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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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United States of America

FCO - UK information on the United States
Updated: 25 July 2002

SUMMARY
Most visits to the United States are trouble-free. However, visitors should continue to be vigilant about their personal security.

SAFETY AND SECURITY<
R />Travellers to the United States should use common sense and take basic precautions.

If staying in a hotel, do not leave your door open at any time.

Do not wear ostentatious jewellery and avoid walking in obviously run down areas.
If arriving at night, take a taxi to your hotel and collect your hire car the next day.
If departing on an evening flight avoid leaving luggage and souvenirs in view in your hire car during the day. Thieves are targeting these vehicles and stealing the contents.
Drive on main highways and use well-lit car parks.

Do not stop if your car is bumped from behind. Instead, indicate to the other driver to follow you to the nearest public area and call for police assistance.
Do not sleep in your car on the roadside or in rest areas.
LOCAL LAWS AND CUSTOMS
Travellers wishing to visit Canada during their stay should contact the Canadian Consulate and US Immigration and Naturalisation Service for entry clearance requirements. If travellers have 90 day visa waiver for US, they should not wait until the end of their stay to travel between US and Canada. Travellers must not overstay past expiration date of their visa as they may risk being denied entry in either country or be deported. Travellers need to carry passports, round trip airline tickets showing their confirmed departure for return from US or Canada to country of origin, and they may need to show proof of sufficient funds to cover their stay.

Travellers should be aware that the age of consent varies from state to state in the US, as does the age at which someone may legally buy and consume alcohol.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS
Foot and Mouth Disease:
Travellers are prohibited from carrying into the US any agricultural products, particularly animal products – including dairy products – that could spread FMD. (Some hard cheeses and canned meats are permitted. If you are in any doubt, you must check with a US customs or US Department of Agriculture (USDA) official immediately on arrival in the airport terminal). Passengers are required to tick the appropriate box on the US Customs declaration form if they have recently visited a zoo, or been on a farm or in contact with livestock. Passengers are specifically required to identify any farm contacts to US Customs and USDA officials. All luggage is subject to inspection. Penalties for not declaring farm visits or prohibited items can run to $1,000.

All US ports of entry and airports are on heightened alert to ensure that passengers, luggage and cargo are checked as appropriate. This includes placing additional inspectors and dog teams at airports to check incoming flights and passengers.

USDA are saying that soiled shoes, clothing or luggage will be disinfected on arrival. Food products and any other items suspected of potentially carrying the FMD virus will be confiscated and destroyed.
HEALTH
Medical treatment can be very expensive; there are no special arrangements for British visitors. The British Embassy and Consulates-General cannot assist with medical expenses.

Travellers who are HIV-positive
Travellers to the United States who are HIV-positive are not eligible, under current United States visa law, to travel visa free under the Visa Waiver Programme. They are required to apply for a visa and a waiver of the ineligibility before travelling. US immigration authorities state applicants’ details will remain confidential and an applicant’s HIV status will not/not be declared on their passport. For more details contact the US Embassy in London.
GENERAL
Comprehensive travel and medical insurance is essential.
NATURAL DISASTERS
Visitors to the United States will be aware of reports of large-scale wild and forest fires throughout the country. Those travelling to affected areas should be particularly vigilant and pay attention to advice from local authorities and press and radio announcements about personal safety and how to avoid starting fires. Further information can be obtained from the National Interagency Fire Centre, 3833 S. Development Avenue, Boise, Idaho, 83705-5354; tel: +1 208 387 5512; Website: www.nifc.gov

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue 13 Aug 2019 2:21 AM CDT
Source: MPR [Minnesota Public Radio] News [edited]

[Minnesota] state health officials said [Tue 13 Aug 2019], 3 children are sick from _E. coli_ bacteria after swimming in a Minneapolis lake. The children have tested positive for the same strain of _E. coli_ after swimming at Lake Nokomis beaches between [26 Jul and 2 Aug 2019]. 2 beaches of the lake are closed until further notice, the Minnesota Department of Health said. The children, all under the age of 10, were not hospitalized.

Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Al Bangoura said it's the 1st time someone has fallen ill after swimming in a Minneapolis lake in more than 20 years. "We take this very seriously and are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health as they conduct their investigation," Bangoura said in a news release.

Symptoms of illness caused by _E. coli_ bacteria include stomach cramps and diarrhea, with mild or no fever. People typically become ill 1 to 8 days after exposure. It's rare, but the infections sometimes lead to a serious complication involving kidney failure. Health officials say children younger than 10 years old, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems have a higher chance of developing complications from _E. coli_ infections.

"This is also an important reminder that anyone who is experiencing diarrhoea should not go swimming while they are sick," said Trisha Robinson, waterborne disease supervisor at the Health Department.

Officials also want to hear from anyone else who may have become ill after swimming in Lake Nokomis.

"If there are other people who have gone swimming and are concerned about their symptoms of illness, we very much encourage them to contact their health care providers," Robinson said.
===================
[It is important to understand that there are many different kinds of _E coli_. The organism is an important component of the human intestinal tract and can perform important functions helpful to its host. These strains can cause human infections if they "escape" from the usual location into the urinary tract, gall bladder, or abdominal cavity. They are also what are mentioned when a beach is closed for _E. coli_ contamination. In this circumstance, officials are measuring the organism or "coliforms" in the water to reflect human sewage contamination.

Additionally, there are some strains of _E. coli_ that can produce toxins that can produce diarrhea, and much of so-called travellers' diarrhoea is caused by these strains. All of these strains are human bacteria, not zoonotic organisms, that is, not spread from animal hosts. One _E. coli_ group called Shiga toxin producing or enterohemorrhagic _E. coli_ (EHEC) is the organism likely to be involved here, are zoonotic. Spread in a number of ways, including via undercooked ground beef, contaminated vegetables, and direct or direct contact with farm animals including contaminated water, EHEC can cause significant disease and even death.

In the spring of 2000, in Walkerton, a town of 5000 in southern Ontario, an outbreak of _E. coli_ O157:H7 infection claimed 7 lives -- 6 adults and a child -- and over 200 were seen at local area hospitals.

Swimming-associated transmission is illustrated in the following references:

1. Keene WE, McAnulty JM, Hoesly FC, et al. A swimming-associated outbreak of hemorrhagic colitis caused by _Escherichia coli_ O157:H7 and _Shigella sonnei_. N Engl J Med. 1994; 331(9): 579-84; available at <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199409013310904>.
2. CDC. Lake-associated outbreak of _E. coli_ O157:H7 - Illinois. MMWR 1996; 45(21): 437-9; available at <https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00042070.htm>.
3. Ackman D, Marks S, Mack P, et al. Swimming-associated hemorrhagic colitis due to _Escherichia coli_ O157:H7 infection: evidence of prolonged contamination of a fresh water lake. Epidemiol Infect. 1997;119:1-8; available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2808815/>. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Minnesota, United States:
Date: Wed 7 Aug 2019
Source: Oakdale Leader [edited]

The East Side Mosquito Abatement District and Stanislaus County Public Health have jointly announced the 1st detection of invasive (non-native) _Aedes aegypti_ mosquitoes in the county. _Aedes aegypti_ mosquitoes have been detected previously elsewhere in California, but never before in Stanislaus County. _Aedes aegypti_ is capable of transmitting viruses such as chikungunya, dengue, yellow fever, and Zika that are not transmissible by the native Culex mosquitoes.

_Aedes aegypti_ mosquitoes pose a threat in that returning travellers may contract these viruses elsewhere, and _Aedes aegypti_ in infested areas may pick them up and transmit to others. While the _Aedes aegypti_ mosquito has the potential to transmit deadly viruses, none of these viruses are currently known to be transmitted locally in California.

_Aedes aegypti_ mosquitoes were recorded by the district, initially in a trap located in Modesto just north of the intersection of Lakewood Avenue and Scenic Drive on 25 Jul 2019 and in another trap nearby on 31 Jul 2019.

We found 2 male _Aedes aegypti_ in traps within 100 meters of each other, which is indicative of an established breeding population in the community. It is our responsibility to locate and control them," said J. Wakoli Wekesa, Ph.D., General Manager at East Side Mosquito Abatement District.

District staff will be conducting enhanced surveillance in the area including more trapping to evaluate the extent of the infestation. Mosquito control technicians will be doing door-to-door inspections searching for standing water sources where mosquitoes lay eggs and breed, which will encompass an area about a 1/4 mile [402 meters] radius from the index location. The technicians will be carrying out inspections and control activities in residents' yards as needed and educating residents on how to prevent mosquito breeding.

In contrast to the native amber-colored Culex mosquitoes, whose peak biting times are dawn and dusk, _Aedes aegypti_ mosquitoes are black and white, bite aggressively during the day, and feed almost exclusively on humans. Additionally, the larvae of _Aedes aegypti_ mosquitoes require much less water. Females lay their eggs just above the water line in small containers and vessels that hold water, such as dishes, potted plants, bird baths, ornamental fountains, tin cans, or discarded tires. The eggs can survive for up to 8 months after the water dries out.

The public plays a critical role in helping to control the spread of this mosquito population.  "This mosquito species breeds in small containers in and around homes. To get rid of it, people need to be aware of it, and then prevent its establishment by eliminating standing water in and around their homes," added Wekesa.

Prevent _Aedes aegypti_ development in your yard:
- Inspect yards for standing water sources and drain water that may have collected under potted plants, in bird baths, discarded tires, and any other items that could collect water.
- Check your rain gutters and lawn drains to make sure they aren't holding water and debris.
- Check and clean any new potted plant containers that you may bring home from areas that may have _Aedes aegypti_. The eggs can remain viable under dry conditions for months.

Prevent mosquito bites:
- Apply repellents containing EPA registered ingredients such as DEET, picaridin, oil of lemon eucalyptus, or IR3535 to exposed skin and/or clothing (as directed on the product label). DEET can be used safely on infants and children 2 months of age and older.
- Wear long sleeve shirts, long pants, socks and shoes when outside. - Be sure window and door screens are in good repair to prevent mosquitoes from entering your home.

Residents experiencing mosquito bites should report them immediately to the Mosquito Abatement Districts in Stanislaus County. If you are sick with fever, headache, and joint or muscle pain after returning from an area where dengue, chikungunya, or Zika [viruses] occur, contact your doctor and stay indoors as much as possible to avoid mosquito bites and help prevent possible spread of the virus.
=========================
[The areas in California where _Aedes aegypti_ mosquitoes have been found continues to expand. So far, there has been no local transmission of dengue, chikungunya, yellow fever or Zika viruses, probably because the populations of this mosquito have not been sufficiently numerous to support ongoing transmission. Local residents in Stanislaus country should heed the advice to eliminate breeding sites of this mosquito. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED maps available at:
California, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/204>]
Date: Fri 9 Aug 2019 8:22 PM MDT
Source: Loveland Reporter Herald [edited]

The Larimer County Department of Health and Environment reported Friday [9 Aug 2019] that tularemia, also known as "rabbit fever," has been found in a rabbit in northern Larimer County.

Tularemia-causing bacteria from the droppings or urine of sick animals, usually rabbits, can contaminate soil and spread the disease, according to a news release from the health department.

A recent die-off of rabbits suggested a possible tularemia outbreak among the animals in that area, the agency said.

"Because tularemia is naturally occurring in Larimer County, precautions should always be taken to prevent infection, public health director Tom Gonzales said in the release. "It is important to keep children and pets away from wild animals."

In recent years, most human tularemia cases along the Front Range have been attributed to activities involving soil and vegetation, the health department said. The county has seen 18 human cases since 2009; 35 animals have tested positive for the disease since 2009.

Tularemia can be transmitted to people who handle infected animals; from the bite of infected insects (most commonly ticks and deer flies); by exposure to contaminated food, water, or soil; by eating, drinking, putting hands to eyes, nose, or mouth before washing after outdoor activities; by direct contact with breaks in the skin; or by inhaling particles carrying the bacteria (through mowing or blowing vegetation and excavating soil).

Typical signs of infection in humans may include fever, chills, headache, swollen and painful lymph glands and fatigue.

Tularemia can be treated with antibiotics, and the health department recommended anyone with any of these early signs seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The agency also advises people wear gloves when gardening; wear dust masks when mowing or blowing vegetation or moving soil; wear insect repellent to deter biting insects; wear shoes on grassy lawns; and never touch dead animals with bare hands.
==========================
[Tularemia is largely confined to the Northern Hemisphere and is not normally found in the tropics or the Southern Hemisphere.

_Francisella tularensis_ subsp. _tularensis_(Type A) is associated with lagomorphs (rabbits and hares) in North America. It is transmitted primarily by ticks and biting flies, is highly virulent for humans and domestic rabbits.

In addition to vector transmission, tularemia may be spread contact with infected animals or environmental fomites by inhalation, or by ingestion of the poorly cooked flesh of infected animals or contaminated water. - ProMED Mod.PMB]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Colorado, United States:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/1298>. Colorado county map:
Date: Tue 6 Aug 2019
Source: CBS Austin [edited]

Authorities say a fox that got into a northwest Travis County home on Saturday [3 Aug 2019] and attacked a resident has tested positive for rabies. City of Austin officials say it happened at a home on Pace Bend Road. The resident was bitten on the foot by the fox, and a family member had to kill the fox to stop the attack.

The fox was taken and submitted to the Texas Department of State Health Services for testing. A positive rabies result was confirmed, and now public health officials are canvassing the area to determine if any other people or pets may have had contact with the fox.

If someone is bitten by a wild animal, Animal Protection should be called immediately. The victim should also contact a physician immediately.

Animal Services offers the following tips to protect pets and family from exposure to wild animals:

- Vaccinate your dogs and cats as well as livestock.
- Restrain your pets. Do not allow them to roam freely in public.
- Avoid contact with wild animals and unknown dogs and cats.
- If your pet is bitten, scratched or in a fight with any animal, report it to the authorities.
- Any contact with these high-risk wild animals or any sign of sick or dead wildlife should also be reported.
=======================
[Vaccination of your pets is an extremely important way to protect your pet, and to protect yourself. This helps to build a barrier between you and the virus.

Rabies virus is deadly. There are fewer than a handful of humans who have survived rabies, and their lives are NOT the same as they were before. These people have permanent effects to their neurological systems. So please protect yourself and your pets.

Vaccinate your pets. It is effective and is so much cheaper than the heartache of euthanizing your pet or risking death to yourself or a loved one.

While post-exposure prophylaxis is available if you are bitten, it must be administered within a certain time following the bite. Furthermore, for those in the USA, this is a very expensive (however lifesaving) procedure. For those unfamiliar, this treatment can cost many thousands of dollars -- I have heard reports ranging from USD 30,000 to 50,000 and even as much as USD 100 000.

Again, rabies is a deadly virus. Please vaccinate your pets and exercise extreme caution around animals you are unfamiliar with. - ProMED Mod.TG]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Tennessee, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/244>
South Carolina, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/242>
Florida, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/212>
Texas, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/245>]
Date: Fri 2 Aug 2019
Source: WEAR-TV [edited]

The Florida Department of Health in Escambia County (FDOH) has issued a rabies alert after 3 people were reportedly bitten by raccoons. The report says FDOH-Escambia health educator consultant, Kimberly Pace, declined to specify the area in which the individuals were bitten. However, she said, "at this time FDOH-Escambia wants to ensure all county residents are taking the precautions."

The FDOH has provided the following tips to protect your family from rabies:

- Teach your children not to go near wild and stray animals, and never keep them as pets.
- Vaccinate your dog, cat, ferret, or horse to protect against rabies. Keep vaccinations up-to-date.
- Do not feed your pets outside. The food may attract wild animals.
- Make sure your garbage is securely covered. Open garbage attracts wild and stray animals.
- Spay or neuter your pet to reduce its tendency to roam or fight.
- Do not let your pets roam freely or allow them to interact with wild or stray animals. Keep them in a fenced yard or on a leash.
- Call Escambia County Animal Control to remove stray animals from your neighborhood.
- Prevent bats from entering living quarters or occupied spaces in homes, churches, schools, and other similar areas, where they might come into contact with people and pets.
- If your pet is bitten by another animal, immediately seek veterinary assistance for your animal and contact Escambia County Animal Control.
- If you are bitten by a wild animal, or by any animal acting strangely, seek medical care as soon as possible so a physician can evaluate your risk of rabies infection and administer the rabies [post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP)] vaccine if appropriate.  [Byline: Ly'Nita Carter]
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Colombia

Colombia - US Consular Information Sheet
August 13, 2008

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Colombia is a medium-income nation of some 44 million inhabitants.
Its geography is very diverse, ranging from tropical coastal areas and rainforests t
rugged mountainous terrain.
Tourist facilities in Colombia vary in quality and safety, according to price and location.
Security is a significant concern for travelers, as described in the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Colombia.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Colombia for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
All U.S. citizens who are not also Colombian citizens must present a valid U.S. passport to enter and depart Colombia, and to return to the United States.
Dual U.S-Colombian citizens must present a Colombian passport to enter and exit Colombia, and a U.S. passport to return to the United States.
Be aware that any person born in Colombia may be considered a Colombian citizen, even if never documented as such.
U.S. citizens born in Colombia or who otherwise have Colombian citizenship, will need both a Colombian passport and a U.S. passport for the trip.
U.S. citizens traveling to Colombia do not need a Colombian visa for a tourist stay of 60 days or less.
Travelers entering Colombia are sometimes asked to present evidence of return or onward travel, usually in the form of a round-trip plane ticket.
Americans traveling overland must enter Colombia at an official border crossing.
Travelers arriving by bus should ensure, prior to boarding, that their bus will cross the border at an official entry point.
Entering Colombia at unauthorized crossings may result in fines or incarceration.
Travelers planning to enter Colombia over a land border should carefully read our information on Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below.
The length of stay granted to travelers is determined by the Colombian immigration officer at the point of entry and will be stamped in your passport.
Extensions may be requested by visiting an office of the Colombian immigration authority, known as the Departamento Administrativo de Seguridad, or DAS, after arrival in Colombia.
Fines are levied if a traveler remains in Colombia longer than authorized, and the traveler cannot leave Colombia until the fine is paid.
Any traveler possessing a Colombian visa with more than three months’ validity must register the visa at a DAS immigration office within 15 days of arrival in Colombia or face fines.
The DAS immigration office in Bogota is located at Calle 100 and Carrera 11B.
No arrival tax is collected upon entry into Colombia, but travelers leaving by plane must pay an exit tax at the airport, in cash.
The tax varies with the dollar/peso exchange rate, but is usually between $50 and $70.
Some airlines include all or a portion of this tax in the cost of your airline ticket; check with your airline to find out how much you will have to pay at the airport.
U.S. citizens whose U.S. passports are lost or stolen in Colombia must obtain a new U.S. passport before departing.
They must then present the new passport, along with a police report describing the loss or theft, to a DAS office.
Information about obtaining a replacement U.S. passport in Colombia is available on the U.S. Embassy’s website at http://bogota.usembassy.gov.
Contact information for DAS is available in Spanish at http://www.das.gov.co.
The Embassy in Bogotá or the U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla can provide guidance on contacting DAS when you apply for your replacement passport.
For further, specific guidance on Colombian entry requirements, including information about Colombian visas, travelers should contact the Colombian Embassy at 2118 Leroy Place NW, Washington, DC 20008; telephone (202) 387-8338; website: http://www.colombiaemb.org; or the nearest Colombian consulate.
Consulates are located in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New Orleans, New York, San Francisco, and San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Also see the Department of State’s general information on Entry and Exit Requirements.
Visit the Embassy of Colombia website at http://www.colombiaemb.org for the most current visa information.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.
ADDITIONAL EXIT REQUIREMENTS FOR MINORS:
To prevent international child abduction, Colombia has implemented special exit procedures for Colombian children under 18 who are departing the country without both their mother and their father or a legal guardian.
These procedures apply even if the child is also a U.S. citizen.
Complying with the procedures can be complex and time-consuming, especially if an absent parent is outside Colombia at the time.
Advance planning is essential.

The procedures are as follows: Upon exiting the country, the person traveling with the child (or the child him/herself) must present a certified copy of the child’s birth certificate, along with written, signed authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian.
The authorization must explicitly grant permission for the child to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party, by name.
When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of a death certificate is required instead of written authorization.
When one parent has sole custody of the child, that parent may present a custody decree instead of the other parent’s written authorization.
If the documents to be presented originated in the United States, they must first be translated into Spanish and then signed in front of a Colombian consul at a Colombian consulate.
Then, upon arrival in Colombia, the documents must be presented to the Colombian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for certification of the consul’s signature.

Alternatively, the documents can be translated into Spanish, then notarized by a notary public in the United States, and authenticated by requesting an apostille from the competent authority in the state where the documents were prepared.
The document, translation, and apostille can then be presented to immigration officers at the airport when the child travels.
If the documents originated in Colombia and are written in Spanish, only notarization by a Colombian notary is required.
For documents originating in countries other than the United States or Colombia, please inquire with the Colombian embassy serving that country.
In cases where the absent parent refuses or is unable to provide consent, the other parent can request assistance from the Colombian child protective service, Instituto Colombiano de Bienestar Familiar (ICBF).
In appropriate cases, ICBF will investigate and may issue a document that will allow the child to travel without both parents’ consent.
This process may take a significant amount of time and is not within the control of the U.S. government.
SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Violence has decreased markedly in many urban destinations, including the cities of Bogota, Medellin, Barranquilla, and Cartagena.
Cali has made less progress combating crime than most other large cities.
The level of violence in Buenaventura remains high.
Small towns and rural areas of Colombia can be extremely dangerous due to the presence of narco-terrorists.
Common crime remains a significant problem in many urban and rural areas, as described in the section on crime below.

The incidence of kidnapping in Colombia has diminished significantly from its peak at the beginning of this decade.
Nevertheless, terrorist groups, including the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and other criminal organizations, continue to kidnap and hold civilians for ransom or as political bargaining chips.
No one is immune from kidnapping on the basis of occupation, nationality, or other factors.
On July 2, 2008, the GOC effected a successful military rescue of three Americans, Ingrid Betancourt, and eleven members of the Colombia security forces. President Uribe called on the FARC to release the remaining hostages and seek peace. Although the U.S. government places the highest priority on the safe recovery of kidnapped Americans, it is U.S. policy not to make concessions to kidnappers.
Consequently, the U.S. government’s ability to assist kidnap victims is limited.

Official and personal travel by U.S. Embassy employees outside most urban areas is subject to strict limitations and reviewed by security officers on a case-by-case basis.
U.S. Embassy employees are allowed to travel by air, but inter- and intra-city bus transportation is off limits to them.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ website at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings 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 United States 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:
Although the threat of terrorism has decreased in most of Colombia’s cities, they nevertheless experience much of the same crime that is seen in comparably sized cities throughout the region.
Robbery and other violent crimes, as well as scams against unsuspecting tourists, are common in urban areas.
Generally speaking, if you are the victim of a robbery, you should not resist.
Some of the most common methods used by criminals in Colombia are noted below:
Robberies of ATM customers:
Tourists and others have been robbed after using automatic teller machines (ATMs) on the street.
In some cases, robbers have used motorcycles to approach their victims and later flee the scene.
Americans are urged to use ATMs only inside shopping malls or other protected locations.
Driving to and from the location – rather than walking – provides added protection.
When using an ATM, you should be on the lookout for anyone watching or following you.

Robberies of taxi passengers:
Robbery of taxi passengers is a serious problem in Bogota.
Typically, the driver – who is one of the conspirators – will pick up the passenger and then stop to pick up two or more armed cohorts, who enter the cab, overpower the passenger, and take his/her belongings.
If the passenger has an ATM card, the perpetrators may force the passenger to withdraw money from various ATM locations.
Such ordeals can last for hours.
In almost every case of taxi-related crime, the victims have been riding alone and have hailed taxis off the street.
Rather than hailing a taxi, you should use the telephone dispatch service that most taxi companies offer.
Many hotels, restaurants, and stores will call a taxi for you, and the taxi usually arrives within minutes.
When a taxi is dispatched by telephone, the dispatcher creates a record of the call and the responding taxi.

Robberies while departing airports:
U.S. citizens arriving at major Colombian airports have occasionally been victimized by armed robbery while en route from the airport to their hotel or home.
The perpetrators typically scout out victims at the airport and then follow their vehicles before robbing the occupants at a stoplight.
Travelers should remain vigilant at airports and report to local airport police if they suspect they are being observed.
Robberies on Hiking Trails:
Several U.S. citizens were robbed in 2007 while hiking on nature trails in and around Bogota.
Because hiking trips generally take place in isolated settings, participants are especially vulnerable.
Hikers in Colombia are more protected if they travel in large groups.
Use of disabling drugs:
The Embassy continues to receive reports of criminals in Colombia using disabling drugs to temporarily incapacitate tourists and others.
At bars, restaurants, and other public areas, perpetrators may offer tainted drinks, cigarettes, or gum.
Typically, victims become disoriented or unconscious, and are thus vulnerable to robbery, sexual assault, and other crimes.
Avoid leaving food or drinks unattended at a bar or restaurant, and be suspicious if a stranger offers you something to eat or drink.
Counterfeit money scam:
U.S. citizens in Colombia routinely fall victim to a scam in which purported undercover police officers approach them on the street and request to examine their money, supposedly to determine if it is counterfeit.
The “officers,” who are in fact criminals, then flee with the money.
In a variation of this scam, the thieves may ask to see jewelry.
Legitimate Colombian police officers do not make such requests.

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 are 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 Colombia is 112 for police and 119 for fire.
There will not be an English speaker answering the phone[g1] .

See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care is adequate in major cities but varies greatly in quality elsewhere.
Emergency rooms in Colombia, even at top-quality facilities, are frequently overcrowded and ambulance service can be slow. Many private health care providers in Colombia require that patients pay for care before treatment, even in an emergency.
Some providers in major cities may accept credit cards, but those that do not may request advance payment in cash.
Uninsured travelers without financial resources may be unable to obtain care, or relegated to seeking treatment in public hospitals where care is far below U.S. standards.
The Embassy regularly receives reports of U.S. citizens in Colombia who have died or suffered complications from liposuction and other elective surgeries intended to treat obesity.
Before undergoing such a procedure in Colombia, the Department of State recommends that you consult with your personal physician, research the credentials of the provider in Colombia, and carefully consider your ability to access emergency medical care if complications arise.
It is important to confirm that your medical insurance provides coverage in Colombia, to include treatment of complications from elective procedures or medical evacuation if necessary.
Should you suffer complications as a result of medical malpractice, collecting damages from your surgeon may be difficult.
Colombia has seen a recent increase in the use of unregulated drugs that purport to enhance sexual performance.
Several American tourists recently died after using these substances, which come in liquid, powder, or tablet form.
You are urged to seek guidance from a physician before ingesting any such substances in Colombia.
Travelers to the capital city of Bogota may need time to adjust to the altitude of 8,600 feet, which can affect blood pressure, digestion, and energy level, and cause
mild dyspnea with exercise, headaches, sleeplessness, , and other discomfort.
Travelers should drink liberal fluids to maintain hydration,, and should avoid strenuous exercise unti they have acclimated to the altitude.
Travelers with circulatory or respiratory problems should consult a physician before traveling to Bogota or other high-altitude locations.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water 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 website at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

Colombia has imposed HIV/AIDS travel restrictions on groups of travelers subject to restrictions or bans.
Entry is restricted to PLWHA (customs officials on the lookout). A waiver may be requested from the Colombian embassy (Source: NAM April 2006, USSD December 06).
Please inquire directly with the Embassy of Colombia at http://www.colombiaemb.org before you travel.

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

Due to the security environment in Colombia, U.S. government officials and their families are not permitted to travel by road between most major cities.
They also cannot use inter- or intra-city bus transportation, or travel by road outside urban areas at night.
All Americans in Colombia are encouraged to follow these same precautions.
Traffic laws in Colombia, including speed limits, are often ignored and rarely enforced, creating dangerous conditions for drivers and pedestrians in major cities.
Under Colombian law, seat belts are mandatory for front-seat passengers in a private vehicle.
Car seats are not mandatory for children, but a child under ten is not permitted to ride in a front seat.
It is against the law to talk on a cellular phone while driving in Colombia, and violators may be fined.
While driving outside major cities, it is mandatory to drive with your lights on.
If an accident occurs, the involved parties must remain at the scene and not move their vehicles until the authorities arrive; this rule is strictly enforced, and moving a vehicle or leaving the scene of an accident may constitute an admission of guilt under Colombian law.
Americans seeking to import their own vehicles into Colombia should consult with their nearest Colombian consulate for information on Colombian taxes and licensing rules, which can be complicated and bureaucratic.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Colombia’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) safety standards for oversight of Colombia’s air carrier operations.
For more information, please visit the FAA’s website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Colombia employs strict screening procedures for detecting narcotics smuggling at its international airports.
Americans and other travelers are occasionally questioned, searched, fingerprinted, and/or asked to submit to an abdominal x-ray upon arrival or departure.
Most airport inspectors do not speak English, and travelers who do not speak Spanish may have difficulty understanding what is asked of them.
Please refer to the section on Criminal Penalties for further information on the strict enforcement of Colombia’s drug laws. Please see our Customs Information.
CUSTOMS REGULATIONS:
Travelers generally must not enter or exit Colombia while carrying cash or other financial instruments worth more than 10,000 U.S. dollars.
Colombian authorities may confiscate any amount over $10,000, and may initiate a criminal investigation into the source of the money and the traveler’s reasons for carrying it.
Recovery of the confiscated amount requires a lengthy, expensive legal process and may not always be possible.
Americans wishing to send large sums of money to or from Colombia should contact their nearest Colombian consulate, or speak with Colombian customs officials, and should also consider seeking advice from an attorney or financial professional.

Colombian law prohibits tourists and business travelers from bringing firearms into Colombia.
Illegal importation or possession of firearms may result in incarceration.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Buying or selling them is illegal in Colombia, and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and fines.

Colombian law forbids the export of pre-Columbian objects and other artifacts protected by cultural patrimony statutes.
Under an agreement between the United States and Colombia, U.S. customs officials are obligated to seize pre-Columbian objects and certain colonial religious artwork when they are brought into the United States.
Please contact the Embassy of Colombia in Washington or one of Colombia's consulates in the United States for detailed customs guidance.
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 Colombia’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
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.

If you are arrested, the U.S. government cannot request your release.
Colombia and the United States do not have a prisoner transfer agreement, and so any sentence for a crime committed in Colombia is ordinarily served in a Colombian prison.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking of illegal drugs in Colombia are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long prison sentences under harsh conditions, with significant expense and great hardship for themselves and their families.
Colombian police make multiple arrests daily for drug trafficking at major airports, and have sophisticated means for detecting illegal drugs in baggage or on your person.
Travelers are sometimes requested to undergo an x-ray to ensure that they are not smuggling narcotics within their own bodies.
There are more than 30 Americans incarcerated in Colombia for attempting to smuggle drugs out of the country.

The hardships resulting from imprisonment do not end even after release from prison:
Colombian law requires that serious offenders remain in the country to serve a lengthy period of parole, during which the offender is given no housing and may lack permission to work.
As a result, family members must often support the offender, sometimes for more than a year, until the parole period expires.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS: Colombia is an earthquake-prone country.
Flooding and mudslides also sometimes occur in parts of the country.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
If a serious natural disaster occurs in Colombia, the Embassy will publish important information for American citizens on its website at http://bogota.usembassy.gov.

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 residing or traveling in Colombia are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Colombia.
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 Calle 24 Bis No. 48-50 Bogotá, D.C. Colombia.
Mailing address:
Carrera 45 No. 24B-27 Bogotá, D.C. Colombia.

In case of a serious emergency that jeopardizes the health or safety of an American citizen in Colombia, please call the Embassy at (571) 315-0811; Embassy fax: (571) 315-2197;
Consular Section phone: (571) 315-1566. The Embassy’s American Citizens Services office provides routine information at http://bogota.usembassy.gov.
For questions not answered there, inquiries may be sent by email to ACSBogota@state.gov.
Email messages are answered by the next business day.
The Embassy’s American Citizens Services office is open for passport applications, notary services, and routine in-person inquiries from 8:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon Monday through Thursday, excluding U.S. and Colombian holidays.
Inquiries concerning Social Security and other federal benefits can be made in-person from 2:00 to 3:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, except holidays.
The American Citizens Services fax number is (571) 3152196/7.
The U.S. Consular Agency in Barranquilla, which accepts passport applications and performs notarial services, is located at Calle 77B, No. 57-141, Piso 5, Centro Empresarial Las Americas, Barranquilla, Atlantico, Colombia; telephone (575) 353-2001; fax (011-57-5) 353-5216.
The Consular Agency is not staffed to respond to after-hours emergencies; in case of an emergency in the Barranquilla/north coast area, please contact the Embassy in Bogota at (571) 315-0811.
*

*

*
This replaces the Country Specific Information issued May 29, 2008, to update sections throughout.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat 2 Mar 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

Health officials are reporting a malaria outbreak in Cauca department in southwestern Colombia, according to a RCN Radio report (computer translated).

The outbreak has affected 322 people in the rural areas of Guapi and Timbiqui: (the towns of Calle larga, Belen, San Agustin, Pascualero, and Cascajero (in Guapi) and in the mining area of Santa Maria, Chacon Playa, and Coteje (in Timbiqui).

The strain of malaria was identified as _Plasmodium falciparum_. The report notes it was indicated that the presence of malaria was recorded in sites never considered endemic, which would be related to factors such as climate change and issues associated with mining that exacerbated the situation.

"This required an immediate displacement of our surveillance team to deal with this outbreak. Visits were made to the area where the cases were presented to make diagnoses with rapid tests and to initiate immediate treatments, "said the department's Health Secretary, Hector Andres Gil Walteros.

On the other hand and as a preventive action, 402 mosquito nets were delivered to 107 homes, benefiting more than 600 inhabitants in the outbreak areas, and treatment was given to the affected people.
=======================
[The Cauca Department is located south of Cali and is considered a malaria risk area by the CDC, see map here:
<https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellowbook/2018/infectious-diseases-related-to-travel/yellow-fever-malaria-information-by-country/colombia#5317>.

According to the text an outbreak is highly unusual in the area and mining is mentioned as a likely explanation. Mining especially illegal gold mining create numerous new breeding sites and there is usually a lack of control in the form of larvicidal spraying. - ProMED Mod. EP]

[Maps of Colombia:
Date: Tue, 11 Dec 2018 22:14:43 +0100

Bogota, Dec 11, 2018 (AFP) - The abandoned building where Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar lived will be covered in posters paying tribute to the victims of his Medellin Cartel before it is torn down next year.   The exhibition is part of a move by municipal authorities to tell the other side of Escobar's story -- that of his victims -- to counter a surge of television series glamorizing his life and that of his cartel.   "Respect our pain, honour our victims (1983-1994). 46,612 fewer lives," reads the message on one of the posters that now greet Medillin's "narco-tourists" flocking to the Monaco apartment block.

Portraits of slain journalist Guillermo Cano, gunned down in 1986, former presidential candidate Luis Carlos Galan and police chief Valdemar Quintero -- both murdered in 1989 -- are emblazoned over a message that reads, in English: "It is not fiction, it is reality."   Mayor Federico Gutierrez told reporters that the tourist site had become a "symbol of illegality."   "Now, there are messages that should lead us to reflect," he said.   The posters will remain affixed to the building until municipal workers tear it down on February 22, more than 25 years after Escobar was shot dead by police in 1993.     The former luxury block will be replaced by a municipal park.
Date: Tue 4 Dec 2018 08:48 AM COT
Source: El Tiempo [in Spanish, machine trans., abridged, edited]

Department health authorities turned on the alarms in Santander after the National Institute of Health confirmed the 1st case of measles in a 6-year-old child from Venezuela residing in Bucaramanga.

The Secretary of Health of Santander, Luis Alejandro Rivero Osorio, explained that "this minor who arrives from Venezuela does not have any vaccines. Fortunately, in the department we try to make sure that parents have their children up to date with their vaccinations."

Rivero Osorio emphasized that the protocols of treatment and follow-up were already activated in the event cases are presented from the Hospital Local del Norte, where the minor from the state of Valencia [Venezuela] was treated, to give attention also to the family and to avoid the spread of the virus.

In Santander there are about 50 possible cases of measles pending confirmation, and since the beginning of this 2018 hospitals and health centres remain alert to the risk posed by the massive arrival of Venezuelans to the region without the complete set of vaccines.
=====================
[Vaccinations are scarce in Venezuela with the current economic situation. As a consequence, vaccine-preventable diseases such as measles are being spread as people leave Venezuela seeking work or new lives in neighboring countries. See next report. - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Date: Wed 21 Nov 2018
Source: Outbreak News Today [extracted, edited]

A measles outbreak in Colombia has prompted the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to issue a travel notice last week.

Between March and October this year [2018], Colombia has reported 129 confirmed measles cases.

Of the 129 confirmed cases, 45 were imported, 75 were import-related (25 cases of secondary transmission among persons coming from Venezuela and 50 related to imported cases among Colombians), and 9 with the source under investigation. No deaths have been reported.

The cases were reported in the departments of Antioquia, Arauca, Atlantico, Bolivar, Cauca, Cesar, La Guajira, Magdalena, Norte de Santander, Risaralda, Sucre, and in the districts of Barranquilla, Bogota, Cartagena, and Santa Marta.

Cartagena District and Norte de Santander Department account for 65 percent of the total confirmed cases.

CDC says travellers to Colombia should make sure they are vaccinated against measles with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine.
Date: Thu, 11 Oct 2018 18:45:51 +0200

Bogota, Oct 11, 2018 (AFP) - Eleven people were killed when a landslide swept away part of a town in central Colombia's coffee-growing region amid heavy rainfall, emergency officials reported Thursday.   Colombia's UNGRD disaster risk management unit said seven females and four males were buried in the landslide that struck the Los Andes suburb of the town of Marquetalia.   Four other people were injured.

Searches for possible missing persons were suspended because of continued heavy rains, it said.   The town is located in the coffee-growing department of Caldas.   "Of the 11 people dead, four were minors, six aged between 20 and 50 years old and one was an older adult," the UNGRD said in statement.   Marquetalia Mayor Luis Carlos Betancourt told journalists the mountain town had been hit by torrential rainfall late Wednesday.   The South American country is currently experiencing its second rainy season, with mountainous regions and part of the Caribbean coast on alert.
More ...

Benin

Benin - US Consular Information Sheet
April 28, 2008

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Benin is a developing country in West Africa. Its political capital is Porto Novo. However, its administrative capital, Cotonou, is Benin's largest city and the
site of most government, commercial, and tourist activity. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Benin for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. Visas are not routinely available at the airport. Visitors to Benin should also carry the WHO Yellow Card (“Carte Jaune”) indicating that they have been vaccinated for yellow fever. Contact the Embassy of Benin for the most current visa information. The Embassy is located at: 2124 Kalorama Road NW, Washington, DC 20008; tel: 202-232-6656.

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:
U.S. citizens should avoid crowds, political rallies, and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
U.S. citizens should not walk on the beach alone at any time of day. It is also highly recommended not to carry a passport or valuables when walking in any part of the city. Travelers should carry a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport (see Crime section). They should not walk around the city after dark, and should take particular care to avoid the beach and isolated areas near the beach after dark.
The ocean currents along the coast are extremely strong and treacherous with rough surf and a strong undertow, and several people drown each year.

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 pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: Street robbery is a significant problem in Cotonou. Robbery and mugging occur along the Boulevard de France (the beach road by the Marina and Novotel Hotels) and on the beaches near hotels frequented by international visitors. Most of the reported incidents involve the use of force, often by armed persons, with occasional minor injury to the victim. Travelers should avoid isolated and poorly lit areas and should not walk around the city or the beaches between dusk and dawn. Even in daylight hours, foreigners on the beach near Cotonou are frequent victims of robberies. When visiting the beach, travelers should not bring valuables and should carry only a photocopy of their passport. If you are a victim of crime, you should contact the U.S. Embassy immediately. There has been a continued increase in the number of robberies and carjacking incidents after dark, both within metropolitan Cotonou and on highways and rural roads outside of major metropolitan areas. Motorists are urged to be wary of the risk of carjacking. Keep the windows of your vehicle rolled up and the doors locked. Stay alert for signs of suspicious behavior by other motorists or pedestrians that may lead to carjacking, such as attempts to stop a moving vehicle for no obvious reason. Travelers should avoid driving outside the city of Cotonou after dark and should exercise extreme caution when driving in Cotonou after dark (see Traffic Safety and Road Conditions below). Overland travel to Nigeria is dangerous near the Benin/Nigeria border due to unofficial checkpoints and highway banditry.
Travelers should avoid the use of credit cards and automated teller machines (ATMs) in Benin due to a high rate of fraud. Perpetrators of business and other kinds of fraud often target foreigners, including Americans. While such fraud schemes in the past have been largely associated with Nigeria, they are now prevalent throughout West Africa, including Benin, and are more frequently perpetrated by Beninese criminals. Business scams are not always easy to recognize, and any unsolicited business proposal should be carefully scrutinized. There are, nevertheless, some indicators that are warnings of a probable scam. Look out for:

Any offer of a substantial percentage of a very large sum of money to be transferred into your account, in return for your "discretion" or "confidentiality";

Any deal that seems too good to be true;
Requests for signed and stamped, blank letterhead or invoices, or for bank account or credit card information;
Requests for urgent air shipment, accompanied by an instrument of payment whose genuineness cannot immediately be established;
Solicitations claiming the soliciting party has personal ties to high government officials;
Requests for payment, in advance, of transfer taxes or incorporation fees;
Statements that your name was provided to the soliciting party either by someone you do not know or by "a reliable contact";
Promises of advance payment for services to the Beninese government; and
Any offer of a charitable donation.
These scams, which may appear to be legitimate business deals requiring advance payments on contracts, pose a danger of both financial loss and physical harm. Recently more American citizens have been targeted. The perpetrators of such scams sometimes pose as attorneys. One common ploy is to request fees for “registration” with fictitious government offices or regulatory authorities. The best way to avoid becoming a victim of advance-fee fraud is common sense – if it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Travelers should carefully check out any unsolicited business proposal originating in Benin before committing any funds, providing any goods or services, or undertaking any travel. For additional information, please see the Department of State’s Bureau of Consular Affairs brochure, International Financial Scams.

Scams may also involve persons posing as singles on Internet dating sites or as online acquaintances who then get into trouble and require money to be "rescued." If you are asked to send money by someone you meet online please contact the U.S. Embassy before doing so.

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.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities in Benin are limited and not all medicines are available. Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Not all medicines and prescription drugs available in Benin are USFDA-approved. Malaria is a serious risk to travelers to Benin. For information on malaria, its prevention, protection from insect bites, and anti-malarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web site at http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/.

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 website 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 Benin is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

With the exception of the road linking Cotonou in the south to Malanville on the border with Niger in the north, and from Parakou in central Benin to Natitingou in the northwestern part of the country, roads in Benin are generally in poor condition and are often impassable during the rainy season. Benin's unpaved roads vary widely in quality; deep sand and potholes are common. During the rainy season from mid-June to mid-September, dirt roads often become impassable. Four-wheel drive vehicles with full spare tires and emergency equipment are recommended.
Most of the main streets in Cotonou are paved, but side streets are often dirt with deep potholes. Traffic moves on the right, as in the United States. Cotonou has no public transportation system; many Beninese people rely on bicycles, mopeds, motorbikes, and zemidjans (moped taxis). All official Americans are required to wear safety helmets when on a motorcycle and are strongly discouraged from using zemidjans. Travelers using zemidjans, particularly at night, are much more vulnerable to being mugged, assaulted or robbed. Buses and bush taxis offer service in the interior.
Gasoline smuggled from Nigeria is widely available in glass bottles and jugs at informal roadside stands throughout Cotonou and much of the country. This gasoline is of unreliable quality, often containing water or other contaminants that can damage or disable your vehicle. Drivers should purchase fuel only from official service stations. There are periodic gas shortages, which can be particularly acute in the north of the country where there are few service stations.
U.S. citizens traveling by road should exercise extreme caution. Poorly maintained and overloaded transport and cargo vehicles frequently break down and cause accidents. Drivers often place branches or leaves in the road to indicate a broken down vehicle is in the roadway. Undisciplined drivers move unpredictably through traffic. Construction work is often poorly indicated. Speed bumps, commonly used on paved roads in and near villages, are seldom indicated. Drivers must be on guard against people and livestock wandering into or across the roads. Nighttime driving is particularly hazardous as vehicles frequently lack headlights and/or taillights, and brake lights are often burned out.
With few exceptions, Cotonou and other cities lack any street lighting, and lighting on roads between population centers is non-existent. The U.S. Embassy in Cotonou prohibits non-essential travel outside of metropolitan areas after dusk by official Americans and strongly urges all U.S. citizens to avoid night driving as well. There have been numerous carjackings and robberies on roads in Benin after dark, several of which resulted in murder when the driver refused to comply with the assailants' demands. The National Police periodically conduct vehicle checks at provisional roadblocks in an effort to improve road safety and reduce the increasing number of carjackings. When stopped at such a roadblock, you must have all of the vehicle's documentation available to present to the authorities.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office at http://www.benintourisme.com.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Benin, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Benin’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:
U.S. citizens are advised to keep a notarized photocopy of the photo page of their passport with them at all times when traveling in Benin.
The Embassy has had a few reports of officials requesting a "gift" to facilitate official administrative matters (e.g., customs entry). Such requests should be politely but firmly declined.
It is prohibited to photograph government buildings and other official sites, such as military installations, without the formal consent of the Government of Benin. In general, it is always best to be courteous and ask permission before taking pictures of people. Beninese citizens may react angrily if photographed without their prior approval.
Obtaining customs clearance at the port of Cotonou for donated items shipped to Benin from the United States may be a lengthy process. In addition, to obtain a waiver of customs duties on donated items, the donating organization must secure prior written approval from the Government of Benin. Please contact the U.S. Embassy in Cotonou for more detailed information.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 Benin laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Benin 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 Benin are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Benin. Americans withoutInternet 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 at Rue Caporal Anani Bernard in Cotonou. The Embassy's mailing address is B.P. 2012, Cotonou, Benin. The 24-hour telephone numbers are (229) 21-30-06-50, 21-30-05-13, and 21-30-17-92. The Embassy’s general fax number is (229) 21-30-06-70; the Consular Section’s fax number is (229) 21-30-66-82; http://cotonou.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Benin dated August 17th, 2007 to update sections on Safety and Security and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 10 May 2019 19:38:30 +0200
By Hazel WARD and Daphne BENOIT

Paris, May 10, 2019 (AFP) - French special forces have freed two French hostages, an American and a South Korean in northern Burkina Faso in an overnight raid in which two soldiers died, authorities announced Friday.   The operation was launched to free two French tourists who had disappeared while on holiday in the remote Pendjari National Park in neighbouring Benin on May 1.

But during the raid, the French troops were surprised to discover two women also in captivity, with top officials saying they had been held for 28 days.    The French tourists were identified as Patrick Picque, 51, and Laurent Lassimouillas, 46, but the women's identities were not immediately clear.     "No one was aware of (the women's) presence," French Defence Minister Florence Parly told reporters, while French armed forces chief Francois Lecointre said.   "We know little about these other two hostages," Parly told reporters, saying that even Seoul and Washington did not appear to be aware the pair were in increasingly unstable Burkina Faso.    The raid was approved by French President Emmanuel Macron in what was seen as the last opportunity to stop the hostages being transferred to lawless territory in Mali to the north.

Parly said it was "too early to say" who had snatched the two French nationals from Benin, which has long been an island of stability in a region where Islamist militants are increasingly active.   "The message to terrorists and criminal gangs is clear: those who attack France and its nationals know that we will not spare any effort to track them down, find them and neutralise them," she said.   Four of the six kidnappers were killed in the raid.    French forces, helped by intelligence provided by the United States, had been tracking the kidnappers for several days as they travelled across the semi-desert terrain of eastern Burkina Faso from Benin to Mali.   They seized the opportunity to prevent "the transfer of the hostages to another terrorist organisation in Mali," Lecointre said, referring to the Macina Liberation Front (FLM).   The FLM is a jihadist group formed in 2015 and headed by a radical Malian preacher, Amadou Koufa. It is aligned with Al-Qaeda in the region.

- US intelligence support -
In a statement, Macron congratulated the special forces on the operation, in which he also expressed sorrow over the death of the two soldiers "who gave their lives to save those of our citizens".   And Parly thanked authorities in Benin and Burkina Faso for their help with the "complex operation", as well as the United States which provided intelligence and support.

The operation was also made possible by the presence of France's Operation Barkhane, which counts some 4,500 troops deployed in Mali, Burkina Faso, Niger and Chad to help local forces battle jihadist groups.   American special forces and drones are also known to operate in the violence-wracked Sahel region, which France fears could become further destabilised as jihadist groups are pushed out of north Africa, Iraq and Syria.   Burkina Faso has suffered from increasingly frequent and deadly attacks attributed to a number of jihadist groups, including the Ansarul Islam group, the Group to Support Islam and Muslims (GSIM) and Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.

- Relief and sadness -
The French tourists -- Patrick Picque who works in a Paris jewellery shop, and Laurent Lassimouillas a piano teacher, -- went missing with their guide on the last leg of their holiday in usually peaceful Benin.   The Pendjari wildlife reserve, which is famed for its elephants and lions, lies close to the porous border with Burkina Faso.   The badly disfigured body of their guide was found shortly after they disappeared, as well as their abandoned four-wheel Toyota truck.   The two freed men will be flown back to France on Saturday, alongside the South Korean woman, where they will be met on arrival by Macron and other top French officials.   Washington thanked the French forces for freeing the American hostage, with France saying she would likely be "repatriated independently" from the other three. 

The two dead French soldiers were named as Cedric de Pierrepont and Alain Bertoncello, decorated naval special forces members born in 1986 and 1991 respectively.   They were part of the prestigious Hubert commando unit of the French naval special forces which was deployed to the Sahel at the end of March.   A total of 24 French soldiers have died in the region since 2013 when France intervened to drive back jihadist groups who had taken control of northern Mali. The last death was on April 2.
Date: Tue 15 Jan 2019
Source: Punch [edited]

The Kwara state government has confirmed 2 cases of Lassa fever infecting a husband and wife in the state.

Speaking with newsmen on Tuesday [15 Jan 2019] at a news briefing, the Kwara commissioner for health, Alhaji Usman Rifun-Kolo, said the outbreak of Lassa fever was identified in a farm settlement in Taberu, Baruten local government area.

He explained that the 2 cases of the disease affected a husband and wife, natives of Benin republic, which shares a border with the state. He added that the husband and wife are farming in Baruten. "These cases of Lassa fever originated from Benin republic, whose citizen have interrelations with people in the Baruten area," he said.

According to him, the husband and wife were diagnosed in a health facility, and the state government had already deployed a disease-surveillance team to identify those who have been in contact with the patients.

Rifun-Kolo further explained that the surveillance team identified 4 people with a history of fever in the area. He said that the 4 cases raised suspicion of Lassa fever, which prompted them to take samples from the individuals for further investigation. He noted that the 4 individuals have commenced treatment in Taberu, Baruten LGA.
=====================
[The above report states that the couple was infected in Benin, although the timeline when that may have occurred is not given. The report also mentions 4 individuals in the Kwara state who had a history of Lassa fever, implying that the virus is present in that state in Nigeria as well. In December [2018], there were Lassa fever cases in Benin that were imported from Nigeria as well as infections that were locally acquired in Benin, so the Lassa fever cases cross the border in both directions. The source of the infecting virus for any of these cases is not mentioned. - ProMED Mod.TY

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Kwara state, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/19690>]
Date: Wed 26 Dec 2018
Source: Quotidein Le Matinal [in French, trans. ProMED Corr.SB, edited]

Minister of health Benjamin Hounkpatin confirmed on Wednesday [26 Dec 2018] 4 new cases of Lassa haemorrhagic fever in Benin, including one in Cotonou. This occurred in the period from 15-26 Dec 2018.

In the case of Cotonou, a 28-year-old (has been infected). His case was detected on 24 Dec [2018], but his illness commenced the previous week. He had a fever, a cough, a cold, and fatigue. Due to the persistence of the cough and cold, and with the appearance of traces of blood in nasal discharge on 24 Dec 2018, the alert was given.

The patient was placed in isolation on [Tue 25 Dec 2018], and on the morning of Wed 26 Dec 2018, his result from the laboratory came back positive [for Lassa fever]. Subsequently, the patient was isolated and put on treatment.

According to the details provided by Hounkpatin, there is no indication of travel [by the patient] to an epidemic locality of Lassa fever. According to the patient's statements, there is no known contact with rodents.

Taking advantage of this opportunity, the minister reassured the public that public health measures are underway. He also reminded people of the behaviours that will help avoid becoming infected. This involves washing hands regularly with soap and water; avoiding contact with stool, sperm, urine, saliva, vomit, and contaminated objects from a person suspected to be ill or dead from Lassa; and protecting food and keeping it in a safe place, out of reach of rodents.

It should be recalled that 7 cases have been recorded since the beginning of the epidemic to date, including 5 positive cases.
=======================
[One case is located in Cotonou on the Benin coast and apparently was locally acquired, perhaps from contact with the rodent host or its excrement. The location of the other 3 cases is not mentioned, but a 13 Dec 2018 report indicated that there were 3 cases in the municipality of Parakou in Borgou Department, in the northern part of Benin. Perhaps these 3 cases, which came from the village Taberou (in Nigeria), located 5 km [3.1 mi] from Tandou in the commune of Tchaourou, are the ones mentioned in this report.

The previous Lassa fever cases in Benin this year [2018] occurred in January and also involved case importation from Nigeria. A previous WHO report stated that Lassa fever is endemic in bordering Nigeria, and, given the frequent population movements between Nigeria and Benin, the occurrence of additional cases is not unexpected. Strengthening of cross-border collaboration and information exchange between the 2 countries is, therefore, needed. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Images of the rodent reservoirs of Lassa fever virus can be seen as follows:
For _Mastomys natalensis_, see
For _M. erythroleucus_ and _Hylomycus pamfi_, see

HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Date: Fri, 29 Jun 2018 13:37:32 +0200

Cotonou, June 29, 2018 (AFP) - Benin's Constitutional Court has banned the right to strike by workers in the country's defence, security, justice and health sectors, sparking concern among union officials and legal observers.   The ruling, issued late on Thursday, came after months of wrangling between the government and the court, which had previously said the measure was unconstitutional.

"Civil servants, public security forces and equivalents should fulfil their duties in all circumstances and not exercise their right to strike," the court said in its new ruling.   "There should be no disruption to the duties of public sector defence, security, justice and health workers."   The decision was taken "in the public interest" and for "the protection of citizens", it said.

Speaking on Friday, one senior union leader, who asked to remain anonymous, described the ruling as shocking and a "hammer blow".   And Benin legal affairs expert Albert Medagbe told AFP the decision was a "worrying sudden legal U-turn".   Earlier this month, a close ally of President Patrice Talon, Joseph Djogbenou, was elected to lead the Constitutional Court during a vote held behind closed doors.   Djogbenou is Talon's former personal lawyer and was previously  Benin's attorney general.

Until his arrival, the court had strained relations with Talon, and had criticised the government for misunderstanding and failing to respect the constitution.   The small West African nation was last year hit by a wave of public sector strikes, which brought the education, health and justice system to a near halt.   The industrial action was sparked by Talon's attempts to introduce free-market reforms.
Date: Wed, 21 Feb 2018 17:31:52 +0100

Cotonou, Feb 21, 2018 (AFP) - Nine people appeared in a Benin court Wednesday on charges of selling fake drugs at the start of a landmark trial in a regional campaign against illicit medicines.   The suspects, who include executives from major pharmaceutical companies operating in the West African nation, were remanded in custody until March 6 on technical grounds.   They are accused of "the sale of falsified medicines, (and) display, possession with a view to selling, commercialisation or sale of falsified medical substances."   A tenth defendant, the head of the Directorate for Pharmacies, Medications and Diagnostic Evaluation (DPMED) under the control of the ministry of health, was not in court on the trial's opening day.   He is accused of failing to prevent the offences.

Benin launched the crackdown last year after mounting alarm about the scale of the trafficking of expired and counterfeit drugs in West Africa.   Fake medicines are drugs that are bogus or below regulatory standards but often are outwardly indistinguishable from the genuine product.   Taking them may do nothing to tackle an illness or -- in the case of antibiotics -- worsen the problem of microbial resistance.   According to an investigation by the Paris-based International Institute of Research Against Counterfeit Medicines (IRACM), West African markets are awash with fake drugs made in China and India.

In 2015, the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene estimated that 122,000 children under five died due to taking poor-quality antimalarial drugs in sub-Saharan Africa.   A 15-nation regional body, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), last April announced an investigation into the fake drugs business.   A lawyer for the civilian plaintiffs told AFP that the trial in Benin was adjourned until March 6 at their request "in order to incorporate another case, of illegal pharmaceutical practice".
More ...

Finland

Finland - US Consular Information Sheet
January 13, 2009
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Finland is a highly developed democracy with a modern economy.
It is a member of the European Union.
Tourist facilities are widely available.
Read
the Department of State Background Notes on Finland for additional information.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
Finland is a party to the Schengen agreement.
As such, U.S. citizens may enter Finland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.
The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.
For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.

Travelers can contact the Embassy of Finland at 3301 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, tel: (202) 298-5800, or the Finnish Consulates General in Los Angeles or New York.
Additional information is available via the Internet at http://www.finland.org.
The U.S. Embassy in Helsinki is not able to assist private U.S. citizens in obtaining any necessary visas for neighboring countries, including Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

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:
Finland remains largely free of terrorist incidents.
However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Finland’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.
Elements of organized crime groups operating in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are present in Finland, but these do not represent a specific danger to U.S. citizen residents or tourists.
Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.
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 United States 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:
Although the crime rate in Finland is low compared to the U.S. and most European countries, it has increased in recent years; however, Finland remains a relatively safe environment.
Americans visiting Finland are seldom victims of crime, but visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables.
The same precautions employed in the U.S. should be followed in Finland.
Finnish police services are excellent. Travelers should be aware that some police officers speak little English.
Due to the low crime rate, Finland has one of the lowest numbers of police officers of any European nation.
Outside of key sites in major urban centers, they rarely project a visible presence; consequently, response times to crisis situations may be unpredictable.
All forms of public transportation are considered safe.
Street crimes, such as muggings and pick-pocketing, remain uncommon, but do occur.

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.

Finland has a program to provide financial compensation to victims who suffer serious criminal injuries.
According to existing regulations, the victim must report the incident to the police and file an application for compensation within 10 years of the date of the crime.
Finnish police routinely inform victims of serious crime of their right to seek compensation.
The relevant forms and further information can be obtained from http://www.treasuryfinland.fi.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Finland is 112.
Please see our additional information for 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 Finland’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Finland are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit 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:
Commercial and financial transactions in Finland are increasingly automated and on-line.
Cash is almost always acceptable (the currency is the euro), but most major credit cards are widely recognized.
Automatic Teller Machines are very common and many U.S.-issued bankcards are compatible with them.

MEDICAL FACILITIES and Health information:
In Finland, medical facilities and their staff are generally excellent and are widely available for emergency services.
English is commonly spoken by Finnish medical personnel.
Helsinki is a frequent medical evacuation point for emergency cases from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The public hospital system and many private hospitals honor foreign credit cards.
Most pharmacies (“apteekki” in Finnish) are open during normal shopping hours and major cities have at least one 24-hour service pharmacy.
If you are a tourist or temporary visitor to Finland and you require immediate emergency medical assistance, you may visit a local medical center or clinic, called “ensiapuasema” (first-aid station) in Finnish.
Usually these stations are located at hospitals and provide a full range of services.
The emergency telephone number, 112, can be used throughout Finland to contact emergency medical services.
For more detailed information on medicines and medical issues, please visit the website of the Finnish Embassy in Washington, DC at http://www.finland.org.
Travelers with special medical needs should consult with their personal physicians and take appropriate precautions, including bringing adequate supplies of necessary medication.
Medicines may be brought into the country as long as they are intended for the traveler’s personal use, however, there are special requirements concerning the quantity.
Medications categorized as narcotics may only be brought into the country to cover the traveler’s personal use for a maximum of 14 days and must be accompanied by a medical certificate stating why the traveler needs them.
For more detailed information, please contact the Finnish Embassy in Washington, DC at http://www.finland.org
In addition, stringent Finnish customs regulations prohibit travelers from receiving drugs from abroad after having arrived in the country.
Travelers may also find local physicians reluctant to prescribe equivalent quantities of dosages.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Finland.
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.
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 Finland is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Finnish roads are comparable to those in the U.S., though secondary roads may be less heavily traveled due to Finland’s sparse population outside the major urban areas.
These secondary routes often narrow to two lanes with a wider shoulder.
Slower vehicles are expected to move onto the shoulder to allow faster moving vehicles to pass.
Finland has an extensive network of highways throughout the country, as well as excellent public transportation services.
A valid U.S. driver’s license may be used while visiting Finland, but drivers must be at least 18 years of age.
Driving in Finland is on the right.
Traffic approaching from the right usually has priority, even if entering a primary roadway from a secondary one.
Road signs use standard international symbols and Finnish text.
Many urban streets have traffic lanes reserved for public transportation only.
Unless otherwise noted on traffic signs, the speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on open roads, and 120 km/h on expressways during summer (reduced to 100 km/h during winter).
Vehicles must use headlights at all times.
Use of seatbelts is mandatory for drivers and all passengers.
Minor children must be seated in approved child or booster seats.

Public transport in Finland is of good quality and is the recommended method of travel.
Passenger trains, intercity buses, and air flights provide regular service over longer distances.
Public transportation in urban centers includes buses, subways, trams, suburban trains, and taxis.
Taxis are more expensive than in major U.S. cities.
Most local residents use public transport in Helsinki as parking can be hard to find and expensive.
The bus, train, and subway systems are relatively safe.
Travelers should be aware that drunk-driving laws are strict and acceptable blood alcohol levels are much lower in Finland than in the U.S.
Police strictly enforce all traffic laws and institute random roadside breath analyzer tests.
Drivers who register .05 or above alcohol content are subject to immediate arrest.
Drivers should be aware that regulations and traffic signs differ significantly from those in the U.S.
Visitors should be familiar with both prior to operating a vehicle in Finland.
Driving in Finland during the winter months can be hazardous.
Daylight hours are very short and one should be comfortable with driving in darkness.
Icy road conditions are common.
If driving in Finland, the vehicle must be winterized with studded snow tires and engine heaters are strongly recommended.
When driving at night, drivers must be alert to moose wandering onto major roadways.
There have been incidents of moose being struck by vehicles, causing severe damage to the vehicle and injury, sometimes fatal, to the occupants.
For real-time updates on road conditions throughout Finland, see the Finnish Road Administration’s travel and traffic information web site at http://www.finnra.fi
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.mek.fi
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Finland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Finland’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
Please see our information on customs regulations.

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

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Finland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Finland.
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 Itainen Puistotie 14B.
The telephone number for the American Citizens Services unit is 358-9-616-25-701, 0830 to 1700 Monday to Friday (after hours, 358-9-616-25-0); the fax number is 358-9-616-25-800; e-mail:
HelsinkiACS@state.gov.
The address of the Embassy’s Internet home page is http://www.usembassy.fi
*

*

*
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 23, 2008 to update the sections on Information for Victims of Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri 14 Dec 2018
Source: UUTISET [edited]

An unvaccinated individual, who caught the contagious disease in Poland, attended a large church service in Tampere and infected at least 2 other people. Three adults have been diagnosed with measles in Tampere after attending a Catholic parish church event in late November along with more than 100 people, according to the Pirkanmaa Hospital District.

Two of the adults diagnosed have been vaccinated, so they are not contagious. The source of the outbreak is an unvaccinated person, who caught the measles in Poland. But according to the Pirkanmaa Hospital District, further cases may still arise.

In 1975 Finland began to administer a single dose of the measles vaccine to all one-year-olds and by 1982 Finland began administering the vaccine in 2 doses between the ages of 1 and 6. However some people born in the 1970s are among those who received only one jab. MMR is a triple-dose vaccine that provides protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

Measles spread at religious event
---------------------------------
The event in question was Tampere's Pyhan Ristin (Sacred Cross) Catholic Parish church mass on 25 Nov 2018. It was attended by more than 100 people, including children. Pirkanmaa Hospital District doctor Kirsi Valve, a specialist in infectious diseases, confirmed that the infected individual who caught the measles in Poland was at the church event. The cases came to light when 2 vaccinated individuals contracted high fevers and came down with skin rashes. The unvaccinated person, who infected the others, has had more severe symptoms than the vaccinated individuals.

"The individuals quickly got in touch with healthcare services owing to high fevers, and skin rashes that rapidly spread all over their bodies," says Valve. "It was confirmed that on 25 Nov 2018 the unvaccinated individual who caught the measles in Poland and brought it back to Finland was at the parish event and is the source of the outbreak."

As the source of the outbreak is known, healthcare officials are also looking into whether the person could have possibly exposed others.

Measles in the news
-------------------
Measles has been on the agenda this winter after an unvaccinated child in Ostrobothnia took ill with measles. Meanwhile, it also came to light that many adults in Finland may not have been vaccinated against measles during the early 1970s.

Measles is a rare disease. The previous outbreak was 2 summers ago when 4 vaccinated children caught measles in Italy and started showing symptoms after returning to Finland. The Pirkanmaa Hospital District recommends that anyone who attended the Catholic parish event in late November 2018 and exhibits symptoms that suggest measles or anyone who hasn't been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine contact their healthcare centre.

If those who attended the parish event are healthy, but have not been vaccinated, the Pirkanmaa Hospital District recommends that they contact their healthcare centre to be vaccinated. The measles vaccine is free and administered as part of the MMR shot, which also provides protection against rubella and the mumps.
Date: Fri 2 Nov 2018
Source: UUTISET [edited]

Around 1/3 of the ticks in Finland -- mostly found in the south -- carry at least one pathogen, and 2 percent of the persistent arachnids carry several disease-causing agents, researchers at Turku University said.

About 30 percent of common ticks and 24 percent of taiga tick populations have been found to carry one disease pathogen. Common ticks more commonly carry several disease-causing pathogens than taiga ticks, according to the researchers.

The most common pathogen found in the ticks was _Borrelia burgdorferi_, the bacterial species that causes Lyme disease in humans, an illness referred to locally as borreliosis. The pathogen was found in 17 percent of the ticks at the university's growing tick database bank.

Lyme disease cases are treated with aggressive antibiotics without necessarily determining which specific bacterium is responsible for the infection.

Thanks to a growing tick database at the University of Turku, researchers have new insights into the disease pathogens that the tiny, blood-sucking arachnids carry.

New research has revealed that ticks on the south coast carry the most pathogens, but the region is almost exclusively home to the most common ticks: _Ixodes ricinus_, or castor bean ticks).

Both castor bean ticks and taiga ticks [_Ixodes persulcatus_] are now commonly found in areas across central Finland, the researchers said. Even further north, the tick populations are quite similar to ones in central areas, but the taiga has become more common in the north.

About 3 years ago, researchers at the university asked members of the public to send in ticks they had found, and now the institution has received more than 20 000 ticks. The researchers say that they want to take advantage of the significant amount of information they can learn from the specimens.

Examination of those thousands of tiny arachnids have uncovered many types of disease-causing bacteria, and researchers have new insights into the arachnids themselves and the potential illnesses they carry.

The researchers said they hope to learn more about ticks, saying that their research has only begun, and that their study of the ticks will continue for several years. Ultimately, their goal is to find how tick-borne illnesses are transmitted, they said.
======================
[This is an interesting example of how a large group of people, many undoubtedly non-scientists, can contribute to an effort that requires many hours of collection effort. Although _Borrelia burgdorferi_ is endemic in Finland, finding it and possibly other bacterial pathogens in about 1/3 of the 20 000 ticks collected is of public health significance. _Ixodes ricinus_ is also the tick vector of European tick-borne encephalitis virus, but no mention is made of it in the above report. Perhaps it was not tested for. Images of both ticks can be found in the above report. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2018 16:46:12 +0100
From: topic@afp.com

Helsinki, Nov 1, 2018 (AFP) - Santa Claus has already begun his preparations in Lapland -- by protecting himself from winter viruses and making sure he hires enough elves.   On Thursday nurse Tiia Kahkonen administered an anti-influenza vaccine to Santa, at his village in the Arctic Circle town of Rovaniemi, northern Finland. 

The jab is likely to be a sensible precaution, as the flu season coincides with the busiest time of the year by far in Lapland.    In December last year 390,000 foreign visitors spent a night in Finnish Lapland, an increase of almost ten percent on the previous Christmas.    By far the largest group of Christmas holidaymakers were Brits, followed by Russian, French and German tourists, according to official statistics.

Meanwhile a recruitment agency in Finnish Lapland, inside the Arctic circle, has put out a call for Christmas elves to look after the hordes of tourists who come to visit Santa in his natural habitat during the winter months.   Prior experience is not essential as the advert, posted by the firm Lapland Staff, promises that training will be provided in "the required elfing and communication skills."   Successful applicants will also be given tips on how to deal with the cold in northern Finland where temeratures rarely rise above zero degrees Celsius, and can drop as low as minus 40.

Although handling Santa's reindeer is not listed among the job's duties, elves will need to herd groups of visitors on and off buses, as well as keep tourists entertained. "Looking after the fireplace and pouring hot juice" are also required, as is supervising the toboggan hill.   Tourism to Lapland has reached an all-time high in recent years, with visitors spending 3.5 million nights in Lapland across the whole year, up from 2.6 million a decade earlier, according to Statistics Finland.    Much of the recent growth has been driven by tourism from Asia.
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 04:43:36 +0100
By Camille BAS-WOHLERT

Rovaniemi, Finland, Dec 17, 2017 (AFP) - In the run up to Christmas tourists from around the world flock to the Santa Claus Village, an amusement park in Finnish Lapland, where temperatures can hit nearly -15 degrees Celsius (5 Fahrenheit).    They buy soft toys and souvenirs from pricey gift shops while a bearded Santa receives hundreds of admirers a day throughout December before embarking on his world tour from the valleys of Finland to the skyscrapers of New York and beyond to deliver gifts.

Holding their winter beanie hats in their hands, visitors wait patiently in line for a brief encounter with "Joulupukki" -- the Finnish word for Santa Claus -- and a photo opportunity in exchange for hard currency.    "We've seen other Santas but that wasn't the real one. But we're told that is the real one," said Mary Gleadall, an eight-year-old tourist from Southampton in the UK, visiting the amusement park with her parents, brother and sister.    According to Christmas lore, Santa lives in a secret place in the middle of the snowy pines of the North Pole. But the question is where?     Since 2010, Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, has marketed itself as Santa's "official home".    Situated a few miles from the city, the Santa Claus Village is located in front of a huge gas station. 

Tourists rush to cross the Arctic Circle, marked by a white line, to meet Santa Claus in his wooden home with a pointed roof.    But entering his private cottage is out of the question as Mother Claus is reportedly protective of their privacy.    In a large room, the white-bearded old man sits in an armchair next to a chest full of letters.    Each year, he receives more than 300,000 visitors, a deluge he embraces with humility.    "I'm very happy. I'm not exhausted but, of course, I get tired once in a while" he says.    And how does Santa Claus regain his energy?    "I love to take nap every once and then. Fifteen minutes sleeping and then all is very good." he says.

- Exalted tourists -
Shizuka Kawahara and Saki Itoi, Japanese tourists in their thirties, flew for more than 24 hours to hug Santa for a few seconds in a precious moment immortalised with a photograph taken by an elf.    The price for one shot starts at 30 euros ($35). Photographing with one's own camera is forbidden as it would ruin the magic of the moment, says the staff of the house.     Four-year-old Harry Gleadall, Mary's brother, approaches Santa without fear.    He quickly states his list of what he wants for Christmas: Transformers and some more Transformers before he skeptically shakes Santa's hand.    "But what if it wasn't the real Santa Claus?" Harry asks with concern.    Eager to set the record straight -- and justify the long trip -- his mother quickly assures him that the chubby red-clothed man is indeed the real deal.    After a tour around the shop which sells hand-made "Lapland" emblems and tons of souvenirs, the family is back in the village square, surrounded by wooden homes, Christmas carols piped out of nearby speakers.

- Polar safari -
In this winter wonderland, tourists have the opportunity to go on a reindeer sleigh ride.    A snow "safari" of 400 metres costs 14 euros per child and 18 euros per adult, an exotic experience for many foreigners who seek to discover the arctic landscapes steeped in pink light.    The -13 degrees Celsius does not discourage the plucky visitors bundled up in their ski suits.    "Everything that have been told to me during childhood, it's come true," said Perpetua, a tourist from Dubai, describing the break from the year round desert climate as "heaven".   "We expected magic and this is what we found," added Max, an Italian tourist. "Everything seems to be magic, the lights, the place, everything here".   But Miriana, a 24-year-old Italian on a university exchange programme in southern Finland, was less convinced.   "The place is really nice. But I think nevertheless that it's a bit commercial," she said.
Date: Tue 18 Oct 2016
From: Tiina Nokireki <tiina.nokireki@evira.fi> [edited]

The Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira) received a bat (Daubenton's bat, _Myotis daubentonii_) for laboratory analyses. The bat was found by a private person. The bat had neurological signs and then died.

Laboratory analyses conducted during the 13 and 14 Oct 2016, confirmed the presence of rabies by FAT. The virus was then identified as European Bat Lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) by RT-PCR and partial sequencing of the gene for the nucleoprotein. Also cell culture is positive.

The bat originated from Inkoo in the province of Southern Finland and is part of the Uusimaa region. This is the 2nd case of EBLV-2 in a bat in Finland.
-----------------------------------------
Tiina Nokireki
Head of Section, DVM, Specialist in Veterinary Medicine, Infectious
Diseases
Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira
Research Department, Veterinary Virology
Mustialankatu 3,
FI-00790 Helsinki,
Finland
=========================
[Special thanks to Dr. Nokireki for this important contribution. Infections by European Bat Lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) have been previously reported in Northern Europe, not only in bats, but also in humans. EBLV-1 appears to be more prevalent, accounting for the vast majority of all EBLV-infected bats. Reports of EBLV-2 correspond to Daubenton's bats (_Myotis daubentonii_), indicating that this bat species is the reservoir of this _Lyssavirus_ strain.

For a picture of a Daubenton's bat go to

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2019 03:38:45 +0200 (METDST)
By Paulina ABRAMOVICH

Santiago, Aug 16, 2019 (AFP) - Once deep in powder this time of year, Chile's ski stations are fighting the ravages of climate change and pollution that have brought less and less snow to the central Andes.   Just a few decades ago, the Andes mountain range could be buried under four meters of snow, forcing the closure of access roads and requiring the use of tractors to get around.

But this year, it's snowed only three times in the Chilean Andes, and never more than 30 centimetres.   It's not just Chile affected, but the whole of the Andes where the area of snow cover in the central zone has diminished by five to 10 percent each decade, according to Raul Cordero, an academic at the University of Santiago.   "But it's not just snow cover that's decreasing, the thickness of the snow cover is also reducing," he said.   "So when we talk about a decrease of the cover of five to 10 percent, this probably signifies a much greater reduction in the volume of available snow over the Andes."

Rising temperatures mean the snow line -- above which snow never melts all year round -- keeps creeping upwards.   The snow melt is even more pronounced in the central zone due to pollution from the Chilean capital, one of the most contaminated urban areas in the region.   A recent study led by Cordero found that soot, or black carbon, from Santiago was settling in the Andes and accelerating the snow melt.   As it's black, it absorbs more solar radiation and heats up quicker.   "When this pollution is over the cities it poisons people and when the wind blows, this pollution goes and is deposited on the mountains and contributes to the snow melt," said Cordero.

- Essential snow cannons -
The upshot is that Chile's ski stations have had a difficult season.    But thanks to the snow cannons, the erection of fences and a tailored piste management policy, the resorts have managed to stay open throughout a winter in which there has been almost no snow.   "All the ski centers in the central zone are without natural snow. However, thanks to the fabrication of snow we've been able to keep open pistes that without this fabrication would not have been able to stay open," Fernando Montenegro, the operations director at Andacor, which operates the El Colorado and Parque Farellones ski stations, told AFP.

El Colorado is 50 kilometers from Santiago and sits at 2,800-meters. It pumps out snow whenever the conditions allow it.   Low temperatures and high humidity is what's needed for the snow cannons to chug into gear and churn out snowflakes from water.   This technology has been around since 1994, but it's never before been in use as much as it is now -- and even then the ski station is only operating at 70 percent capacity.   But even if the situation gets worse, the ski stations will manage, according to Montenegro.   "There's no risk. However, we need to manage the snow and manage the water in the mountain range in a good way."   El Colorado has already invested almost $4 million in buying snow cannons and hopes to increase that to $10 million over the coming years.

- 'Variety so important' -
Last weekend, some 7,000 people descended on El Colorado where ski and snowboard national teams come to train -- although, they're not necessarily happy.   "If there's not enough snow, there's not as many hills. We don't get the variety, we don't get steepness, (or) different slopes: it's so important for us to have that variety," Megan Farrell, a member of the Canadian snowboard team, told AFP.   Amateur skiers also noticed the difference from previous years.   "You can see that the snow is harder. It's not very deep, there are a lot of stones and snow made by the cannons, which makes it feel like you're skiing on a different type of snow," said Chilean Rado Milosevic, 24.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 20:21:28 +0200 (METDST)

Tokyo, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful tropical storm lashed Japan on Thursday, bringing strong winds and torrential rain that claimed at least one life, prompted warnings of landslides and flooding, and sparked evacuation advisories and travel chaos at a peak holiday period.   Severe Tropical Storm Krosa -- one notch below a typhoon -- slammed into the southern Hiroshima region, packing wind gusts of up to 126 kilometres (78 miles) per hour.   Dramatic television footage showed violent winds uprooting trees, snapping lampposts and spinning pods on a Ferris wheel.

Meanwhile, high waves smashed into a breakwater, engulfing a 10-metre lighthouse, while swollen rivers broke their banks and swamped nearby roads.  Authorities issued a voluntary evacuation advisory to around 430,000 people in the storm's path, although few appeared to have heeded the warning.

A 82-year-old man was confirmed dead after he fell in the sea in Hiroshima while trying to moor his boat, a local government spokesman said.    Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that a total of 49 people were injured from Wednesday to Thursday.   "We still have intermittent downpours," said Takayoshi Sugimoto, a disaster management official in the southwestern province of Tokushima.   "We will remain vigilant," he told AFP.

The national disaster management agency said a party of 18 people, including children, were stranded during a barbeque in a valley when a river rose rapidly on Wednesday. They were rescued Thursday morning.   Krosa also sparked travel chaos as people battled to return to major cities following the Obon holiday.   More than 800 domestic flights were cancelled to and from cities in western Japan, and bullet train services were either scrapped or sharply reduced.   Ferries connecting the southern Shikoku island and other parts of Japan were also cancelled as high waves lashed the coast.

The storm brought strong winds and downpours to the capital Tokyo.   Several ceremonies commemorating the end of World War II were cancelled in western Japan due to bad weather.    Krosa weakened significantly from earlier in the week as it stalled in the Pacific Ocean but it boasts an unusually large eye, meaning it is likely to dump rain over a wide area.   It was moving north at 35 kilometres (22 miles) per hour and the rain was expected to last for an extended period.   The storm crossed Japan's mainland and hit the Sea of Japan late Thursday.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 15:36:40 +0200 (METDST)

Tripoli, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - Flights at the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport were suspended Thursday after deadly overnight rocket fire, a spokesman for the country's unity government said.   Wednesday night's rocket fire "killed a guard and wounded several security agents tasked with protecting the airport," said Moustafa al-Mejii, spokesman for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).   He blamed the attack on "the militias of (Khalifa) Haftar" whose forces launched an offensive on the Libyan capital in April.   Arrivals and departures at Mitiga airport were suspended as a result, Mejii said.   Located east of Tripoli, Mitiga is a former military airbase that has been used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport suffered severe damage during fighting in 2014.

Mitiga is in a zone under the control of forces loyal to the GNA and has often been targeted, leading to repeated suspensions of flights.   United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame, in a report to the UN Security Council last month, urged "authorities in Tripoli to cease using the (Mitiga) airport for military purposes and for the attacking forces to halt immediately their targeting of it."   The GNA protested at what it said were "untruths" in the envoy's report.   Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has encountered fierce resistance from pro-government forces in the battle for Tripoli.   A stalemate on the ground in the capital's southern outskirts has led to a greater reliance on air strikes by both sides.

The fighting since April has killed 1,093 people and wounded 5,752 others, according to the World Health Organization.   More than 120,000 people have been displaced.   The LNA said Thursday its air force carried out a strike against an airfield in Zuwara, a town west of Tripoli, and destroyed two hangars allegedly used to house Turkish drones.   "The runway and terminals were spared" at the airfield, which is not open to commercial flights, LNA spokesman General Ahmed al-Mesmari wrote on Facebook.   The GNA, however, posted pictures of a huge crater and debris on the tarmac.   Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 14:11:31 +0200 (METDST)

Hong Kong, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - Hong Kong's government unveiled HK$19.1 billion (US$2.44 billion) worth of economic relief measures and downgraded its growth forecasts on Thursday as the international hub reels from simmering pro-democracy protests and the US-China trade war.   Last week city leader Carrie Lam warned that 10-weeks of anti-government protests were hitting businesses like a "tsunami".    On Thursday, financial chief Paul Chan predicted the city's economy would grow by a miserly zero to one percent this year, the worst rate since 2009 after the global crash hit.

But as he announced a raft of sweeteners in a surprise "mini-budget", he denied the move was linked to the roiling unrest.   "The measures that we have just announced... trying to tackle the current economic difficulties and the coming economic headwinds, is not related to the political difficulties that we are facing," Chan told reporters.   Instead, he said, the primary headwinds remained ongoing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing -- two major markets for Hong Kong -- and the possible impact of Brexit.    "Based on the latest developments and assessments on the outlook, the Hong Kong economy will continue to face an austere environment for the rest of the year," he said.

Nonetheless, the sweeteners seemed to be aimed at winning over support from moderate Hong Kongers as the city reels from the protests.    The measures included financial breaks for small businesses, more generous student subsidies and goodies for low-income households.  Ten weeks of unprecedented rallies, demonstrations and occupations in Hong Kong have seen millions of people take to the streets in the biggest challenge to China's rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain.   The social and political unrest was triggered by a controversial bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but has evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms.

The retail and tourism sectors have been especially hit by the drop in arriving visitors to the city, but the property market remains strong.   At a "citizens press conference" on Thursday, one protest group blamed the city's economic woes on the local leaders who they accused of undermining the city's business appeal by kowtowing to Beijing.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 11:07:44 +0200 (METDST)

Johannesburg, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - South Africa on Thursday announced visa waivers for four countries in a bid to boost tourism amid an economic crisis and falling visitor numbers.   Visitors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit for holiday, conferencing and business purposes, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said.

The unilateral decision comes as official tourism figures released in May reflected a dip in the overall number of visitors to South Africa from Europe and the Middle East in the first financial quarter of the year, normally one of the most popular times to visit.   Foreign traveller arrivals decreased by more than 10 percent between April and May 2019 alone.   Motsoaledi said the South African government was engaging with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand about a similar relaxation of entry requirements for SA citizens.   He argued the move by his department would boost tourism "and by extension growing the economy and creating jobs".

South Africa's economy has hit trouble, with gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by 3.2 percent in the first three months of 2019 and unemployment at a record high of 29 percent.   The government estimates there is potential to create 2.1 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2028.   South Africa is in talks to extend the visa waiver to Ghana, Cuba and Principe and Sao Tome.    The country has already waived the visa requirement for 82 of the 193 countries who are UN members.
Date: Tue 13 Aug 2019, 18:22 PM
Source: The News Minute (TNM) [edited]

In early July [2019], 2 children from Sathyamangalam in Tamil Nadu's Erode district succumbed to diphtheria. Around this time, several other cases of diphtheria were being reported from the state. The latest information shows that at least 50 people have been admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital with diphtheria.

Health officials in the state have begun stepping up measures to ensure that the spread of the disease is contained and that more people are vaccinated. The Directorate of Public Health (DPH) even issued an alert to doctors in Chennai to treat all children presenting with sore throat with an antibiotic used to treat the disease, without waiting for the confirmation of a diagnosis.

Despite several campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination and ensuring that children are vaccinated according to the immunisation schedule, officials note that discrepancies in immunisation have played a large role in the current outbreak of diphtheria.

Tamil Nadu's Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr. K Kolandaswamy, had earlier told TNM that the current spike in the number of cases had to do with lack of immunisation. While several parents had skipped vaccinating their children at a young age, many others had not ensured that the booster dose was taken at a later age. However, in light of the recent outbreak in which both young people and adults have been affected, preventive measures have been stepped up. Not only are children being given the vaccine and booster doses (as deemed necessary), but so are adults.

Diphtheria is a disease caused by the organism _Corynebacterium diphtheriae_ and is highly contagious. Symptoms of diphtheria are often very similar to that of a common cold or any mild respiratory infection, which makes it difficult to differentiate between diphtheria and a more generic infection.

An infected individual may begin to present with symptoms anywhere from 2 to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria. The infected person usually develops a sore throat, which aggravates and will generally develop other respiratory issues as well, if left untreated. While the treatment for diphtheria consists of antibiotics and supportive measures as necessary (painkillers, fluids, etc), it has been determined that the best course of action is to take preventive measures.

The vaccine against diphtheria is given as a pentavalent vaccine (offers immunisation against 5 diseases: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and Hib-Haemophilus influenza type b). It is given at 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 months of age. The DPT vaccine (trivalent, covers 3 diseases: diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) is given between 16 to 24 months of age. When the child is around 6 years old, another booster dose is required. In addition, the Centre has also advised that children be given the Td vaccine (covers tetanus and diphtheria) at age 10 and age 15.  [Byline: Dr Nimeshika Jayachandran]
========================
[Erode, with a population of about 2.25 million residents in 2011, is the largest district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located in the state's westernmost region; its headquarters is the city of Erode (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erode_district>).

A map showing the location of Erode District in south-central India can be found at
<https://www.google.com/maps/place/Erode,+Tamil+Nadu,+India>.

Diphtheria is caused by toxin-producing strains of _Corynebacterium diphtheriae_, an aerobic Gram positive bacillus. _C. diphtheriae_ causes respiratory tract or cutaneous diphtheria. Toxin production occurs only when the bacillus is infected (lysogenized) by a specific bacteriophage that carries the gene encoding the toxin. The most common sites of diphtheria infection are the pharynx and the tonsils, where an adherent pseudomembrane forms, which may result in respiratory obstruction. The toxin is responsible for the major complications, myocarditis (such as cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure) and neuritis (such as paralysis of the soft palate, eye muscles, limbs, and diaphragm). The overall case fatality rate for diphtheria is 5-10% but is higher (up to 20%) among persons younger than 5 and older than 40 years of age.

Close contacts, especially household contacts, should receive a diphtheria booster, appropriate for age, and antibiotics, such as benzathine penicillin G or a 7-10-day course of oral erythromycin. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of India:
Date: Tue 13 Aug 2019 2:21 AM CDT
Source: MPR [Minnesota Public Radio] News [edited]

[Minnesota] state health officials said [Tue 13 Aug 2019], 3 children are sick from _E. coli_ bacteria after swimming in a Minneapolis lake. The children have tested positive for the same strain of _E. coli_ after swimming at Lake Nokomis beaches between [26 Jul and 2 Aug 2019]. 2 beaches of the lake are closed until further notice, the Minnesota Department of Health said. The children, all under the age of 10, were not hospitalized.

Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Al Bangoura said it's the 1st time someone has fallen ill after swimming in a Minneapolis lake in more than 20 years. "We take this very seriously and are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health as they conduct their investigation," Bangoura said in a news release.

Symptoms of illness caused by _E. coli_ bacteria include stomach cramps and diarrhea, with mild or no fever. People typically become ill 1 to 8 days after exposure. It's rare, but the infections sometimes lead to a serious complication involving kidney failure. Health officials say children younger than 10 years old, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems have a higher chance of developing complications from _E. coli_ infections.

"This is also an important reminder that anyone who is experiencing diarrhoea should not go swimming while they are sick," said Trisha Robinson, waterborne disease supervisor at the Health Department.

Officials also want to hear from anyone else who may have become ill after swimming in Lake Nokomis.

"If there are other people who have gone swimming and are concerned about their symptoms of illness, we very much encourage them to contact their health care providers," Robinson said.
===================
[It is important to understand that there are many different kinds of _E coli_. The organism is an important component of the human intestinal tract and can perform important functions helpful to its host. These strains can cause human infections if they "escape" from the usual location into the urinary tract, gall bladder, or abdominal cavity. They are also what are mentioned when a beach is closed for _E. coli_ contamination. In this circumstance, officials are measuring the organism or "coliforms" in the water to reflect human sewage contamination.

Additionally, there are some strains of _E. coli_ that can produce toxins that can produce diarrhea, and much of so-called travellers' diarrhoea is caused by these strains. All of these strains are human bacteria, not zoonotic organisms, that is, not spread from animal hosts. One _E. coli_ group called Shiga toxin producing or enterohemorrhagic _E. coli_ (EHEC) is the organism likely to be involved here, are zoonotic. Spread in a number of ways, including via undercooked ground beef, contaminated vegetables, and direct or direct contact with farm animals including contaminated water, EHEC can cause significant disease and even death.

In the spring of 2000, in Walkerton, a town of 5000 in southern Ontario, an outbreak of _E. coli_ O157:H7 infection claimed 7 lives -- 6 adults and a child -- and over 200 were seen at local area hospitals.

Swimming-associated transmission is illustrated in the following references:

1. Keene WE, McAnulty JM, Hoesly FC, et al. A swimming-associated outbreak of hemorrhagic colitis caused by _Escherichia coli_ O157:H7 and _Shigella sonnei_. N Engl J Med. 1994; 331(9): 579-84; available at <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199409013310904>.
2. CDC. Lake-associated outbreak of _E. coli_ O157:H7 - Illinois. MMWR 1996; 45(21): 437-9; available at <https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00042070.htm>.
3. Ackman D, Marks S, Mack P, et al. Swimming-associated hemorrhagic colitis due to _Escherichia coli_ O157:H7 infection: evidence of prolonged contamination of a fresh water lake. Epidemiol Infect. 1997;119:1-8; available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2808815/>. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Minnesota, United States:
Date: 13 Aug 2019
Source: RFI France [edited]

38 children in France, including babies, living near what was once Europe's largest gold mine have tested positive for arsenic poisoning.

Children in the Orbiel Valley, in the southern department of Aude, were examined when families became concerned that flooding in October last year [2018] had carried arsenic and heavy metals from the nearby Salsigne mine.

After testing 103 children aged under 11 years, the Occitanie Regional Health Agency confirmed on Tue [13 Aug 2019] that 38 of them had returned positive test results for above-average levels of arsenic.

Salsigne, the world's largest arsenic mine, had been operating for almost a century when it closed in 2004. Millions of tons of toxic waste, which local NGOs say have not been properly sealed, are in storage at 5 nearby sites.

In October 2018, 14 people were killed when the Aude was hit by violent floods. Media reports say the Orbiel river and its tributaries have spread pollutants from the old mine.  [Byline: Eric Cabanis]
=========================
[There are a number of ways products can enter the body: inhalation, absorption, ingestion, and injection. Absorption is often thought of as products being absorbed through the GI tract, but it is also most significantly through the skin (such as a bath if arsenic is in the water). The integument (skin) is one of the largest organs of the body.

There are different forms of arsenic. There are 2 forms of inorganic arsenic: the reduced or trivalent arsenic (+3) or arsenite, and the oxidized or pentavalent (+5) form known as arsenate. Both of these forms can be absorbed and accumulated in tissues and body fluids.

There are also organic arsenics, but these are generally regarded as less harmful, by orders of magnitude.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen. The article does not tell us whether the exposure was to organic or inorganic arsenic. The form of arsenic is important with regard to toxicity. We are not told the specific ages of the children or babies. However, children, babies, and even pregnant women metabolize arsenic differently than non-pregnant adults.

Exposure to higher than average levels of arsenic occur mostly in the workplace, near hazardous waste sites, or in areas with high natural levels. At high levels, inorganic arsenic can cause death. Exposure to lower levels for a long time can cause a discoloration of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts. In the United States, arsenic has been found in at least 1149 of the 1684 National Priority List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element widely distributed in the earth's crust. In the environment, arsenic is combined with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur to form inorganic arsenic compounds. Arsenic in animals and plants combines with carbon and hydrogen to form organic arsenic compounds.

Inorganic arsenic compounds are mainly used to preserve wood. Copper chromated arsenate (CCA) is used to make "pressure-treated" lumber. CCA is no longer used in the U.S. for residential uses; it is still used in industrial applications. Organic arsenic compounds are used as pesticides, primarily on cotton fields and orchards.

What happens to arsenic when it enters the environment?
- Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and minerals and may enter the air, water, and land from wind-blown dust and may get into water from runoff and leaching.
- Arsenic cannot be destroyed in the environment. It can only change its form.
- Rain and snow remove arsenic dust particles from the air.
- Many common arsenic compounds can dissolve in water. Most of the arsenic in water will ultimately end up in soil or sediment.
- Fish and shellfish can accumulate arsenic; most of this arsenic is in an organic form called arsenobetaine that is much less harmful.

How might I be exposed to arsenic?
- Ingesting small amounts present in your food and water or breathing air containing arsenic.
- Breathing sawdust or burning smoke from wood treated with arsenic.
- Living in areas with unusually high natural levels of arsenic in rock.
- Working in a job that involves arsenic production or use, such as copper or lead smelting, wood treating, or pesticide application.

How can arsenic affect my health?
Breathing high levels of inorganic arsenic can give you a sore throat or irritated lungs.

Ingesting very high levels of arsenic can result in death. Exposure to lower levels can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet.

Ingesting or breathing low levels of inorganic arsenic for a long time can cause a darkening of the skin and the appearance of small "corns" or "warts" on the palms, soles, and torso. Skin contact with inorganic arsenic may cause redness and swelling.

Almost nothing is known regarding health effects of organic arsenic compounds in humans. Studies in animals show that some simple organic arsenic compounds are less toxic than inorganic forms. Ingestion of methyl and dimethyl compounds can cause diarrhea and damage to the kidneys.

Several studies have shown that ingestion of inorganic arsenic can increase the risk of skin cancer and cancer in the liver, bladder, and lungs. Inhalation of inorganic arsenic can cause increased risk of lung cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the EPA have determined that inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that inorganic arsenic is carcinogenic to humans.

There is some evidence that long-term exposure to arsenic in children may result in lower IQ scores. There is also some evidence that exposure to arsenic in the womb and early childhood may increase mortality in young adults.

There is some evidence that inhaled or ingested arsenic can injure pregnant women or their unborn babies, although the studies are not definitive. Studies in animals show that large doses of arsenic that cause illness in pregnant females, can also cause low birth weight, fetal malformations, and even fetal death. Arsenic can cross the placenta and has been found in fetal tissues. Arsenic is found at low levels in breast milk.

How can families reduce their risk for exposure to arsenic?
- If you use arsenic-treated wood in home projects, you should wear dust masks, gloves, and protective clothing to decrease exposure to sawdust.
- If you live in an area with high levels of arsenic in water or soil, you should use cleaner sources of water and limit contact with soil. - If you work in a job that may expose you to arsenic, be aware that you may carry arsenic home on your clothing, skin, hair, or tools. Be sure to shower and change clothes before going home.

There are tests available to measure arsenic in your blood, urine, hair, and fingernails. The urine test is the most reliable test for arsenic exposure within the last few days. Tests on hair and fingernails can measure exposure to high levels of arsenic over the past 6-12 months. These tests can determine if you have been exposed to above-average levels of arsenic. They cannot predict whether the arsenic levels in your body will affect your health.

The EPA has set limits on the amount of arsenic that industrial sources can release to the environment and has restricted or cancelled many of the uses of arsenic in pesticides. EPA has set a limit of 0.01 parts per million (ppm) for arsenic in drinking water.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 10 micrograms of arsenic per cubic meter of workplace air (10 ug/m3) for 8 hour shifts and 40 hour work weeks.

Reference:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2007. Toxicological Profile for Arsenic (Update). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.

Portions extracted from Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry;
<https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=19&tid=3>. - ProMED Mod.TG]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Sat 10 Aug 2019
Source: Nigeria CDC [edited]

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is aware of a suspected outbreak of yellow fever in Ebonyi state and has had a rapid response team supporting Ebonyi state's response since [Tue 30 Jul 2019], in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Following a report of cases and deaths from fever of unknown origin in Izzi local government area (LGA) in Ebonyi state, the state public health team commenced an investigation. As at [Wed 31 Jul 2019], 3 cases had tested positive for yellow fever at NCDC's national reference laboratory, which triggered an immediate response.

The Ebonyi State Epidemiology Team is leading the response with support from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the course of investigation, it was discovered that between 1 May-7 Aug 2019, there had been cases that fit into the case definition for yellow fever and 20 deaths in Izzi LGA, Ebonyi state, indicating that the outbreak may have been going on for a few months, undetected by local health authorities. It was too late to collect samples for confirmation from these cases.

Immediately [after] it was notified, NCDC deployed a rapid response team to support Ebonyi state with contact tracing, case finding, risk communications, and the management of cases. Detailed analysis and plans are in advanced stages to apply to the international vaccine stockpile to enable a reactive vaccination campaign in Ebonyi state, in response to the cluster of cases.

Yellow fever virus is spread through bites of an infected mosquito. There is no human-to-human transmission of the virus. Yellow fever is a completely vaccine-preventable disease, and a single shot provides immunity for a lifetime. The yellow fever vaccine is available for free in primary health care centres in Nigeria as part of the routine immunisation schedule. Every child is protected for life if vaccinated. We encourage every family to ensure that children receive all their childhood vaccines.

In addition to the vaccine, the public is advised to keep their environments clean and free of stagnant water to discourage the breeding of mosquitoes and to use insecticide-treated mosquito nets as well as screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito bites. It is important to avoid self-medication. Visit a health facility immediately if you feel ill.

Since September 2017, Nigeria has recorded suspected cases of yellow fever in all states in the country. As at [Wed 31 Jul 2019], 78 cases have been laboratory confirmed in Nigeria in 2019 alone. A multi-agency yellow fever technical working group coordinated by NCDC has been leading the investigation and response to yellow fever cases. The National Primary Health Care [Development] Agency is leading efforts to provide an additional opportunity of vaccination through preventive vaccination campaigns across the country.

Healthcare workers are reminded that the symptoms of yellow fever include yellowness of the eyes, sudden fever, headache, and body pain. If you have these symptoms or notice someone in your community displaying them, please contact your nearest health centre.
=====================
[The yellow fever [YF] virus is endemic in Nigeria, and cases occur there sporadically. This has been an active year (2019) for YF in Nigeria. The previous ProMED-mail post indicated that 930 suspected cases have been reported this year from 1 Jan-30 Apr 2019. There are 332 suspected cases during the April 2019 reporting period, up from 254 suspected cases on 19 Feb 2019. There are 3 new presumptive and 3 new confirmed yellow fever cases during the April 2019 reporting period.

The current focus of transmission is in Ebonyi state. The above report indicates that YF vaccine is available without cost in primary healthcare centers but does not mention if an organized vaccination campaign is underway or being planned, nor the proportion of the Ebonyi state population that is unvaccinated and, hence, at risk for YF. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Ebonyi state, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/1306>]
Source: Arutz Sheva 7 [edited]
Date: Tue 13 Aug 2019

A stewardess of Israel's El Al airline died Tuesday [13 Aug 2019], following a months-long battle with measles. The 43-year-old stewardess was infected with the measles virus during a flight from New York to Israel 5 months ago.

After she was infected, the stewardess was hospitalized in serious condition at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba in central Israel after she was found unconscious and struggling to breathe. During her hospitalization, the stewardess' condition deteriorated, and she was transferred to the quarantine section of the hospital's intensive care wing.

On Tuesday [13 Aug 2019], doctors at Meir hospital declared her death, following the 5-month struggle.  [Byline: Orly Harari]
===========================
[This is a very sad outcome, and our condolences go out to the family of the flight attendant, who worked for El Al, the Israeli national airline. It is not clear whether she contracted the virus in New York, in Israel, or on a flight between the two locations. The flight attendant received only one dose of the measles vaccine when she was a child. It wasn't discovered until later that one dose is only about 93% effective. More recently -- in the USA, starting in 1989 -- children have been given 2 doses, which is about 97% effective, according to the CDC. See Measles update (27) http://promedmail.org/post/20190418.6429834 for an earlier report on the flight attendant. - ProMED Mod.LK]