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Afghanistan

Afghanistal US Consular Information Sheet March 03, 2009


COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:


Afghanistan has made significant progress since the Taliban were deposed in 2001, but still faces daunting challenges, including de

eating terrorists and insurgents, recovering from over three decades of civil strife, dealing with years of severe drought and rebuilding a shattered physical, economic and political infrastructure. Coalition and NATO forces under ISAF work in partnership with Afghan security forces to combat Taliban and al-Qa’ida elements who seek to terrorize the population and challenge the government. Violence in 2008 reached unprecedented levels, as both ISAF/Afghan forces and the Taliban initiated more battles than ever before. President Hamid Karzai was sworn in as President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on December 7, 2004 and the Afghan Parliament was subsequently convened in late 2005. The government is working to develop a more effective police force, a more robust legal system, and sub-national institutions that work in partnership with traditional and local leaders to meet the needs of the population. The U.S. works closely with the international community to provide coordinated support for these efforts. An Afghanistan-hosted Peace Jirga with Pakistan resulted in a commitment to cooperate in combating terrorism, facilitate the return of Afghan refugees, and support regional economic activity. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Afghanistan for additional information.


ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:


 A passport and valid visa are required to enter and exit Afghanistan. Afghan entry visas are not available at Kabul International Airport or any other ports of entry in Afghanistan. American citizens who arrive without a visa are subject to confiscation of their passport and face heavy fines and difficulties in retrieving their passport and obtaining a visa, as well as possible deportation from the country. Americans arriving in the country via military air usually have considerable difficulties if they choose to depart Afghanistan on commercial air, because their passports are not stamped to show that they entered the country legally. Those coming on military air should move quickly after arrival to legalize their status if there is any chance they will depart the country on anything other than military air. Visit the Embassy of Afghanistan web site at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.org for the most current visa information. The Consular office of the Embassy of Afghanistan is located at 2233 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Suite 216, Washington, DC 20007, phone number 202-298-9125. 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:


The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan emphasizes that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. The Taliban and associated insurgent groups, al-Qaida network terrorist organizations, and narco-traffickers oppose the strengthening of a democratic government. These groups aim to weaken or bring down the Government of Afghanistan and to drive Westerners out of the country. They do not hesitate to use violence, including targeting civilians. Terrorist activities may include, but are not limited to bombings -- including improvised explosive devices and car bombs -- assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults and kidnappings. There were over 120 suicide attacks in 2008. There is an ongoing threat to attack and kidnap U.S. citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. In 2008,, more than 30 NGO workers were killed (six foreigners) and at least 78 NGO staff members (seven foreigners) were abducted. Over 25 other foreign civilians, including journalists, were kidnapped. Kabul continues to experience suicide bombings against Afghan government personnel and installations, Afghan and coalition military assets, and international civilians. Riots -- sometimes violent -- have occurred in response to various political or other issues. Crime, including violent crime, remains a significant problem. Official Americans' use of the Kabul-Jalalabad, Kabul-Kandahar highways and other roads throughout the country is often restricted or completely curtailed because of security concerns. Insurgents continue to use roadside and car bombs to conduct attacks and abductions along major highways. Millions of unexploded land mines and other ordinance present a constant danger. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. Americans should not come to Afghanistan unless they have made arrangements in advance to address security concerns. The absence of records for ownership of property, differing laws from various regimes and the chaos that comes from decades of civil strife have left property issues in great disorder. Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property, or Americans coming to the country to engage in business, have become involved in complicated real estate disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory action, including kidnapping for ransom and death. Large parts of Afghanistan are extremely isolated, with few roads, mostly in poor condition, irregular cell phone signals, and none of the basic physical infrastructure found in Kabul or the larger cities. Americans traveling in these areas who find themselves in trouble may not even have a way to communicate their difficulties to the outside world. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.


CRIME:


 A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries as well as kidnappings and assault. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.


INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:


The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Embassy in Kabul for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to provide a list of attorneys if needed. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in Afghanistan is: 119 Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.


CRIMINAL PENALTIES:


While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Afghanistan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. During the last several years, there have been incidents involving the arrest and/or detention of U.S. citizens. Arrested Americans have faced periods of detention—sometimes in difficult conditions—while awaiting trial. Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Afghanistan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Another sensitive activity is proselytizing. Although the Afghan Constitution allows the free exercise of religion, proselytizing is often viewed as contrary to the beliefs of Islam and considered harmful to society. Proselytizing may lead to arrest and/or deportation. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.


SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:


Because of the poor infrastructure in Afghanistan, access to banking facilities is limited and unreliable. Afghanistan's economy operates on a "cash-only" basis for most transactions. Credit card transactions are not available. International bank transfers are limited. Some ATM machines exist at Standard Charter Bank and Afghan International Bank (AIB) in the Wazir Akbar Khan neighborhood of Kabul, but some travelers have complained of difficulties using them. International communications are difficult. Local telephone networks do not operate reliably. Most people rely on satellite or cellular telephone communications even to make local calls. Cellular phone service is available locally in Kabul and some other cities, but can be unreliable. Injured or distressed foreigners could face long delays before being able to communicate their needs to family or colleagues outside of Afghanistan. Internet access through local service providers is limited. In addition to being subject to all Afghan laws, U.S. citizens who are also citizens of Afghanistan may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Afghan citizens. U.S. citizens who are also Afghan nationals do not require visas for entry into Afghanistan. The Embassy of Afghanistan issues a letter confirming your nationality for entry into Afghanistan. However, you may wish to obtain a visa as some Afghan-Americans have experienced difficulties at land border crossings because they do not have a visa in their passport. For additional information on dual nationality in general, see the Consular Affairs home page for our dual nationality flyer. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passport with them at all times, so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. As stated in the Travel Warning, consular assistance for American citizens in Afghanistan is limited. Islam provides the foundation of Afghanistan's customs, laws and practices. Foreign visitors -- men and women -- are expected to remain sensitive to the Islamic culture and not dress in a revealing or provocative manner, including the wearing of sleeveless shirts and blouses, halter-tops and shorts. Women in particular, especially when traveling outside of Kabul, may want to ensure that their tops have long sleeves and cover their collarbone and waistband, and that their pants/skirts cover their ankles. Almost all women in Afghanistan cover their hair in public; American women visitors should carry scarves for this purpose. Afghan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Afghanistan of items such as firearms, alcoholic beverages, religious materials, antiquities, medications, and printed materials. American travelers have faced fines and/or confiscation of items considered antiquities upon exiting Afghanistan. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington for specific information regarding customs requirements. Travelers en route to Afghanistan may transit countries that have restrictions on firearms, including antique or display models. If you plan to take firearms or ammunition to another country, you should contact officials at that country's embassy and those that you will be transiting to learn about their regulations and fully comply with those regulations before traveling. Please consult http://www.customs.gov for information on importing firearms into the United States. Please see our Customs Information sheet.


MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:


Well-equipped medical facilities are few and far between throughout Afghanistan. European and American medicines are available in limited quantities and may be expensive or difficult to locate. There is a shortage of basic medical supplies. Basic medicines manufactured in Iran, Pakistan, and India are available, but their reliability can be questionable. Several western-style private clinics have opened in Kabul: the DK-German Medical Diagnostic Center (www.medical-kabul.com), Acomet Family Hospital (www.afghancomet.com), and CURE International Hospital (ph. 079-883-830) offer a variety of basic and routine-type care; Americans seeking treatment should request American or Western health practitioners. Afghan public hospitals should be avoided. Individuals without government licenses or even medical degrees often operate private clinics; there is no public agency that monitors their operations. Travelers will not be able to find Western-trained medical personnel in most parts of the country outside of Kabul, although there are some international aid groups temporarily providing basic medical assistance in various cities and villages. For any medical treatment, payment is required in advance. Commercial medical evacuation capability from Afghanistan is limited and could take days to arrange. Even medevac companies that claim to service the world may not agree to come to Afghanistan. Those with medevac insurance should confirm with the insurance provider that it will be able to provide medevac assistance to this country. There have been outbreaks of Avian Influenza in poultry in Afghanistan, to include the areas of Nangahar, Laghman, and Wardak provinces, and in the city of Kabul, however, there have been no reported cases of the H5N1 virus in humans. Updates on the Avian Influenza situation in Afghanistan are published on the Embassy’s web site at http://kabul.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html. For additional information on Avian Influenza, please refer to the Department of State's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet available at http://travel.state.gov/travel/tips/health/health_1181.html Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in Afghanistan. For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB. http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx| The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Afghanistan. However, if one has questions, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Afghanistan at http://www.embassyofafghanistan.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 and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site. Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.


MEDICAL INSURANCE:


The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas. TRAFFIC


SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:


 While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Afghanistan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. All drivers face the potential danger of encountering improvised-explosive devices and land mines that may have been planted on or near roadways. An estimated 5-7 million landmines and large quantities of unexploded ordinance exist throughout the countryside and alongside roads, posing a danger to travelers. Robbery and kidnappings are also prevalent on highways outside of Kabul. The transportation system in Afghanistan is marginal, although the international community is constructing modern highways and provincial roads. Vehicles are poorly maintained, often overloaded, and traffic laws are not enforced. Vehicular traffic is chaotic and must contend with numerous pedestrians, bicyclists and animals. Many urban streets have large potholes and are not well lit. Rural roads are not paved. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.


AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:


As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Afghanistan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s internet website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa. U.S. Government personnel are not authorized to travel on Ariana Afghan Airlines or any other airline falling under the oversight of the Government of Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority, owing to safety concerns; however, U.S. Government personnel are permitted to travel on international flights operated by airlines from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program.


CHILDREN'S ISSUES:


 For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction. R


EGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:


Americans living or traveling in Afghanistan are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Afghanistan. Americans without internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located in Kabul on Great Massoud (Airport) Road, local phone number 0700-108-001 or 0700-108-002, and for emergencies after hours 0700-201-908. The web site is http://kabul.usembassy.gov/ * * * * * This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 16, 2008 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Criminal Penalties, Special Circumstances, and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 7 Mar 2019 10:54:44 +0100
By Mushtaq MOJADDIDI

Kabul, March 7, 2019 (AFP) - At least two blasts struck a large ceremony Thursday attended by Afghanistan chief executive Abdullah Abdullah and other leading government officials, killing one person and injuring 17 others.   The Kabul attack represents a major security breach and marks a resumption of violence in the capital after weeks of calm amid ongoing peace talks between the US and Taliban in Doha.   "Stay calm, the area of the blast is far from us," said former lower house speaker Mohammad Younus Qanooni during a live broadcast of the event.   But moments after the announcement, another explosion and gunfire could be heard that sent people running.   A second unidentified voice then addressed the screaming crowd, saying: "I request my countrymen to stay calm. The mortar attack is far from the gathering."

The blasts happened during a ceremony marking the 24th anniversary of the death of Shiite Hazara leader Abdul Ali Mazari that was attended by many of the country's political elite, including Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai.   "Terrorists were firing Mortars at Abdul Ali Mazari remembrance ceremony, from inside a compound," deputy interior minister Khoshal Sadat said in English on Twitter, adding that police had arrested one person linked to the attack.    "One martyred, 17 wounded -- 3 children and one woman among them," tweeted Wahidullah Mayar, spokesman for the health ministry.    Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani -- who was at the scene -- later added that "terrorists launched rocket attacks on commemoration ceremony", and said he had escaped safely.   It remained unclear whether rockets or mortar fire were being used, with officials using both terms.

- 'Unforgivable attack' -
No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts.   "This was the most horrid and unforgivable attack on civilians by a merciless enemy," tweeted presidential candidate and former national security adviser Mohammad Haneef Atmar.   He added that eight of his security guards were injured in the attack.     The incident comes as US and Taliban negotiations continue to hold peace talks in Qatar aimed at ending the nearly 18-year conflict. 

The last major attack in Kabul occurred in January when the Taliban-claimed responsibility for a car bomb that struck the heavily fortified Green Village foreign compound.    Heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan has led to a reduction in violence this winter, but warmer weather in the country's south will likely spark an increase in bloodshed with the arrival of the spring fighting season.   Analysts have warned that the Taliban are likely to ramp up attacks in the coming months as they seek to maintain momentum on the battlefield and leverage at the negotiating table.

On Wednesday at least 16 people were killed in a suicide attack on a construction company in eastern Afghanistan's Jalalabad city.    The hours-long attack began early Wednesday when two suicide bombers detonated explosives at the gate of the compound, allowing three others to enter the area where they went on a killing spree.   No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but both the Islamic State group and the Taliban are active near the city, in Nangarhar province.   Afghanistan has been enmeshed in nearly constant conflict since the Soviet invasion of 1979, which was followed by civil war, the Taliban regime, and the US invasion in late 2001.
Date: Sat, 2 Mar 2019 18:38:14 +0100

Kandahar, Afghanistan, March 2, 2019 (AFP) - At least 20 people were killed by flash floods in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province, the UN said Saturday, as heavy rains swept away homes and vehicles and potentially damaged thousands of houses.   The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said widespread flooding indudated Kandahar city and surrounding districts in the province, with 97mm of rain falling in affected areas in the last 30 hours.   "At least 10 people, including children, are still missing," said the UN agency in a statement.

"It is anticipated that up to 2,000 homes may have been damaged", with severe damage to infrastructure also being reported.   Kandahar's deputy governor Abdul Hanan Moneeb said the flooding was the worst in at least seven years, with many nomadic herders camped in the area swept away by the floodwaters along with their livestock.   The official added that 400 families have been rescued by the Afghan army since the flooding began late Friday night.   Rescue operations, however, were largely delayed due to heavy rainfall, Raziq Shirzai, the provincial commander of the Afghan air force, told AFP.

Disasters such as avalanches and flash floods often hit mountainous areas and river valleys of Afghanistan as snow melts in the spring and summer. It is made worse by deforestation.   Heavy snowfall across large swathes of Afghanistan this winter has raised fears of severe flooding as spring approaches, following years of devastating drought in the country.   Nearly 50 people have been killed as of February 12 due to flooding in Afghanistan so far this year, according to the UN.
Date: Mon 18 Feb 2019 3:33:02 PM AFT
Source: MENAFN/Afghan Times, AT News report [edited]

One new polio case is just confirmed in southern Kandahar province, days after nationwide campaign against the crippling disease kicked off on [Mon 18 Feb 2019].  A 60-month-old boy from Ghorak district is infected by the poliovirus. This is the 2nd case reported in 2019, highlighting the ongoing risks of polio and the need for continued immunization, health officials said.  "From today [18 Feb 2019], polio vaccination teams will visit 5.8 million children under 5 years old in 195 high-risk districts of 21 provinces of West, Central, and Southeast regions of Afghanistan," said a statement issued by Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).

The Minister of Public Health Ferozuddin Feroz urged Afghan people to take the situation seriously and called on people to open doors to vaccinators in the upcoming campaign.  "We already have 2 cases reported from Kandahar this year [2019]. While there is polio anywhere in this country, all children are at risk. Polio will continue to fight for survival. Immunization is the only way to put an end to this virus. We urge the people of Kandahar and across the country to step up, open your doors and get your children vaccinated. We don't want to see any more children paralyzed by polio, and we need to work together to stop polio once and for all."

Polio is incurable and can paralyze children for life. The only way to prevent polio virus is to vaccinate all children with 2 drops of polio vaccine every time it is offered. Children are better protected with every additional dose of the vaccination. Repeated vaccination helps to build strong immunity of your child and the whole community.

The vaccination campaign will take place from [18-22 Feb 2019]. Parents should ensure their children are home and available to be vaccinated. All children under 5 should receive the polio vaccine, including children who are asleep, visiting other homes and new-borns, even if they have been immunized in the past. Children who miss the vaccination should visit their local health centre as soon as possible, where the vaccine is available free of charge. The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and new-born children. It is very important these children get the vaccine, because they have lower immunity which makes them more susceptible to the virus. Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars, the statement added.

Every country in the world except Pakistan, Nigeria, and Afghanistan has ended polio, highlighting the fact that the strategy and vaccines work Twenty-one Afghan children were infected by polio in 2018.
======================
[Sadly, transmission of the WPV continues in Pakistan and Afghanistan. Since the beginning of 2019 there have now been 6 cases confirmed, 4 in Pakistan and 2 in Afghanistan. The vaccination history of this child isn't included in this media report, but most likely the child was inadequately vaccinated at 60 months (5 years) of age. - ProMED Mod.MPP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map of Afghanistan:
Date: Tue 29 Jan 2019
Source: Afghanistan Times [edited]

Afghanistan's 1st polio case in 2019 was reported in Kandahar province, where a 22-month-old girl from Spin Boldak district was infected by the poliovirus.

According to a statement the Minister of Public Health, Dr Ferozuddin Feroz said, 'this case indicates that the poliovirus is still transmitting in Kandahar and the South region. This child's life is now changed forever. It is really sad that she will never walk properly again, therefore I call upon all of you, our Muslim parents, caregivers, community elders, and health workers to work together to protect our innocent children against this disease and eradicate polio in our country.'

He said that polio is a crippling and potentially fatal infectious disease. There is no cure and the polio vaccine is the only safe and effective way to protect children. All children should be vaccinated against polio during each campaign, until they reach the age of 5. House-to-house vaccination is the only effective way to achieve polio eradication because it means every child has access to vaccination. This strategy has been implemented in all countries and has proven efficacy. However, if parents live in areas where there is no house-to-house campaign available, they should take their children to the local health facility for free polio vaccine.

The polio vaccine is safe, even for sick and new-born children. It is very important these children get the vaccine, because they have low immunity which makes them more susceptible to the virus.

Polio vaccination has also been strongly endorsed by national and global Islamic scholars, he added.

Currently, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Nigeria are the only 3 remaining polio-endemic countries in the world. There were 21 cases reported in Afghanistan in 2018. Of these, 15 cases were in the Southern region, while 6 cases were in the Eastern region. There is a polio vaccination campaign carried out in the Southern and Eastern regions of Afghanistan, parents should ensure their children are home and available to be vaccinated.
==========================
[The wording of the media report above suggests that the date of onset of paralysis of this case was in 2019, but it is possible onset was in late 2018. Clarification of the date of onset would be greatly appreciated.

Kandahar province is located in the Southwestern region of Afghanistan (see <https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Regions-of-Afghanistan_fig1_284510443> for a map of regions in Afghanistan and <http://www.afghana.com/GetLocal/Afghanistan/Provinces.htm> for a map of provinces in Afghanistan). It shares a border with Balochistan Pakistan.

In last week's global update, there was mention of 7 positive environmental samples in Afghanistan collected on 26 Dec 2018, that identified 3 of the 7 coming from Kandahar province, confirming that the WPV1 was actively circulating in the province (see Poliomyelitis update (08): global (Pakistan, Nigeria), WHO (Mozambique) http://promedmail.org/post/20190125.6277951). - ProMED Mod.MPP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Afghanistan:
Date: Thu 24 Jan 2019
Source: Tolo News [edited]

At least 90 British military personnel have been diagnosed with confirmed cases of Q fever after serving in Helmand, Afghanistan. According to a UK military news outlet, Forces Network, a consultant in infectious diseases and tropical medicine told to the Central London Country Court on [Tue 22 Jan 2019], that 90 confirmed cases of Q fever had been recorded among British soldiers who had served in Helmand.

Lieutenant Colonel Mark Bailey's testimony was heard in the case of a private with 2nd Battalion, the Mercian Regiment, who said his life has been ruined after he contracted the disease while in Helmand in 2011/2012. During his tour, his lawyers said [the private] was in contact with goats and sheep and "was often required to take cover and jump through ditches and crawl along the ground -- coming into contact with animal products and excrement." The soldier was medically discharged from the Army in 2014 because of his Q fever and chronic fatigue symptoms.

Humans can catch Q fever by breathing in dust from the secretions of infected farm animals such as sheep, cattle, and goats.

Bailey, who specializes in infectious diseases and tropical medicine, and a national expert in Q fever said he has 90 military and 10 civilian cases in his care after they were referred to him. He confirmed the 90 had served in Helmand and said the number of military cases "built up from 2008", Forces Network reported. Bailey told the court: "We have seen no new cases since 2014 from Afghanistan. Occasionally we get other military cases from other locations. Cyprus most recently."

Bailey said he had seen "one British soldier who very, very nearly died" as a result of Q fever and subsequent complications, but there have been no UK deaths in his group.
====================
[Q fever is due to _Coxiella burnetii_, an obligate intracellular rickettsia-like bacterial pathogen. It is highly resistant to drying and heat, which enables the bacteria to survive for long periods in the environment. Its survival is attributed to a small cell variant of the organism that is part of its biphasic developmental cycle. Q fever is a zoonosis. Domestic ungulates such as sheep, cattle, and goats serve as the reservoir of infection for humans. The organism is shed in urine, feces, milk, and especially birthing products; intermittent high-level shedding occurs at the time of parturition, with millions of bacteria being released per gram of placenta.

Humans usually become infected by inhaling aerosolized organisms. Acute symptoms of a flu-like illness usually develop within 2-3 weeks of exposure, although as many as half of humans infected with _C. burnetii_ do not show symptoms (<http://www.cdc.gov/qfever/symptoms/index.html>). Although most persons with acute Q fever infection recover, others may experience serious illness with complications that may include pneumonia, granulomatous hepatitis, endocarditis (especially in patients with previous cardiac valvulopathy), myocarditis, and central nervous system involvement. Pregnant women who are infected may be at risk for pre-term delivery or miscarriage.

The solider likely suffers from Q fever-associated chronic fatigue. The following related to post-Q fever fatigue syndrome is extracted from Melgar TA, Bauler TJ, Lutwick LI. Q fever in man: A one health paradigm disease. In, The Principles and Practice of Q Fever, Simoes JCC, Anastacio SF, da Silva GJ (eds), Nova Science Publishers, 2017, pp 1-24:

"Up to 20% of patients with acute Q fever report chronic fatigue more than a year later. Most of these cases meet the CDC criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome. Other symptoms include night sweats, nausea, headache, myalgia, enlarged lymph nodes, arthralgia, insomnia, depression, decreased concentration and short term memory impairment. The pathogenesis is not clear although there is evidence that genetic factors may play a role and _C. burnetii_ antigens and DNA can be found in patients' macrophages for up to 12 years and in one case 70 years after acute infection (1,2). Treatment is focused on chronic fatigue including exercise therapy and cognitive behavior therapy. There are no current recommendations for antimicrobial therapy for Q fever-associated chronic fatigue although case reports and one study demonstrated improvement with antimicrobials (3). A large placebo controlled randomized trial in the Netherlands (4,5) reported some non-sustained improvement was found with cognitive-behavioral therapy but not with long term doxycycline.

References
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1. Marmion BP, Sukocheva O, Storm PA, et al. Q fever: persistence of antigenic non-viable cell residues of _Coxiella burnetii_ in the host - implications for post Q fever infection fatigue syndrome and other chronic sequelae. QJM 2009; 102(10): 673-84; abstract available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19556396>.
2. Sukocheva OA, Marmion BP, Storm PA, et al. Long-term persistence after acute Q fever of non-infectious _Coxiella burnetii_ cell components, including antigens. QJM 2010; 103(11): 847-63; abstract available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20639288>.
3. Arashima Y, Kato K, Komiya T, et al. Improvement of chronic nonspecific symptoms by long-term minocycline treatment in Japanese patients with _Coxiella burnetii_ infection considered to have post-Q fever fatigue syndrome. Intern Med 2004; 43(1): 49-54; <https://www.jstage.jst.go.jp/article/internalmedicine/43/1/43_1_49/_article>.
4. Keijmel SP, Delsing CE, Bleigenberg G, et al. Effectiveness of long-term doxycycline treatment and cognitive-behavioral therapy on fatigue severity in patients with Q fever fatigue syndrome (Qure study): a randomized controlled trial. Clin Infect Did 2017; 64(8): 998-1005; <https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/64/8/998/3056564>.
5. Raijmakers RPH, Keijmel SP, Breukers EMC, et al. Long-term effect of cognitive behavioural therapy and doxycycline treatment for patients with Q fever fatigue syndrome: one-year follow-up of the Qure study. J Psychosom Res 2019; 116: 62-7; <https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022399918308183>.

Helmand is one of the 34 provinces of Afghanistan, in the south of the country. It can be seen on a map at

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Afghanistan:
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Lebanon

Lebanon - US Consular Information Sheet
August 20, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Republic of Lebanon is a parliamentary republic. Political power is concentrated in the office of the President, Prime Minister and Speaker of Parliament, eac
representing one of Lebanon's three largest religious sects (Maronite Christians, Sunni and Shi'a Muslims). Since 1973, Lebanon has been in a state of war with Israel. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Lebanon for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passports and visas are required.
American citizens coming to Lebanon for tourism can purchase a short-term visa at the border.
Travelers holding passports that contain visas or entry/exit stamps for Israel will likely be refused entry into Lebanon.
Travelers whose passports contain Israeli stamps or visas and who also hold an "Arab nationality" may be subject to arrest and imprisonment.
Travelers who have overstayed their entry visa validity in Lebanon have to adjust their status with the Central Department of Surete General (Department of Passport and Immigration) prior to their departure.

Further information on entry/exit requirements can be obtained from the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street NW, Washington, DC, 20008, tel. (202) 939-6300.
Travelers may also contact one of the following Consulates General:
1959 E. Jefferson, Suite 4A
Detroit, MI 48207
(313) 567-0233
2400 Augusta, Suite 308
Houston, TX 77057
(713) 268-1640
7060 Hollywood Blvd., Suite 510
Los Angeles, CA 90028
(323) 467-1253
6600 S.W. 57th Avenue, Suite 200
Miami, FL 33143
(305) 665-3004
(Honorary Consul, for Florida residents only)
9 E. 76th Street
New York, NY 10021
(212) 744-7905
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:
A Department of State Travel Warning advises U.S. citizens against travel to Lebanon.
Recent events underscore the need for caution and sound personal security precautions.
U.S. citizens who are in Lebanon despite this Travel Warning should exercise particular caution when traveling in parts of the southern suburbs of Beirut, portions of the Bekaa Valley and areas south of the Litani River in South Lebanon.
Hizballah maintains a strong presence in many of these areas, and there is the potential for action by other extremist groups.
The situation remains tense and a resumption of sporadic violence remains a possibility.
On May 7, 2008, Hizballah militants blocked the road to Rafiq Hariri International Airport.
The action rendered the airport inaccessible and travelers were unable to enter or leave the country via commercial air carriers.
Armed Hizballah and other opposition members proceeded to enter areas of Lebanon not traditionally under their control resulting in heavy fighting and a number of casualties.
While there is now full access to the airport, widespread hostilities have subsided, and the government of Lebanon has successfully elected a president and formed a cabinet, the United States remains concerned about Hizballah's willingness to use violence to achieve political ends with little or no warning.
Since the May hostilities there have been violent outbreaks in Tripoli that left over ten dead and dozens wounded.

Americans have been the targets of numerous terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past.
The perpetrators of many of these attacks are still present and retain the ability to act.
On January 15, 2008, a U.S. Embassy vehicle was involved in a bomb attack that killed three Lebanese bystanders.
American citizens should thus keep a low profile, varying times and routes for all required travel.
Americans should also pay close attention to their personal security at locations where Westerners are generally known to congregate, and should avoid demonstrations and large gatherings.
Unofficial travel to Lebanon by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State.
Palestinian groups hostile to both the Lebanese government and the U.S. operate largely autonomously inside refugee camps in different areas of the country.
Intra-communal violence within the camps has resulted in violent incidents such as shootings and explosions.
Travel by U.S. citizens to Palestinian camps should be avoided.
Asbat al-Ansar, a terrorist group with apparent links to Al-Qaida, has targeted Lebanese, U.S. and other foreign government interests.
It has been outlawed by the Lebanese government but continues to maintain a presence in Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp.
Americans traveling to Lebanon should also be aware that personnel from the U.S. Embassy are not able to travel in all areas of Lebanon.
In the case of an emergency involving a U.S. citizen in areas where it is unsafe for Embassy personnel to travel, the Embassy may not be able to render assistance.
In addition, dangers posed by landmines and unexploded ordnance throughout south Lebanon are significant and also exist in other areas where civil war fighting was intense.
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, including the Travel Warning for Lebanon, 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 overseas 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: The crime rate in Lebanon is moderate, but both car theft and home break-ins occur.
Violent crime and sexual assault are rare, although petty theft -- such as pick pocketing and purse snatching -- is common in crowded public areas.
Police are responsive but often unable to effect a positive outcome.
There are no special concerns with regard to targeted victimization of Americans or to scams or confidence schemes.
There have, however, been recent kidnappings of Lebanese-American women by their Lebanese relatives in an effort to force these women into marriage.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Lebanon is 112.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: In Beirut and the surrounding areas, modern medical care and medicines are widely available.
Such facilities are not always available in outlying areas, although no location in the country is more than three hours from the capital.
Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for services, and without such payment, may deny service even in emergency cases.
A list of doctors who speak English and a list of hospitals are available from the U.S. Embassy and at the Embassy's web site at http://lebanon.usembassy.gov/
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.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Lebanon.

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 Lebanon is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Drivers in Lebanon often maneuver aggressively and pay little regard to traffic lights and stops signs.
Lanes are generally unmarked and roads outside of the capital may be poorly lit.
Pedestrians, especially, should exercise great caution.
Inter-city directional signs are improving throughout the country, but side roads are often not signposted at all.
Public transportation is generally safe.
Emergency services in Lebanon are adequate.
In case of a road accident, emergency numbers are “140” for the Red Cross and “125” for the emergency civil police.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of Lebanon's national tourist office at http://www.destinationlebanon.gov.lb.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Lebanon, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Lebanon’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.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all Lebanese laws, U.S. citizens who also possess Lebanese nationality may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on them as Lebanese citizens.
Lebanese citizens who are discovered to have associated with or traveled through Israel, are subject to arrest and detention.

Military Service:
Mandatory military service in Lebanon was abolished on February 4, 2007.
However, travelers with questions about prior military service, desertion, or failure to register in the past should contact the Military Office of the Embassy of Lebanon, 2560 28th Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, or call (202) 265-2335 or fax (202) 667-0063 for details prior to traveling to Lebanon. Information about military service can also be found at the Lebanese government web site at http://www.lebarmy.gov.lb/English/FlagService.asp
Lebanese Customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning import and export of such items as firearms or antiquities.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Lebanon in Washington, D.C., or one of Lebanon's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. Please see our information on customs regulations.
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 Lebanese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Lebanon 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.
For more information 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 Lebanon are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Lebanon.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy in Beirut.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located in Awkar, near Antelias, Beirut, Lebanon.
Public access hours for American citizens are Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 am for regular consular services.
Consular Report of Births Abroad (birth certificates for newborns) are handled Wednesdays only from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 a.m.
The telephone numbers are (961-4) 542-600, 543-600, and fax 544-209, and American citizens who require emergency services outside of these hours may contact the Embassy by telephone at any time.
American citizens registering at the embassy can receive updated information and warden messages via e-mail by subscribing to join-wardenmessagebeirut@mh.databack.com.
Information on consular services and registration can be found at http://lebanon.usembassy.gov or by phone at the above telephone numbers between 2:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. Monday through Friday local time.
* * * * * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated December 27, 2007 to update the sections on Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information and Aviation Oversight.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon 26 Nov 2018 (accessed)
Source: Epidemiology and Infection, 1st view, published online 15 Nov 2018 [edited]
<https://doi.org/10.1017/S095026881800300X>

Citation: Kassir MF, El Zarif T, Kassir G, Berry A, Musharrafieh U, Bizri AR (2018).
Human rabies control in Lebanon: a call for action.

Epidemiology and Infection 1-8.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Abstract:   The status of rabies as a neglected disease has made its eradication rather challenging in different parts of the world despite the availability of a successful vaccine. Lebanon, in particular, is a country endemic to the disease with several cases of rabies deaths reported over the past 30 years. The risk of rabies, however, has taken a new turn over the past few years in Lebanon with 2 emerging situations that have made the control of the disease rather challenging: the neighbouring Syrian war and the local garbage crisis.

Both of these milestone events might have contributed to an increase in the number of disease vectors as well as individuals at risk, thus nourishing the cycle of disease transmission. In this observational study, the effects of these 2 events are investigated, with an update on the status of this preventable, yet often neglected, disease in the country. Both events were found to be concomitant with a notable increase in the number of dog bites and thus possible rabies exposure.

Current regulations are explored through interviews with veterinarians, and customs recommendations, ranging from policies to control of dog populations to awareness campaigns in high-risk individuals, are then proposed to help control the disease.
===========================
[According to information included in the paper, between 2005 and 2016, a total of 7369 animal bites were reported to the LMOPH (Lebanese Ministry of Public Health), with an annual average of 614 bites per year. About 91 percent of the bites were caused by dogs, of which 53 percent were by domestic dogs and 47 percent by stray dogs. The remaining 9 percent involved cats, bats and rodents. It may be assumed that some events involved farm animals as well, not mentioned in the paper.

In 2013, a steep increase in numbers was observed and was sustained up to 2016. The yearly average of animal bites post-2013 was, reportedly, 1004 ± 272 bites per year, which is significantly higher than the average of 355 ± 145 bites per year prior to 2013 (span from 1991 to 1996 and 2001 to 2013). The highest number of bites (per 100 000 individuals) was observed in the northern governorate and in the (southern) Nabatieh governorate (Lebanon's administrative map at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_and_towns_in_Lebanon>).

Counting bites does not necessarily reflect the incidence of rabies in animals; it may serve as suggestive of increased rabies incidence in the vector animals. Unfortunately, no information about clinically suspected and/or lab confirmed rabies in animals is included in the paper. Lebanon has reported a rabies case in a dog to the OIE in March 2018 (http://promedmail.org/post/20180314.5687339); this was the 1st reported animal rabies case from Lebanon since 1995(!).

As suggested by the authors, the Syrian war and the local garbage crisis are plausible explanations for increased rabies incidence in Lebanon. A wide circulation of the virus in Lebanon's canines/fauna, particularly in the Nabatieh governorate bordering northern Israel, was suggested in the past, most recently in http://promedmail.org/post/20180321.5701731 (item 4) and in ref 1.

It could also be deduced from the data presented in Israel's rabies map of 2015 at <http://www.moag.gov.il/vet/Yechidot/Machon/maabada_kalevet/airueim%20kalevet/kalevet_2015/PublishingImages/rabiesmap272016.jpg>.

Reference 1.
D David, N Devers, BA Yakobson, I Davidson. Emergence of dog rabies in the Northern region of Israel. Epidemiol Infect 2009; 137(4): 544-8; DOI:10.1017/S0950268808001180. - ProMED Mod.AS]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Lebanon: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/85>]
Date: Thu, 5 Apr 2018 14:31:16 +0200

Beirut, April 5, 2018 (AFP) - A funding gap is compromising the response to a measles outbreak in Lebanon, a United Nations statement said Thursday, warning it also risked allowing polio to spread from Syria.   The UN's Children Fund, which has provided free vaccines for children in Lebanon for a quarter of a century, said the first 12 weeks of 2018 had seen a sharp increase in measles cases.   It said it was currently among several partners supporting the Lebanese health ministry's immunisation campaign "not only for measles but also for polio in order to mitigate the risk of polio spreading from Syria."   "If we don't react now, more serious epidemics will hit," Tanya Chapuisat, UNICEF's representative in Lebanon, said.   The agency made a $5 million appeal to donors, arguing it needs to replenish vaccine stocks and reach vulnerable children in isolated areas.
Date: Thu, 9 Nov 2017 22:13:18 +0100

Riyadh, Nov 9, 2017 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia and Kuwait on Thursday urged their citizens to leave Lebanon immediately, days after Lebanese prime minister Saad Hariri announced his resignation while visiting Riyadh.

"Due to the situation in the Republic of Lebanon, the kingdom asks its nationals visiting or living in Lebanon to leave as soon as possible, and advises its citizens not to travel there," said a Saudi foreign ministry source, quoted by state news agency SPA.   Kuwait called on "all its citizens to leave Lebanon immediately" and avoid going there as a precautionary measure, state agency KUNA reported a source at the foreign ministry as saying.

On November 4, Hariri announced in a televised speech from Saudi Arabia that he was stepping down, citing Iran's "grip" on Lebanon and threats to his life.   The shock announcement raised fears that Lebanon -- split into rival camps led by Hariri and the Iranian-backed movement Hezbollah -- could once again descend into violence.   Hariri, who also holds Saudi nationality and whose wife and children live in the kingdom, has since met Saudi King Salman and travelled to the United Arab Emirates, according to official media in the Gulf states.

Lebanese President Michel Aoun has said he will await Hariri's return before taking any decision, while Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah said Hariri's resignation had been "imposed" by Saudi Arabia.   The resignation coincided with the announcement in Saudi Arabia of an anti-corruption purge in which dozens of princes, ministers and businessmen have been rounded up.   Bahrain, a close ally of Saudi Arabia, advised its citizens against travel to Lebanon a day after Hariri's announcement.
Date: Tue, 12 Apr 2016 14:33:35 +0200

Sidon, Lebanon, April 12, 2016 (AFP) - A car bomb exploded on Tuesday in Lebanon's southern port city of Sidon, killing at least one person identified as a Palestinian official, a security source said.   The source said the blast killed Fathi Zeidan, who headed the Fatah movement in the Miye Miye Palestinian refugee camp near Sidon.   "His identification card was found near the car which exploded, which was also his," the source told AFP.

A statement from Lebanon's armed forces said Zeidan had been driving the car when one kilogramme of explosives hidden inside his vehicle detonated.    The army's forensics unit arrived at the scene of the blast and cleared away scorched body parts lying near a car in flames, according to an AFP correspondent at the scene.   More than 450,000 Palestinians are registered in Lebanon with the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, and many live in squalid conditions in 12 official camps.   The camps are administered by Palestinian officials and security forces, rather than the Lebanese authorities.

In recent years, tensions have risen between Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas' Fatah movement and the Jund al-Sham Islamist group, especially in the Ain al-Hilweh camp, which is also near Sidon.   The rival factions in Ain al-Hilweh have clashed several times in the past year, with each side accusing each other of assassination attempts.   Ain al-Hilweh has become the scene of score-settling between several factions, and a breeding ground for extremist groups that have flourished on the back of the poverty afflicting the camp.
Date: Mon, 4 Apr 2016 05:15:50 +0200
By Maya Gebeily

Naameh, Lebanon, April 4, 2016 (AFP) - Imagine living near a trash dump so putrid that you would rather move to war-torn Syria.   That's what Fayyad Ayyash, his wife Riham and their four young daughters plan to do next week, leaving behind their home in Lebanon for neighbouring Syria.

Their modest two-storey house in the town of Naameh, about 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of the Lebanese capital, directly overlooks the infamous and odorous landfill by the same name.    "We're going next week. In Syria, there's a possibility I might die. Here, we'll definitely die," Fayyad tells AFP.    From his grassy backyard, dozens of large trucks carrying tonnes of waste can be seen -- and smelled -- lining up to add their load to the "trash mountain."

The July 2015 closure of the notorious landfill lies at the heart of Lebanon's trash crisis, which has seen rivers of trash spread across the Mediterranean country, triggering protests nationwide.   Then last month, the government made a controversial decision to reopen it -- and this was the last straw for residents like Fayyad.   Pulling out a bright blue inhaler, he says his family has been suffering from respiratory problems for months because of the dump.

His daughters, whose ages range from just under two to 10 years, all have trouble eating and sleeping.   "It's always worse at night than during the day. The whole area is swarming with the same smell and the same sickness," he says.   Fayyad says it's become so bad, he's decided to flee across the border to the town of Libeen in southern Syria, a country where a conflict has been raging since 2011.

- Costly medical bills -
The Naameh landfill opened in 1997 and was meant to be a temporary dump, but an alternative site was never opened.    For 20 years, the waste generated in Beirut and Mount Lebanon -- the country's most populous areas -- was dumped in Naameh.   The verdant valley swelled into a trash mountain of more than 15 million tonnes.    Furious residents forced the closure of the site in July 2015, saying it was leading to high cancer rates, skin diseases and breathing problems.

Uncollected rubbish began piling up around Beirut and its suburbs, emitting a horrible stench that sparked protests in downtown Beirut demanding a long-term solution.   After months of political wrangling, Lebanon's cabinet announced a four-year plan to end the waste crisis -- and its first step was reopening Naameh for two months.    "When the dump reopened, my baby immediately started throwing up again," Fayyad says.

Fayyad and his Syrian wife, Riham, are both Druze, an offshoot of Islam.   Riham estimates that she spends about $1,000 (around 880 euros) per month on doctor's visits, inhalers, and other medication for her children.    Pointing to her bare finger, she says she had to sell her wedding ring to cover the costs.    "I wish my kids would eat food as much as they take medicine," she says.    Riham's family hails from Libeen, in Syria's southern Sweida province. That's where she will travel to next week, in the hope that the open plains there will be good for her children.

- Suitcase 'packed and ready' -
Sweida, the heartland of Syria's Druze minority, has come under attack by jihadists of the Islamic State group but has seen less fighting than other parts of the country.   "No, it isn't safe, but I'm forced to leave... I have a suitcase packed and ready on top of the closet," Riham says.    Farouk Merhebi from the American University of Beirut says the smell has probably made life incredibly uncomfortable for hundreds living within a one-kilometre radius of the dump.

Before the crisis began, trash trucks would dump between 2,800 to 3,000 tonnes of waste per day in Naameh, says Merhebi, who is AUB's director of environmental health, safety and risk management.    "Now it's about 8,000 to 9,000 tonnes. The operations almost tripled because they're playing catch-up with the trash that had accumulated," he says.   "The waste that has accumulated in streets has fermented, so the smell is offensive...

The smell is worse because it's been there for seven to eight months."   But the long-term health effects of the dump on the surrounding area remain untested.   Merhebi is part of a team at AUB hoping for funding to complete research in the area "to test the surface water, ground water, and some samples of the soil as well as samples of ambient air."    But Fayyad and his family say they cannot wait.    "Riham's family said they were thinking of coming to Lebanon," he says.    "But we told them, 'do you want to die here from the smell?'"
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 25 Mar 2019 11:52:43 +0100

Sanaa, March 25, 2019 (AFP) - Nearly 110,000 suspected cases of cholera have been reported in war-hit Yemen since the beginning of January, including 190 related deaths, the UN said on Monday.   The UN office for humanitarian affairs (OCHA) said children under the age of five make up nearly a third of 108,889 cases which were reported between January 1 and March 17.

OCHA said the spike, which comes two years after Yemen suffered its worst cholera outbreak, was concentrated in six governorates including in the Red Sea port of Hodeida and the Sanaa province home to the capital.   Early rains could be blamed for the recent increase in suspected cholera cases, it said.   "The situation is exacerbated by poor maintenance of sewage disposal systems in many of the affected districts, the use of contaminated water for irrigation, and population movements," OCHA added.   The waterborne disease is endemic to Yemen, which witnessed the worst cholera outbreak in its modern history in 2017.

More than one million suspected cases were reported within an eight-month period that year. More than 2,500 people died of the infection between April and December 2017.    Yemen's brutal conflict, which pits Iran-linked rebels against a regional pro-government alliance led by Saudi Arabia, has left some 10,000 people dead since 2015 and pushed millions to the brink of famine.    The war has created the perfect environment for cholera to thrive, as civilians across the country lack access to clean water and health care.
Date: Wed 20 Mar 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

Swedish public health authorities, Folkhalsomyndigheten, is reporting an outbreak of psittacosis, or parrot disease, since November 2018. According to officials, some 60 cases have been reported from the regions of Vastra Gotaland, Kalmar, Jonkoping, and Skane. This is the highest number of cases reported in one winter in 2 decades.

Those who have now fallen ill have mainly come into contact with bird droppings from wild birds, for example through the handling of bird tables and other outdoor activities. A smaller number are believed to have been infected by domestic birds (parrots) in cages. The most common way someone gets infected with the bacteria that cause psittacosis (_Chlamydia psittaci_) is by breathing in dust containing dried secretions (e.g., droppings, respiratory) from infected birds. It is rare for psittacosis to spread from person to person.

In general, psittacosis causes mild illness in people. The most common symptoms include fever and chills, headache, muscle aches, and dry cough. Psittacosis can also cause pneumonia (a lung infection) that may require treatment or care in a hospital. Rarely, psittacosis can result in death. Most people begin developing signs and symptoms of psittacosis within 5-14 days after exposure to the bacteria (_C. psittaci_). Occasionally, people report the start of symptoms after more than 14 days.
=================
[The news report above attributes the increase in number of human cases of psittacosis in Sweden since Nov 2018 mainly to contact with wild bird droppings, for example through the handling of bird tables and other outdoor activities. Outbreaks of avian chlamydiosis, due to _Chlamydia psittaci_ or the other Chlamydia species, have been reported occasionally in wild birds including shorebirds, waterfowl, and migratory birds, especially in birds under stress (<http://www.cfsph.iastate.edu/Factsheets/pdfs/psittacosis.pdf>).

An outbreak in Australia was probably caused by organisms carried in wild birds and spread when organisms in bird droppings became aerosolized during activities such as lawn mowing (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15757553>). An increase in psittacosis cases in Sweden in the winter of 2013 was also linked to wild birds, apparently through exposure to wild bird droppings; most cases were associated with tending bird feeders (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23725809>; also see ProMED-mail post Psittacosis - Sweden (02): wild bird http://promedmail.org/post/20130509.1701695).

Vastra Gotaland, Kalmar, Jonkoping, and Skane are counties located in southern Sweden. A map of Swedish counties can be found at <https://fotw.info/flags/se(.html>. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Wed 20 Mar 2019
Source: PNA [edited]

A public elementary school in Tubungan town, Iloilo has recorded a total of 36 chickenpox cases from 15 Jan to 3 Mar [2019], the Provincial Health Office (PHO) said. In an interview on Wednesday [20 Mar 2019], Dr. Patricia Grace Trabado, PHO head, said the cases were observed as patients who sought treatment at the rural health units (RHU) and private clinics in Tubungan.

All the cases were recorded in Cadabdab Elementary School, with 21 male and 15 female students affected. Trabado said affected pupils might still be attending school even though they were infected, which resulted in its transmission.

She emphasized that the spread of the infection might have been prevented if the children were advised not to attend school with the onset of infection. "If a child is showing chickenpox symptoms, especially when he or she was previously exposed to an affected person, then the pupil will be advised to stay at home," she said.

Trabado said the source of the infection came from the 1st patient working in Iloilo City but lives in Tubungan town. "The patient might have a family member that attends school in Cadabdab. From there, we see where the infection originated," she said. Trabado, however, did not give figures of the disease other than that from the school.

The RHUs and private clinics were able to monitor and manage the cases, Trabado said. All the student patients were discharged, given medication, and let the viral infection take its course. "And eventually, the patients recovered," she said. However, Trabado warns that a child with chickenpox can get secondary infection when he or she scratches the blisters, creating skin lesions.

She added that cases of chickenpox and mumps are mostly observed during the summer season. Trabado said patients with chickenpox experience fever and headache in the first 1 or 2 days before the itchy blister rash appears.  [Byline: Gail Momblan]
======================
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Wed 20 Mar 2019
Source: USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Services [edited]
<https://content.govdelivery.com/accounts/USDAAPHIS/bulletins/23806a5>

The US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) under secretary for marketing and regulatory programs, Greg Ibach, is alerting international travellers of a deadly swine disease they could unknowingly bring back into the United States on their clothes, shoes, or hands.

African swine fever (ASF) is a highly contagious and deadly disease affecting both domestic and feral (wild) pigs. It does not affect human health and cannot be transmitted from pigs to humans. Recent spread of the disease to new countries in Asia and Europe has triggered a series of actions by USDA, state agriculture departments, and the pork industry to bolster protections against ASF in the United States and keep ASF out of North America.

"ASF has never been detected in the United States," said Ibach, "but an outbreak here would not only affect the pork industry, but also have major impacts on trade and raise food prices for consumers. We are asking international travellers to help prevent the spread of ASF to the United States by understanding what products can be brought back into the United States and declaring any agricultural items in their baggage."

The USDA's Animal Plant and Health Inspection Service's (APHIS) new traveller website provides updated information about potentially harmful pests and diseases that can hitchhike on food or other agricultural products. When returning to the United States, travellers are reminded to declare food items and animal products in their luggage. Failure to declare items may result in serious penalties.

"USDA and US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) recognize the crucial work of detector dog teams at US ports of entry." said Ibach. "While travellers' declarations of any food products brought with them to the United States is a critical step to protecting US agriculture, the dogs and secondary agricultural inspections provide another line of defence to keep ASF out of the country."

Travellers will also see some changes at airports as USDA works with CBP to increase screenings of passenger baggage. This includes training and adding 60 additional beagle teams for a total of 179 teams working at key US commercial, sea, and air ports and ensuring travellers who pose an ASF risk receive secondary agricultural inspection. USDA is also coordinating with CBP to expand arrival screenings, including checking cargo for illegal pork and pork products.

Anyone who visits a farm in an ASF-affected country should take specific precautions before returning to the United States. Follow the farm's biosecurity protocols and wear site specific footwear and coveralls or clothing. Thoroughly clean and disinfect or dispose of clothes and footwear worn on the farm before returning, and declare the farm visit to CBP when re-entering the United States. Travelers should not visit farms or any other locations with pigs -- including livestock markets, zoos, circuses, and pet stores with pot-bellied pigs -- for at least 5 days after returning.

More information on ASF, partner resources, and additional resources for travellers are available on the APHIS ASF webpage
and in this infographic
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[This disease would be extremely serious for the US, and likely for all of North America. The warning is appropriate for travellers to be more alert to situations that could ultimately have horrible outcomes. - ProMED Mod.TG]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Wed 20 Mar 2019
Source: ReliefWeb [edited]

The Federal Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO), Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and UNICEF, has launched a large-scale mass vaccination campaign in Sudan to vaccinate more than 8.3 million people 9 months to 60 years of age against yellow fever in the states of Blue Nile, Gezira and Sennar during 10-29 Mar 2019.

The campaign represents a crucial step in protecting a large portion of the population and reducing the risk of severe and deadly yellow fever outbreaks in the country. It is the 3rd and final drive thatSudan is undertaking to protect populations at risk and prevent yellow fever epidemics, pending the implementation of infant immunization as routine practice.

The campaign forms a critical part of Sudan's ongoing work to protect all populations against yellow fever epidemics, in alignment with the global Eliminate Yellow fever Epidemics (EYE) Strategy. The country plans to complement these yellow fever mass campaigns and ensure long-term protection through the introduction of yellow fever vaccination into routine immunization in the coming months.

"We acknowledge the commitment of the health authorities in Sudan to avail cash and fuel during this economic crisis to ensure that their people, especially children, are protected with a quality vaccine which will contribute to health security and making the world safer," said Dr. Naeema Al-Gasseer, WHO Representative in Sudan.

"Yellow fever vaccination is the most important tool we have to prevent yellow fever outbreaks. The vaccine will be freely available to any eligible person and will provide life-long protection against the disease. While protecting yourself against mosquito bites is important to reduce the risk of many diseases, only vaccination can eliminate the risk of yellow fever outbreaks," she added.

Yellow fever is a viral disease that is transmitted by certain types of mosquito. Infection can cause fatal illness, including jaundice, and death, and can spread rapidly, locally and internationally, especially in urban areas. However, the disease can be prevented by a single dose of a highly effective and safe vaccine. This campaign aims to boost protection in the general population and will target all eligible people.

Sudan is at high risk for the spread of yellow fever due to a combination of climate and ecological factors, and because there are still areas of low population immunity. Recent years have seen global changes in the epidemiology of yellow fever, with outbreaks occurring in areas that were not previously assessed as being at high risk.

"We are observing a changing nature in yellow fever disease dynamics. It is very important that every eligible person in this campaign receives the vaccine to protect themselves, their families and their communities," said Professor Dr. Babkir Kabaloo, Undersecretary of the Federal Ministry of Health.

"The current campaign represents one of the final phases in the Ministry's efforts to protect the entire nation against yellow fever outbreaks. This campaign will cover Blue Nile, Gezira, and Sennar states. In the coming months, the remaining states of Khartoum, Northern and River Nile will also be covered, completing the protection of the entire Sudanese population," he added.

Sudan's health authorities and partners are working to introduce yellow fever vaccine in the national immunization schedule in the near future. This will help ensure the protection of the whole population and generations to come against this fatal but preventable disease.
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[It is good to see this ambitious yellow fever (YF) vaccination campaign drawing to a close. Incorporating YF vaccine into routine childhood vaccination schedules is prudent and if successful will eliminate the need for intensive, country-wide campaigns to deal with outbreaks. YF is no stranger to Sudan. Between 3 Oct and 24 Nov 2013, a total of 44 confirmed cases of YF were reported, including 14 deaths. A total of 12 localities in West and South Kordofan were affected by that outbreak. There was a large YF outbreak in the Darfur state in 2012-2013. In 2012, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that more than 840 people were infected with YF in Darfur and that the epidemic affected 35 of 64 localities in the region since September 2012. The total recorded cases of YF in Greater Darfur hit 849 with a 20% death toll during an epidemic in 2012 (see WHO Disease Outbreak News <http://who.int/csr/don/2012_12_03/en> as reported by ProMED post http://promedmail.org/post/20130125.1513849, as noted at the time by Mod.JW). Mounting campaigns in the face of these types of outbreaks is inefficient, logistically difficult, and costly -- financially and in terms of human lives. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Thu 21 Mar 2019
Source: SBS News, Australian Associated Press (AAP) report [edited]

An egg recall has been announced following the discovery of a _Salmonella_ outbreak at a Victorian egg farm. The scare has prompted a recall of some brands of eggs from outlets in 4 states.

To date, 5 cases of _Salmonella [enterica_ serotype] Enteritidis have been linked to eggs produced by Victoria's Bridgewater Poultry, the state's health department said on [Thu 21 Mar 2019]. The company's free-range and barn-laid eggs are packaged as Woolworths brand, Victorian Fresh, and Loddon Valley, with best-before dates ranging from [20 Mar to 29 Apr 2019]. They are on shelves in Victoria, New South Wales, Tasmania, and South Australia. All other eggs are safe to eat, Chief Health Officer Brett Sutton said.

"It is important to know that not all eggs are affected, but any eggs carrying the listed brands should return them to the point of sale for a full refund. Alternatively, they can be discarded by throwing them into the garbage, not the garden or compost. "These eggs should not be given to pets or livestock."

Vulnerable people, including the elderly, are urged to avoid eating raw egg products.

Eggs of concern:
- Woolworths 12 Cage Free Eggs 700 g
- Victorian Fresh Barn Laid Eggs 600 g
- Victorian Fresh Barn Laid Eggs 700 g
- Victorian Fresh Barn Laid Eggs 800 g
- Loddon Valley Barn Laid 600 g (Victoria and South Australia only)
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[Salmonellosis is often thought to be associated with cracked eggs or eggs dirty with faecal matter, a problem controlled by cleaning procedures implemented in the egg industry. It is clearly the case, however, that most of the salmonellosis outbreaks linked to eggs were associated with uncracked, disinfected grade A eggs, or foods containing such eggs. The undamaged eggs become contaminated during ovulation, and thus were contaminated with the bacteria before the egg shell was formed. To avoid this, uncooked eggs should only be used as an ingredient, if pasteurized. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[Maps of Australia:
Date: Wed 20 Mar 2019 3:50 PM EDT
Source: The Day [edited]

Groton [New London county] public health officials are reminding residents to refrain from feeding or approaching wild or stray animals after a dog found in the area of Midway Oval tested positive for rabies [Wed 20 Mar 2019].

Rabies is a deadly disease caused by a virus that can infect all warm-blooded animals, including people, the Ledge Light Health District said in an alert sent to media outlets.

The disease mostly is spread by wild animals, but stray cats and dogs may also become infected and spread the virus, the district's alert said. The rabies virus lives in the saliva and brain tissue of infected animals, and the disease can be spread by scratches from infected animals or when infected saliva comes into contact with open wounds, breaks in the skin or mucous membranes, including the eyes, nose and mouth.

For more information, contact Ledge Light Health District at (860) 448-4882, extension 1311, or the animal control officer at (860) 441-6709.
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Connecticut, United States:
Connecticut county map:

Please keep your animals up-to-date on their rabies vaccine. It is for their protection and for your protection.

Regarding the 1st article, it sounds like South Carolina could consider using some oral rabies vaccine bait for some of their wild animals.

Unfortunately, wild animals may attack even when you are unaware of their presence.

Animals may be either unusually friendly and timid (dumb rabies) or aggressive and vicious (furious rabies). These are 2 presentations of the same disease but we should be aware of both forms and teach both forms to our children. - ProMED Mod.TG]
Date: Wed 20 Mar 2019
Source: Aiken Standard [edited]

[One person] in Aiken county may have been exposed to rabies following an unfriendly encounter with a wild raccoon, according to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control [DHEC].

According to a DHEC press release, the victim was on the North Augusta Greeneway Walking Trail on 16 Mar 2019 when they were bitten by a raccoon. The raccoon was later submitted to DHEC and tested positive for rabies. [Apparently the DHEC knows there is a victim so their earlier statement of "may have been exposed" seems a bit odd. - ProMED Mod.TG]

The victim who was bitten has since been referred to their health care provider. The raccoon on the Greeneway trail was the 3rd animal diagnosed with rabies in Aiken county this year [2019]. Statewide, there have been 32 confirmed cases of rabies in 2019. Coyotes, foxes, and skunks are also common carriers of the virus. Although it is extremely rare in people, rabies can be spread to humans and can also claim the lives of pets. The virus causes hallucinations, hydrophobia (fear of water), aggression, and death in its final stages.

Rabies is normally spread through bites but can also be spread when open wounds or areas like the eyes, nose, or mouth come into contact with saliva or blood of an infected animal. Infected areas should be washed with soap and water and medical attention should be sought immediately.  If a wild animal is foaming at the mouth and shows a lack of motor control (stumbling, staggering, or bumping into things) it may have rabies. Rabid animals are often very aggressive and do not fear people or other animals. [This behaviour may describe raccoons with distemper, but although they are not usually aggressive with distemper, they can be. The point is, when an animal is not acting normally it is time to move on and leave it alone and report it to the authorities in your area. - ProMED Mod.TG]

"To reduce the risk of getting rabies, always give wild and stray animals their space," said David Vaughan, Director of DHEC's Onsite Wastewater, Rabies Prevention, and Enforcement Division. "If you see an animal in need, avoid touching it and contact someone trained in handling animals, such as your local animal control officer or wildlife rehabilitator."

DHEC also stresses the importance of keeping pets up to date on their rabies shots to prevent the spread of the disease. For more information, call DHEC's Environmental Affairs Aiken office at 803-642-1637 during normal business hours on weekdays.  [Byline: Kristina Rackley]
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of South Carolina, United States:
South Carolina county map:
Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2019 16:10:28 +0100

Kinshasa, March 21, 2019 (AFP) - A six-month-old baby in the eastern DR Congo city of Bunia has died of Ebola, becoming the first fatality of the disease in a provincial capital, the heath ministry said Thursday.   Bunia, which has a population of 300,000, is the capital of Ituri province, which along with neighbouring North Kivu province has been battling an epidemic of Ebola since last August.

The baby is among 610 fatalities out of 980 recorded cases, the ministry said in a statement.   "The parents are apparently in good health," it said.   "Extensive investigations are underway and will include, among other things, analysis of the maternal milk to identify the source of contamination."   The ministry added that it had also registered 97 new cases in the previous three weeks.   This increase "was expected" given the impact of an attack on two Ebola treatment centres by armed groups in the troubled region, it said.
Date: Thu, 21 Mar 2019 22:32:17 +0100

Blantyre, Malawi, March 21, 2019 (AFP) - Heavy rains could cause a dam in southern Malawi to give way if there is no let-up, authorities said Thursday, urging local residents to take shelter.   The warning came after cyclone Idai battered neighbouring Mozambique last Friday killing 242 people    Hurricane-force winds and rains have also ravaged hit eastern Zimbabwe where over 100 have died.

In Malawi, the storm has affected nearly a million people with over 80,000 displaced, according to the WHO.   The Chagwa dam "has had one of its major embankments eroded due to heavy rains," the interior security ministry said in a statement. "(It) is likely to burst in the event of heavy and incessant rains."   The statement advised local residents in the southern African country to evacuate "in case of an emergency".