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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]
=====================
[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;
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
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Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue 10 Jul 2018
Source: MSN [edited]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHO data shows measles kills about 134,000 children a year and rubella causes some 100,000 children to be born with birth defects such as deafness.   Concerns about the MMR vaccine surfaced in 1998 when a British study, since discredited, linked it with autism.   While the study was found to be a fraud and the autism link debunked, vaccination rates have dropped in some countries as parents prevent children receiving their shots.
Monday 16th April 2018

- Samoa. 9 Apr 2018. Serotype 2 Outbreak in Samoa, 2017/2018. The cumulative total as of 18 Mar 2018 is 3255, with a national attack rate of 16.6 per 1000 population. Dengue fever continues to spread geographically, mostly in the Apia Urban and North West Upolu regions. A majority of those affected are 5-9-year-old children, which make up 31 percent of the total cases. There have not been any dengue related deaths reported, hence the total dengue-related mortality remains at 5.
Date: Mon 15 Dec 2014
Source: Radio New Zealand [edited]

The number of people infected with chikungunya in Samoa has reached more than 3000.

Ministry of Health figures up until the last week of November [2014] show 3135 cases of the mosquitoborne virus. The ministry says 333 people reported to hospitals that week, the most number of people showing symptoms of the disease in one week since the initial outbreak in July [2014].

The latest numbers mean that 1.7 per cent of Samoa's population has contracted "chik", whose symptoms include fever, sore joints, and a rash. The ministry says the largest clusters of chikungunya are within the Faleata and Vaimauga districts and more women than men have been affected.

There have been no deaths from chikungunya in Samoa. In French Polynesia, 5 people have died and more than 35 000 people have been affected by the disease.
=================
[The chikungunya outbreak continues to grow in Samoa, from 269 cases reported on 25 Aug 2014, to 626 cases on 20 Sep 2014, to an estimated 2500 on 24 Nov 2014, and now to 3135 cases, with cases reported throughout Samoa. Vigilance alone will not halt the outbreak. The Ministry of Health and the public will need to cooperate in the elimination of the breeding sites of the vector mosquitoes.

A map showing the location of Samoa in the Pacific Ocean can be accessed at
a HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at
Date: Wed 10 Dec 2014
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

The chikungunya outbreak in the Pacific Islands continue to balloon, particularly in French Polynesia, where health authorities report seeing an estimated 9000 new cases during the past week.

According to numbers released by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service in New Zealand, as of [1 Dec 2014], the following island countries are battling an on-going chikungunya outbreak: French Polynesia: 18,352 cases, American Samoa: 1148 cases, Samoa: more than 2500 suspected cases and Tokelau: 159 suspected cases.

Radio New Zealand reported more up-to-date numbers today [10 Dec 2014] showing the French Polynesia outbreak is actually up to 27,000 cases and 5 deaths.

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes such as _Aedes aegypti_ and _Aedes albopictus_, the same mosquito vector that transmits dengue fever. It can cause high fever, joint and muscle pain, and headache.

Chikungunya does not often result in death, but the joint pain may last for months or years and may become a cause of chronic pain and disability. There is no specific treatment for chikungunya infection, nor any vaccine to prevent it.  [Byline: Robert Herriman]
======================
[Pending the development of a new vaccine, the only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals against mosquito bites.

The chikungunya outbreak in the Pacific islands, especially in French Polynesia, continues with increasing numbers of cases. So far, attempts to halt transmission through mosquito vector control have not prevented the increase in case numbers. There is a dengue outbreak in French Polynesia as well, and those viruses are transmitted by the same mosquito vector. In the absence of available vaccines, mosquito vector control and avoidance of mosquitoes bites are the only preventive measures available. These measures would require active public collaboration through education.

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map showing the location of the islands in French Polynesia can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/31048>; maps showing the location of American Samoa and Samoa can be accessed at <http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/oceania/wsnewz.gif> and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/2>; maps of Tokelau, a New Zealand territory, can be accessed at <http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/oceania/tk.htm> and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/6767>. - ProMED Mod.TY]
More ...

Syria

Syria US Consular Information Sheet
August 13, 2008

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Since March 1963, the Syrian Arab Republic has been ruled by an authoritarian regime dominated by the Socialist Ba'ath Party.
While the ruling Ba'ath party
spouses a largely secular ideology, Islamic traditions and beliefs provide a conservative foundation for the country's customs and practices.
Syria has a developing, centrally-planned economy with large public (30%), agricultural (25%), and industrial (20%) sectors.
Tourist facilities are available, but vary in quality depending on price and location.
Read the Department of State Background Note http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ei/bgn/3580.htm on Syria for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and a visa are required.
Visas must be obtained prior to arrival in Syria from a Syrian diplomatic mission located in the traveler’s country of residence, although the Syrian visa policy with respect to American diplomats and citizens is currently under review.
Foreigners who wish to stay 15 days or more in Syria must register with Syrian immigration authorities by their 15th day.
Syrian-American men or American men of Syrian origin, even those born in the United States, may be subject to compulsory military service unless they receive a temporary or permanent exemption from a Syrian diplomatic mission abroad prior to their entry into Syria.
(Please see the section on Special Circumstances below.)
Syria charges a departure tax for all visitors except those on diplomatic passports.
As of July 1, 2008, the tax is 1,500 Syrian Pounds if departing from the airport; 500 Syrian Pounds if departing via one of the land borders.

The Syrian government rigidly enforces restrictions on prior travel to Israel, and does not allow persons with passports bearing Israeli visa or entry/exit stamps to enter the country.
Syrian immigration authorities will not admit travelers with Israeli stamps in their passports, Jordanian entry cachets or cachets from other countries that suggest prior travel to Israel.
Likewise, the absence of entry stamps from a country adjacent to Israel, which the traveler has just visited, will cause Syrian immigration officials to refuse admittance.
Entry into Syria via the land border with Israel is not possible.
American-citizen travelers suspected of having traveled to Israel have been detained for questioning.

Syrian security officials are also sensitive about travel to Iraq.
There have been instances in which Americans, especially those of Arab descent, believed to have traveled to Iraq were detained for questioning at ports of entry/exit.
Americans seeking to travel to Iraq through Syria have also on occasion been turned around and/or detained.
On a number of occasions the border between Iraq and Syria has been closed without notice, stranding Americans on either side of the border.
Children under the age of eighteen whose fathers are Syrian or of Syrian descent must have their fathers' permission to leave Syria, even if the parents are separated or divorced and the mother has been granted full custody by a Syrian court.
Women in Syria are often subject to strict family controls.
On occasion, families of Syrian-American women visiting Syria have attempted to prevent them from leaving the country.
This can be a particular problem for young single women of marriageable age.
Although a woman does not need her husband's explicit consent every time she wishes to leave Syria, a Syrian husband may take legal action to prevent his wife from leaving the country, regardless of her nationality.
Once such legal orders are in place, the U.S. Embassy cannot help American citizens leave Syria.
Visit the Embassy of the Syrian Arab Republic, 2215 Wyoming Ave. NW, Washington, DC
20008, telephone (202) 232-6313 or check the Syrian Embassy's home page at http://www.syrianembassy.us for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Syria is included on the Department of State's List of State Sponsors of Terrorism.
A number of the terrorist groups that have offices in Syria oppose U.S. policies in the Middle East.
On September 12, 2006, the U.S. Embassy in Damascus was attacked by assailants using improvised explosives, gunfire, and two vehicles laden with explosives.
On February 4, 2006, mobs protesting caricatures of the Prophet Mohammed destroyed the Norwegian and Chilean embassies and severely damaged the Danish and Swedish diplomatic missions.
On April 27, 2004 there was a violent clash in which three people died in an area of Damascus where many foreign citizens reside.
It has never been clear whether the shootout with Syrian security forces involved common criminals or terrorists.
In 1998 and 2000, mobs attacked the U.S. Ambassador’s Residence and the U.S. Embassy, respectively.
In 1997, twenty-two people were killed when a public bus was bombed in downtown Damascus.
All of these attacks serve as reminders that Syria is not immune from political or purely criminal violence.
Americans traveling through the area should remain aware that U.S. interests and citizens might be targeted.
Security personnel may at times place foreign visitors under surveillance.
Hotel rooms, telephones, and fax machines may be monitored, and personal possessions in hotel rooms may be searched.
Taking photographs of anything that could be perceived as being of military or security interest may result in problems with authorities.
Additionally, Americans should be aware that conversations on the topics of political, religious and other freedoms are not seen as merely healthy debate in Syria and could lead to arrest.
Note that possession of specific-use electronic devices including GPS, short-wave or handheld radio equipment, or similar devices in Syria is illegal.

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

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

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
While a few cases of theft, burglary and assault have been reported to the Embassy, crime is generally not a serious problem for travelers in Syria.
It is important to note, however, that Syria is not crime free. Specifically, incidents of credit card and ATM fraud, and physical harassment of women, are on the rise.

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 the local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy for assistance.
The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

The local equivalents for the “911” emergency line in Syria are:
110 for ambulance, 113 for fire and 112 for the police.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Basic medical care and medicines are available in Syria's principal cities, but not necessarily in outlying areas.
Serious illnesses and emergencies may require evacuation to a Western medical facility.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
Some HIV/AIDS entry restrictions exist for visitors to or foreign residents of Syria.
There are no special immunizations required for entry to Syria.
AIDS tests are mandatory for foreigners’ ages 15 to 60 who wish to reside in Syria.
The AIDS test must be conducted in Syria at a facility approved by the Syrian Ministry of Health.
A residence permit will not be issued until the absence of the HIV virus has been determined.
Foreigners wishing to marry Syrian nationals in Syria must also be tested for HIV.
Syria usually will not give visas or residency permits to students wishing to study religion or Arabic in private religious institutions.
Please verify this information with the Embassy of Syria at http://www.syrianembassy.us/ before you travel.
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 Syria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Syria is hazardous and requires great caution.
Although drivers generally follow traffic signs and signals, they often maneuver aggressively and show little regard for vehicles traveling behind or to the sides of them.
Lane markings are usually ignored.
Vehicles within Syrian traffic circles must give way to entering traffic, unlike in the United States.
At night, it is very hard to see pedestrians, who often walk into traffic with little warning.
Outside major cities it is common to find pedestrians, animals and vehicles without lights on the roads at night.
Pedestrians must also exercise caution.
Parked cars, deteriorating pavement, and guard posts obstruct sidewalks, often forcing pedestrians to walk in the street.
Vehicles often do not stop for pedestrians, and regularly run red lights or “jump” the green light well before it changes.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
For specific information concerning Syrian driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. at 2215 Wyoming Avenue NW, Washington, DC
20008, tel. 202-232-6313.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
Sanctions resulting from the passage of the Syria Accountability Act prohibit aircraft of any air carrier owned or controlled by the Syrian government to take off from or land in the United States.
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Syria, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Syria's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus has advised its employees to avoid travel on Syrian Arab Airlines (Syrian Air or SAA) whenever possible due to concerns regarding the airline's ability to maintain its airplanes.
SAA has, on its own initiative, grounded individual aircraft with significant maintenance or service issues; however, concerns persist that some planes still being flown may lack certain safety equipment or may have undergone repairs that have not been reviewed by the manufacturer.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Syrian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Syria of items such as weapons, narcotics, alcohol, tobacco, cheese, fruits, pharmaceuticals, modems, cosmetics, and some electrical appliances.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Syria in Washington, D.C. for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, they will have proof of identity and U.S. citizenship readily available.
Although Syria is a signatory to the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, Syrian officials generally do not notify the American Embassy when American citizens are arrested. When the American Embassy learns of arrests of Americans and requests consular access, individual police officials have, on their own initiative, responded promptly and allowed consular officers to visit the prisoners.
However, security officials have also in the past denied Embassy requests for consular access, especially in the case of dual citizens.
Foreign currencies can be exchanged for Syrian pounds only at government-approved exchange centers and licensed private banks.
Syrian pounds cannot be changed back into foreign currency.
Very few places in Syria accept credit cards.
Foreigners visiting Syria are required to pay hotel bills in US dollars or Euros.
Travelers’ checks are not accepted for payment in Syria, and banks will not cash them unless the traveler has an account at the bank in question.
There are no US-based banks operating in Syria.
There are six private banks operating in Syria, with branches and ATMs in most major cities.
These ATMs usually honor major debit/credit systems.
Funds may be transferred into Syria through Western Union.
Wiring of funds through private banks is possible only if the traveler already holds an account with the bank in Syria;, transferring funds through the Commercial Bank of Syria is not possible due to U.S. sanctions.
Syrian-American and Palestinian-American men who have never served in the Syrian military and who are planning to visit Syria are strongly urged to check with the Syrian Embassy in Washington, D.C. prior to traveling concerning compulsory military service. American men over the age of 18, even those who have never resided in or visited Syria, whose fathers are of Syrian descent, are required to complete military service or pay to be exempted.
Possession of a U.S. passport does not absolve the bearer of this obligation.
The fee for exemption from military service ranges from $5,000 to $15,000 USD, depending upon circumstances, for Syrian-American and Palestinian-American men who live abroad.
In January 2005 the Syrian government reduced mandatory military service from 30 months to 24 months.
It also announced that Syrians born outside of Syria and residing abroad until the age of 18 have the option of being exempted from their service by paying $2,000 USD.
Those born in Syria who left the country before reaching the age of 11, and have resided abroad for more than 15 years can be exempted by paying $5,000 USD.
Contact the Syrian Embassy in Washington, DC, for more information (See Entry/Exit Requirements section above).
President Bush signed an executive order on May 11, 2004, implementing sanctions in accordance with the Syria Accountability Act.
These sanctions prohibit the export to Syria of products of the United States other than food or medicine, and prohibit any commercial aircraft owned or controlled by the Syrian government from taking off from or landing in the United States.
Under the authority provided in Section 5(b) of the Act, the President has determined that it is in the national security interest of the United States to waive the application of these sanctions in certain cases and for certain products, as specified in the Department of Commerce's General Order No. 2.
For additional information about implementation of the Syria Accountability Act, consult the Department of Commerce web site at (http://www.bis.doc.gov/).
Since 1979, the United States has designated Syria a State Sponsor of Terrorism due to its support for groups such as Hizbollah and Palestinian terrorist groups.
The Terrorism List Government Sanctions Regulations prohibit U.S. persons from receiving unlicensed donations from the Syrian government.
Additionally, U.S. persons are prohibited from engaging in financial transactions which a U.S. person knows or has reasonable cause to believe pose a risk of furthering terrorists' acts in the United States.
For additional information about the Terrorism List Government Sanctions Regulations, consult the terrorism brochure on the U.S. Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) home page on the Internet at http://www.treas.gov/offices/enforcement/ofac/ or via OFAC's info-by-fax service at (202) 622-0077.
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 Syrian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Syria are strict and convicted offenders can expect prison sentences and heavy fines.
Penalties for possession of even small amounts of illegal drugs for personal use are severe in Syria.
Persons convicted in Syria for growing, processing, or smuggling drugs face the death penalty, which may be reduced to a minimum of 20 years’ imprisonment.
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 Syria are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Syria.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 2 Al-Mansour St., Abu Roumaneh, Damascus.
The international mailing address is PO Box 29, Damascus.
Mail may also be sent via the U.S. Postal Service to: American Embassy Damascus, Department of State, Washington, DC
20521-6110.
Telephone numbers are (963) (11) 3391-4444, fax number is (963)(11) 3391-3999, e-mail: acsdamascus@state.gov.
The government workweek in Syria is Sunday through Thursday; the private sector generally works Saturday through Thursday.
The U.S. Embassy is open Sunday through Thursday.
Additional information may be found on the Embassy web site at http://damascus.usembassy.gov
*

*

*
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated November 20, 2007 to update the sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 22 May 2019 16:52:39 +0200
By Nazeer al-Khatib with Hashem Osseiran in Beirut

Maaret al-Numan, Syria, May 22, 2019 (AFP) - Syrian government air strikes killed 18 civilians, including a dozen people at a busy market, as fierce fighting raged for the jihadist-held northwest, a war monitor said on Wednesday.   Regime forces battled to repel a jihadist counteroffensive around the town of Kafr Nabuda that has left 70 combatants dead in 24 hours, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.   The Hayat Tahrir al-Sham alliance, led by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.   The jihadist-dominated region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the government and its ally Russia have escalated their bombardment in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank.   At least 12 people were killed and another 18 wounded when regime warplanes hit the jihadist-held Idlib province town of Maarat al-Numan around midnight (2100 GMT) on Tuesday, the Observatory said.

The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.   The bombardment blew in the facades of surrounding buildings, and ripped through the flimsy frames and canvas of stalls in the market square, an AFP photographer reported.    The bodies of market-goers were torn apart.   "Residents are still scared," stallholder Khaled Ahmad told AFP.   Three more civilians were killed on Wednesday by air strikes in the nearby town of Saraqib, the Observatory said.    Two others were killed in strikes on the town of Maaret Hermeh, it added.    Another civilian was killed in air raids on the town of Jisr al-Shughur, the monitor said.   The Britain-based Observatory relies on a network of sources inside Syria and says it determines whose planes carried out strikes according to type, location, flight patterns and munitions.

- 'Worst fears'-
The strikes came as heavy clashes raged in neighbouring Hama province after the jihadists launched a counterattack on Tuesday.   Fresh fighting on Wednesday took the death toll to 70 -- 36 regime forces and militia and 34 jihadists, the Observatory said.   It said the jihadists had recaptured most of Kafr Nabuda from government forces, who had taken control of the town on May 8.   State news agency SANA on Wednesday however said the army repelled a jihadist attack in the area, killing dozens of insurgents.

Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked the buffer zone deal in September to avert a government offensive on the region and protect its three million residents.   But President Bashar al-Assad's government upped its bombardment of the region after HTS took control in January.   Russia too has stepped up its air strikes in recent weeks.   The Observatory says nearly 200 civilians have been killed in the flare-up since April 30.   The United Nations said Wednesday that Idlib's civilian population once again faced the threat of an all-out offensive.   "A full military incursion threatens to trigger a humanitarian catastrophe for over 3 million civilians caught in the crossfire, as well as overwhelm our ability to respond," said David Swanson, a spokesman for the UN humanitarian office.   Swanson said more than 200,000 people have been displaced by the upsurge of violence since April 28.   A total of 20 health facilities have been hit by the escalation -- 19 of which remain out of service, Swanson said.   Collectively they served at least 200,000 people, he added.

- 'Break the status quo' -
The September deal was never fully implemented as jihadists refused to withdraw from a planned buffer zone around the Idlib region.   But it ushered in a relative drop in violence until earlier this year, with Turkish troops deploying to observation points around the region.   The Syrian government has accused Turkey of failing to secure implementation of the truce deal by the jihadists.   But Turkish Defence Minister Hulusi Akar accused the Syrian regime late Tuesday of threatening the ceasefire deal.   "The regime is doing all that it can to break the status quo including using barrel bombs, land and air offensives," Akar told reporters.   "Turkish armed forces will not take a step back from wherever they may be", he however added.   Earlier, the US State Department said it was assessing indications that the government had used chemical weapons on Sunday during its offensive in Idlib.   HTS accused government forces of launching a chlorine gas attack on its fighters in the northern mountains of Latakia.   But the Observatory said Wednesday it had "no proof at all of the attack".

7 May 2019, Cairo, Egypt: The World Health Organization (WHO) strongly condemns continuing attacks on health facilities in north-western Syria. Since 29 April, in just nine days, twelve health structures have been hit. 

On 5 May, three facilities were struck in one day alone, including two major hospitals that provide secondary healthcare in the area.  One of the structures, a surgical unit, was supported by WHO. Three health care workers lost their lives as a result of these attacks.  There are now no functioning hospitals in northern Hama, and emergency care is provided by only three surgical units supported by WHO.  Close to 300,000 civilians are affected.   

“These attacks against health facilities and other civilian infrastructure are a grave and totally unacceptable development,” said Dr. Ahmed Al-Mandhari, WHO Regional Director for the Eastern Mediterranean Region. “International humanitarian law safeguards civilians, even in the most violent of conflicts. And according to the Geneva Convention, health facilities and civilians – especially the most vulnerable – must be protected.  Parties to the conflict in northern Hama and in Idleb are flagrantly disregarding those rules; and it is women, children, the elderly and other vulnerable groups who are suffering as a result.”   

The health facilities that were hit in northern Hama and southern Idleb provided a total of 30,000 consultations, 860 hospital admissions and 700 surgeries per month to a highly vulnerable population. 

“We are also deeply concerned about the people who have had to flee their homes and now have no access to basic health services. Over 150,000 people were displaced from northern Hama and southern Idleb in between 29 April and 4 May, doubling the total number of people displaced in the area in the last three months. Saving their lives is our main priority and this requires further strengthening available health services. What is of particular concern is the increasing risk for infectious disease outbreaks due to overcrowding in temporary settlements,” Dr Al-Mandhari added.

WHO continues – with health partners – to ensure the provision of key primary and secondary healthcare and has released emergency health supplies for almost 92,200 treatment courses, including for surgical and trauma care, secondary healthcare, and primary healthcare.

As the conflict in north-western Syria intensifies, WHO reminds all parties to the conflict that attacks on health facilities are a blatant violation of international humanitarian law. Health facilities must never be attacked or damaged, and health workers should be allowed to provide medical treatment and services to all people in need wherever they are.

Date: Tue, 2 Apr 2019 18:54:39 +0200

Beirut, April 2, 2019 (AFP) - More than 40,000 displaced people in north-western Syria have seen their camps flooded by heavy rains in the past three days, a United Nations spokesman said Tuesday.   Around 14 camps were affected in the north-western province of Idlib, David Swanson of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs told AFP.

The Idlib region, controlled by Syria's former Al-Qaeda affiliate, is home to more than 3 million people -- more than half of them displaced by the country's eight-year war.   Civil defence workers known as the White Helmets have been working to save people and their scant belongings from the rising muddy waters.   "For the second day in a row, White Helmets... continue to respond to the catastrophic situation in the northern Syria camps," they said on Twitter late Monday.

One video posted by the group on Sunday showed brown water cascading out of a flooded tent.   In another published the same day, civil defence workers clung on to a rope as they waded through a brown torrent above knee level.   The downpour has affected tens of thousands of civilians, displaced persons, crops and livestock in Idlib, as well as in the Aleppo and Hasakeh provinces since Saturday, Swanson said.

In Aleppo province, tents were destroyed in several camps for the displaced and a hospital in the countryside had to shut down due to the flooding.   Syria's war has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since starting in 2011 with the brutal repression of anti-government protests.   Tens of thousands of displaced Syrians in the north of the country depend on handouts from humanitarian aid groups, including food, blankets and heating fuel for the winter months.

Thursday 7th March 2019
http://www.emro.who.int/syr/syria-news/unexploded-mines-pose-daily-risk-for-people-in-northern-syria.html

6 March 2019 - Um Hassan, from rural Aleppo, was collecting truffles in the countryside to sell in local markets. At the end of a long day of backbreaking work in harsh winter conditions, she and her children climbed into a crowded lorry to begin their journey home. Half-way through their trip, the lorry drove over an unexploded mine. Um Hassan’s 10-year old daughter Lolo was killed instantly and two of her other children were seriously injured.

Lolo was one of six people killed in the explosion. Another 15 people were rushed to the WHO-supported University Hospital in Aleppo. Um Hassan’s husband was frantic with worry when his family did not return home. He had no way of getting in touch with his wife and she was unable to get in touch with him. Like many people living in poverty in rural areas of Syria, the family has no mobile phone or landline.

“This is such a tragic event,” said Elizabeth Hoff, WHO Representative in Syria. “Although the security situation in the north has improved recently, tens of thousands of landmines and other unexploded devices continue to pose a severe threat to millions of innocent people. WHO is working to strengthen trauma care and emergency services in Aleppo and other northern governorates, but the underlying problem remains. Sustained efforts must be made to clear mines and other hazards from former conflict areas. Until then, people like Um Hassan and her family will be at risk of similar incidents.”

For Um Hassan and many others like her, there is no choice but to continue working every day, despite the risks. “Life is difficult and we have to keep working in our fields, no matter how hard,“ said Um Hassan. “Our survival depends on it.”

Date: Tue 8 Jan 2019
Source: Reliefweb, UN Children's Fund report [edited]

Years of conflict and damage to the infrastructure in Hama have contributed to creating an environment where the parasitic skin disease Leishmaniasis can spread within the local communities. The disease, known locally as the 'Aleppo Boil', is spread by the bite of infected sand-flies that thrive in the piled-up waste and damaged sewers in the streets of Hama.

UNICEF, with its partners, is helping fight Leishmaniasis through awareness-raising campaigns in 13 of the most affected villages of Hama and its rural villages. Health workers in Hama are training young people on how to lead group discussions and peer-to-peer information sessions about the causes, detection and treatment of Leishmaniasis. Young people were also trained on the behavioural changes necessary to foster an environment unfavourable for the disease.

Recurring displacement of infected children and families coupled with incorrect practices when it comes to livestock keeping have further spread the infection in rural Hama. "I didn't know that dung could be a place for the 'Aleppo Boil' parasite to live," says Amira, a local livestock keeper from Jarjisa in rural Hama who took part in one of the sessions. Amira's husband and 3 children were all infected with Leishmaniasis.

UNICEF through 13 volunteer mobile teams, comprised of health workers and young people, helped raise the awareness of children, families, frontline health workers, community leaders, school teachers and livestock keepers in Hama and the rural outskirts, aiming to put an end to the epidemic.  [Byline: Lina AlQassab]
======================
[Leishmaniasis has been one of the infections surging during the Syrian civil war and ProMED has reported repeatedly on this emerging infection. CL caused by _L. tropica_ is still endemic in Aleppo but also in Edlib, Lattakia, Tortous, Hama, and Damascus. CL caused by _L. major_ is found in and around Damascus. VL caused by _L. infantum_ is found in the northwest in the provinces of Al Ladhiqiyah, Idlib, and Halab. The reservoirs for _L. tropica_ are humans, and not all cases are treated, and the study by Alvar et al. estimated that the human reservoir is increasing. The reservoirs for _L. major_ are small rodents, and for _L. infantum_, dogs. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Hama Governorate, Syria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/24710>]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

31st May 2019

A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted Friday, spewing a plume of ash and smoke more than 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky. Mount Agung, about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life in 2017, sometimes grounding flights and forcing residents to flee their homes.
Mount Agung is about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta

The latest shortly before noon on Friday shot a cloud of volcanic ash high into the sky, but caused no disruption to flights, Indonesia's geological agency said.  Agung remained at the second highest danger warning level, and there is a four-kilometre no-go zone around the crater.

Last summer, dozens of flights were cancelled after Agung erupted, while tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after an eruption in 2017.

The last major eruption of Agung in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

Indonesia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.

31st May 2019

Heatwaves across India have exacted heavy casualties this year, including dozens of deaths by sunstroke and other heat-related causes. The deaths have been mainly reported from states like Maharashtra (particularly Vidarbha), Andhra Pradesh (mainly Rayalseema) and Telangana, due to the temperature extremes in these regions. What's worrying is, a study suggests that the heatwave conditions are likely to increase from next year and continue till 2064 because of El Niño Modoki and depletion in soil moisture. Here's how the heatwave is taking a toll in the above states.

Maharashtra

Parts of Maharashtra have been reeling under high temperatures accompanied by severe heatwave condition during this summer. According to a report in The Times Of India, a 50-year old man in Beed succumbed to death because of heatstroke recently, taking the overall number to 8. Reports show a total of 456 cases of heat-related illnesses in Maharashtra this summer. Last year, the number of cases reported was 568. However, the death toll this year is more than last year's figure of 2 victims.

Regions like Nagpur and Akola show the most number of deaths and illnesses in the Vidarbha region. About 163 cases of heat-related illness were reported in Nagpur and 76 ailments were reported in Latur region. Recently, Chandrapur in Maharashtra (which lies 150km south of Nagpur) registered a day temperature of 48°C, the highest recorded in India this summer.

Andhra Pradesh

Parts of Andhra Pradesh have been experiencing temperatures of 45°C and more since the last few days. These conditions have persisted in the state after the heavy rains caused by Cyclone Fani.

Two women going on a two-wheeler and covered themselves with scarfs to protect themselves from the heat wave, in Vijayawada
(Mahesh G, TOI, BCCL, Vijayawada.)

Three people have died in Andhra Pradesh due to heat-related causes this year. Also, 433 people have been diagnosed with heatstroke. Earlier this month, electrical transformers had blown up in many parts of Krishna and Guntur districts, disrupting power supply for more than five hours and intensifying the effects of heatwave conditions and the severe temperatures.

In 2015, Andhra Pradesh experienced the most number of heat deaths in the country: 1,369 people died that year from heat-related illnesses.

Telangana

Seventeen people have succumbed in Telangana over the last 22 days. However, the number of unconfirmed deaths is expected to be higher. The region saw 541 heat-related deaths in 2015, and 27 in 2018. The farmers and those who work in the sun are usually the ones to be affected the most by high temperatures and heatwave conditions.

As heat blankets the country, make sure you stay protected. Follow official guidelines and do not step out in the Sun, especially in the afternoon hours, unless absolutely necessary.

(With inputs from The Times Of India.)

11th June 2019
https://afro.who.int/news/confirmation-case-ebola-virus-disease-uganda

Kampala, 11 June 2019 - The Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO) have confirmed a case of Ebola Virus Disease in Uganda. Although there have been numerous previous alerts, this is the first confirmed case in Uganda during the Ebola outbreak on-going in neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo.

The confirmed case is a 5-year-old child from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who travelled with his family on 9th June 2019. The child and his family entered the country through Bwera Border post and sought medical care at Kagando hospital where health workers identified Ebola as a possible cause of illness. The child was transferred to Bwera Ebola Treatment Unit for management. The confirmation was made today by the Uganda Virus Institute (UVRI). The child is under care and receiving supportive treatment at Bwera ETU, and contacts are being monitored.

The Ministry of Health and WHO have dispatched a Rapid Response Team to Kasese to identify other people who may be at risk, and ensure they are monitored and provided with care if they also become ill. Uganda has previous experience managing Ebola outbreaks. In preparation for a possible imported case during the current outbreak in DRC, Uganda has vaccinated nearly 4700 health workers in 165 health facilities (including in the facility where the child is being cared for); disease monitoring has been intensified; and health workers trained on recognizing symptoms of the disease. Ebola Treatment Units are in place.

In response to this case, the Ministry is intensifying community education, psychosocial support and will undertake vaccination for those who have come into contact with the patient and at-risk health workers who were not previously vaccinated.  

Ebola virus disease is a severe illness that is spread through contact with the body fluids of a person sick with the disease (fluids such as vomit, faeces or blood). First symptoms are similar to other diseases and thus require vigilant health and community workers, especially in areas where there is Ebola transmission, to help make diagnosis. Symptoms can be sudden and include:
  • Fever
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle pain
  • Headache
  • Sore throat
People who have been in contact with someone with the disease are offered vaccine and asked to monitor their health for 21 days to ensure they do not become ill as well.

The investigational vaccine being used in DRC and by health and frontline workers in Uganda has so far been effective in protecting people from developing the disease, and has helped those who do develop the disease to have a better chance of survival. The Ministry strongly urges those who are identified as contacts to take this protective measure.

Investigational therapeutics and advanced supportive care, along with patients seeking care early once they have symptoms, increase chances of survival.

The Ministry of Health has taken the following actions to contain spread of the disease in the country:
  • The District administration and local councils in the affected area have been directed to ensure that any person with Ebola signs and symptoms in the community is reported to the health workers immediately and provided with advice and testing.
  • The Ministry of Health is setting up units in the affected district and at referral hospitals to handle cases if they occur.
  • •Social mobilization activities are being intensified and education materials are being disseminated.

There are no confirmed cases in any other parts of the country.

The Ministry is working with international partners coordinated by the World Health Organization.

The Ministry of Health appeals to the general public and health workers to work together closely, to be vigilant and support each other in helping anyone with symptoms to receive care quickly. The Ministry will continue to update the general public on progress and new developments.
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2019 14:24:43 +0200

Lima, June 10, 2019 (AFP) - Peru has declared a health emergency in five regions, including Lima, after the deaths of at least four people linked to Guillain-Barre syndrome, an autoimmune disorder that attacks the nervous system.   Health Minister Zulema Tomas said Sunday that in addition to the deaths there were currently 206 cases of the disease.   "We have an outbreak, there has been a brusque increase" since June 5, Tomas said on state-run TV Peru, adding that health authorities were taking steps to control and contain the disease.

While the syndrome is not contagious, a 90-day health emergency was declared because the current cases "have unusual and atypical characteristics that require rapid or immediate initial treatment," Peru's Institute of Neurological Sciences said.   The precise cause of the disorder is unknown, but most cases develop after a person has been sick with diarrhoea or a respiratory infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US says its research suggests that the syndrome is "strongly associated" with the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne illness.   The regions affected by GBS include three on the country's northern coast -- Piura, Lambayeque, La Libertad -- tourist destinations known for their archaeological sites and beaches.   Also included was the central region of Junin and Lima, which has nine million inhabitants.   Two deaths were reported in Piura, one in La Libertad and another in Junin.
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2019 16:39:03 +0200

Madrid, June 10, 2019 (AFP) - Three tourists have fallen from their hotel balconies in Spain's Balearic Islands in recent days, one of them dying on impact, police said Monday as the summer season in the party archipelago begins.   The incidents came as Britain's foreign office warned holidaymakers heading to Spain against "balcony falls" and asked them not to "take unnecessary risks... particularly if you're under the influence of drink or drugs."   On Friday in Magaluf, a party resort notorious for its booze-fuelled tourism, a 19-year-old British man fell to his death from the second floor of his hotel, Spain's Civil Guard police force said.

A spokesman said police were looking at two theories -- either "he threw himself off voluntarily, or he fell by accident."   He did not know whether the victim had consumed drugs or alcohol.   On Thursday, a 35-year-old German man fell from the second floor of his hotel too, this time in Palma de Majorca, and was seriously injured, police said.   A source close to the probe, who declined to be named, said the man had drunk, dozed off, woken up and subsequently fallen from the balcony, possibly disorientated.   And on Monday, an Australian man in his early thirties fell from the second floor of his hotel in Ibiza and was seriously hurt, police said, without giving further details.

Balcony falls happen every year in the Balearic Islands and other party resorts in Spain, most of them due to excessive drinking or drug-taking/   Some are accidental slips, while others happen when tourists miss while trying to jump into pools or onto another balcony -- a practice known as "balconing."   The British foreign office's online travel advice for Spain has an entire section warning against "balcony falls".   "There have been a number of very serious accidents (some fatal) as a result of falls from balconies," says the website.    "Many of these incidents have involved British nationals and have had a devastating impact on those involved and their loved ones."
Date: Mon, 10 Jun 2019 06:44:54 +0200

Sydney, June 10, 2019 (AFP) - Australian police said Monday they were scouring bushland for a Belgian teenage tourist missing in a popular surf town for more than a week.   Theo Hayez, an 18-year-old backpacker, was last seen on May 31 at a hotel in the coastal tourist town of Byron Bay -- some 750 kilometres (470 miles) north of Sydney -- New South Wales state police said.   "We have a large amount of resources searching... in bushland that is towards the east and northeast of the town," police Chief Inspector Matthew Kehoe said in a statement.   "We are advised that this disappearance is completely out of character for him."   Police said they were alerted to his disappearance on Thursday after he failed to return to a hostel he was staying in.   Hayez's passport and personal belongings were all left at the hostel, and police believe he had not made any financial transactions since his disappearance or used his mobile phone.
Date: Sat 8 Jun 2019
Source: New Jersey 101.5 [edited]

The potentially deadly Powassan tick-borne virus has been confirmed in 2 Sussex county residents, one of whom died last month [May 2019], state health officials confirmed [Sat 8 Jun 2019].

The Powassan virus is spread by the deer tick [_Ixodes scapularis_]. The illness is rarer than Lyme disease, which is also spread by the tick, but 10% of people who contract the [Powassan virus] illness die from it.

A Department of Health official on [Sat 8 Jun 2019] said that the department had not determined the cause of death for the patient who died last month [May 2019] but said that lab results this week [week of 3 Jun 2019] confirmed that he had the virus.

A 2nd victim continues to recover at home.

Symptoms of the virus include brain swelling, meningitis, fever, headache, vomiting, weakness, confusion, loss of coordination, trouble speaking, and memory loss. Symptoms can appear a week to a month after a tick bite, although some people show no symptoms and do not require treatment.

There is no vaccine or cure for the disease. Treatment includes hospitalization, support for breathing, and intravenous fluids.

Prevention involves the same precautions that should be taken to avoid Lyme disease: avoid wooded areas with tall grasses, use insect repellent while outdoors, and check for ticks after being outdoors.

Powassan [virus] -- first discovered in Powassan, Ontario, in 1958 -- has been confirmed in recent years in New Jersey, with one case each in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and 4 cases in 2017, the most recent year for which data is available. The cases were reported in Sussex, Warren, Morris, and Essex counties.

Between 2008 and 2017, there were 125 confirmed cases in the entire country and 9 deaths.

A person who said they were close to the man who died last month [May 2019] posted on Facebook that the man was bitten in the arm by a tick while gardening and fell ill about 2 weeks later. The Facebook post said that there was no bull's-eye mark around the bite -- a known tell-tale sign for Lyme infection. About a day before he was hospitalized, the man reported feeling like he was coming down with a cold and had a high fever.

State health department's tip sheet for preventing Powassan [virus infection]:
- avoid contact with ticks by avoiding wooded areas with high grass;
- when hiking, stay on the center of the trail;
- picnic in areas away from wooded and bushy areas;
- keep children on playground equipment and away from tall grass and shrubs;
- when outdoors, apply insect repellents;
- wear light-colored clothes so it is easy to see and remove ticks;
- wear long-sleeve shirts and pants;
- tuck long pants into socks so ticks cannot crawl under pants;
- do tick checks every couple hours while outdoors and before coming indoors;
- if you see a tick during tick checks, remove it right away;
- keep grass mowed short;
- keep children's toys, playground equipment, pools, and lawn furniture at least 15 feet [4.6 m] from wooded areas;
- create a woodchip or mulch border between your yard and wooded areas;
- keep areas under bird feeders and pet dishes clean, so they do not attract animals that may carry ticks;
- keep trash in closed containers or areas so it does not attract animals that may carry ticks.  [Byline: Sergio Bichao]
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[Powassan virus is endemic in New Jersey, and cases occur there sporadically. The tick vector is the deer tick, _Ixodes scapularis_. Humans become infected with POWV during spillover transmission from the natural transmission cycles. In humans, POWV can be a causative agent of a severe neuroinvasive illness, with 50% of survivors displaying long-term neurological sequelae. Individuals living or visiting areas where the deer tick occurs, should follow the above recommendations to avoid tick bites. If a tick is found feeding, it should be removed with forceps or tweezers grasping the tick at skin level and then gentle, constant force applied. The tick should never be removed by grasping it with thumb and forefinger, as squeezing the tick may cause inoculation of contents containing the pathogenic agent into the feeding site.

POWV was recognized as a human pathogen in 1958, when a young boy died of severe encephalitis in Powassan, Ontario, Canada. In that case, POWV was isolated from the brain autopsy. There are 2 distinct genetic lineages now recognized: POWV (lineage I) and deer tick virus (lineage II). Since the index case in 1958, over 100 human cases of POWV have been reported, with an apparent rise in disease incidence in the past 16 years. This recent increase in cases may represent a true emergence of POWV in regions where the tick vector species are prevalent, or it could represent an increase in POWV surveillance and diagnosis. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of New Jersey, United States:
New Jersey county map:
Date: 6 Jun 2019
Source: Washington Post [edited]

Dominican government officials released more-detailed autopsy results on Thursday [6 Jun 2019] for 3 American tourists who died at adjacent beach resorts owned by the same hotel company during the last week of May 2019.

All 3 victims experienced eerily similar symptoms and internal trauma before their deaths, according to a news release from Dominican authorities. Pathologists said autopsies showed the 3 had internal haemorrhaging, pulmonary oedema, and enlarged hearts.

Toxicology reports are pending [These are likely to be the most interesting. - ProMED Mod.TG].

A U.S. State Department official said authorities have not yet established a connection between the 30 May 2019 deaths of 49-year-old CAD, and 63-year-old NEH, both of Prince George's County, MD, and the death on 25 May 2019 of 41-year-old MSW of Pennsylvania.

The FBI is providing Dominican law enforcement with "technical assistance with the toxicology reports," the State Department official said.

MSW had just checked into the Luxury Bahia Principe Bouganville, in the town of San Pedro de Macoris, and was taking pictures from her room balcony when she started to feel ill.

Less than 2 hours later, she was dead, local authorities said.

The bodies of CAD and HEH were found inside their room at the Grand Bahia Principe La Romana after relatives grew concerned because they had not checked out of the resort.

The hotels are located next to each other on the island's southern coast, about 60 miles from the tourist-heavy Punta Cana area.

Dominican authorities initially did not run toxicology tests for MSW because there were no signs of violence, said Ramon Brito, a spokesman for the National Police's special tourism unit. After the Maryland couple was found, investigators ordered a set of tests to determine whether anything the 3 Americans consumed may have led to their deaths, Brito said.  [Byline: Arelis R. Hernandez]
Date: 31 May 2019
Source: 4 News [edited]

The Alachua County Health Department is warning residents that there are 12 confirmed cases of mumps, primarily from college students at the University of Florida.  "This is a little more than usual," says Steve Orlando, University of Florida spokesman.

Alachua County normally receives around 2 reported cases a year, and UF believes more students could be infected.  "So, it's curious because these are individuals who are vaccinated, and that's what we are seeing nationwide," says Paul Myers, Alachua County Health Department administrator.

Officials say it is still unclear why there has been an uptick with the virus. So far, the CDC shows 736 people have contracted mumps nationwide in 2019.

"The sharing of the utensils, sharing of the cups, sharing of the water bottles, you know it is a very common thing for students to share those things, and that's exactly the kind of thing that could lead to transmission," says Orlando.
Date: Sat 8 Jun 2019
Source: Business Standard [edited]

As many as 14 children have died due to acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) in the district, while over a dozen are admitted in hospitals with high fever and other symptoms of the infection.

Sunil Shahi, Superintendent of Shri Krishna Medical College and Hospital (SKMCH), told ANI, "We have received 38 patients so far; most of them have a deficiency of glucose in their blood. Of these, 2 have also tested JE [Japanese encephalitis] positive; the overall casualty till now is 14."

Dr Gopal Sahni, head of Critical Care Unit, said, "When heat and humidity rise, the body's sweat cannot evaporate. The humidity level is over 50 per cent in the last few days. We have about 15 such children admitted in the hospital currently, and 89 such cases come regularly."

Encephalitis is a viral infection, which causes mild flu-like symptoms such as a fever or a headache.
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[Again, this year (2019), cases of AES and JE are appearing in north-western India. Of the 14 AES cases, 2 tested positive for JE. The aetiology of the remaining cases is not stated, but the majority are reported as hypoglycaemic. As noted previously, frequently, in reports of JE cases in India, acute encephalitis syndrome (AES) of undefined aetiology is often mentioned with JE cases that are a minority of those hospitalized.

The determination of the aetiology or aetiologies of AES has been confusing and elusive. Various etiological agents have been proposed in recent years as responsible for AES cases. AES has continued to be attributed to a variety of aetiologies, including Reye syndrome-like disease, possible enterovirus infection from polluted water, heatstroke, lychee fruit consumption, and scrub typhus (_Orientia tsutsugamushi_). Recently, scrub typhus has been implicated in many AES cases. A recent publication (reference below) states that dengue virus is one of the 3 most common agents identified in acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). Unfortunately, existing surveillance for AES does not include routine testing for dengue. Dengue accounts for 5% of AES cases in India, especially in the absence of laboratory evidence for other pathogens tested. Dengue should be added to the list of possible AES etiological agents.

Reference:
Vasanthapuram Ravi, Shafeeq Keeran Shahul Hameed, Anita Desai, Reeta Subramaniam Mani, Vijayalakshmi Reddy, et al.: Dengue virus is an under-recognised causative agent of acute encephalitis syndrome (AES): Results from a 4-year AES surveillance study of Japanese encephalitis in selected states of India. International Journal of Infectious Diseases. 2019. doi: <https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ijid.2019.01.008>.

Maps of India:

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: