cadets.
=====================
[Infection of humans with _Echinococcus granulosis_ happens when eggs are ingested and hatch in the intestines, penetrate the intestinal wall, and migrate to different organs. The infection can happen through eggs from dog feces contaminating water, greens, and berries.

The notions that the subjects has consumed "nasvaya-tobacco mixture made from chicken or camel dung" does not explain infection with _Echinococcus_ and neither camels nor or chickens excrete _Echinococcus_ eggs in their feces. If the "tobacco" was made from dog feces it could be a source of infection.

The incubation period is usually years, and for instance a study from Kirgyzstan estimated an incubation period of 15 years (Usubalieva J et al. Human alveolar echinococcosis in Kyrgyzstan. Emerg Infect Dis. 2013; 19(7): 1095-7. doi: 10.3201/eid1907.121405).

The news report in item [3] above only mentions chest X-rays, but the article in item [1] mentions "suspected cysts in the lungs" and the article in item [2] mentions that foci of infection [cysts?] have been found in multiple other organs. In 95% of human cases the liver is involved because it receives the blood draining the intestines.

Given the long incubation period of _Echinococcus_, an outbreak involving at least 49 persons developing symptoms within a few months with a common source of infection is highly unlikely if not impossible.

What else can it be?
If the lesions were limited to the lungs TB is much more likely, but an outbreak of pulmonary TB would not be associated with multiple lesions in other organs. Foodborne infections could be caused by _Trichinella_, but _Trichinella_ does not result in cystic lesions; it is a multiorgan infection, it is foodborne, and several outbreaks have been reported from Russia.

ProMED will be happy to post more information including more information on the X-ray and CT results, and whether the patients had eosinophilia (sign of a helminth infection). - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Russia:
Date: Fri, 26 Oct 2018 11:57:59 +0200

Moscow, Oct 26, 2018 (AFP) - Six people died in floods in southern Russia which also damaged regional infrastructure including an oil pipeline, authorities said Friday, as emergency workers were struggling to provide food and water to the victims.   Flash floods affected parts of the Krasnodar region, including the area around the Black Sea resort city of Sochi, where Moscow hosted the Winter Olympics in 2014.

Russia's emergencies ministry said it had recovered the bodies of six people while clearing rubble and two people were hospitalised.   Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told journalists that all the government services are "working in emergency mode" to battle the "ruthless elements."   The emergencies ministry said over 2,300 houses were flooded in the region.   Flash floods frequently cause devastating damage in the area wedged between the Black Sea and the Caucasus mountain range as mountain rivers swell and destroy settlements below.

Similar floods in 2012 killed over 150 people around Krymsk, another town in the region.  A regional subsidiary of Russian oil transport company Transneft said Friday that the flash floods and resulting landslides "damaged a pipeline" in the region's Tuapse district causing "a spill of five cubic metres of oil."   The company is working to keep the oil from getting into the Tuapse river, a major source of water for the town of Tuapse, home to over 60,000 people.

The floods also damaged a major railway line and roads, authorities said. Russian Railways, the country's rail monopoly, said Thursday that 31 passenger trains were stopped due to the damage, and passengers were being bussed to the nearest stations to continue their journeys.
More ...

Brunei

Brunei US Consular Information Sheet
October 09, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Brunei Darussalam is a small Islamic Sultanate on the northwest coast of the Island of Borneo.
It is divided into four districts: Brunei/Muara, Tutong, Belait
nd Temburong.
The capital, Bandar Seri Begawan, is its only major city.
Brunei’s official language is Malay, but English is widely understood and used in business.
Tourist facilities and services are generally available throughout the country.
For more information concerning Brunei, please see the Government of Brunei web site at http://www.brunei.gov.bn.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Brunei for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
U.S. passport-holders must have at least six months’ validity remaining on their passport before entering Brunei for business or pleasure and are required to obtain a visa prior to arrival in Brunei for visits of 90 days or longer.
Diplomatic and official passport-holders are also required to apply for a visa to enter Brunei Darussalam.
There is an airport departure tax.
For further information about entry or exit requirements, travelers may consult the Consular Section of the Embassy of Brunei, 3520 International Court NW, Washington, DC
20008, tel. (202) 237-1838, or visit the Embassy of Brunei web site at http://www.bruneiembassy.org for the most current visa information.
As of June 12, 2004, immigration offenses are punishable by caning.
Workers who overstay their visas can face jail sentences and three strokes of the cane.
Those associated with violators, such as contractors or employers, are subject to the same penalties if the violator is found guilty.

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:
Following the October 2002, August 2003, September 2004 and October 2005 terrorist bombings in Indonesia, the Department of State continues to be concerned that terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) that have transnational capability to carry out terrorist attacks may do so in various Southeast Asian nations, including Brunei.
JI is known to have cells operating in Southeast Asia and to have connections with Al-Qaeda and other regional terrorist groups.
JI also has been tied to previous regional terrorist attacks.
As security is increased at official U.S. facilities, terrorists will seek softer targets.
These may include, but are not limited to, facilities where Americans and other Westerners are known to live, congregate, shop or visit, including, but not limited to, hotels, clubs, restaurants, shopping centers, housing compounds, transportation systems, places of worship, schools or outdoor recreation events.
Americans in Brunei should continue to be vigilant with regard to their personal security, maintain a low profile, vary times and routes during their daily routines and report any suspicious activity to the local police or to the U.S. Embassy's Regional Security Officer, who can be reached at the phone number listed at the end of this information sheet.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for other callers, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:
Though there is some crime, violent crime is rare.
Burglaries and theft are on the rise. Americans are reminded to be prudent in their own personal security practices.

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

In Brunei, the local equivalents to the “911” emergency line are:
993 for Brunei Police, 955 for
Fire
& Rescue and 998 for Search & Rescue.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
There is adequate care for basic medical conditions in Brunei; however, due to unpredictable shortages of materials and uncertain support staff, elective surgery or complicated care is best obtained in Singapore or elsewhere.

Brunei has imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions as part of a ban on communicable diseases.
In October 2003, Ministry of Health (MOH) of Brunei Darussalam required all travelers entering Brunei to fill out a Health Declaration Card and submit it to the Officer-In-Charge (MOH) upon disembarkation.
Under Section 7, Infectious Diseases Order 2003 of MOH, travelers may be subjected to a medical examination upon arrival in Brunei Darussalam.
Travelers also may be quarantined if infected or suspected to be infected with infectious disease or in if travelers have had contacted with such a person, under Section 15, Infectious Diseases Order 2003 of Ministry of Health Brunei.
Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Brunei at http://www.bruneiembassy.org before you travel.

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 (CDC) and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Brunei is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Brunei has an extensive network of roads throughout the country of generally good, though varying quality.
Holders of foreign driving license are permitted to drive in Brunei Darussalam for 90 days only.
For longer stays, a foreign driving license must be endorsed to a Brunei driving license, available at any Land Transport Department office.
Drivers must obey traffic rules at all times and should take extra caution when approaching traffic signals.
In urban areas, some local drivers have run through red lights, resulting in several deadly accidents in recent years.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the Brunei National Tourism at http://www.tourismbrunei.com/ and the web site of Brunei Land Transport Department at http://www.land-transport.gov.bn/ for more details on road safety information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Brunei’s Department of Civil Aviation as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Brunei’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Immigration Violations:
Americans in Brunei are subject to the laws of the country and may be arrested for violation of immigration regulations, or any other law.
In such cases, the U.S. Embassy will provide consular services to American citizens arrested in Brunei, in accordance with international law and U.S. regulations.
However, the Embassy may not intervene in local judicial matters.
Americans should be aware that the immigration law is stringent and less flexible than the previous one, with harsher penalties.

The Embassy strongly recommends that U.S. citizens on contract in Brunei be fully aware of their immigration status, as well the status of employees and staff and of crucial dates regarding contract extensions and renewals and have employment documents in order.

Dual Nationality:
Brunei does not recognize or permit dual nationality.
Brunei nationals are expected to enter and exit on their Brunei passports.
Should Brunei authorities learn that a person is a dual national, they may require immediate renunciation of either the citizenship of the other nation or Brunei citizenship.

Customs Regulations:
Brunei customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export of items such as firearms, religious materials, antiquities, medications, business equipment, currency, ivory and alcohol.
For non-Muslims, limited amounts of alcohol for personal consumption are permitted.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Brunei in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections 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 Brunei laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Brunei are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Brunei are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Brunei.
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 on the 3rd floor, Teck Guan Plaza, at the corner of Jalan Sultan and Jalan McArthur, Bandar Seri Begawan BS 8811, Brunei Darussalam.
Mail sent from the United States can be addressed to the Embassy's address:
American Embassy, P.O. Box 2991, Bandar Seri Begawan BS8675, Negara Brunei Darussalam.
The telephone number is 673-222-0384, fax number (673) (2) 225-293 and e-mail address amEmbassy_BSB@state.gov.
The Consular section's e-mail address is: ConsularBrunei@state.gov.
The Embassy's after-hours number for emergency calls is (673) (8) 730-691.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Brunei dated February 19, 2008, to update section on Entry/Exit Requirements, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Brunei

- National. 9 May 2018. Brunei has recorded 37 dengue cases in the 1st 4 months of 2018, with half of them detected in Kampong Ayer, the Ministry of Health (MoH) said on [Tue 8 May 2018]. MoH expects the number of dengue cases to rise and is urging residents to maintain good hygiene.

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map
Date: Sat 5 Dec 2015
From: Steve Berger <steve@gideononline.com> [edited]

Recently, ProMED reported that 2 tourists from Singapore acquired _Plasmodium knowlesi_ malaria in Brunei.

Malaria rates reported by both Brunei and Singapore have been strikingly similar since the 1990's, and Singapore has reported both autochthonous and imported cases of _P. knowlesi_ infection since 2007. See graph at <http://www.gideononline.com/wp/wp  content/uploads/BruneiMalaria.png>.

During the 1950's, Brunei reported low levels of malaria from the interior regions and coast adjacent to mountainous areas. The predominant infecting species and vector were _P. falciparum_ and _Anopheles leucosphyrus_, respectively [1]. Brunei was officially declared "malaria-free" by WHO in 1987. A single publication reported a case of _P. knowlesi_ malaria in this country in 2013.

Although official sources do not routinely recommend malaria prophylaxis for travelers, the recent report in ProMED suggests careful review of the current status of the disease in Brunei.

Reference:
[1] Berger SA. Infectious Diseases of Brunei, 2015. 374 pages, 60 graphs, 1448 references. Gideon e-books,
--------------------------------------------
Professor Steve Berger
Geographic Medicine
Tel Aviv Medical Center
Tel Aviv Israel
=========================
[ProMED thanks Steve Berger for this background information. The recent reports from northern Borneo indicate that _P. knowlesi_ may be emerging there. The ProMED report from 18 Nov 2015 "Malaria, P. knowlesi - Malaysia (03): (SA)" reports that _P. knowlesi_ is now the most common malaria species in humans in Sabah province, Malaysia.

_P. knowlesi_ is different from the other 4 plasmodia species infecting humans in that it is primarily a zoonosis, with the reservoir being Macaque monkeys. An increase in the Macaque reservoir, closer proximity to human habitats, or increases in the anopheles vectors are all possible explanations.

The importance of _P. knowlesi_ infections in humans was highlighted by a study published in 2004 (Singh B, et al. A large focus of naturally acquired _Plasmodium knowlesi_ infections in human beings. Lancet. 2004;363:1017-24), and data from before 2004 classified P. knowlesi and _P. malariae_.

Human to human transmission of _P. knowlesi_ has still not been demonstrated. - ProMed Mod.EP]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Wed 2 Dec 2015
From: Hsu Li Yang <hsuliyang@gmail.com> [edited]

_Plasmodium knowlesi_ malaria, human, Temburong National Park, Brunei
---------------------------------------------------------------------
We report 2 cases of _Plasmodium knowlesi_ malaria that occurred after a camping trip involving 24 teenagers and 3 adults in Temburong National Park, Brunei. The trip occurred between 2-9 Nov 2015, and the onset of illness was on 20 Nov 2015 for both individuals. Diagnosis of _P. knowlesi_ was made via PCR speciation. None of the participants of the trip received malaria prophylaxis.
------------------------------
Hsu Li Yang
Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health,
National University of Singapore,
Singapore
======================
[ProMED-mail would like to thank Dr. Hsu Li Yang for submitting this first hand report. - ProMed Mod.MPP]

[The report is in line with previous ProMED reports, especially the last report from 18 Nov 2015 (archive no http://promedmail.org/post/20151118.3801294), that _P. knowlesi_ is the most common malaria parasite found in humans with malaria in Northern Borneo (Malaysia, Sabah, and Sarawak and Brunei). - ProMed Mod.EP]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Sun 27 Oct 2013
Source: Bru Direct [edited]

The Ministry of Health (MoH) issued a press release to inform the public about cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE) infections that have been recently detected in Brunei Darussalam.

According to the press release, JE is a viral infection that is transmitted by mosquitoes, similar to other infections such as dengue, malaria, chikungunya and filariasis. The JE [virus] infection is endemic in many countries in Asia.

Medical research has shown that most cases of JE [virus] infection do not present with any symptoms. However, in a small number of cases, infected persons may show signs and symptoms such as fever, headache, nausea and vomiting. After a few days, the infection may cause mental abnormalities, neurological symptoms, weakness and motor disturbances. Convulsions may also occur, especially among children.

JE [virus] infection has never been previously detected and reported in the Sultanate. However, since 17 Oct this year [2013], a total of 12 patients with symptoms of encephalitis have been reported. Of these, 9 cases are from the Belait District, 2 from Tutong and one from Brunei-Muara.

To date, 6 patients have recovered and were discharged home, and 2 patients who also have other pre-existing medical conditions are currently receiving intensive care in hospital. They are, however, in a stable condition.

Following detailed investigations on all patients, only 3 patients from the Belait District have been confirmed by laboratory tests to have been infected by the JE virus.

There are no specific treatments for JE infection. There is only supportive treatment to relieve symptoms, and there is close monitoring in hospital if required. Patients should take their medications as instructed by the doctors and have adequate rest and fluids.

The MoH will continue to monitor the situation and take necessary measures including informing the public of any developments.
=======================
[Brunei (Brunei Darussalam in the Malay language) is a sovereign state on the north coast of Borneo Island. It is geographically within the Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) endemic area of Asia, so it is not surprising that the virus is there and causing cases of human disease. Rice cultivation was intensified as a governmental agricultural initiative beginning in 2009. An increase in rice paddies would doubtless be accompanied by an increase of the _Culex_ mosquito JEV vectors. Additional cases in the future can be expected.

A map showing the location of Brunei can be accessed at
<http://healthmap.org/r/8UJm>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Date: Thu 29 Apr 2010
Source: Asia One Health [edited]
<http://health.asiaone.com/Health/News/Story/A1Story20100429-213104.html>

From January to the 1st week of April this year [2010], 77 people contracted dengue fever in the country. The number surpasses the 37 cases recorded for all of 2009, according to the Ministry of Health.

Senior Public Health Officer Kamaludin Mohamad Yassin from the Entomology and Parasitology Unit under the ministry's Environment Health Services, said the increase in the number of cases is alarming. This marks a rise of 24 cases during the 1st week of April alone this year [2010], as it was stated in an earlier report that there were only 53 cases from January to the beginning of April 2010. The report also stated that for the 1st time, Brunei has reported 2 cases of dengue haemorrhagic fever, which is a more virulent form of dengue [disease] whereby a patient bleeds through his skin, nose or eyes.

"Even though this figure is small compared with some of our neighbouring Southeast Asian countries, this is still a worrying figure when taking into context the size of our population," said the senior public health officer on the sidelines of the Ministry of Health's briefing on dengue fever and environmental hygiene yesterday [28 Apr 2010] at the Muhibah Hall, Brunei-Muara District Office. He told the media that a majority of these cases were from Kampong Ayer, where pools of stagnant water can be found due to poor sewage management. "There are areas in Kampong Ayer with a lot of rubbish floating in the water. This rubbish is not being cleared or taken care of appropriately, which results in a breeding place for the _Aedes_ mosquitoes," he said, explaining that the _Aedes_ mosquito is a known vector for carrying the dengue virus. [Rubbish can collect fresh water, the breeding sites for _Aedes_ mosquitoes. However, sewage is not a breeding site. - ProMed Mod.TY]

Kamaludin added that other possible causes for the increase of the disease, seen not only in Brunei but throughout the whole world, included the unusually high rainfall experienced in the Sultanate during the 1st 3 months of the year [2010] and also the storage of water in homes. "We have to keep the water covered to prevent the mosquitoes from breeding," the senior public health officer said. With this in mind, Kamaludin added that the public cannot be complacent in trying to prevent dengue fever.

During his presentation, the senior public health officer told participants of the briefing that of the total 77 cases recorded this year [2010], 67 were from the Brunei-Muara District. Kuala Belait had 5 cases followed by Tutong with 4 and Temburong, one case. As much as 86 percent of this year's infection was recorded from Kampong Ayer, a change in trend compared to the previous 5 years when only an average of 13 percent of the Sultanate's cases were from the water village.

Asked if there were any "serious" cases recorded recently, Kamaludin recalled only one, which occurred in 2009. "But this person had underlying chronic illnesses. ... The virus lowered his immunity, which made him more susceptible to other illnesses," said the senior public health officer.
==================
[The location of Brunei on the north coast of Borneo Island can be accessed on the HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map at <http://healthmap.org/promed/en?v=4.5,114.8,5>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
More ...

Timor-Leste

General Information:

The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b

going to China for business or holiday trips. Much of the country is mountainous or semidesert and the country lies almost entirely in the temperate zone. Only portions of the southern-most area - the provinces of Yunnan and Guangdong, and the Zhuang autonomous region of Guangxi - lie within the tropics. The monsoon climate is a major influence in the south, but the north and west have a typical continental climate.

Weather Profile: 

During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints  Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.

Safety & Security:

The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.

Local Medications:

Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.

Rabies:

Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.

River Boat Travel:

Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.

Altitude Sickness in Tibet:

Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.

Insect Bites and Malaria:

During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.

Sunlight:

The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.

Acupuncture:

Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.

AIDS risk in China:

Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.

Customs Regulations: 

Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.

Vaccination Requirements: 

 There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.

Summary: 

China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2015 13:53:47 +0100 (MET)

Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing.    Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed.    "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster".   A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!"   Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.

The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car.   She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her.    Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case.    Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave".   The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release.   East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 00:59:28 +0100 (MET)

JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said.   The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands.   In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.   A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings.   Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
Date: Sun, 1 Dec 2013 04:07:58 +0100 (MET)

AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties.   The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea.   In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.   Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far.   "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.

An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt.   Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku.   Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.   A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
Date: Tue 20 Mar 2012
From: Helen Hanson <helenjhanson@gmail.com> [edited]

Re: Meng Ling Moi's post from Japan re: DENV-3 in 3 Japanese travelers returning from East Timor in March [see ProMED-mail archives 20120319.1074013 and 20120306.1060914]

I am the Australian Embassy's doctor in Dili, East Timor. Our clinic sees expatriates and some locals.

It is likely that I saw one or more of the travellers concerned prior to their return to Japan.

Our small one-doctor clinic saw 45 test-confirmed cases of dengue in February [2012] alone, mostly expatriates. These are not included in the 161 test confirmed cases for East Timor quoted in the previous post. Serotyping is not available in Dili, however reports from my colleagues at the ASPEN military medical facility, where blood samples have been sent to Australia for analysis, have also shown DEN-3 to be the circulating serotype.
-------------------------------------------------
Dr Helen Hanson
Australian Embassy Clinic
Dili, East Timor
helenjhanson@gmail.com
=========================
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of East Timor can be accessed at
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Tuesday 6th March 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org>

- East Timor (national). 2 Mar 2012. As of 24 Feb [2012], the Ministry of Health had received 563 reports of dengue (161 confirmed by laboratory tests) in every district except one, including 192 reports of DHF that causes severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and in worst cases, death. This is a 36 per cent increase over reports for the 1st 2 months of 2011. As of 1 Mar [2012], 10 people had died from dengue, according to the government.
=====================
[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of East Timor can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2019 22:38:09 +0100 (MET)

Bogota, Nov 21, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Colombians took to the streets of the capital Bogota on Thursday amid a general strike to protest the policies of President Ivan Duque's right-wing government.   There were no reported outbreaks of major violence as trade unions, students, opposition parties and the South American country's indigenous organizations challenged the full gamut of Duque's economic, social and security policies.   "It is an accumulation of situations that we hope to see reviewed after today, including a great national dialogue of conciliation," Robert Gomez, president of the main workers' union, told AFP.   The protest comes amid social upheaval across South America, as a wave of unrest over the past two months has battered governments in Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador.   The popularity of Duque's right-wing government -- a key US ally -- has been on the wane since his election 18 months ago, as it deals with hosting 1.4 million refugees from neighboring Venezuela's economic meltdown as well as the complex fallout of a 2016 peace deal with FARC rebels and rampant drug trafficking.

- Troops deployed -
Troops were deployed in the capital and other cities to protect "strategic facilities," authorities said.   The Colombian office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced concern over the deployment, saying states must limit the use of military forces "for the control of internal disturbances."   Authorities said the protests were largely peaceful, though riot police fired tear gas to break up groups of demonstrators in isolated clashes in Bogota and the western city of Cali. Blocked roads in some areas snarled transportation.

The general strike was widely followed in Bogota, and other big cities like Bucaramanga in the northeast and Medellin in the northwest.   Several separate marches converged on Bolivar Square, the historic center of the capital close to the presidency.   "We are marching because in Colombia we are tired of corruption, of impunity, that the government does nothing for the poor," Olga Canon, 55, told AFP.   Organizations that participated in the strike take issue with Duque's security policy as well as attempts to introduce a more flexible labor market, weaken public pension funds and raise the retirement age.   Students are demanding more funding for education, while indigenous communities insist on greater protection in remote areas where 134 activists have been killed since Duque came to power in August 2018.

- 'Afraid to march' -
"We are very afraid to march in the streets but we do it anyway because the state is spreading so much fear with its militarization and by closing the borders," political science student Valentina Gaitan, 21, told AFP.    Duque admitted some of the criticisms were legitimate in a televised speech on the eve of the strike, but said the campaign against his government was based on lies seeking to provoke violence.   "We recognize the value of peaceful protests, but also guarantee order," he said.   The borders with Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela were closed until Friday to avoid any threat to "public order and security," authorities said.   Political analyst Jason Marczak said the outrage against the government, the target of several demonstrations in recent months, is part of a "considerable demonstration of discontent in the region."   "The unsatisfied claims and deep polarization are the basis for this massive event," said Marczak, of the Washington-based Atlantic Council.
Date: Thu, 21 Nov 2019 09:12:36 +0100 (MET)

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

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

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

Impoverished Laos has ploughed ahead with ambitious dam-building projects that critics say lack transparency and stringent safety measures.   The cost was laid bare last year when a massive hydropower project collapsed in southern Laos, killing dozens and leaving thousands homeless.   Pope Francis arrived in Bangkok on Wednesday and has a busy agenda Thursday meeting officials and the Thai king before he leads a mass in the evening.    There was no word from his team on whether he felt the quake.    Powerful earthquakes occasionally strike hard in Southeast Asia.   In 2016 a 6.8-magnitude quake struck Myanmar, killing at least three people and damaging temples in the ancient temple town of Bagan.
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2019 14:25:40 +0100 (MET)

Ottawa, Nov 19, 2019 (AFP) - Train operators at Canadian National Railway went on strike on Tuesday after months of contract talks failed, effectively shutting down the largest rail network in Canada.   The union representing more than 3,000 CN workers had given a midnight (0500 GMT) deadline to reach a deal to replace an agreement that expired in July.   "Unfortunately, we were unable to reach a deal with CN," the Teamsters Canada Rail Conference said in a statement.   "The company remains unwilling to address our member's health and safety issues. As a result, members at CN will be on strike... at 00:01 Eastern Time."

The workers had expressed concerns over long hours and fatigue leading to dangerous working conditions. Wages are not in dispute.   The labour dispute follows layoffs of 1,600 staff in North America announced by CN on Friday.    Employment Minister Patty Hajdu has encouraged both sides to continue the negotiations and reach an agreement.    "We are monitoring the situation closely," she said on Saturday after the Teamsters gave a 72-hour strike notice.
Date: Tue, 19 Nov 2019 09:24:19 +0100 (MET)

Wellington, Nov 19, 2019 (AFP) - The death toll from a measles outbreak raging in the Pacific nation of Samoa has risen to 15, with most of the victims young children, UNICEF said Tuesday.   The UN children's agency said that suspected measles cases had topped 1,000 in the island nation, which has declared a state of emergency and launched a compulsory vaccination programme.   "The epidemic has claimed the lives of 14 children under-five years old and one adult," it said in a statement.   UNICEF said it was in the process of delivering more than 110,000 doses of measles vaccine to Samoa's population of about 200,000.   With the virus sweeping through the South Pacific, the agency said it had also sent vaccines to Tonga and Fiji.

Officials were also helping with preparations for potential outbreaks in Vanuatu, the Solomon Islands, Kiribati, the Cook Islands, the Marshall Islands and Micronesia.   It said Samoa, which is by far the worst affected, had low measles vaccination rates of 28-40 percent.   In Tonga and Fiji, which have vaccination rates of 99 percent and 81 percent respectively, the outbreak is more contained and there have been no fatalities.   Children are the most vulnerable to measles, which typically causes a rash and fever but can also lead to brain damage and death.   Samoa has closed all schools and kindergartens, as well as banning children from public gatherings, in a bid to halt the spread of the virus.    After initially facing criticism for its slow response, the government had opened a national emergency operations centre to roll out mass vaccinations.
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 19:25:45 +0100 (MET)

Srinagar, India, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - An avalanche on Monday hit an Indian patrol in the world's highest militarised zone in the Himalayas, killing four soldiers and two porters, an army spokesman said.   The disaster was the latest on the Siachen Glacier at more than 5,000 metres (16,500 feet) that is claimed by India and rival Pakistan.

Hundreds of troops from both sides have died in avalanches and from the fierce climate in the region over the past three decades.   An Indian military spokesman told AFP that the avalanche engulfed eight people in the patrol at the northern end of the glacier in the Karakoram mountain range.   Rescue teams managed to dig the patrol members out of the snow, and they were taken by helicopter to hospital.   "Despite best efforts, six casualties which includes four soldiers and two civilian porters succumbed to extreme hypothermia," said the spokesman, Colonel Rajesh Kalia.

Avalanches are common on the 700-square-kilometre (270-square-mile) glacier, where temperatures regularly fall to minus 60 degrees Celsius (-76 Fahrenheit).   In 2016, 10 Indian soldiers were buried and killed.   About 900 Indian soldiers alone have died on the glacier since 1984, when Indian forces took complete control of Siachen.   The glacier is located at the northern end of the Line of Control that divides Kashmir, which India and Pakistan have fought over since 1947.
Date: Mon, 18 Nov 2019 16:10:29 +0100 (MET)

Vienna, Nov 18, 2019 (AFP) - A man died on Monday in a landslide that destroyed much of his home in southern Austria, which has been hit by heavy rainfall and snow affecting transport and electricity.   The retiree was behind his house in Carinthia state when part of the hill above it slid off, killing the 79-year-old, police said.   Earlier Monday, two women were rescued from the rubble of two houses after another landslide, this one in the spa town of Bad Gastein in Salzburg state.   Salzburg, Tyrol and Carinthia states have all seen heavy rain and snowfall since last week, leading to power cuts in thousands of homes.   Many roads and railway lines have also been cut, and several schools in these areas remained closed on Monday.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 13:19:27 +0100 (MET)

Karachi, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - Lightning strikes killed at least 18 people and injured several more during a deadly night in Pakistan's Thar desert, police said Friday, describing the deaths as "unprecedented".   Thunderstorms and a heavy downpour caused havoc in several villages, destroying dozens of homes, in an unusual rainfall event that a meteorologist says could be linked to climate change.

It was the lightning strikes in 18 different places which had the greatest impact.   "We have so far confirmation of 18 deaths in our district," Abdulah Ahmed, the police chief of the region -- which is located in southern Sindh province and stretches over 22,000 square kilometres (8,500 square miles)-- told AFP.   He said that officers in each village had verified that each death was caused by lightning strike.    In contrast, lightning kills an average of three people each year in the UK, according to the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents.

The Thar desert, straddling the Indian border and one of Pakistan's poorest areas, is dependent on monsoon rains.   But such a heavy rainfall in November is "unusual", while "lightning of that intensity is unprecedented," said Dr Syed Sarfraz, a senior meteorological officer in Karachi.   He said the causes were still being investigated but suggested hot air over the desert had met with a cold air mass entering from Iran, fuelling the storms. Climate change could also be playing a role, he added.    Dozens of tents and blankets were dispatched from Karachi in a relief effort for the families who lost their homes in the rain.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 09:41:09 +0100 (MET)

Phnom Penh, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - Cambodia will ban all elephant rides at the country's famed Angkor temple park by early next year, an official said Friday, a rare win for conservationists who have long decried the popular practice as cruel.   The Angkor archaeological complex in northern Siem Reap attracts the bulk of the kingdom's foreign tourists -- which topped six million in 2018 -- and many opt for elephants rides around the ancient temples.

But these rides "will end by the start of 2020", said Long Kosal, a spokesman with the Apsara Authority, which manages the park.   "Using elephants for business is not appropriate anymore," he told AFP, adding that some of the animals were "already old".   So far, five of the 14 working elephants have been transferred to a community forest about 40 kilometres (25 miles) away from the temples.   "They will live out their natural lives there," Kosal said.   The company that owns the elephants will continue to look after them, he added. 

Cambodia has long come under fire from animal rights groups for ubiquitous elephant rides on offer for tourists, also seen in neighbouring Thailand, Vietnam and Laos.    The elephants are broken in during training and rights groups have accused handlers of overworking them.   In 2016, a female elephant died by the roadside after carrying tourists around the Angkor Wat temple complex in severely hot weather.   The animal had been working for around 45 minutes before she collapsed.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 05:28:34 +0100 (MET)

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

"It took several hours to retrieve his body because the waterfall is slippery and steep," he said by phone, adding that the spot is roped off and there is a sign warning tourists of the danger.   "His friend said he was trying to take a selfie and then he slipped and fell."   Thailand is largely considered a safe destination for tourists and typically draws more than 35 million visitors each year.    But the industry took a hit in 2018 after a ferry carrying Chinese visitors in the country's south sank last year, killing 47 people.   The accident highlighted lax safety rules in the tourism sector and authorities have been scrambling to restore the country's image since.
Date: Fri, 15 Nov 2019 01:13:41 +0100 (MET)
By Sophie PONS

Dakhla, Western Sahara, Nov 15, 2019 (AFP) - In the heart of disputed Western Sahara, a former garrison town has become an unlikely tourist magnet after kitesurfers discovered the windswept desert coast was perfect for their sport.  In Dakhla, an Atlantic seaport town punctuated with military buildings in Morocco-administered Western Sahara, swarms of kitesurfers now sail in the lagoon daily.y    "Here there is nothing other than sun, wind and waves. We turned the adversity of the elements to our advantage: that's the very principle of kitesurfing," said Rachid Roussafi. 

After an international career in windsurfing and kitesurfing, Roussafi founded the first tourist camp at the lagoon at the start of the 2000s.    "At the time, a single flight a week landed in Dakhla," the 49-year-old Moroccan said.   Today, there are 25 a week, including direct flights to Europe.   "Dakhla has become a world destination for kitesurfing," said Mohamed Cherif, a regional politician.

Tourist numbers have jumped from 25,000 in 2010 to 100,000 today, he said, adding they hoped to reach 200,000 annual visitors.    The former Spanish garrison is booming today with the visitor influx adding to fishing and trade revenue.   Kitesurfing requires pricey gear -- including a board, harness and kite -- and the niche tourism spot attracts well-off visitors of all nationalities.    Peyo Camillade came from France "to extend the summer season", with a week's holiday costing about 1,500 euros ($1,660). 

Only the names of certain sites, like PK 25 (kilometre point 25), ruined forts in the dunes and the imposing and still in-use military buildings in Dakhla, remind tourists of the region's history of conflict.   In the 1970s, Morocco annexed Western Sahara, a former Spanish colony, and fought a war with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front from 1975 to 1991, when a ceasefire deal was agreed.   A United Nations mission was deployed to monitor the truce and prepare a referendum on Western Sahara's independence from Morocco, but it never materialized.   Without waiting for the political compromise that the UN has been negotiating for decades, hotels have sprouted from the sand along the coast, and rows of streetlights on vacant lots announce future subdivisions.

- 'Good communication' -
"The secret to success is to develop kitesurfing with good communication focused on the organisation of non-political events," said Driss Senoussi, head of the Dakhla Attitude hotel group.    Accordingly, the exploits of kitesurfing champions like Brazilian Mikaili Sol and the Cape Verdian Airton Cozzolino were widely shared online during the World Kiteboarding Championships in Dakhla last month.   The competition seemed to hold little interest for Dakhla's inhabitants however.

Only a few young people with nothing to do and strolling families found themselves on the beach for the finals.   Just as rare are the foreign tourists who venture into the town of 100,000 residents to shop.   Like her friends, Alexandra Paterek prefers to stay at her hotel, some 30 kilometres (19 miles) from downtown.    "Here is the best place in the world for learning kitesurfing," said the 31-year-old Polish stewardess.    On her understanding of the broader regional context, she said: "It's an old Spanish colony and they have good seafood, for sure."

Like many tourists, she was under the impression that the area belonged to Morocco, as the destination tends to be marketed in the travel industry as "Dakhla, Morocco".   That angers the Polisario, which wants independence for the disputed region and tried last year in vain to sue businesses it said were "accomplices to the occupying military power."   The independence movement is now focused on challenging commercial deals between Morocco and the European Union that involve Western Sahara, according to the group's French lawyer Gilles Devers.   Moroccan authorities are looking actively for investors for their development projects on the west coast, the most ambitious being the Dakhla Atlantique megaport with a budget of about $1 billion to promote fishing.

- Environmental concerns -
On the lagoon, surrounded by white sand and with its holiday bungalows, "there is a struggle between developing aquaculture and tourism," said a senior regional representative, who spoke on condition of anonymity.    "One has less impact on the environment, but the other generates more revenue and jobs," said the representative, adding that "pressure from real-estate investors is very high."

With the influx of tourists, the protection of the environment has become a major concern.   "Everything is developing so quickly... we need to recycle plastic waste and resolve the issue of wastewater," said Rachid Roussafi.    Daniel Bellocq, a retired French doctor, worries for the future of this lagoon, that was "once so wild" that he has kitesurfed in for 20 years.   "There is green algae that wasn't there before, it's becoming a septic tank," he said.   Regional councillor Cherif, though, insists the bay is clean, saying: "All the hotels are equipped with wastewater management systems."   For him, the real threat is from plastic waste, whether it is dropped by tourists or brought by sea currents.