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Armenia

Armenia US Consular Information Sheet
January 05, 2009
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Armenia is a constitutional republic with a developing economy. Tourist facilities, especially outside Yerevan, the capital, are not highly developed, and many of
he goods and services taken for granted in other countries may be difficult to obtain. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Armenia for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. U.S. citizens may purchase visas in advance for a stay of up to 120 days online at http://www.armeniaforeignministry.am/ for the fee of USD 60; however, this visa is valid only for entry at Zvartnots airport in Yerevan. At this time a visa valid for 120 days may also be obtained upon arrival at the port of entry for the fee of 15,000 Armenian Drams (approx. USD 50). Visas for up to 120 days may be purchased at the Armenian Embassy in Washington, D.C. or the Consulate General in Los Angeles for the fee of USD 69. For further information on entry requirements, contact the Armenian Embassy at 2225 R Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel. (202) 319-1976 and (202) 319-2983; the Armenian Consulate General in Los Angeles at 50 N. La Cienega Blvd., Suite 210, Beverly Hills, CA 90211, tel. (310) 657-7320, or visit the Armenian Embassy’s web site at http://www.armeniaemb.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.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
A cease-fire has been in effect since 1994 around the self-proclaimed “Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh,” an unrecognized ethnic Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan. However, intermittent gunfire along the cease-fire line and along the border with Azerbaijan continues. Because of the existing state of hostilities, consular services are not available to Americans in Nagorno-Karabakh. Travelers should exercise caution near the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and consult the Country Specific Information for Azerbaijan if considering travel to Nagorno-Karabakh from Armenian territory. Armenia's land borders with Turkey, Azerbaijan, and the Nakhichevan Autonomous Republic of Azerbaijan remain closed and continue to be patrolled by armed troops who stop all people attempting to cross. There are still land mines in numerous areas in and near the conflict zones.

Political rallies in the aftermath of the February 2008 presidential elections turned violent. Clashes between government security forces and opposition demonstrators resulted in dozens of casualties, including 10 fatalities, in early March 2008. While the opposition continued to hold periodic protests over the summer and early fall, there have been no violent confrontations since the March events.
Americans should be mindful that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful could turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. American citizens are urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.

Armenia is an earthquake- and landslide-prone country. In addition to these natural disasters, there exists the possibility of chlorine gas spills and radiation poisoning due to industrial accidents.
The Soviet-era Armenia Nuclear Power plant is located in Metsamor, approximately 30 kilometers southwest of Yerevan.
Armenia is currently under international pressure to close the plant permanently, due to safety concerns.

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

Up-to-date information on 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: Crime against foreigners is relatively rare in Armenia. Break-ins, particularly of vehicles, and theft are the most common crimes, but there have been instances of violent crime as well.
While the incidence of violent crime remains lower than in most U.S. cities, American citizens are urged to exercise caution and to avoid traveling alone after dark in Yerevan. Several American investors have also reported being involved in disputes over property ownership, and have had to seek legal recourse through a long, and in the majority of cases, unsuccessful court proceeding.
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 U.S. Embassy. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy for assistance. The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. For information on assistance in the U.S. including possible compensation, see our Victims of Crime.
The local equivalents to the “911” emergency line in Armenia are: 101 - fire emergency; 102 - police emergency; 103 - medical emergency; and 104 - gas leak.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Though there are many competent physicians in Armenia, medical care facilities are limited, especially outside the major cities. The U.S. Embassy maintains a list of English-speaking physicians in the area. Most prescription medications are available, but the quality varies. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Armenia.

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 Armenia is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Travel in Armenia requires caution. Public transportation, while very inexpensive, may be unreliable and uncomfortable. Travel at night is not recommended, and winter travel can be extremely hazardous in mountain areas and higher elevations.
Travelers should avoid the old highway between the towns of Ljevan and Noyemberyan in the Tavush region, as well as the main highway between the towns of Kirants and Baghanis/Voskevan. The U.S. Embassy has designated this portion of the road off-limits to all U.S. Government personnel because of its proximity to the cease-fire line between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces, a line which has seen numerous cease-fire violations over the years.

On weekends, there are an increased number of intoxicated drivers on Armenian roads. American citizens are urged to exercise particular vigilance while traveling on the main highway from Yerevan to the resort areas of Tsaghkadzor and Sevan. Traffic police will attempt to stop individuals driving erratically and dangerously, but police presence outside of Yerevan is limited.

Armenia does have emergency police and medical services, but they may take time to reach remote regions.
With the exception of a few major arteries, primary roads are frequently in poor repair, with sporadic stretches of missing pavement and large potholes. Some roads shown as primary roads on maps are unpaved and can narrow to one lane in width, while some newer road connections have not yet been marked on recently produced maps.
Secondary roads are normally in poor condition and are often unpaved and washed out in certain areas. Street and road signs are poor to nonexistent. Truck traffic is not heavy except on the main roads linking Yerevan to Iran and Georgia, i.e. the roads virtually all travelers need to use when traveling overland to those countries. Minibuses are considered more dangerous than other forms of public transportation. Travelers who choose to ride minibuses should exercise caution because these vehicles are often overcrowded and poorly maintained, commonly lack safety measures including seatbelts, and are frequently involved in accidents.

People driving in Armenia should be aware that “road rage” is becoming a serious and dangerous problem on Armenian streets and highways.
For safety reasons drivers are encouraged to yield to aggressive drivers.
Incidents of physical aggression against drivers and pedestrians have occurred

Though crime along roadways is rare, the police sometimes seek bribes during traffic stops. Drivers in Armenia frequently ignore traffic laws, making roadways unsafe for unsuspecting travelers.
Pedestrians often fail to take safety precautions and those driving in towns at night should be especially cautious. In cities, a pedestrian dressed in black crossing an unlit street in the middle of the block is a common occurrence.

The quality of gasoline in Armenia ranges from good at some of the more reliable stations in cities to very poor. The gasoline and other fuels sold out of jars, barrels, and trucks by independent roadside merchants should be considered very unreliable.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Armenia, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Armenia’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
Travelers on Armavia International Airways may experience prolonged delays and sudden cancellations of flights. Air travel to Armenia via European carriers is typically more reliable. Ticketed passengers on flights leaving Yerevan should reconfirm their reservations 24 hours prior to departure.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Armenia remains largely a cash-only economy. Credit cards are accepted at some businesses, including major hotels and restaurants in Yerevan, but rarely outside of the capital. Limited facilities exist for cashing traveler's checks and wiring money into the country. There are a number of ATMs in the center of Yerevan. Dollars are readily exchanged at market rates. Travelers may experience problems with local officials seeking bribes to perform basic duties.

Armenian customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Armenia of items such as firearms, pornographic materials, medication, and communications equipment. For export of antiquities and other items that could have historical value, such as paintings, carpets, old books, or other artisan goods, a special authorization is required in advance from the Armenian Ministry of Culture. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Armenia in Washington, DC or Consulate General in Los Angeles for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Please see our Customs Information.

Dual Nationals: Changes to Armenian legislation now permit Armenian citizens to hold dual citizenship. This means that U.S. citizens who emigrated from Armenia to the U.S. and subsequently acquired U.S. citizenship without explicitly giving up their Armenian citizenship may be able to (re)acquire Armenian citizenship along with all the associated rights and duties, e.g. the right to vote in Armenian elections and/or the duty for certain males to perform military service. The new law also means that dual citizens need to enter and leave Armenia on their Armenian passport, i.e. they would no longer need an Armenian visa. U.S. citizens interested in obtaining Armenian citizenship must register their dual citizenship with Passport and Visa Department of the Police of the Republic of Armenia (formerly OVIR) by simply presenting proof of their other citizenship (e.g. passport). For more information, please consult with Passport and Visa Department of the Police (tel.: +37410-501439) and/or http://www.armeniaforeignministry.am.

Compulsory Military Service: In addition to being subject to all Armenian laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals are also subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Armenian citizens. Male U.S. citizens over the age of 18 who are also considered to be Armenian citizens may be subject to conscription and compulsory military service upon arrival, and to other aspects of Armenian law while in Armenia.
Armenian authorities have regularly detained U.S. citizens on these grounds upon their arrival in or departure from Armenia. In most cases, ethnic Armenian travelers who are accused of evading Armenian military service obligations are immediately detained and later found guilty of draft evasion. Penalties for those convicted are stiff and include jail time or a substantial fine. Those who may be affected are strongly advised to consult with Armenian officials and inquire at an Armenian embassy or consulate to their status before traveling. For additional information on dual nationality, see our dual nationality flyer.
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 offences. Persons violating Armenian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Armenia 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 Armenia 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 Armenia. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. The American Citizen Services section of the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan maintains a computer terminal in the consular waiting room available to U.S. citizens for registration. The U.S. Embassy provides Internet access to the general public through the American Corners program and through the U.S. Embassy's Information Resource Center. American Corners are located in Yerevan (2 Amiryan Street, tel. +374-10-56-13-83), Gyumri (68 Shirakatsi Street, tel. +374-312-22153), Vanadzor (25, Vardanants Street, tel. +374-322-21672), and Kapan (6, Shahumyan Street, tel. +374-285-22151). By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy in Yerevan is located at 1 American Avenue, tel. +374-10-46-47-00 and fax: +374-10-46-47-42. The Consular Section is open from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., with time reserved for American citizen services from 1:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m., Monday through Friday, except for official U.S. Embassy holidays. For more information, see the Embassy's web site at http://yerevan.usembassy.gov/
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This replaces the Country Specific Information dated June 9, 2008 to update sections on Entry and Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Special Circumstances.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

17th February 2019

- National. 14 Feb 2019. 57 cases of dengue in Armenia [have been] recorded to date; the figure increased in 2019 compared to the year 2018. The increase in records so far in 2019 is 25.
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2018 12:23:52 +0200
By Mariam HARUTYUNYAN

Arinj, Armenia, July 29, 2018 (AFP) - When Tosya Gharibyan asked her husband to dig a basement under their house to store potatoes, she had little idea the underground labyrinth he would eventually produce would prove to be one of Armenia's major tourist draws.   Their one-storey house in the village of Arinj outside the capital Yerevan may not look like much but today it brings in visitors from all over the globe after a 23-year labour of love by Tosya's late husband, Levon Arakelyan.   They come to see a twisting network of subterranean caves and tunnels known as "Levon's divine underground."

In the cold and quiet, Tosya leads tourists through corridors that connect seven chambers adorned with Romanesque columns and ornaments like those on the facades of mediaeval Armenian churches.   "Once he started digging, it was impossible to stop him," she said of the project that began in 1995. "I wrangled with him a lot, but he became obsessed with his plan."   A builder by training, Levon would toil for 18 hours a day -- only pausing to take a quick nap and then rush back to the cave, confident that he was being guided "by heaven".   "He never drew up plans and used to tell us that he sees in his dreams what to do next," his widow told AFP.

Over more than two decades he hammered out the 280-square-metre (3,000 square-foot) space, 21 metres deep into strata of volcanic rocks -- only using hand tools.   "My primary childhood recollection is the loud knock of my father's hammer heard at night from the cave," said his 44-year-old daughter Araksya.   At the start he had to break through a surface layer of black basalt, but at the depth of a few metres Levon reached much softer tufa stone and the work progressed.   He pulled out 600 truckloads of rocks and earth, using only hand-held buckets.   Levon died in 2008 at the age of 67 from a heart attack after destroying the last wall that separated two tunnels.

- 'Amazing place' -
A decade on from the project's completion, Tosya also runs a small museum commemorating her husband's work in the village of some 6,000 people.   The underground complex has several analogues in the world.   An eccentric man named William Henry "Burro" Schmidt spent more than three decades digging a half-a-mile tunnel to transport gold through a granite mountain in California, beginning his work in the early 1900s during the state's gold rush.

In Ethiopia a man named Aba Defar began carving churches on a mountainside after claiming divine inspiration from years of dreams.   Today the Armenian cave features prominently in travel brochures, regularly drawing busloads of visitors.   Milad, a 29-year-old Iranian tourist, called the maze an "amazing place".   He said it made him realise just "how boundless the spiritual and physical capabilities of a person can be".
Date: Fri 18 May 2018
Source: Armenpress [edited]

The investigation into a foodborne incident in Armenia's Armavir province continues. The suspected cause -- food poisoning -- has been confirmed through lab tests. Salmonellosis has been discovered in all victims.

63 from the overall 88 victims of the food poisoning have already been treated and discharged. The healthcare ministry says they confirm that the cause was food poisoning. Earlier, the state service for food safety has dispatched agents to Armavir province to probe the suspected food poisoning incident in the plant of Tierras de Armenia, a viticulture and winemaker known for its Karas wines. Earlier, doctors said they suspected the cause of the poisoning to be a lunchtime snack, which all of the employees consumed in the cafeteria of the plant.

Agents have taken samples from the facility and sent them for laboratory analysis. Food safety agents also ceased the operation of a businesswoman's food supply business in relation to the incident as a precaution. The businesswoman, Alvina Melkonyan, supplied Tierras de Armenia with lunch-time food on the day when the incident happened. A company, who in turn is supplying Melkonyan, is also under investigation. All patients are in satisfactory states, doctors say.

The likely cause of the mass poisoning in Armavir province is thought to be lunch-time snacks containing chicken, cheese and potatoes, which the victims have consumed in the cafeteria of the plant, a doctor of the Armavir medical center told Armenpress. Earlier, it was unclear whether the poisoning was food-related.
======================
[The specific food is not yet stated, but chicken is a common vehicle, either undercooked or cross-contaminated after cooking. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Armavir Province, Armenia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/46276>]
Date: Tue, 1 May 2018 11:13:05 +0200

Yerevan, May 1, 2018 (AFP) - Armenia's hugely popular protest leader Nikol Pashinyan warned lawmakers of the prospect of major unrest if they did not elect him prime minister during a parliamentary vote on Tuesday.   "There is information that (former presidents) Serzh Sarkisian and Robert Kocharyan -- the famous tandem -- are planning to take back power," Pashinyan said during a nail-biting session of parliament in the capital Yerevan.   "I want to warn them -- gentlemen, the mistaken interpretation of people's leniency as weakness can lead to a genuine political tsunami."

"I call on everyone to take to the streets because once again they want to steal the people's victory," he added.   Pashinyan, the leader of mass protests that forced former president turned prime minister Sarkisian from power in the impoverished South Caucasus nation, is the only candidate for the post of prime minister.   He however is a handful of votes short of a majority and lacks the crucial support of the ruling party to get elected.

Speaking to his supporters in the early hours of Tuesday, Pashinyan said that the ruling party planned to derail the vote and urged hundreds of thousands to take to the streets.   A source familiar with the negotiations told AFP on Tuesday that the situation was febrile, saying Pashinyan could still be elected prime minister if several lawmakers from the Republican Party defected and voted for him.

Pashinyan is six votes short of the 53 he needs from the 105-seat legislature, where the Republican Party has a majority.   Ex-Soviet Armenia has been in the grip of a severe political crisis for the past few weeks, with leader Sarkisian stepping down last week after a decade in power in the face of peaceful protests.
Date: Fri 23 Feb 2018 17:34
Source: News.am [edited]

A 2 month old boy died of pertussis in Armenia's Nork infectious clinical hospital. The child, just as 2 other children in the family, was not vaccinated because of parents' refusal, the Armenian health ministry said in a statement.

The illness started 2 months ago, but parents rejected hospitalization despite doctor's instructions. The laboratory tests revealed that twins -- boys 2 months old -- were infected by their 2 year old sister.

More cases of pertussis, commonly known as whooping cough, have been recorded in Armenia over the recent 2 months. There are already 12 laboratory confirmed cases this year [2018] compared with 3 in the same period last year [2017]. Eight of 12 affected children were not vaccinated or were partially vaccinated. The disease mainly affects children under one [year of age].

The Armenian health ministry recalled that vaccination is the only efficient and safe prevention for pertussis.
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[Nork Republican Infectious Clinical Hospital is one of more than 40 hospitals in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, with a population of about 1 million residents in 2017
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 07:52:47 +0100
By Amelie BARON

Port-au-Prince, Feb 21, 2019 (AFP) - With flaming barricades and widespread looting, 10 days of street violence in Haiti have all but buried a tourism industry that managed to resurrect itself after a devastating earthquake in 2010.   Ugly, violent footage beamed around the world has again sent the message that this impoverished Caribbean country is politically unstable and no place to go on vacation.

The final straw was the helicopter evacuation last week of 100-odd Canadian tourists trapped as angry protesters demanded the resignation of the president, whom they accuse of corruption.   "We have been through 12 days of hell. We managed the crisis but today we are suffering from the aftershocks," said Tourism Minister Marie-Christine Stephenson.

- Blacklist -
Beside the direct effects of the demonstrations, the United States delivered another crushing blow on February 14 when it urged its citizens not to travel to Haiti, which thus joined a no-go list with war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

The minister said the US travel alert for Haiti was too harsh, calling the riots something that flared up unexpectedly and are now over.   "OK, they lasted 12 days but I am not sure that other Caribbean countries, which have had riots of their own, have been punished as severely and quickly as we have," said Stephenson.   Overnight, the decision by the US State Department hit the tourism industry hard. Travel web sites simply stopped offering flights to Haiti's two international airports.   Hotels are reporting cancellation of reservations and many empty rooms.

Officials in the industry have yet to tally up the damage but say that for the second time in less than a year, they will have to lay off workers.   In July of last year, three days of riots over a government attempt to raise fuel prices ruined the summer vacation season for Haiti's tourism industry.   It is not just hotels that will suffer again, said Beatrice Nadal-Mevs, president of the Haitian Tourism Association.   "This is going to affect everyday people because these are direct jobs that are going to be lost and supply chains will be threatened: farming, fishing, crafts, transport," Nadal-Mevs said.

- Mardi Gras cancelled -
With the opposition planning more demonstrations to seek the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, the sector got yet more bad news with word that Carnival celebrations have been called off in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.   City Hall said it could not guarantee revelers' safety.   The festivities, which this year were planned for March 3-5, usually draw many Haitians living abroad and fleeing the winter cold in Canada and the eastern US.

Another major Carnival celebration is scheduled to take place in the city of Gonaives, but the government has not said if it will go ahead.   As grim as things are, some foreign tourists have gone ahead with visits to Haiti.   On Wednesday, a group of Australians under police escort visited a square featuring statues of heros of Haiti's independence from France. Days ago, demonstrators at the same plaza were throwing rocks at police, who responded with volleys of tear gas grenades.

A woman named Carole, who did not want to give her last name, said, "I trust the company we're traveling with. They not only want to take us but they want to bring us back."   Kevin McCue, another of the people in the group of 20, said he was glad that their tour operator had not opted for Plan B, which would have meant skipping Haiti and spending the whole week in the neighboring Dominican Republic.   "Tourism is alive and well here. People should come. The more they come, the better they spread some money among people who need it and the better for Haiti," said McCue.
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 07:20:54 +0100
By Shafiqul ALAM

Dhaka, Feb 21, 2019 (AFP) - At least 70 people were killed when fire tore through crumbling apartment blocks in a historic part of Dhaka, setting off a chain of explosions and a wall of flames down nearby streets, officials said Thursday.    It started in one building where chemicals for deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored and spread at lightning speed to four nearby buildings, the fire service said.    People became trapped by the flames at a nearby bridal party and a restaurant. TV images showed the gates to one building were chained up so residents were unable to escape.

Traffic jams in the clogged narrow streets held up the rescue operation.   Bangladesh fire chief Ali Ahmed said at least 70 people were killed but that the toll would likely rise.    "The number of bodies may increase. The search is still going on," he told AFP.   Doctors said at least 10 of the scores of injured were in critical condition.   Firefighters who took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control, went through the blackened floors of the building, littered with spray cans, looking for bodies.

The fire started at about 10.40pm (1640 GMT) on Wednesday at Chawkbazar in the old Mughal part of the capital.   Ahmed said it may have been started by a gas cylinder and quickly spread through the building where chemicals were stored in rooms alongside the apartments.   Chemicals used for household products were also stored in the nearby buildings. They exploded as the fire spread, witnesses said.     "There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It spread so quickly that people could not escape," the fire chief said.   Another fire official told reporters the blaze was under control but was not extinguished despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters.   "It will take time. This is not like any other fire," he said, adding that the inferno had been made more devastating by the "highly combustible" chemicals.   Fire trucks had struggled in the narrow streets to reach the scene and there was also a lack of water for the battle, officials said.   The main gate of one five storey building was chained up, trapping residents inside, according to images shown on Bangladesh television.

- 'Flames were everywhere' -
Members of a bridal party in a nearby community centre were also caught in the fire and many were injured. Others were caught in small restaurants.   Dhaka deputy police commissioner Ibrahim Khan said at least two cars and 10 cycle rickshaws were burned in the fire.   "The victims included passersby, some people who were eating food at a restaurants and some members of the bridal party," he told AFP.   "I saw the charred body of a woman who was holding her daughter in her lap as their rickshaw was caught in the fire," said one witness.

Haji Abdul Kader, whose shop was destroyed, said he only survived the blaze as as he had left to go to a pharmacy.   "When I was at the pharmacy, I heard a big bang. I turned back and saw the whole street, which was jam packed with cars and rickshaws, in flames. Flames were everywhere," he told AFP.   "I got burned and rushed to hospital," he said.

Doctors at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said at least 55 people were injured, including 10 in a critical condition.   Hundreds of people rushed to the hospital looking for missing relatives.  However, most of the bodies of the dead were charred beyond recognition.    Sohag Hossain, one of the injured, told the Daily Star that he and two friends were working at a plastic factory in one of the buildings at the time of the fire.    They heard an explosion and could not escape the flames.

A similar blaze in 2010 in an old Dhaka building, which was also used as a chemical warehouse, killed more than 120 people in one of the worst fire disasters in the city of 20 million people.      Dhaka authorities launched a crackdown on chemical warehouses in residential areas following the blaze, but efforts to rein in the practice have waned.   Many buildings in Bangladesh lack adequate fire safety measures and the enforcement of fire regulations in factories and apartment buildings is lax.  
Date: Wed 20 Feb 2019, 2:13 PM CET
Source: El Pais in English [edited]
<https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/02/20/inenglish/1550655774_604104.html>

An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of death of a 46-year-old woman, who became ill after eating at a one-star Michelin restaurant called RiFF in Valencia. A total of 23 other patrons, including the victim's husband and 12-year-old son, also fell sick after the meal but their symptoms were mild and they have reportedly all recovered. The case was confirmed by regional health chief Ana Barcela, who expressed her condolences to the family and said that an investigation was already underway. "We've conducted a primary inspection of the establishment and everything appears to be normal," she said. "Analytical tests will now be carried out on the food products."

Barcela explained that the regional public health department will be in charge of the investigation and for determining the causes behind the woman's death. According to sources from the regional health department, the food poisoning outbreak was reported on [Sun 17 Feb 2019], after the 3 family members fell ill. They began to show symptoms of food poisoning - vomiting and diarrhoea - on [Sat 16 Feb 2019]. According to Europa Press, the father and son recovered but the woman's symptoms were more severe, and she died in her home early on the following morning. The investigation into the death revealed that a total of 9 patrons had experienced illness, mainly vomiting, after eating at the same restaurant.

Subsequently, it emerged that a further 14 people had also suffered light symptoms. "17 people have been interviewed, of whom 14 stated that they had some kind of mild symptoms," explained regional health chief Ana Barceló today, [Wed 20 Feb 2019]. "The samples that have been collected over the last few days have been sent to the National Toxicology Institute to be analyzed." Public health officials inspected the restaurant on [Mon 18 Feb 2019], but did not find any problems that could have contributed to the food poisoning. Investigators also collected samples of ingredients and raw food products that were part of the menu, and are currently analyzing them.

Barcela added that at this point she could not confirm whether the sickness had been caused by morel mushrooms that were on the restaurant's menu. "We will have to wait for the autopsy to be carried out on the woman before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome, or if she had an existing condition," she explained on [Wed 20 Feb 2019].

Forensic teams are working to determine whether she could have been poisoned by something she ate, or whether she may have choked on her own vomit. In a statement, the owner of RiFF, Bernd H. Knaller, announced that the restaurant will remain closed until the cause of the food poisoning outbreak is determined and "activities can resume with full assurances for the staff and the patrons." The owner said he has been cooperating with the regional health department on the investigation and pointed out that the inspection "showed that the restaurant complies with all sanitary regulations." He added: "Regardless of what caused the situation, I want to convey my deep regret for what happened, and I hope all of the facts will be clarified shortly." [Byline: Cristina Vazquez]
Date: Mon 18 Feb 2019
Source: The News International [edited]

An elderly man died due to complications of the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), commonly known as Congo virus, at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) on early [Sun 17 Feb 2019] morning, becoming the 2nd victim of the deadly tick-borne disease in the city [Karachi] in 2019.

"MUY, an elderly person of 75 years of age, died due to CCHF complications at JPMC on early [Sun 17 Feb 2019] morning," said JPMC Executive Director Dr. Seemin Jamali while taking to The News. She added that the deceased had earlier been taken to a private hospital from where he was shifted to Jinnah hospital.

It is the 2nd death in the city caused by the CCHF within a week as earlier on [Tue 12 Feb 2019] morning, a 35-year old woman from Orangi Town had died of Congo virus at an isolated ward of the JPMC.

CCHF is a tick-borne viral disease, which is caused when a person comes in contact with an animal infected with the Congo virus due to the presence of the parasite on its skin. Mostly butchers, sheep and animal herders and those who are associated with cattle farming become victims of the CCHF, which has a 40 to 50% mortality rate.

Dr. Jamali said both the woman from Orangi Town and the latest CCHF victim, who lived in the Landhi area of the city, were brought to the JPMC from Liaquat National Hospital where they had tested positive for the lethal disease.

She said the 2nd victim had a history of dealing with cattle and was in a serious condition when brought to the JPMC. He was suffering from high grade fever as well as internal and external bleeding, low platelets count and other comorbidities.

"We had moved both the patients to an isolation ward where they were given antiviral drugs, mega units [blood/platelets?] and other symptomatic treatment, but they could not survive due to the complications of the lethal ailment. All precautionary measures had also been adopted to prevent other patients and the medical staff from contracting the viral infection," she said.

"There were many people who contracted this disease in Karachi during their interaction with cattle, but they survived due to their strong immunity and the medical care they received at hospitals, including the JPMC. People should take precautionary measures while dealing with cattle and livestock," Dr. Jamali said. She added that in case the symptoms of red spots on the body, high-grade fever and blood oozing from mouth and nose are found in any patient, they should be rushed to a major hospital.

According to Dr. Kamran Rizvi, district officer (preventive) of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, around 16 people died at various hospitals in Karachi last year [2018] due to CCHF, a majority of whom were residents of different areas of Balochistan, including Quetta, as people from the province are now regularly brought to Karachi for treatment.

He said a total of 41 Congo virus patients were brought to different hospitals in Karachi last year [2018], of whom 16, mostly males, could not survive while the others were successfully cured.
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[The CCHF virus is now endemic in both rural and urban parts of the country, and he best safeguard on the human side is to inform the public regarding the risks and provide education on the use of appropriate practices and protection measures.

Persons working in close contact with animals are at risk for CCHF due to presence of ticks that can transmit the virus through bites or crushing during removal through skin cuts, etc. The animals do not show clinical disease during viraemia and the virus can be transferred in butchering, handling of meat and hides, etc.  The veterinary aspect of the problem requires establishment of animal screening with measures for tick control. Collaborative work by health and veterinary sectors with support of entomologists for setting up CCHF surveillance can help plan prevention and control programs - ProMED Mod.UBA]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Tue 19 Feb 2019, 1:32 PM
Source: KCRG-TV9 [edited]

TV9 has learned the Johnson County Public Health Department and the Iowa Department of Public Health are investigating reports of food poisoning following an event in Swisher, Iowa.

The illnesses have been linked to the Swisher Men's Club's Game Feast Dinner this past weekend [16-17 Feb 2019]. The group's Facebook page says the fundraiser has been going on for 15 years and features dishes that include meat from animals that are often hunted. The health departments are looking for anyone who may have attended the meal to try to track down the source of the illnesses. It's asking attendees to email <diana.vonstein@idph.iowa.gov> with their contact information.

Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch tells TV9 part of their investigative efforts have included taking part in a conference call with officials from the Iowa Department of Public Health on [Tue 19 Feb 2019]. Koch says part of the investigation will also include testing samples of the food that was served along with conducting tests on any individuals who think they may have contracted an illness.

It is unclear how many people may be claiming to be sick however the club posted the following message to their Facebook page which reads in part: "The Swisher Men's Club is aware of a number of illnesses as a result of our Game Feast Dinner. We are actively working with the county and state health departments to determine the cause of these illnesses."

TV9 has reached out to the Swisher Men's Club for comment. President Mike Brown, Jr. referred back to the statement provided on Facebook. Brown declined TV9's offer for an on-camera interview, but did say they are relaying all necessary information to the Iowa Department of Public Health.  [Byline: Josh Scheinblum & Aaron Scheinblum]
Date: January 2019
Source: Nigeria CDC: Nigeria monkeypox monthly situation report

Nigeria monkeypox -- monthly situation report
---------------------------------------------
Key indicators / Numbers
New suspected cases reported / 6
New confirmed cases / 3
Total deaths / 0
Healthcare worker infection / 0

Epidemiological summary
- Nigeria continues to report sporadic cases of monkeypox after the index case reported in September 2017.
- In the reporting month (January 2019), 6 new suspected monkeypox cases were reported in 4 states (Bayelsa - 2; Rivers - 1; Bauchi - 1; Lagos - 1; Borno - 1; Delta - 1) out of which 3 confirmed cases were recorded in 2 states (Rivers - 1, Bayelsa - 2). - No death recorded.
- All reported cases (suspected and confirmed) are males.
- The confirmed cases are all between 32-39 years of age.
- The South-South region of the country has the highest burden of monkeypox.
- Since the beginning of the outbreak in September 2017, 311 suspected cases and 7 deaths have been reported in 26 states. Of this, 132 were confirmed in 17 states (Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Delta, Edo, FCT [Federal Capital Territory], Abia, Oyo, Enugu, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Anambra)
- Results of animal surveillance carried out in 2 states are awaited.

[Available at the source URL above]:
Figure 1 [graph]: weekly trend of Nigeria monkeypox cases as at 31 Jan 2019
Figure 2 [graph]: line graph of Nigeria monkeypox cases weeks 31-52, 2017; 1-52, 2018 and 1-2, 2019
Figure 2 [map]: map of Nigeria showing distribution of monkeypox cases by LGA [local government area], September 2017-January 2019
=======================
[The number of monkeypox cases in Nigeria continues to increase slowly but steadily, with 6 new suspected and 3 new confirmed cases in January 2019. Interestingly, all cases are male individuals. Monkeypox virus transmission continued over a broad geographic area in Nigeria last year (2018). The report above provides the most recent update of the monkeypox situation in Nigeria. This outbreak has been unusual. Rather than sporadic or rare cases, there have been over 100 cases scattered over a large geographic area since 2017 and again this year (2019). The reasons for this relatively sudden appearance are not clear. Perhaps there has been an epizootic of monkeypox virus infections among its rodent hosts, with spill-over to people. As mentioned earlier, prevention will require a proactive public education effort to convince local people to take measures to prevent contact with the infected rodents and their excreta to avoid transmission, a difficult task involving so many local people over such a large geographic area.

Interested readers can see the graphs of cases by week and a map showing the location of cases by state.

Non-human primates are not monkeypox virus reservoirs. The main reservoirs of monkeypox virus are suspected to be rodents, including rope squirrels (_Funisciurus_ spp, an arboreal rodent) and terrestrial rodents (genera _Cricetomys_ and _Graphiurus_). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Nigeria:
Date: Wed 20 Feb 2019
Source: Daily Times [edited]

The Sindh Health Department, on Tue 19 Feb 2019, admitted its failure to formulate an action plan to prevent the spread of the extensively drug-resistant (XDR) strain of typhoid fever in the province. The provincial minister for health, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, sighed that the health department still awaited vaccines for XDR typhoid from the federal government as the province battles the outbreak caused by a bacterial strain resistant to most known antimicrobials. She added that the strain had claimed 4 lives since its outbreak from Hyderabad [Sindh] in November 2016, which later spread to Karachi and other cities and towns of the province.

Dr Pechuho said that the Sindh Health Department had asked the local governments to improve the chlorination in water supplies, noting that the disease had spread due to the lack of sanitation and the presence of open garbage dumps in Karachi and other places. More than 5000 children have been affected by this typhoid strain, she continued. XDR typhoid is caused by antimicrobial resistant (AMR) strains of _Salmonella enterica_ serotype Typhi (or _S._ Typhi) and has been declared by WHO as a notable public health concern.

A report by the Provincial Disease Surveillance and Response Unit (PDSRU) reported 5274 cases of XDR typhoid out of 8188 typhoid fever cases in Sindh from 1 Nov 2016 through 9 Dec 2018. 69 percent of these cases was reported in Karachi, while 27 per cent in Hyderabad district, and 4 percent in other districts across the province.

The WHO recommended typhoid vaccination in response to confirmed outbreaks of typhoid fever. These vaccinations should be implemented in combination with other efforts to control the disease. At present, azithromycin remains the only affordable first-line oral therapeutic option to manage patients with XDR typhoid in low-resource settings.
====================
[The following is extracted from the CDC notice regarding this multiply-resistant typhoid strain in Pakistan

"The XDR strain of _Salmonella_ Typhi is resistant to most antibiotics (ampicillin, chloramphenicol, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, ciprofloxacin, and ceftriaxone) used to treat typhoid fever. Healthcare providers should:
- Obtain a complete travel history (asking about travel to South Asia, including Pakistan) from patients with suspected typhoid fever.
- Collect stool and blood cultures from patients with suspected typhoid fever and request antimicrobial susceptibility testing on isolates.
- Be aware that the Pakistan outbreak strain remains susceptible to azithromycin and carbapenems. Azithromycin is effective for uncomplicated (diarrhea or bacteremia without secondary complications) typhoid fever and should be used to treat patients with suspected uncomplicated typhoid fever who have traveled to Pakistan. When culture and sensitivity results are available, adjust treatment accordingly. Adult azithromycin dosage is usually 1000 mg orally once, then 500 mg orally daily OR 1000 mg orally once daily for at least 5-7 days. Pediatric azithromycin dose is 20 mg/kg orally, once then 10-20 mg/kg orally once per day (maximum 1000 mg per day) for at least 5-7 days.
- Carbapenems should be used for patients with suspected severe or complicated typhoid fever who have traveled to Pakistan. Severe or complicated typhoid fever would include, but not be limited to, patients with gastrointestinal complications (such as typhoid-related intestinal perforation, peritonitis, intestinal haemorrhage, hepatitis), neurologic complications (such as typhoid encephalopathy, including altered consciousness, delirium, confusion), or bacteraemia with sepsis or shock. When culture and sensitivity results are available, adjust treatment accordingly. Consider getting an infectious diseases consultation for these patients.
- Be aware that relapses can occur, often 1-3 weeks after clinical improvement.
- Be aware that most (90%) _S._ Typhi isolates from patients coming from South Asia have decreased susceptibility or resistance to fluoroquinolones, including ciprofloxacin; therefore, fluoroquinolones should not be used as empiric treatment for suspected typhoid fever in patients who have traveled to this area.
- Report all cases of confirmed typhoid fever to the appropriate local or state health departments." - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Pakistan:
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2019 21:26:43 +0100

Geneva, Feb 19, 2019 (AFP) - An avalanche left four skiers injured Tuesday at a resort in the Swiss Alps where rescue operations went on after dark with police fearing people could still be trapped under the snow.   The authorities held a press conference to announce the injuries, including one person seriously hurt, after local reports said up to a dozen people were engulfed by the avalanche.   Police officers said that based on witness reports other skiers could still be buried and the search would continue into the night.

Swiss RTS television said the army had set up lighting to aid the 240 rescue workers at the site.   The police had earlier tweeted that several people were under the avalanche that hit early afternoon on a slope 2,600 metres (8,600 feet) up at Crans-Montana, which was busy with skiers during school holidays.   A local newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, had quoted the head of Crans-Montana's municipal government, Nicolas Feraud, as estimating that "between 10 and 12 people" were buried under the snow.   "We are shocked and hope for good news about these people," Feraud was quoted as saying. 

A first attempt at locating victims using sniffer dogs was unsuccessful, a rescue worker told Le Nouvelliste, with four helicopters joining the search from the air.   Pierre Huguenin, of the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, described the snow in the area as damp and dense.   According to statistics from his institute, after 15 minutes under an avalanche, the chances of survival are no more than 50 percent.   Le Nouvelliste said the avalanche swept over 300 to 400 metres (yards) of the lower section of the Kandahar piste.   It quoted rescue workers as saying the snow was compacted and more than two metres (seven feet) thick.

Crans-Montana's website had listed the risk of an avalanche at two on a scale that runs from one (lowest risk) to five.    As the victims were on a designated ski slope, they were unlikely to have detector equipment to help rescue workers locate them.   The vast majority of deadly avalanches in the Alpine nation hit people skiing off-piste.    "We don't know yet whether the avalanche detached by itself or was set off by skiers, or a rockfall," Swiss avalanche expert Robert Bolognesi told the daily 20 Minutes.
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2019 16:17:29 +0100

Prague, Feb 20, 2019 (AFP) - Czech authorities said Wednesday they would slap checks on beef imported from Poland after veterinarians found the dangerous Salmonella bacteria in a 700-kilogramme batch of Polish beef.   "Tests have shown the presence of Salmonella enteritidis, which can cause serious diarrhoea and affect human health, in beef imported from Poland on February 13," Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman told reporters.

Czech veterinary authorities have warned the European Commission and Polish authorities through a rapid warning system, he said, adding that they are also checking whether any of the meat has been consumed.   "The State Veterinary Administration (SVS) will immediately adopt an extraordinary measure -- all beef imported from Poland must be tested in a lab before hitting the market," Toman added.

SVS head Zbynek Semerad said meat from the 700-kilo (1,500-pound) batch had been distributed to five "places" in the Czech Republic and one in Slovakia.   "I will inform my Slovak counterpart. As far as we know, not all of the meat has been distributed to the end customer," Semerad said.   The case comes on the heels of a scandal which saw Poland export a total of 2.7 tonnes of suspect beef to around a dozen fellow EU members, triggering an EU probe.

The scandal erupted in January when the TVN24 commercial news channel aired footage of apparently sick or lame cows being butchered at a small slaughterhouse in northeast Poland in secret late at night when veterinary authorities were unlikely to visit.   Poland is a leading producer and exporter of meat in Europe, turning out around 600,000 tonnes of beef per year and exporting most of it mainly to the EU, according to meat producer associations.
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2019 09:56:54 +0100

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 20, 2019 (AFP) - Six people, including three foreigners, were killed when a fire broke out Wednesday in a Malaysian karaoke centre, with rescuers describing scenes of chaos as the blaze engulfed the building.   The fire erupted before dawn on the fourth floor of an eight-storey building in the city of Ipoh, northern Perak state.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and found the bodies of six people who had died of smoke inhalation, Perak fire department acting director Sayani Saidon told AFP.   "We came across two locals, two Vietnamese women and a Bangladeshi man. We are still determining the identity of the sixth person," she said.

Firefighters rescued eight people alive, including two in critical condition, she added.     People inside were unable to find the way out after the fire erupted as exit lights did not come on, she said. Those that survived had run to an upper level to escape the flames.   "When the fire happened, all the electricity went out, and it was dark, so the exit signs weren't clear," she said.   The building was originally an office block, and had 30 karaoke rooms on the fourth and fifth floors.