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Albania

Albania US Consular Information Sheet November 04, 2008

 COUNTRY DESCRIPTION

Albania is a parliamentary democracy that is transforming its economy into a market-oriented system. Albania's per capita income is among the lowest in Eu

ope, but economic conditions in the country are steadily improving. Tourist facilities are not highly developed in much of the country, and though Albania's economic integration into European Union markets is slowly underway, many of the goods and services taken for granted in other European countries are not yet available. Hotel accommodations are limited outside of major cities. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Albania for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS

 A passport is required. All travelers entering or exiting Albania must have six months or more validity on their passport. Customs officers strictly enforce this law. U.S. citizens do not require a visa prior to entering Albania, but those traveling without a visa will be charged a fee for an entry stamp at the point of entry, which is valid for a stay of up to 90 days. This fee is currently 10 Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Travelers without a visa who intend to stay in Albania for more than 90 days should be aware that Albanian law allows a traveler without a visa to remain in Albania for 90 days only within a specific 180-day period. That 180-day period is defined from the first day of entry. For example, a traveler entering without a visa on January 1 may remain in Albania for 90 days total during the period of time between January 1 and June 28. Departing Albania during this time period does not "restart the clock." Travelers attempting to reenter Albania without a visa and within 180 days of a previous entry and after an aggregate stay of 90 days may be denied entry. For stays exceeding 90 days within a 180-day period, those interested must apply for a Residency Permit at the police station with jurisdiction over the city of residence. Information on how to apply for a residency permit is available on the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/. There is also a departure fee of ten Euros, or the equivalent in any easily convertible currency, including U.S. dollars. Visit the Embassy of Albania web site at http://www.embassyofalbania.org/consular.html#visa for the most current visa information. Dual Nationality: The Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. If such persons are found guilty of draft evasion in Albania, they are subject to prosecution by the Albanian court. Those who might be affected should inquire at an Albanian Embassy or Consulate outside Albania regarding their status before traveling. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. 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

Although the overall security situation in Albania has improved in recent years, organized criminal activity continues to operate in all regions, and corruption is pervasive. US Government employees need permission to travel to the northern administrative districts of Shkoder, Malesi E Madhe and Tropoje (with the exception of the route along the national road to Montenegro and the city of Shkoder) and to the southern town of Lazarat, with such travel restricted to secure vehicles with escort. Travel restrictions for U.S. Government employees have been lifted for overnight stays in the city of Shkoder. In most cases, police assistance and protection is limited. A high level of security awareness should be maintained at all times. Photographing anything that authorities regard as being of military or security interest may cause travelers problems. All gatherings of large crowds should be avoided, particularly those involving political causes or striking workers. For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays). The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME

In the latest State Department assessment, Albania’s crime rating is “medium.” Crime against foreigners is rare in Albania, as targeting foreigners is often viewed as too risky. Visitors should maintain the same personal security awareness that they would in any metropolitan U.S. city. Caution should be exercised in bars in Tirana where violent incidents, some involving the use of firearms, have occurred in the past, particularly in the early morning hours. Within the last years there have been fewer cases of carjacking compared with previous years. Anyone who is carjacked should surrender the vehicle without resistance. Armed crime continues to be more common in northern and northwestern Albania than in the rest of the country. Street crime is fairly common in Albania, particularly at night. Criminals do not seem to deliberately target U.S. citizens or other foreigners, but do seek targets of opportunity, and select those who appear to have anything of value. Vehicle theft is still one of the biggest problems in Albania. Pick-pocketing is widespread; U.S. citizens have reported the theft of their passports by pick-pockets. INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line is 129, though coverage is inconsistent at best. See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION

Medical facilities and capabilities in Albania are limited beyond rudimentary first aid treatment. Emergency and major medical care requiring surgery and hospital care is inadequate due to lack of specialists, diagnostic aids, medical supplies, and prescription drugs. Travelers with previously diagnosed medical conditions may wish to consult their physicians before travel. As prescription drugs may be unavailable locally, travelers may also wish to bring extra supplies of required medications. Recent electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country, which can affect food storage capabilities of restaurants and shops. While some restaurants and food stores have generators to properly store food, travelers should take care that food is cooked thoroughly to reduce the risk of food-borne illness. Water in Albania is not potable. Visitors should plan to purchase bottled water or drinks while in country. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Albania. 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 (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en

MEDICAL INSURANCE

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

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Albania is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance. Major roads in Albania are often in very poor condition. Traveling by road throughout Albania is the most dangerous activity for locals and tourists. Vehicle accidents are the major cause of death, according to police statistics. Electricity shortages have resulted in sporadic blackouts throughout the country that can happen any hour of the day or night. Such outages affect traffic signals and street lights, making driving increasingly treacherous at any time of day. Travel at night outside the main urban areas is dangerous and should be avoided due to deplorable road conditions. During the winter months, travelers may encounter dangerous snow and icy conditions on the roads throughout mountainous regions in northern Albania. Buses travel between most major cities almost exclusively during the day, but they are often unreliable and uncomfortable. Many travelers looking for public transport prefer to use privately owned vans, which function as an alternate system of bus routes and operate almost entirely without schedules or set fares. Please note that many of these privately owned vans may not have official permission to operate a bus service and may not adhere to accepted safety and maintenance standards. Persons wishing to use privately owned vans should exercise caution. There are no commercial domestic flights and few rail connections. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at www.albaniantourism.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT

As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Albania, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Albania's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For further information, travelers may visit the FAA's web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Albania's customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Albania of some items. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Albania in Washington, D.C. or one of Albania's Consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements. As noted previously, the Albanian government considers any person in Albania of Albanian parents to be an Albanian citizen. In addition to being subject to all Albanian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may be subject to Albanian laws that impose special obligations. Male Albanian citizens are subject to compulsory military service regulations. See our information pertaining to dual nationality. Albania is a cash economy. Credit cards and travelers checks are not generally accepted, except at the major new hotels in Tirana and some international airline offices. Travelers' checks can be changed at banks in larger towns. Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are available in most cities. Please see our Customs Information CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Albania’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Albania are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties. Under Albanian law, police can detain any individual for up to 10 hours without filing formal charges. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their U.S. passports with them at all times to show proof of identity and U.S. citizenship if questioned by local officials.

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 Albania 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 Albania. 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 Rruga Elbasanit 103, tel. (355)(4) 2247285; fax (355)(4) 2232222. The U.S. Embassy web site is http://tirana.usembassy.gov/ * * * This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 10, 2008, to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 9 Mar 2018 16:28:50 +0100

Tirana, March 9, 2018 (AFP) - The military has been deployed in northern Albania to help hundreds of people trapped by floods following heavy rainfall, authorities said on Friday.   More than 9,230 hectares (22,800 acres) of agricultural land is underwater in the Shkodra region, including villages where the only means of transport is by boat, the defence ministry said.

Army personnel are evacuating residents and securing food supplies in the affected areas, 100 kilometres (60 miles) north of the capital, Tirana.   The torrential rain in recent days has caused landslides damaging dozens of homes and flooding roads, said the transport ministry.   The rain has also forced the Albanian authorities to release excess water from a hydroelectric plant, which has added to the flooding in northern areas of the country.   Weather forecasters say the rain is likely to ease from Saturday.
Date: Sun, 3 Dec 2017 12:29:40 +0100

Tirana, Dec 3, 2017 (AFP) - Thousands of police and soldiers have been deployed in Albania to rescue stranded residents after heavy rainfall triggered major flooding, and caused the death of a utility worker, officials and the power company said Sunday.   The victim, Sabri Vlinga, died while he was working on a electricity pole at Roskovec in the flooded south of the country, the power company said in statement.   Two other people were injured in similar accidents. it added.   Some 6,400 police and soldiers have been sent to help rescue people stranded by the floods, Prime MInister Edi Rama said Saturday, calling the situation "very critical".

Around 1,500 people in the affected areas have been rescued, while several thousand homes were without electricity as many utility poles have been swept away by mudslides, said Shemsi Prenci, head of civil protection.   More than 7,874 hectares (19,450 acres) of farm land as well as 3,193 homes are under water and several roads in the south remained impassable.

Army forces have built a temporary bridge at Darezeze, about 70 kilometres (44 miles) from the capital Tirana, to come to the aid of 2,000 residents stranded by the floods, the defence ministry said.    In neighbouring Macedonia, the heavy rains have also caused flooding as several rivers include the main Vardar river have burst their banks, the MIA news agency reported.
Date: Sat 5 Aug 2017
From: Edmond Puca <edmond_puca@yahoo.com> [edited]

Here in Albania, we have 2 imported cases of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS), one imported from the north of Greece and another from Macedonia in a village near the border with Albania.

The patient from Macedonia is 25 years old. He presented in the emergency room on 31 Jul [2017]. Right now, he is in good condition and will survive. He presented with fever, nausea and vomiting, abdominal pain, and lower back pain.

The other patient from Greece had been in our service for the previous 2 weeks and now is at home in good condition.

The disease is caused by Dobrava-Belgrade virus infection.
---------------------------------
Dr Edmond Puca
Infectologue
Department of Infectious Disease
UHC "Mother Teresa"
Tirana, Albania
===================
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Edmond Puca for sending in this report.  This and the previous report are the 1st reports of hantavirus infections in Macedonia that ProMED-mail has posted. There is also evidence of HFRS in Greece, although ProMED-mail has not posted reports previously. Sero-epidemiological investigations conducted in several Balkan countries revealed an overall seroprevalence of 4 per cent in Greece (<http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0168170213004887#>). There doubtless have been Dobrava-Belgrade virus infections in Greece and the Balkans over the years, given that this virus is known to circulate widely in the Balkans.

The yellow-necked field mouse (_Apodemus flavicollis_) is the principle vertebrate host for Dobrava-Belgrade virus. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Mon, 6 Feb 2017 04:30:32 +0100
By Briseida MEMA

Tirana, Feb 6, 2017 (AFP) - Emira Sela covers her face with her hand to hide a disfiguring abscess, the traumatic result of unregulated cosmetic treatments now rampant across Albania.   The 31-year-old began to worry when wrinkles appeared on her face. Sela's hairdresser told her that a simple injection, costing around 60 euros ($65), would banish the signs of ageing.   "She assured me that I would not risk anything. She even listed well-known names" of women who had undergone such treatment, said Sela.   "I did not think twice, I trusted her without asking questions," said the blonde woman with green eyes, her voice trembling.

Albanian hair and beauty salons lacking expertise and medical supervision are offering such cosmetic treatments, unregulated in a legal vacuum, much to the alarm of qualified doctors.   A single injection of a product whose content and dosage Sela knew nothing about was enough to ruin her life in late August.    Despite antibiotics she has permanent pain, fever and nausea, while the abscess on her right cheek forces her eye to half-close and her face is nearly paralysed.   "I am so disfigured that I tried to commit suicide," said Sela, who lost her job in a bank. Her only hope now is corrective surgery at an Italian hospital, scheduled for this month.

- Desiring Kardashian look -
"There are more and more impostors with syringes," said Panajot Papa, a plastic surgeon at a private clinic in Tirana.   "The problem is also the products... Forbidden in Europe, they enter illegally from Turkey or China."    Eriona Shehu, a dermatologist at Tirana's university hospital, said these unregulated synthetic products, such as injected liquid silicone and acrylamide, were being offered at temptingly low prices.

"Cosmetic interventions have become a lucrative industry. The patient is only a customer, exposed to a number of risks."   Shehu said the desire to look like voluptuous US reality television star Kim Kardashian was "destroying the lives of young Albanian girls looking for beauty".   Albanian doctors say the typical age of clients for such procedures is between 16 and 28.    In the country of about three million people, the demand for cosmetic interventions rose more than 50 percent in 2015, according to a study published by Albania's economic magazine Monitor.

Promotional offers can be seen everywhere, such as a beauty salon advertising 20 percent reductions for three people coming together for treatment during the holiday season.   Papa says he has treated a dozen young women aged between 20 and 27 who suffered complications after having their lips and cheekbones swollen with injected liquid silicone for 40 to 50 euros.    The product has been banned for cosmetic use in countries such as Italy and France for more than 15 years.   Papa said such botched interventions left these women prone to particularly bad swellings during their menstrual period, requiring further treatment -- and he warned they may suffer such symptoms for life.

- Closing legal gap -
Albanian doctors are worried about foreign practitioners who come from Italy, Turkey and Greece to work just for a weekend.   "They may not have a diploma, qualification or licence for these kind of interventions or for assuming the responsibility of a patient's medical follow-up," said Besim Boci, head of the otolaryngology department at Tirana's university hospital.   Due to legal loopholes, the judiciary cannot step in.    A spokesman at Tirana's tribunal, Alba Nikolla, admits that it is currently impossible to "open investigations and prosecute based only on complaints" against practitioners.

But authorities are set to tackle this with a draft law to control cosmetic products and beauty salons, which is due to be introduced in parliament in the next few months.   The law complies with the requirements of the European Union, which Albania aspires to join, and will enable authorities to shut down rogue establishments using synthetic products.    When health is adversely affected, practitioners could be imprisoned for three to 10 years.    Such regulations could go some way to easing the trauma of women like Elisa Lura, a 22-year-old economics student.   She underwent a laser treatment to restore her natural look after paying 50 euros to a neighbourhood salon for permanent eyebrow tattoos, which went wrong. But the laser made things much worse.   "Everything is spoiled!" she said of her face now covered with painful scars.
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2016 04:21:54 +0100
By Briseida MEMA

Tirana, Albania, Jan 13, 2016 (AFP) - With her sick daughter in the arms, Mira Lela pushes her way through the hallway of the doctor's clinic, crowded with patients ailing from heavy pollution in Albania's capital.   "This is an emergency, she has difficulty breathing," said the tearful woman, forcing open the door to the office of Bardhyl Vaqari, who has worked in the specialist Tirana clinic for more than 20 years.   "An acute asthma attack," said the doctor on seeing the child.   "The number of people with respiratory allergies and cardiovascular problems has greatly increased," he told AFP, adding that the number of patients on the clinic's books has more than doubled to 8,000 in the last four years.

On the noisy and congested streets outside, clapped-out bangers and Hummer trucks cross paths with Mercedes, BMWs and overloaded buses that leave a trail of black smoke and heavy odour.    Having been cut off from the world under a strict communist regime until 1991, the Western Balkan city had just a few hundred cars on its roads in the 1990s.

But today, through a mixture of pride, luxury-seeking and necessity, given the lack of public transport, there are more than 190,000 cars circulating in a city of about one million people.   "Albanians take the car even when going to buy bread in a nearby store. That's why the traffic is overloaded all day and this increases pollution levels," said Altin Duka, a despairing 65-year-old shopkeeper.

The average age of vehicles on Tirana's roads is around 16 years, twice the European average, according to Gani Cupi, deputy manager of Albania's Road Transport Services.    Many of the vehicles do not meet the standards of the European Union, which Albania hopes to join.   "The traffic load, the age of vehicles, their technical condition but also the poor quality of fuel are all factors contributing to the capital's pollution," said Cupi.

- Taxing dilemmas -
In a bid to clean up the air, Albanian authorities considered doubling taxes on ageing vehicles but then dropped such plans. Analysts suggested the cost would weigh too heavily on citizens in one of the poorest countries in Europe.   New cars are already exempt from paying annual tax for the first three years, but authorities in 2012 lifted a levy on the import of old vehicles as the EU considered it a "fiscal discrimination".

Tirana's Mayor Erion Veliaj has pledged to battle against the fumes by increasing the number of green spaces, introducing hybrid buses and improving infrastructure in the city, which is crammed with mostly illegal constructions.   "The number of vehicles does not stop growing," he told AFP, pointing out that about 500 people die in the city each year "because of respiratory or cardiovascular problems related to pollution".

A report this year from the European Environment Agency noted a 20 to 30 percent decrease in Tirana's concentration levels of PM10 and PM2.5 -- damaging particulate matter -- according to data assessment from 2011 to 2013.   But Laureta Dibra, head of the air and climate change department at Albania's Environment Ministry, told AFP that PM10 levels had actually been rising in areas of heavy traffic in recent years.   Tirana remains "among the most polluted cities in Europe", added the director of the National Environment Agency, Julian Beqiri.   "The level of the population's exposure to pollutants is still a problem," he said.

- On your bikes -
In an effort to improve air quality in the capital and educate residents, Tirana organised two car-free days in 2015, when the air was said to be at least four times less polluted than usual.   Worried activists are campaigning to promote the bicycle as a means of transport and a way of life.   Ecovolis, a bike sharing system, rents out at least 200 bicycles from different tations around Tirana, at 60 leke (44 euro cents, $0.47) per bike per hour -- but many people still prefer getting behind the wheel.

Although Albania's energy minister claims that 95 percent of fuel meets the required standards, even Prime Minister Edi Rama attacked its quality in May last year.   "It is so bad that even a strong car like a Mercedes ends up being bad for Albanians' lungs," he said, calling for urgent measures to improve fuel controls.   The government says restrictions have since been tightened, but those at the frontline of the fumes remain unhappy.   "I come home in the evening with a completely dry throat and a bitter taste my mouth," said Bequir Veseli, 37, a traffic policeman who spends eight hours a day at the centre of a chaotic roundabout.   "I have trouble breathing but what can I do? The next day I have to go back to my post".
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Georgia

Georgia US Consular Information Sheet
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Georgia is a constitutional republic with a developing economy.
Tourist facilities outside of Tbilisi are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted
in other countries are not yet available.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Georgia for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required.
U.S. citizens visiting for 90 days or less do not need a visa to enter Georgia.
For further information, please contact the Embassy of Georgia at 2209 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington DC, 20008 tel. (202) 387-2390, fax: (202) 393-4537.
Visit the Embassy of Georgia web site at http://embassy.mfa.gov.ge/index.php?lang_id=GEO&sec_id=2&lang_id=ENG for the most current visa information.

Information on 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:
As a result of civil wars in the 1980s and early 1990s, there are two separatist regions in Georgia that are not under the control of the Government of Georgia:
South Ossetia, in north-central Georgia; and Abkhazia, in northwest Georgia.
Although armed conflict between the separatist regions and the central government has ceased, episodes of violence continue and political relations are tense. Political developments have the potential to result in open hostilities.
Due to the volatility of the political situation, high levels of crime, and inability of Embassy personnel to travel to Abkhazia or South Ossetia, the U.S. Embassy advises American citizens not to travel to these separatist-controlled areas.
Because of the restricted access of U.S. officials to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the ability of the U.S. Government to assist American citizens in these regions is extremely limited, even in emergencies.
All travelers to these regions, regardless of purpose, should register with the U.S. Embassy. The U.S. Embassy recommends that Americans regularly monitor warden messages on the Embassy web site for the latest information on the security situation throughout Georgia.

Political tensions remain high between the Georgian Government and the South Ossetia separatist regime, based in Tskhinvali.
This situation culminated in sniper and mortar exchanges between South Ossetian and Georgian troops in 2004.
Although the fighting did not escalate into an all-out war, low-level violence continues between the two sides, periodically resulting in deaths, and underscoring the potential for instability in the region.
A tense truce also exists between the Georgian Government and the separatist de facto government of Abkhazia; since April 2008, several incidents have increased the tension to a point where cross-border military actions are a possibility.
Over the past several years, a number of attacks, criminal incidents, and kidnappings have occurred in Abkhazia.
While Abkhaz "border officials" may demand that travelers entering the region purchase "visas" from the so-called "Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia," the U.S. Government recognizes the territorial integrity of Georgia.
American citizens in areas of western Georgia, near Abkhazia, are advised to be aware of their surroundings at all times and to avoid straying off main roads or traveling after dark.

American citizens should be aware that they cannot legally cross by land, air, rail, or sea between Russia and Georgia, even if in possession of valid Russian or Georgian visas.
In July 2006, the Russian Government closed the only border crossing between Georgia and Russia under the control of both governments (the only other crossings are through Georgia’s separatist regions).
Russian authorities said the closure, at Verkhny Lars, would be temporary, pending necessary repairs at the crossing, although it remains closed as of June 2008.
On August 6, 2007, a missile was fired from an aircraft near a village between the city of Gori and the separatist region of South Ossetia.
Although this was an isolated incident, it serves as a reminder that the situation near the separatist areas remains unpredictable.

Georgia's armed forces have periodically conducted operations against suspected international terrorists, Chechen fighters, and criminals who have taken refuge in the Pankisi Gorge.
American citizens should avoid all travel to the Pankisi Gorge, north of the city of Akhmeta.
American citizens are also advised to exercise caution when traveling in the northern mountainous areas of Georgia bordering the Russian Federation, especially the Chechnya and Dagestan sectors.

Political demonstrations take place from time to time in the capital city, Tbilisi, and normally take place in front of the Parliament building on Rustaveli Avenue.
While these demonstrations are normally peaceful, confrontational demonstrations have occurred, and we wish to remind all Americans that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.

Regardless of the region in Georgia one is planning to visit, American citizens are urged to review their personal security precautions, increase their levels of awareness, register with the consular section and as appropriate, take increased security measures.

In the past, religious minorities in Georgia have been targets of violent attacks.
The victims were primarily Jehovah's Witnesses, but also include Pentecostals, Baptists, and members of the Assembly of God.
Incidents included the burning of literature, the destruction of private property and the beating (sometimes severe) of believers, including American citizens.
Although Georgian authorities arrested, convicted and imprisoned the ringleader of the group responsible for these attacks in 2005, American citizens should remain cautious when engaging in missionary activity in Georgia.

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

Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or, for callers outside the United States 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:
Crime is a very serious problem in Georgia.
There is a great disparity in affluence between foreigners and most Georgians.
Americans in particular are perceived as being wealthy, and are therefore specifically targeted for economic- and property-based crimes.
Incidents such as residential break-in, carjacking, car theft, petty theft, and armed robbery account for most of the crimes involving Americans that are reported to the Embassy.
Petty street crime, such as pick pocketing, purse snatching, and cell phone theft, is also common throughout the country. Furthermore, violent attacks have become more commonplace.
Because illegal firearms are readily available in Georgia, assailants are likely to be armed with firearms and other weapons.

Crime remains a particularly serious issue in Tbilisi, where criminal activity against foreigners remains at levels disproportionate to other metropolitan areas in Europe and the United States.
Many robberies and assaults have occurred in areas frequented by American citizens and foreigners, such as on side streets near Tbilisi’s city center; trouble spots include areas off the main avenues in the Vake and Vera districts, and Chavchavadze and Rustaveli avenues, as well as the Saburtalo region of Tbilisi.
These crimes often occurred when the victim was alone, after dark, and in unfamiliar surroundings.

Petty theft is also a problem on the Tbilisi metro system and in minivans, or “marshrutkas” used for public transport.
American citizens are advised to use personal vehicles or use taxis from established companies that carry passengers door-to-door.
While the security of overland travel in Georgia has improved, vehicular and rail traffic remains vulnerable to robbery.

The threat of kidnapping exists both within and outside of Tbilisi.
In the past, foreign businessmen have been abducted for ransom, and Americans in the Tbilisi area have received kidnapping threats.
The possibility of similar risk to Americans elsewhere in the country cannot be discounted.

Outside of Tbilisi, criminal activity is also a problem, especially in the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, due to the reduced capacity of law enforcement in those areas.
Other regions of concern include:
upper Svanetia, Samtskhe-Javakheti, the administrative border with Abkhazia (including Zugdidi city), and areas along the border with Russia.
When visiting or traveling through these regions, American citizens are urged to increase their vigilance, review their personal security precautions, and take appropriate security measures, e.g. traveling with a native Georgian escort familiar with the local area.

Despite much progress in the Georgian Government’s efforts to reform police and fight internal corruption, serious concerns remain as to the police’s ability to deter criminal activity or conduct effective post-incident investigations.
Although police emergency response is good (see below for contact information), criminals continue to have freedom of movement throughout Tbilisi day or night.

In light of the serious crime situation, all American citizens visiting Georgia are again strongly advised to exercise basic security precautions. American travelers should vary times and routes, especially from places of residence to work locations. Americans should maintain a low profile by not carrying large amounts of cash, not wearing excessive amounts of jewelry, and not behaving in a manner that would draw unnecessary attention.
Additionally, Americans should be aware of their surroundings, travel in pairs or groups, and stay on main streets and routes.
The Embassy recommends that those traveling throughout the country do so during daylight hours only and provide a travel itinerary and contact telephone numbers to a friend or business colleague.
Also, Americans should not hesitate to report any unusual incidents or suspicious vehicles or individuals to the Georgian authorities as soon as possible.
Finally, those that do become a victim of crime should not resist their assailant and should cooperate with the assailant as best they can.
Assailants are most interested in money and/or property; cooperation reduces the chance of being assaulted and/or injured.

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 Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs (MOIA) has established a police emergency hotline.
This service is currently limited to larger cities, but the MOIA is planning to expand this service countrywide.

The local “911” equivalent to contact police in an emergency is: “022”.
Please note that the police dispatcher speaks only Georgian or Russian.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care in Georgia is limited.
There is a severe shortage of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics.
Elderly travelers and those with pre-existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities.
It is recommended that travelers who intend to visit Georgia for at least two weeks get the hepatitis A vaccine and a pre-exposure rabies vaccine.
Travelers are also encouraged to bring medicine to treat diarrhea, which regularly afflicts newcomers.
Georgian doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment before rendering medical services.

Medical Information: Tuberculosis (TB) is an increasingly serious health concern in Georgia.
For further information, please consult the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Travel Notice on TB http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx
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 (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company before traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and if 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 Georgia is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

As in the United States, vehicular traffic in Georgia moves along the right side of roadways.
Speed limits range from 80 to 100 km/hr on highways, and from 30 to 60 km/hr on urban thoroughfares.
Motorists are not permitted to make right turns on red traffic lights.
While legislation mandating seat belt use has yet to be enacted, drivers and passengers are nevertheless strongly advised to buckle up on Georgian roads.
Georgian law requires that children under seven (7) years of age be restrained in child-safety seats.
A driver with any blood alcohol concentration exceeding 0.00% is considered to be driving under the influence of alcohol.

Motorists should exercise extreme caution when driving in Georgia, as many local drivers do not operate their vehicles in accordance with established traffic laws.
Traffic signals and rules of the road are often completely ignored.
Motorists drive erratically, often recklessly, and at excessive speeds.
Motorists may frequently encounter oncoming high-speed traffic attempting to pass other vehicles at blind turns or over hilltops.
Pedestrians enjoy no right-of-way and need to be extremely careful when crossing streets.
The Georgian Patrol Police, who come under the authority of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, are responsible for maintaining traffic safety in Georgia, but enforcement of traffic regulations is haphazard.

Undivided two-lane roads connect most major cities in Georgia.
Roads are generally in poor condition and often lack shoulder markings and centerlines.
In addition, traffic signals may not work because of power outages or poor maintenance.
Driving at night can be especially dangerous.
Travel on mountain roads is treacherous in both rain and snow, and during winter, heavy snowfalls may make some roads impassable.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://tourism.gov.ge/start.php
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Georgia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Georgia’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.

Travelers on regional airlines among the countries of the South Caucasus may experience prolonged delays and sudden cancellations of flights.
In addition to frequent delays, flights are often overcrowded or overbooked.
Basic safety features such as seat belts are sometimes missing.
Air travel to Georgia on international carriers via Europe is typically more reliable.
Ticketed passengers on flights departing from Georgia should reconfirm reservations with the airline 24 hours prior to departure.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Georgia has been subject to energy crises in the last few years.
During the winter months, frequent and prolonged power outages are common, especially outside of Tbilisi.
The lack of lighting in public places, even when electricity is available, heightens vulnerability to crime (please see the Crime section above for details).

Georgia’s customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning the temporary import into or export from Georgia of items such as alcohol, tobacco, jewelry, religious materials, art or artifacts, antiquities, and business equipment.
Only personal medicines with a doctor’s statement can be imported without the permission of the Georgian Drug Agency section of the Ministry of Health.

American citizens may not import firearms into Georgia; however, hunting weapons may be brought into the country for a two-week period, based on valid Georgian hunting licenses.
While there is no limit to the amount of currency that can be imported, if more money is exported than was declared at the time of entry, the traveler is obligated to prove it was legally obtained.
There are limits on the amount of Georgian currency that may be exported.

American citizens should exercise extreme caution in purchasing property in Abkhazia.
Land for sale in that region rightfully may belong to internally displaced persons forced to leave Abkhazia in the early 1990s and may have improperly been placed on the market by the de facto authorities in Abkhazia.
In such cases, the government of Georgia considers the sale of property in Abkhazia illegal under Georgian law and the property could be reclaimed by original owners at a future date.

The Ministry of Culture, Department of Expertise and Evaluation must license any valuables such as artwork, antiques, jewelry, paintings, etc.
This license describes the object, assesses its value, and provides permission to export it from Georgia.
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi can provide more specific information on quantities of items that can be imported duty-free, as well as duties excised for specific items.
It is also advisable to contact the Embassy of Georgia in Washington, DC for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

While the Georgian lari is the only legal tender, dollars can be freely exchanged for laris at market rates.
ATMs are also becoming more widespread, but only within the city of Tbilisi.
Credit cards are rarely accepted outside of upscale hotels and restaurants, and travelers’ checks are difficult to cash.
American citizens in Georgia have reported incidents of credit card fraud and identity theft.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, an American 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 offences.
Persons violating Georgian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Georgia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Georgia are strongly encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration web site, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Georgia.
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 in Tbilisi is located at 11 George Balanchine Street.
Office hours from American Citizens Services are from 2 to 5 pm on weekdays; no appointment is necessary.
The telephone number is (995) (32) 27-70-00, which can also be reached after hours, and the fax number is: (995) (32) 53-23-10.
The U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi’s web site is http://georgia.usembassy.gov/.
*
*
*
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated October 3, 2007 to update the section on Entry and Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Information of Victims of Crime, ion, Traffic Safety and Road Condition, Special Circumstances, and Aviation Safety Oversight.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 16 Mar 2018 16:59:07 +0100

Tbilisi, March 16, 2018 (AFP) - At least eight tourists, including a pregnant woman from Sweden, were injured on Friday when a chair lift ran out of control in the Georgian ski resort of Gudauri, officials said.   Video of the accident showed skiers being flung out of their chairs as they
turned a bend as other resort visitors screamed in terror. 

An emergency stop led to the chairs sliding back at high speed, Economy Minister Dimitry Kumsishvili told journalists, adding that the incident was "allegedly caused by an electricity outage".   "The interior ministry has launched a criminal probe into alleged violation of safety norms," he added.   Health Minister David Sergeenko said the tourists -- who were Georgiain, Russian, Swedish and Ukrainian -- did not suffer serious injuries.

"Two of them - including a pregnant woman from Sweden -- were airlifted to a hospital in (the Georgian capital) Tbilisi," he added.   Video footage (https://www.facebook.com/yanshyn/videos/10210410103119989/) of the accident posted on Facebook has been viewed more than 600,000 times.   The Caucasus nation of Georgia is an emerging ski destination.
Date: Wed 8 Nov 2017 8:36 PM GET
Source: KyivPost, Interfax-Ukraine report [edited]

Georgia's 2nd anthrax fatality this year [2017] has been confirmed. A Poti [Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti region] resident, aged 28, died from exposure to anthrax, Maka Gabunia, an epidemiologist of the Georgian Healthcare Ministry's Poti regional laboratory, told reporters on [8 Nov 2017].

The tentative cause of death is that the woman sought medical aid too late, Gabunia said. The patient was showing symptoms of the disease when she was admitted to a hospital, she said. "The appropriate medical assistance was provided to the patient, but, unfortunately, doctors were unable to save her," Gabunia said.

Laboratory tests confirmed the diagnosis of anthrax exposure, she said. She said she believes that there are no reasons for panic among residents of Poti.

The 1st anthrax fatality this year [2017] was recorded in Adjara, Georgia, in September. A 58-year-old resident of the village of Akhalsopeli in the Khelvachauri district died following exposure to an infected animal, the Georgian National Center for Disease Control and Public Health told reporters.

The last time an anthrax fatality was recorded in Georgia was in 2013.
****************************
Date: Thu 9 Nov 2017
Source: Rosbalt.ru [in Russian, trans., edited]

A young Poti resident died of anthrax infection. The citizen turned to the doctors late, the Ministry of Health of Georgia informed. The 28-year-old woman died, despite the help she received from epidemiologists.

In September [2017], a man died from anthrax in Adjara.
------------------------------
Communicated by:
Sabine Zentis
Castleview English Longhorns
Gut Laach
D-52385 Nideggen
Germany
**************************
Date: Fri 10 Nov 2017
From: Ana Kasradze [edited]

Anthrax is an endemic zoonotic disease in Georgia. The majority of cases are cutaneous, generalized forms of the disease are rare; 1-2 gastrointestinal tract anthrax cases were registered in total. From August [2017], the human anthrax cases in the west part of Georgia were related to ongoing epizootics in one of the regions.

In the beginning of November 2017, a 28-year-old female was admitted to the hospital in the west part of the country with high temperature, severe sore throat, neck swelling, predominantly unilateral. Lymph nodes were swollen and a pseudomembranous plaque in the mouth -- predominantly on the right side -- was observed. The hospital suspected diphtheria and notified. For a bacteriological study, the sample was sent to NCDC's [National Center for Disease Control and Public Health] Regional Laboratory. The patient was transferred to the referral hospital in the same city, where the laboratory is located. After 24 hours, the culture was identified as anthrax.

Additional laboratory testing was conducted in the center of Lugar, and the bronchial aspirate sample was PCR positive for anthrax.

The condition of the patient was severe, and despite the specific treatment, she died on the 6th day of hospitalization.

Diagnosis: anthrax, oropharyngeal form.

The case was defined as unusual for Georgia, as no oropharyngeal anthrax cases had been identified before in the country. The suspected source of infection is minced meat, that case bought in the local market. Because of her severe condition, we were not able to interview her, but most likely she tasted the raw minced meat before cooking. The person selling the meat at the local market is a private merchant and the meat is not sold in the food chain. National Food Agency was notified. Environmental samples were collected from the slaughterhouse.
-------------------------------
EpiCore Global Surveillance Project member
Ana Kasradze
National Center for Disease Control and Public Health
=================
[Maps of Georgia can be seen at
and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/63383>.

According to Wikipedia (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Poti>) Poti is a port city in Georgia, located on the eastern Black Sea coast in the region of Samegrelo-Zemo Svaneti in the west of the country. The city has become a major port city and industrial center since the early 20th century. It is also home to a main naval base and the headquarters of the Georgian navy. Adjacent to the Poti port area is the RAKIA owned Free Industrial Zone.

Poti, a busy city, is distant from the usual rural areas afflicted with livestock anthrax. As the third report notes the patient was confirmed to have oropharyngeal anthrax which is rare in humans though not uncommon in certain livestock. The suggestion that she had sampled the rare minced meat is logical, as we know from hamburgers such is very easy to cook and the cooked surface would have been sterile. The less cooked interior, if eaten, would have possibly resulted in an enteric infection. If the meat had been mixed with some fibrous matter it would have increased the chance of scratching the throat and have facilitated spore entry. Our thanks to Dr Kasradze for her very quick response. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]
Date: Wed, 18 May 2016 15:09:56 +0200

Copenhagen, May 18, 2016 (AFP) - The Black Sea coastal areas of Georgia and Russia face a high risk of a Zika virus outbreak, the World Health Organization warned Wednesday, while it also put Europe on alert ahead of the upcoming summer months.   "The likelihood of local Zika virus transmission, if no measures are taken to mitigate the threat, is ... high in limited geographical areas: the (Portuguese) island of Madeira (off Africa) and the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea," WHO said.   The reason for the high-level threat in those areas is the presence there of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which carry the Zika virus that health authorities say causes birth defects in new-borns, the UN global health agency said.

Another 18 countries in Europe "have a moderate likelihood" of a Zika virus outbreak, WHO warned.   "The overall risk of a Zika virus outbreak across the WHO European Region is low to moderate during late spring and summer," it said.   That was largely due to the presence of another mosquito species in those countries: the Aedes albopictus, which is less "prone" to causing outbreaks than its cousin in Latin America and the Caribbean, according to research by the Pasteur Institute.   Within the "moderate likelihood" group, France, Italy and Malta had the top three transmission likelihood scores.

The score was based on factors including climatic suitability for the mosquitoes, shipping and air connectivity, population density, urbanisation and history of previous outbreaks of viruses transmitted by insects or other animals.   "With this risk assessment, we at WHO want to inform and target preparedness work in each European country based on its level of risk," said Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab, WHO Regional Director for Europe.

"We call particularly on countries at higher risk to strengthen their national capacities and prioritise the activities that will prevent a large Zika outbreak."   Recent scientific consensus is that Zika causes microcephaly, a form of severe brain damage in new-borns, as well as adult-onset neurological problems which can lead to paralysis and even death.   There is no vaccine or treatment for the virus, which in most people causes only mild symptoms -- a rash, joint pain or fever.
Date: Fri, 19 Jun 2015 12:59:59 +0200 (METDST)

Tbilisi, June 19, 2015 (AFP) - Georgian police on Friday were hunting down a tiger who escaped from the capital's flood-ravaged zoo after another tiger mauled a man to death before being killed.   "A large feline has been spotted by at least 15 local residents" on the outskirts of Tbilisi, Giorgi Metreveli, a professional hunter involved in the citywide police operation to locate the tiger, said in televised comments.   "The search for the animal is underway," he said.   The Rustavi 2 television channel broadcast a few photos of the tiger that local residents had taken with their mobile phones.

"Professional hunters equipped with tranquilliser darts have joined the police operation to hunt down escaped animals," Giorgi Gibradze, spokesman of Georgia's Crisis Management Council, told journalists.   He said an emergency call centre had so far received 47 reports about animals apparently spotted by people in neighbourhoods across Tbilisi, "but all of them turned out to be false alarms."   On Wednesday, a white tiger that escaped from the Tbilisi Zoo mauled a man to death in the city centre before being shot dead by police.   The zoo said on Thursday that several animals may still be at large.   "But we need to complete a thorough inventory of dead and survived animals to know for sure," a spokeswoman told AFP.

The flash flood at the weekend tore through central Tbilisi, wrecking the zoo and killing 19 people including three zoo workers.   Lions, tigers, bears and a hippo were seen roaming the flooded streets after the disaster and were either shot dead or recaptured and returned to their enclosures.   More than half of the zoo's 600 animals perished in the flood.   Animal rights activists have demanded an investigation into the handling of the disaster, insisting that some of the animals shot dead by police did not need to be killed.
Date: Mon 18 Aug 2014
Source: Trend [edited]

Another case of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever was recently registered in Georgia's Shida Kartli region. One of the locals in the region was revealed about a week ago to have the symptoms of the disease.

Vaccination of Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever is being held in Shida Kartli region.

This April 2014, 2 people died from this disease in Georgia, and 13 cases of infection with Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever [virus] have been identified in Khashuri region of the country.

The disease poses a risk to human life, but in case of timely visit to the doctor, the patient can be saved, doctors say.

Currently, 5 people are undergoing treatment for the disease in the Infectious Diseases Hospital of Tbilisi, one of whom is a 6-year-old girl.

The National Center for Disease Control and Public Health of Georgia noted that the epidemiological situation in the country at present is not a cause for concern.  [Byline: Nana Kirtzkhalia]
===========================
[Cases of CCHF virus infection continue to pop up in Georgia this year (2014), with a total of reported cases now at 13. As noted in ProMED-mail archive no. 20140418.2413017, CCHF virus is endemic in Africa, the Balkans, the Middle East, and Asia, in countries south of the 50th parallel north.

CCHFV is a tickborne virus in the genus _Nairovirus_, family _Bunyaviridae_. CCHF virus can cause severe viral haemorrhagic fever outbreaks, with a case fatality rate of 10-40 per cent.

ProMed Mod.CP (see ProMED-mail archive 20130501.1684736) cited information summarized from a review in The Lancet by Talha Khan Burki (Lancet 2012; 380(9857): 1897-8. doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(12)62097-2; <http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(12)62097-2/fulltext>): In its immature form, the tick feeds on small mammals. Later, the adult tick attaches itself to cattle, sheep, goats, or human beings. Livestock show no overt signs of disease, and farmers and slaughterhouse workers have little idea they have been infected until they start expressing symptoms: dizziness, muscular pain, and stiffness, and of course the signature bleeding. Whereas infection in birds mostly tends to be abortive, ostriches are important hosts. In the mid 1990s, South Africa saw a CCHF outbreak at an ostrich abattoir.

About 30 countries in Africa, Asia, and Europe have reported CCHF. The tick is found no further than 50 degrees north latitude, which cuts across Russia, Ukraine, central Europe, and France; the latter 2 regions are not considered to be at any immediate risk; the _Hyalomma_ spp. ticks are present, but there is no serological evidence of CCHF. The distribution of known cases across the Middle East and Africa is patchy; ticks are present in the whole of this region, but in many countries, it seems harmless. In Africa, only South Africa, and from time to time Mauritania, face ongoing outbreaks; countries such as Tanzania and Uganda have not reported any recent outbreaks; and countries such as Angola and Algeria seem not to be at risk.

Only 4 countries report more than 50 cases per year: Iran, Russia, Turkey, and Uzbekistan (although, it could easily be the case that these countries simply have particularly efficient surveillance systems backed by proper diagnostics).

A HealthMap/ProMED-map of Georgia can be accessed at
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
======================
[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".