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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

Date: Fri 7 Feb 2020
Source: Armenian Press [edited]

Influenza A virus subtype H1N1 (swine flu) cases have been recorded among students of the A Pushkin public school in Yerevan, principal Natalia Stepanyan told Armenpress. She said so far 10 parents have submitted sick leaves on their children having H1N1. The headmaster said 552 out of the total 1800 students did not show up to classes on 7 Feb [2020].

"We have 2 shifts: 1500 students study at 1st shift, and 452 of them are absent, while 100 are absent from the 300-student 2nd shift. We still don't know how many of those absent are sick with the flu since not all parents take their children to hospitals and not all bring sick leaves," Stepanyan said.

School doctors are carrying out regular monitoring among the children, and in the event of suspected cases, parents are asked to take their children to hospitals for check-ups.

Earlier on 6 Feb 2020, the healthcare ministry said cases of respiratory infections are increasing in the country. Out of 740 sample tests during the season, 18.5% were confirmed to be influenza A virus subtype H1N1, 5.5% were subtype B, and 24.7% were other viruses (rhinovirus, adenovirus, etc).  [byline: Stepan Kocharyan, editor and translator]
Date: Tue 20 Aug 2019, 4:29 PM
Source: Arka News Agency [edited]

Anthrax cases have been reported in Geghhovit community of Armenia's Gegharkunik province, the press office of Armenia's health ministry reported on [Tue 20 Aug 2019]. According to the ministry's press release, 2 residents of the community came to a medical centre in Martuni with sores on their fingers. The patients told doctors that they had taken part in butchering a cow of a fellow villager.

The health ministry has dispatched its experts to the community. As a result of joint efforts with local medical centres' workers, 6 other infected people have been found. All the patients are being treated now, and the community is under medical control now. The Armenian Food Safety Agency has been informed.
===================
[Gegharkunik province is on the eastern border of Armenia and pokes into Azerbaijan; see:
<http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/armenia_pol_2002.jpg>

Geghhovit is south of Sevana Lich (lake); see:

When the dust settled there were 2 initial cutaneous cases subsequent to them butchering a neighbour's cow, which would have been sick or dead. The first report suggests that they might have butchered a number of "cattle" carcasses, though the 2nd report has a single cow. And in due course another 6 villagers came down with cutaneous anthrax as they were sent to the local hospital merely for diagnostic confirmation.

Anthrax is sporadic in Armenia and thus the risks of butchering sick and dead animals are only realised after the onset of human anthrax lesions. And the number of human cases can exceed the indirectly reported livestock cases. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Fri 8 Mar 2019
Source: Nouvelles Armeni Magazine [in French, trans. ProMED Corr SB, abridged, edited]

A 2nd case of measles infection was reported in Armenia on Wednesday [6 Mar 2019], the country's Ministry of Health press office reported. A person infected with this disease arrived on 20 Feb [2019] in Armenia through the territory of Georgia. Clinical symptoms became visible on 25 and 26 Feb [2019], which was initially explained as drug intolerance, but later, on 6 Mar [2019], a laboratory test diagnosed measles disease.

According to the Ministry of Health, the 1st measles infection was reportedly found in Armenia by a Ukrainian citizen who arrived in Yerevan by plane from Kiev on 24 Feb [2019].

The 2 infected people had contact with many people, particularly those in the airport lobby and at the hospital.
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".
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Bangladesh

Bangladesh - US Consular Information Sheet
June 17, 2008

COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Bangladesh is a democratic republic with a parliamentary form of government.
On January 11, 2007, President Iajuddin Ahmed declared a state of emergenc
.
On May 12, 2008, the Chief Adviser announced that national parliamentary elections would be held in the third week of December, 2008.
Bangladesh remains a developing country with poor infrastructure.
Tourist facilities outside major cities and tourist areas are minimal.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Bangladesh for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport, visa and onward/return ticket are required.
All travelers to Bangladesh, including American citizens, must have a valid visa in their valid passport prior to arrival.
Although airport visas (landing permits) are available upon arrival by air, the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka does not recommend this option for most categories of travelers as working hours may not coincide with flight arrival times and precise formalities can vary.
Additionally, if issued, landing permit validity is usually limited to a maximum of fifteen days.
A valid visa in an expired or cancelled U.S. passport is not acceptable to the Bangladeshi authorities; if you are issued a new U.S. passport, you will need a new visa.

If you intend to use Dhaka as a hub from which to visit other countries in the region, ensure that you obtain a multiple-entry visa before arrival.
If you intend to work for a non-governmental organization (NGO) in Bangladesh, you should ensure that your sponsor has provided you with up-to-date advice on the kind of visa you must obtain before arrival.
It is difficult and time-consuming to change your immigration status once you have arrived in Bangladesh.

Visas to Bangladesh which are expiring may be extended at the Directorate of Immigration and Passport, located at Sher-e-Bangla Nagar, Agargaon, Dhaka.
The phone numbers are (880-2) 913-1891 and 913-4011.

New visa rules, introduced in October 2006, require foreign nationals who come to Bangladesh to work or for long-term visits to have the appropriate work permits and clearances on arrival.
There are increased financial penalties for overstaying visas.
Additionally, those who overstay for more than 90 days face the possibility of being charged with violating the Foreigners Act of 1946.
For further information on these rules, please check with the nearest Bangladeshi Embassy or Consulate (U.S. addresses listed below) before traveling, or visit the Bangadeshi Immigration Police web site at www.immi.gov.bd, which provides further details on rules relating to foreigner registrations.

There are two exit requirements:
A.
When traveling by air, there is a departure tax on all foreigners except children under the age of two.
This tax is often included when air tickets are purchased.
Otherwise, it is collected at the airport at the time of departure.
The amount of the departure tax varies, depending on the destination (e.g., the departure tax for the U.S. is the most expensive, at USD $43).
There is no travel tax for transit passengers transiting Bangladesh without a visa and in country for 72 hours or fewer.
These requirements may be subject to change, and travelers are advised to check with the Embassy of Bangladesh before traveling.

B.
Departing foreign nationals are also required to comply with the income tax ordinance of 1984 and submit an income tax clearance certificate/income tax exemption certificate to local airline offices upon departure from Bangladesh.
More information can be obtained from the Bangladesh Board of Revenue web site at http://www.nbr-bd.org/.

For further information on entry requirements and possible exceptions to the exit requirements, please contact the Embassy of the People's Republic of Bangladesh, 3510 International Drive NW, Washington, DC
20008, telephone 202-244-0183, fax 202-244-5366, web site http://www.bangladoot.org, or the Bangladeshi Consulates in New York at 211 E. 43rd Street, Suite 502, New York, NY 10017, telephone 212-599-6767 or Los Angeles at 10850 Wilshire Boulevard, Suite 1250, Los Angeles, CA 90024, telephone 310-441-9399. Visit the Embassy of Bangladesh web site at http://www.bangladoot.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:
Bangladesh is currently under a state of emergency.
As of May, 2008, national parliamentary elections have been scheduled for the third week of December, 2008.
The security situation in Bangladesh is fluid, and Americans are urged to check with the U.S. Embassy for the latest information.
Spontaneous demonstrations take place in Bangladesh from time to time.
American citizens are reminded that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence quickly and unexpectedly.
American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.
American citizens should stay up-to-date with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times.
Information regarding demonstrations in Bangladesh can be found on the U.S. Embassy Dhaka’s web site at http://dhaka.usembassy.gov/.

A terrorist bombing campaign in the second half of 2005, political violence throughout the country at the end of 2006, and threats to U.S. and Western interests led to increased security around U.S. Government facilities.
On August 17, 2005, a banned Islamist terrorist group, Jamaatul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB), claimed responsibility for nearly 500 coordinated small bomb blasts in virtually every part of Bangladesh that killed two persons and injured several dozen.
The most recent JMB bombing occurred on December 8, 2005, and the Bangladeshi government subsequently apprehended the known senior leadership of JMB.
Six JMB leaders convicted of complicity in JMB attacks were executed on March 29, 2007.
JMB and other extremist groups are small in number but remain active and may resume violent activities.

Demonstrations, political activity, and hartals (nationwide strikes) were initially banned during the state of emergency, but the rules restricting political activity have been slightly relaxed as part of the process leading up to the planned elections in the third week of December 2008.
Prior to the state of emergency, rallies, marches, demonstrations and hartals took place frequently.
In August 2007, violent protests involving thousands of demonstrators occurred in several cities in Bangladesh, including Dhaka.
Authorities imposed a curfew to restore calm.
Protests involving workers from the large garment-manufacturing industry are not uncommon.
Visitors to Bangladesh should check with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka for updated information on the current political situation.

U.S. citizens are advised against traveling to the Khagrachari, Rangamati and Bandarban Hill Tracts districts (collectively known as the Chittagong Hill Tracts) due to kidnappings and other security incidents, including those involving foreign nationals.
Foreigners traveling in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are required to register with local authorities.
Additionally, the U.S. Embassy has in the past received reports of incidents of kidnapping, arms and narcotics smuggling and clashes between local Bangladeshis and Rohingyan refugees in areas near Rohingyan refugee camps in the Teknaf, Kutupalong, Ukhia, and Ramu areas of the Cox’s Bazar district.
The U.S. Embassy also recommends against travel to these areas.
Individuals who choose to visit these districts are urged to exercise extreme 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, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Americans traveling to or living in Bangladesh who are registered at the U.S. Embassy will receive updated security information about Bangladesh via e-mail.
All Demonstration Notices and Warden Messages are posted on the Embassy’s web site at http://dhaka.usembassy.gov/.
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:
Urban crime can be organized or opportunistic, conducted by individuals or groups, and commonly encompasses fraud, theft (larceny, pick-pocketing, snatch-and-grab), robbery (armed and unarmed), carjacking, rape, assault, and burglary (home and auto).
Incidents of crime and levels of violence are higher in low-income residential and congested commercial areas, but are on the rise in wealthier areas as well.
Visitors should avoid walking alone after dark, carrying large sums of money, or wearing expensive jewelry.
Valuables should be stored in hotel safety deposit boxes and should not be left unattended in hotel rooms.
Police are generally responsive to reports of crimes against Americans.
Crimes, however, often go unsolved.

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 in Bangladesh is 999.
This connects you to the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange.
There is no guarantee that English will be spoken or understood at the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange.
The Police Exchange can only transfer calls to the appropriate police station within the Dhaka metropolitan area, and then the caller will have to speak with that police station in order to actually have any police services performed.
There is similarly no guarantee that English will be spoken or understood at the local police station.

Outside of Dhaka, the caller will need to add the city code for Dhaka, so dial 02-999.
The caller will again be connected to the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange, which should be able to provide the number of the appropriate police station within Bangladesh, but the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange is unlikely to be able to transfer the call to a police station outside Dhaka.
The caller would have to hang up and dial the number provided by the Dhaka Metro Police Exchange.
The ability to speak and/or understand English is even more unlikely at local police stations outside of Dhaka.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Bangladesh do not approach U.S. standards, even in tourist areas.
There is limited ambulance service in Bangladesh.
Several hospitals in Dhaka (e.g., Apollo Hospital and Square Hospital) have emergency rooms that are equipped at the level of a community hospital.
Hospitals in the provinces are less well equipped and supplied.
There have been reports of counterfeit medications within the country, but medication from major pharmacies and hospitals is generally reliable.
Medical evacuations to Bangkok or Singapore are often necessary for serious conditions or invasive procedures.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

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 Bangladesh is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Conditions differ around the country.

The Bangladeshi road network is in poor condition and poorly maintained.
The streets of Dhaka are extremely congested; bicycle rickshaws compete with three-wheeled mini-taxis (CNGs), cars, overloaded buses, and trucks on limited road space.
Also, driving on the left-hand side of the road may be confusing to American visitors.
Inter-city roads are narrow.
Driving at night is especially dangerous.
Streetlights are rare even in cities.
Road accidents are common in Bangladesh.
Fatal head-on collisions on inter-city roads are common.
When vehicle accidents occur, a crowd quickly gathers and violence can occur when the crowd becomes unruly.
Travelers are strongly urged not to use public transportation, including buses, rickshaws, and three-wheeled baby taxis due to their high accident rate and crime issues.
An alternative to consider is a rental car and driver.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of Bangladesh’s National Tourism Organization at http://www.parjatan.org, e-mail bpcho@bangla.net.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Bangladesh is a country crisscrossed with rivers, and thus uses a wide network of water-based public transportation.
Ferries and other boats compete with the railroads as a major means of public transport.
Typically overloaded and top-heavy, ferries do capsize, particularly during the monsoon season from May to October or during unexpected thunderstorms or windstorms.
Every year there are dozens of fatalities resulting from ferry accidents.

Bangladeshi customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Bangladesh of items such as currency, household appliances, alcohol, cigarettes and weapons.
There is no restriction as to the amount of U.S. currency visitors may bring into Bangladesh; however, they must declare to customs authorities if they are carrying more than USD $5,000 at the time of arrival.
It is advisable to contact the Bangladeshi Embassy or Consulates for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Please see our Customs Information.

Land disputes are extremely common in Bangladesh and are extremely difficult to resolve through legal channels.
Court cases can last for months, and sometimes years, without there ever being a final and accurate determination of which party has legitimate claim to the title.

The U.S. Embassy currently has on file nearly twenty cases of American citizens who claim to be victimized in land-grabbing disputes.
Rarely are these simple cases of a legitimate property owner and an opportunistic land-grabber.
More often, it is a case of disagreement between an owner who believes he has historical ownership of the property and a new owner who has just purchased the same property.
One of them has been swindled, both of them have deeds, and it is next to impossible to determine whose deed is valid.

The dangers in becoming involved in a property dispute range from being threatened by bullies to being involved in a lengthy court dispute.
Those involved in a court dispute run the risk of having cases filed against them, and may be arrested and jailed, sometimes for months.

American Citizens wishing to purchase property in Bangladesh should be thoroughly aware of the risks they take and should only purchase property from a seller whose ownership is beyond doubt.
Additionally, they should recognize the risks associated if they are not physically present to oversee their property.
American Citizens should bear in mind that the U.S. Embassy cannot protect personal property in the absence of owners and cannot take sides in a legal dispute.

A marriage must be entered into with the full and free consent of both individuals.
The parties involved should feel that they have a choice.
If an American citizen is being forced into a marriage against his/her will, help and advice are available.
For more information, please and the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka information on forced marriage at http://dhaka.usembassy.gov/forced_marriage_home.html, or contact the American Citizens Services unit directly at DhakaACS@state.gov, or 011-88-02-885-5500 from the United States, 02-885-5500 from inside Bangladesh, or 885-5500 from anywhere in the city of Dhaka.
All travelers to Bangladesh should retain their passports and their return plane tickets to ensure independence to travel.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Bangladesh’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Bangladesh’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.

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 Bangladeshi laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Bangladesh 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, international parental child abduction and the U.S. Embassy in Dhaka information on forced marriage at http://dhaka.usembassy.gov/forced_marriage_home.html.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Bangladesh are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Bangladesh.
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 approximately four miles south of Zia International Airport, and five miles north of downtown in the Diplomatic Enclave, Madani Avenue, Baridhara, Dhaka, telephone (88-02) 885-5500, fax number (88-02) 882-3744.
The workweek is Sunday through Thursday.
The Consular Section is open for American Citizens Services Sunday through Thursday from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m.
For emergency services and general information during business hours, please call (88-02) 882-3805.
For emergency services after hours, please call (88-02) 885-5500 and ask for the duty officer.
The Embassy's Internet home page is http://dhaka.usembassy.gov/
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Bangladesh dated November 23, 2007 to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances, and Children’s Issues.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 11:20:59 +0100 (MET)

Dhaka, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Bangladesh on Wednesday kicked off a drive to vaccinate more than a million people against cholera, which infects tens of thousands a year, as part of an international campaign to eliminate transmission by 2030.   The delta nation has sought to reduce the impact of the disease -- which causes acute diarrhoea and spreads through contaminated food and water -- through vaccines and by setting up a dedicated treatment hospital.   "We have brought down the mortality rate in cholera to almost zero in Bangladesh," said senior scientist Firdausi Qadri at the Dhaka-based International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research.   But she admitted that the number of infections was still very high.   According to the World Health Organisation, cholera infects about 1.3 to five million people every year, and kills an estimated 21,000 to 143,000.

Bangladesh has an estimated 100,000 cases a year, according to authorities, but plans to immunise half its 168 million people in the next decade.   Daisy Akter, who lost two sisters and a brother to cholera in the 1970s, was one of the first recipients of the oral vaccine at a Dhaka neighbourhood on Wednesday.   "No villager came to offer funeral prayers for them fearing they might get the disease," she told AFP.   "We had to bury them in the front yard of our home."   UN agencies and Bangladesh authorities have already carried out a massive cholera vaccination drive in the country's southeast, where nearly one million Rohingya refugees have lived in overcrowded camps since 2017.   Some 800,000 Rohingya and 600,000 locals were vaccinated in that campaign.
Date: Thu 30 Jan 2020
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

In a follow-up on recent stories on Nipah virus infections in Bangladesh, the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research (IEDCR) has reported on their website, 6 Nipah virus infections, including 4 deaths in 2020.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the Bangladesh and India outbreaks, consumption of fruits or fruit products (such as raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was the most likely source of infection. Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae -- particularly species belonging to the _Pteropus_ genus -- are the natural hosts for Nipah virus. There is no apparent disease in fruit bats.

In more recent outbreaks of the disease, person-to-person transmission has been seen in Bangladesh and India. The disease in humans can range from asymptomatic infection to fatal encephalitis. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours. The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%; however, this rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for surveillance investigations, according to WHO.

Most of those who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but around 20% are left with residual neurological consequences such as persistent convulsions and personality changes.

Table. Yearly distribution of Nipah cases in Bangladesh 2001-2020
Year / No. cases / No. deaths / Case fatality %
2001 / 13 / 9 / 69
2002 / 0 / 8 / 0
2003 / 12 / 0 / 0
2004 / 67 / 50 / 75
2005 / 13 / 11 / 85
2006 / 0 / 0 / 0
2007 / 18 / 9 / 50
2008 / 11 / 9 / 82
2009 / 4 / 0 / 0
2010 / 18 / 16 / 69
2011 / 42 / 36 / 86
2012 / 18 / 13 / 72
2013 / 26 / 22 / 85
2014 / 38 / 15 / 39
2015 / 18 / 11 / 61
2016 / 0 / 0 / 0
2017 / 3 / 2 / 67
2018 / 4 / 3 / 75
2019 / 8 / 7 / 88
2020 / 6 / 4 / 67
Totals / 319 / 225 / 71
=======================
[The total number of cases so far this year (2020) has reached 6. This is still early in the Nipah season, so more cases can be expected. Nipah virus infections occur sporadically in Bangladesh as documented in the 2001-2020 case numbers in the above table. Cases occur in a geographic area termed the Nipah belt and during certain seasons of the year when the reservoir fruit bat is abundant. As noted in the previous comment (ProMED-mail archive no. http://promedmail.org/post/20150204.3143251) and noted in the above report, giant fruit bats or flying foxes (_Pteropus_ of several species) are reservoirs of Nipah virus, and they contaminate date palm sap or fruit. This is the season for cases of Nipah virus infection to occur. The transmission season is usually January to April.

As noted earlier, it is unfortunate that the public awareness efforts have not prevented these cases from occurring. Perhaps because cases are sporadic and geographically scattered there is little public perception of risk of infection and serious disease. Until effective public education to prevent infection by avoiding eating contaminated fruit or date palm sap is implemented, sporadic cases will continue to occur.

Interestingly, a simple skirt constructed out of locally available materials can prevent access of the bats to the palm sap collecting pots, but apparently they are not commonly used. Boiling the palm sap would inactivate the virus, but local consumers indicated that it alters the flavor of the sap.

An image of a pteropus fruit bat can be found at

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Fri 17 Jan 2020
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

Media sources in Bangladesh are reporting a Nipah virus infection in the city of Khulna. The reported case is a 20-year-old female who has been hospitalized since last Saturday [11 Jan 2020] at the Khulna Medical College Hospital (KMCH).

"A medical board has confirmed her infection by Nipah virus. As her infection is a risk to other patients, she is being treated separately at the hospital's Medicine unit 1," said SM Kamal Hossain, chief of KMCH Medicine Department.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the Bangladesh and India outbreaks, consumption of fruits or fruit products (e.g. raw date palm juice) contaminated with urine or saliva from infected fruit bats was the most likely source of infection. Fruit bats of the family Pteropodidae -- particularly species belonging to the _Pteropus_ genus -- are the natural hosts for Nipah virus. There is no apparent disease in fruit bats.

In more recent outbreaks of the disease, person-to-person transmission has been seen in Bangladesh and India.

The disease in humans can range from asymptomatic infection to fatal encephalitis. Encephalitis and seizures occur in severe cases, progressing to coma within 24 to 48 hours.

The case fatality rate is estimated at 40% to 75%; however, this rate can vary by outbreak depending on local capabilities for surveillance investigations, according to the WHO.

Those who survive acute encephalitis make a full recovery, but around 20% are left with residual neurological consequences, such as persistent convulsions and personality changes.

There is no treatment or vaccine available for either people or animals.
======================
[Nipah virus infections occur sporadically in Bangladesh in a geographic area termed the Nipah belt and during certain seasons of the year when the reservoir fruit bat is abundant. As noted in the previous comment (ProMED-mail archive no. http://promedmail.org/post/20150204.3143251), giant fruit bats or flying foxes (_Pteropus_ of several species) are reservoirs of Nipah virus, and they contaminate date palm sap or fruit. This is the season for cases of Nipah virus infection to occur. The transmission season is usually January to April.

As noted earlier, it is unfortunate that the public awareness efforts have not prevented these cases from occurring. Perhaps because cases are sporadic and geographically scattered there is little public perception of risk of infection and serious disease. Until effective public education to prevent infection by avoiding eating contaminated fruit or date palm sap is implemented, sporadic cases will continue to occur.

Interestingly, a simple skirt constructed out of locally available materials can prevent access of the bats to the palm sap collecting pots, but apparently they are not commonly used. Boiling the palm sap would inactivate the virus, but local consumers indicated that it alters the flavour of the sap.

An image of a _Pteropus_ fruit bat can be found at

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Khulna, Khulna, Bangladesh: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/14886>]
Date: Sat 4 Jan 2020
Source: bdnews24 [edited]

The death of Fazilatun Nasa Bappy has triggered fresh fears over swine flu [influenza A/H1N1] in Bangladesh, but experts have urged the people to follow health safety rules instead of panicking.  Bappy, a former Awami League MP [Member of Parliament] from the seats reserved for women, died at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University [BSMMU] on [Thu 2 Jan 2020], 4 days after the doctors put her on life support. The 49-year-old was admitted to the hospital on [28 Dec 2019] with a combination of pneumonia and other respiratory diseases.

Tests found she was H1N1 positive, according to Professor AKM Akhtaruzzaman, the chairman of the BSMMU's Intensive Care Unit. "She contracted swine flu virus," the doctor told bdnews24.com on [Fri 3 Jan 2020].

The hospital authorities have urged all not to panic, saying that there are vaccines for the disease. Prof. ABM Abdullah, a former dean of the BSMMU's medicine department, told bdnews24.com patients suffering from the disease recover "most of the times."

Patients with problems in the respiratory system or lungs, those who have diabetes, pregnant women, children aged between 6 months and 5 years, and people older than 65 years are more vulnerable to swine flu, he said. "There is nothing to panic over swine flu. But there is also no room to take it lightly," he added.

The H1N1 influenza virus was 1st reported in April 2009 in Mexico before spreading across the globe. The World Health Organization [WHO] declared a global H1N1 flu pandemic on [11 Jun 2009].

Bangladesh's 1st case was detected on [18 Jun 2009] amid a global outbreak, which created panic. When the virus was detected in Bangladesh again in 2013, doctors said swine flu became a "seasonal influenza" (H1N1) in Bangladesh like the other 2 viruses -- influenza B and [influenza A/H3N2].

A combined vaccine against these 3 viruses is available, meaning a single shot can help high-risk groups like pregnant women, [people with] uncontrolled [diabetes], and cancer patients. Fever, runny nose, sore throat, and cough followed by breathing difficulty are some of the symptoms of swine flu.

Maintaining personal hygiene, especially washing hands and the crook of one's elbow with soap, [is] advised to prevent any flu.

Respiratory transmission occurs mainly by droplets disseminated by unprotected coughs and sneezes, according to the WHO. Short-distance airborne transmission of influenza viruses may occur, particularly in crowded enclosed spaces.

Hand contamination and direct inoculation of virus is another possible source of transmission, which is why experts advise caution while taking care of swine flu patients.

Meerjady Sabrina Flora, a director at the government's disease control agency IEDCR [Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research], said swine flu affects people regularly in Bangladesh now as it transmits from person to person, a way in which Bappy "might have contracted the virus."

She also said those returning from Europe or China or Korea should consult doctors if any symptom of swine flu is found in them, as it is the swine flu season there. "We can do the tests as well and give advice for free. Tests and treatment are also available outside," she added.  [Byline: Obaidur Masum]
9 December 2019
https://www.who.int/bangladesh/news/detail/09-12-2019-cholera-vaccination-campaign-launched-to-protect-635-000-people-in-cox-s-bazar

Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh

Over 635,000 Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host community will be vaccinated against cholera in a 3-week-long campaign beginning today at the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and nearby areas, to protect vulnerable population against the deadly disease amidst increasing number of cases of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD).


The Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaign will be implemented in the refugee camps from 8-14 December to reach 139,888 Rohingya aged 1 year and less than 5 years. In the host community, the campaign will take place from 8-31 December and aims to reach any person older than 1 year (495,197). In total, 635,085 people are expected to be reached.

Led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with support of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other partners, the campaign aims to reach people who missed some or all previous cholera vaccination opportunities. The campaign, including operational costs, is funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.

“We want to equip these populations with more protection against diarrheal diseases. Despite the progresses made to ensure access to quality water and sanitation, such diseases remain an issue of concern: approximately 80% of host community living near the camps have not been targeted in previous OCV campaigns and are still vulnerable”, says Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative in Bangladesh.

Earlier rounds of cholera vaccination, which have taken place since the beginning of the emergency response in 2017, have helped prevent outbreaks of the disease. To this date, over 1 million people were vaccinated against cholera.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 16:20:39 +0100 (MET)

Damascus, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - A bomb explosion wounded two people in Damascus Thursday, the state news agency reported, the latest of several such attacks in the Syrian capital.   "An explosive device planted on a pickup truck went off in the Marjeh area" in central Damascus, SANA said, adding that two civilians were wounded by the blast.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor said the device was a "sticky bomb" planted on a military vehicle, although it was not immediately clear what the target was.   There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast, nor for a similar explosion that wounded five people in another neighbourhood of Damascus on Tuesday. The Syrian capital was routinely targeted by major car bomb attacks in the course of the nine-year-old conflict but blasts have been less frequent since regime forces reclaimed full control of the Damascus region in 2018.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 15:40:35 +0100 (MET)
By Laurent Thomet, with Miwa Suzuki in Tokyo

Beijing, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - China on Thursday touted a big drop in new virus infections as proof its epidemic control efforts are working, but the toll grew abroad with deaths in Japan and South Korea.   Fatalities in China hit 2,118 as 114 more people died, but health officials reported the lowest number of new cases in nearly a month, including in hardest-hit Hubei province.

More than 74,000 people have been infected by the new coronavirus in China, and hundreds more in over 25 countries.   The number of deaths outside mainland China climbed to 11.   Japan's toll rose to three as a man and a woman in their 80s who had been aboard a quarantined cruise ship died, while fears there mounted about other passengers who disembarked the Diamond Princess after testing negative.

South Korea reported its first death, and the number of infections in the country nearly doubled Thursday to 104 -- including 15 at a hospital in Cheongdo county.   The mayor of Daegu -- South Korea's fourth-largest, with 2.5 million people -- advised residents to stay indoors, while commanders at a major US military base in the area restricted access.   Iran reported two deaths on Wednesday, the first in the Middle East. Deaths have previously been confirmed in France, the Philippines, Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Chinese officials say their drastic containment efforts, including quarantining tens of millions of people in Hubei and restricting movements in cities nationwide, have started to pay off.   "Results show that our control efforts are working," Foreign Minister Wang Yi said at a special meeting on the virus with Southeast Asian counterparts in Laos, citing the latest data.   Wang said the situation was "significantly improving" in Hubei and Wuhan, but an official in a central government team dealing with the epidemic said it was still "very severe".

- 'Not turning point' -
Although more than 600 new infections were reported in Hubei's capital Wuhan, it was the lowest daily tally since late January and well down from the 1,749 new cases the day before.   The national figure has now fallen for three straight days.   Chinese authorities placed the city of 11 million under quarantine on January 23 and quickly locked down the rest of the province in the days that followed.

Wuhan authorities this week carried out a three-day, door-to-door check on residents, with the local Communist Party chief warning that officials would be "held accountable" if any infections were missed.   Cities far from the epicentre have limited the number of people who can leave their homes for groceries, while rural villages have sealed off access to outsiders.   Richard Brennan, a World Health Organization official, said in Cairo that China was making "tremendous progress" and "trends are very encouraging, but we are not at a turning point yet".

- 'Chaotic' cruise quarantine -
While China has boasted progress in its fight against the COVID-19 epidemic, Japan's government has been criticised for the quarantine measures it placed on the Diamond Princess.   The huge vessel moored in Yokohama is easily the biggest coronavirus cluster outside the Chinese epicentre, with 634 cases confirmed among passengers and crew.   Another 13 people on board the ship were diagnosed with the virus Thursday, Japan's health ministry said.   Still, passengers were disembarking after negative tests and having completed a 14-day quarantine period -- packing into yellow buses and leaving for stations and airports.

Questions were asked over the wisdom of allowing them to mingle in Japan's crowded cities.   "Is it really safe to get off?" screamed a headline in the Nikkan Sports tabloid.   The paper quoted one passenger who said he was tested on February 15, but only left four days later.   "I thought I could be infected during the four days. I thought 'Is it really OK'?"

A specialist in infectious diseases at Kobe University slammed as "completely chaotic" the quarantine procedures on board in rare criticism from a Japanese academic.   "The cruise ship was completely inadequate in terms of infection control," said Kentaro Iwata in videos he has since deleted.

South Korea, meanwhile, announced 51 new cases, with more than 40 in a cluster centred on the Shincheonji Church of Jesus, an entity often accused of being a cult.  The infections apparently came from a 61-year-old woman who first developed a fever on February 10 and attended at least four services before being diagnosed.   Local media said she had twice refused to be tested for the coronavirus on the grounds she had not recently travelled abroad.   Authorities were investigating whether she might have visited the hospital where a long-term patient contracted the virus and later died.

Some 15 other patients have now been found to have the virus.   Shincheonji claims its founder, Lee Man-hee, has donned the mantle of Jesus Christ and will take 144,000 people with him to heaven on the day of judgement.   A man in his 60s tested positive for the coronavirus after dying Wednesday following symptoms of pneumonia, South Korean authorities said.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 10:28:16 +0100 (MET)

Lagos, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - An outbreak of Lassa in Nigeria has killed 103 people this year, health authorities said, as the first confirmed case was reported in the economic hub Lagos.    "Cumulatively from week 1 to week 07, 2020, 103 deaths have been reported with a case fatality rate of 17.6%," said the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) in its latest statistics on the virus released on Wednesday.    The overall number of confirmed cases rose by 115 last week to a total of 586 across the country.

Separately, health authorities in Lagos, Nigeria's most populous city with 20 million inhabitants, said an infected person was diagnosed there on February 17 and being treated in isolation in hospital.    "Sixty-three people that may have been in contact with the patient and who may have been infected in the process have been identified and are being monitored," the state government wrote on Twitter on Thursday.

Endemic to Nigeria, Lassa fever belongs to the same family as the Ebola and Marburg viruses, but is much less deadly.   The disease is spread by contact with rat faeces or urine or the bodily fluids of an infected person.    The majority of those infected do not show symptoms but the disease can go on to cause severe bleeding and organ failure in about 20 percent of cases.

An outbreak of Lassa fever killed some 170 people around Nigeria last year.     The number of cases usually climbs around the start of the year linked to the dry season.   While the overall number of confirmed cases and deaths is up this year on the same period in 2019, the mortality rate is lower.    Twenty health workers across the country have been confirmed as contracting the disease so far in 2020.    The virus takes its name from the town of Lassa in northern Nigeria, where it was first identified in 1969.
Date: Thu, 20 Feb 2020 09:58:17 +0100 (MET)
By Nicolas DELAUNAY

Les Mamelles, Seychelles, Feb 20, 2020 (AFP) - On a plain suburban street in Seychelles, far from the idyllic coastline and luxury resorts pampering honeymooners and paradise-seekers, heroin addicts queue anxiously for their daily dose of methadone.   It is a scene few outsiders would associate with the tropical nirvana adrift in the Indian Ocean, and one rarely, if ever, glimpsed by tourists as they shuttle from the airport to five-star luxury on white-sand beaches.

But life for many Seychellois is far from picture perfect: the tiny archipelago nation is battling what officials say are the world's highest rates of heroin addiction.   Nearly 5,000 people are hooked, government figures show, equivalent to nearly 0 percent of the national workforce -- a statistic that has startled the government into action.

In comparison, 0.4 percent of the global population consumed opioids in 2016, half of them in Asia, according to a United Nations report that puts Seychelles among the top consumers alongside producing countries such as Afghanistan.   The Seychelles' heroin boom, which took off over the past decade, gripped young and old alike and cut across class lines.   Among those queueing in the town of Les Mamelles for methadone -- a substitute narcotic used to wean users off heroin -- are parents with young children, an old man leaning on a cane and a taxi driver between shifts.

Graham Moustache, a 29-year-old father of two, described how the arrival of affordable and high-quality heroin in Seychelles swept up his entire family.   "I have four brothers and two sisters, and we have all been heroin addicts at one point," he told AFP, tracing his fingers over the needle scars on his arms.   "I've been to prison twice," he said, adding his mother had turned him in as "she didn't know what to do any more".   "Sometimes, I didn't have enough to eat and I had to choose between eating and buying heroin. I chose heroin."

- Soaring addiction -
The rise of new trafficking routes through East Africa in the late 2000s, coupled with porous borders and relatively high purchasing power among Seychellois, flooded the paradisal islands with heroin.   The average salary in the archipelago is $420 (390) -- high compared to other African nations.   The World Bank considers the Seychelles the only high-income country on the continent, thanks to the growing tourism industry.    But around 40 percent of the population still lives in poverty.

By 2011, around 1,200 people were addicted, prompting a punitive crackdown.   "We did not make a difference between the victim and the trafficker," said Patrick Herminie, director of the state-run Agency for Drug Abuse Prevention and Rehabilitation (APDAR).   By 2017, addiction had risen four-fold, placing Seychelles among the world's most drug-dependent nations.   The government, realising its war on drugs had failed, changed tack and declared a public health emergency.   "The magnitude of the problem is simply because we reacted a bit late," Herminie said.

Money has poured into combating the scourge, with state funds for drug prevention and rehabilitation programmes soaring to 75 million Seychelles rupees ($5.5 million) in 2020 -- almost 10 times the 2016 budget.    APDAR, a specialist drug agency created in 2017 to tackle the problem, employs four times as many staff as the body that preceded it.   A state-run methadone programme has reached 2,500 people, with medical follow-ups helping to track their progress.    But the free availability of methadone has also prompted drug dealers to lower their prices.

Mobile clinics drive around offering methadone to addicts and providing free health checks and advice.    "I've been clean for more than a year. I found a job as a fisherman, and I can see my two kids," said Moustache proudly, as he queued at the white methadone van staffed with healthcare workers.   Others have struggled to stay the course.   "Methadone helps me a lot, but it's difficult not to take heroin at all," said Gisele Moumou, an emaciated 32-year-old addict, drawing ragged breaths and sweating as she waits for her small cup of methadone.

- Stopping the scourge  -
Schoolchildren are being taught about the damage done by drugs through awareness campaigns and billboards in classrooms.    But there is much work to be done, especially among children from families affected by drug use, says Noellie Gonthier from CARE, a local harm-reduction charity.   "Sometimes, four- or five-year-olds at school mimic injecting heroin," she said.   "Our challenge is to make them understand that what they consider normal -- because of their family context -- actually isn't at all."   On Mahe, a small, mountainous island with lush vegetation, most of the population lives near the water. Life is quiet here, without traffic, and the streets are mostly clean.

Poverty is largely hidden, concentrated in a few neighbourhoods behind faded walls or in the hills.   So why do so many Seychellois take drugs? The authorities admit they haven't quite figured it out, but say it appears that while poverty does not quite allow people to live well, it allows them enough money to buy drugs to forget their woes.   "The root of the cause, we're still working on it," said Herminie.   Early studies show that health and social problems associated with heroin use have declined since the government switched its response from punishment to prevention, officials say.

Crime has nearly halved and annual cases of new hepatitis C infections have fallen 60 percent.    Youth unemployment, meanwhile, has shrunk from 6.5 percent to 2.1 percent in recent years.   One recovering addict, a taxi driver who did not want to be named, offered a bleak assessment as he waited for his daily methadone in an empty car park in Les Mamelles.    "We're a small island in the middle of the ocean. What else is there to do here?" he said.
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 16:12:54 +0100 (MET)
By Michael O'HAGAN

Otuke, Uganda, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Under a warm morning sun scores of weary soldiers stare as millions of yellow locusts rise into the northern Ugandan sky, despite hours spent spraying vegetation with chemicals in an attempt to kill them.   From the tops of shea trees, fields of pea plants and tall grass savanna, the insects rise in a hypnotic murmuration, disappearing quickly to wreak devastation elsewhere.   The soldiers and agricultural officers will now have to hunt the elusive fast-moving swarms -- a sign of the challenge facing nine east African countries now battling huge swarms of hungry desert locusts.

They arrived in conflict-torn South Sudan this week, with concerns already high of a humanitarian crisis in a region where 12 million are going hungry, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO).    "One swarm of 40 to 80 million can consume food" for over 35,000 people in a day, Priya Gujadhur, a senior FAO official in Uganda, told AFP.

In Atira -- a remote village of grass-thatched huts in northern Uganda -- some 160 soldiers wearing protective plastic overalls, masks and goggles sprayed trees and plants with pesticide from before dawn in a bid to kill the resting insects.   But even after hours of work they were mostly able to reach only lower parts of the vegetation.   Major General Kavuma sits in the shade of a Neem Tree alongside civilian officials as locusts sprayed with pesticide earlier that morning fall around them, convulsing as they die.   An intense chemical smell hangs in the air.

- 'They surrounded me' -
Zakaria Sagal, a 73-year-old subsistence farmer was weeding his field in Lopei village some 120 kilometres (75 miles) away, preparing to plant maize and sorghum, when without warning a swarm of locusts descended around him.   "From this side and this side and this side, they surrounded me," Sagal said, waving his arms in every direction.    "We have not yet planted our crops but if they return at harvest time they will destroy everything. We are not at all prepared."

East Africa's regional expert group, the Climate Prediction and Applications Centre (ICPAC), warned Tuesday that eggs laid across the migratory path will hatch in the next two months, and will continue breeding as the rainy season arrives in the region.   This will coincide with the main cropping season and could cause "significant crop losses... and could potentially worsen the food security situation", ICPAC said in a statement.

- 'Panic mode' -
Since 2018 a long period of dry weather followed by a series of cyclones that dumped water on the region created "excessively ideal conditions" for locusts to breed, says Gujadhur.    Nevertheless, governments in East Africa have been caught off guard and are currently in "panic mode" Gujadhur said.   The locusts arrived in South Sudan this week after hitting Ethiopia, Somalia, Kenya, Djibouti, Eritrea, Tanzania, Sudan and Uganda.   Desert locusts take over on a dizzying scale.

One swarm in Kenya reached around 2,400 square kilometres (about 930 square miles) -- an area almost the size of Moscow -- meaning it could contain up to 200 billion locusts.   "A swarm that size can consume food for 85 million people per day," said Gujadhur.   Ugandan authorities are aware that subsequent waves of locusts may pose problems in the weeks to come, but in the meantime they are attempting to control the current generation.

Gujadhur is quick to praise the "quite strong and very quick" response from the Ugandan government but is concerned that while the army can provide valuable personnel, a military-led response may not be as effective as is necessary.    "It needs to be the scientists and (agriculture officials) who take the lead about where the control operations need to be and how and when and what time," she said.

- 'They eat anything green' -
The soldiers have been working non-stop for two days, criss-crossing the plains on the few navigable roads, trying to keep up with the unpredictable swarms.    Major General Kavuma recognises that the biggest threat is from the eggs which are yet to hatch but is confident the army will be able to control this enemy.   "We have the chemicals to spray them, all we need is to map the places they have been landing and sleeping," he said.   "In two weeks time we will come back and by that time they will have hatched and that will be the time to destroy them by praying."

Back in Lopei village, Elizabeth Namoe, 40, a shopkeeper in nearby Moroto had been visiting family when the swarm arrived.   "When the locusts settle they eat anything green, the animals will die because they have nothing to feed on, then even the people (will suffer)," she said.   "The children will be affected by hunger and famine since all life comes from all that is green. I fear so much."
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 12:55:06 +0100 (MET)

Beijing, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - China's President Xi Jinping called Wednesday for greater protection of medical staff fighting the new coronavirus after the deaths of prominent doctors sparked national anger at the government's handling of the outbreak.   At least seven medical workers have died from the virus, while 1,716 have been confirmed as infected, most at the epicentre of the epidemic in central Hubei province where hospitals have dealt with a huge influx of patients.

Staff have faced shortages of masks and protective bodysuits, with some even wearing makeshift suits and continuing to work despite showing respiratory symptoms, health workers have told AFP.   Xi said China must "strengthen efforts to relieve the stress of medical workers, provide them with daily necessities, arrange time for their rest and give them encouragement", the official Xinhua news agency reported.   Liu Zhiming, the director of Wuchang Hospital in Hubei's capital Wuhan, died Tuesday, more than a week after the death of whistleblowing ophthalmologist Li Wenliang in the same city prompted nationwide mourning and calls for political reforms.

- 'Majestic spirit' -
A paper published by China's Center for Disease Control and Prevention said an additional 1,300 health workers may have been infected but have yet to receive a diagnosis.   Xi said China must ensure medical teams in Hubei and Wuhan "carry out work in a safe, orderly, coordinated, effective and swift manner", Xinhua reported.   The deaths of frontline medical workers "reflected doctors' humane and majestic spirit", Xi said.   The death toll from the virus jumped past 2,000 on Wednesday, while 74,185 cases of infection have been confirmed in mainland China.
Date: Wed, 19 Feb 2020 12:19:59 +0100 (MET)

Tehran, Feb 19, 2020 (AFP) - Two people in Iran tested positive Wednesday for the deadly new coronavirus, the health ministry said, in the Islamic republic's first cases of the disease.   Kianoush Jahanpour, a ministry spokesman, said the cases were detected in the holy city of Qom, south of the Iranian capital.   "In the past two days, some suspect cases of the new coronavirus were observed in Qom city," he said, quoted by state news agency IRNA.

"Teams were dispatched after receiving the reports, and based on the existing protocols the suspect cases were isolated and tested," said Jahanpour.   "Out of the samples sent, a laboratory tested two of them as positive for coronavirus just minutes ago and some of the other samples were type B influenza."

The health ministry spokesman said additional tests were being done on the two cases and final results would be announced "as soon as possible".   The new coronavirus epidemic has killed more than 2,000 people in China and infected more than 74,000. It has spread to at least two dozen countries.   The United Arab Emirates was the first country in the Middle East to report cases of coronavirus last month.
Date: Tue 18 Feb 2020
Source: CIDRAP (Center for Infectious Disease Research & Policy) News [edited]

The WHO's African regional office said that both Chad and the Central African Republic (CAR) are in the midst of measles outbreaks, with both countries reporting increasing case counts since [1 Jan 2020].

In Chad, 1276 cases, including 14 deaths have been reported since 1 Jan 2020, with 352 suspected measles cases and 4 deaths reported in the week ending on 9 Feb 2020.  "Most, 78%, of the investigated cases never received any vaccination against measles," the WHO said. "60% of the investigated cases were under 5 years of age while 19% were between 5 and 14 years and 14% were 15 years and above."

In CAR, a total of 1498 suspected measles cases, including 15 deaths, have been recorded since [1 Jan 2020]. The outbreak has been ongoing since early 2019. From 1 Jan 2019, through 9 Feb 2020, a total of 5724 suspected measles cases, including 83 deaths (case fatality rate, 1.45%) have been reported in 13 health districts.  Almost 3/4 of the cases (72%) are in children under the age of 5.
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps
Central African Republic: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/6>]
Date: Wed 19 Feb 2020
Source: Circular/News, Veterinary Services, Israel's Ministry of Agriculture [in Hebrew, trans. Mod.AS, edited]

Rabies, Case No. 6 for 2020, dog, Ramot Naftali, Upper Galilee. Reference: Kimron Vet Institute [KVI] Laboratory Test No. A00373420, dated 19 Feb 2020
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On 17 Feb 2020, a dead dog was brought for examination to the KVI [at Beit-Dagan]. The dog died while being transported to a rabies observation kennel since, as reported, it had attacked grazing cattle and attempted to attack people.  It was also reported that the dog had bitten itself. The tested animal has been diagnosed rabies positive.  [Byline: Dr. Avi Wasserman Head, Field Veterinary Services (acting)]
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[The above and 5 earlier rabies cases in Israel since 1 Jan 2020 are located within a small region along the Lebanese border, facing Lebanon's governorate A-Nabatieh. See the rabies map (2020) at <https://moag.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=a6d8aae5cbc04c958d5efefd2724318f>.

The 2019 map, presenting a total of 17 cases, is available at

The 6 cases during 2020 are: 3 jackals, 2 dogs, 1 cow. Most likely, rabies is currently circulating within the Lebanese side of the border.

It would be interesting to note whether the rabid dog was owned and, in case affirmative, whether and when this dog was last vaccinated against rabies, as prescribed by law. Israel's owned dogs are included in the national dog registry, currently counting more than 400,000 dogs. - ProMED Mod.AS]
Date: Tue 18 Feb 2020
Source: Qatari Ministry of Public Health [edited]

The Ministry of Public Health (MOPH) declared that a case of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS) has been confirmed. The case is a male citizen aged 65 years who has been suffering from several chronic diseases. The patient has been admitted to the hospital to receive the necessary medical care in accordance with the national protocol to deal with confirmed or suspected cases of the disease.

The Ministry of Public Health, in cooperation with the Ministry of Municipality and Environment, is taking all necessary preventive and precautionary measures to control the disease and prevent it from spreading.

MERS is a viral respiratory disease that is caused by one of the coronaviruses (MERS-CoV), but it differs from the novel coronavirus, known as COVID-19, which has recently spread in several countries. Both viruses differ in terms of the source of infection, mode of transmission, and the disease severity. The Ministry of Public Health confirms that no cases of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) have been diagnosed in Qatar so far.

Only 3 cases of MERS-CoV were registered in Qatar during the past 2 years. The Ministry of Public Health calls on all members of public, and especially people with chronic diseases or those with immunodeficiency disorders, to adhere to public hygiene measures. This includes washing the hands regularly with water and soap, using hand sanitizers, as well as avoiding close contact with camels and seeking medical advice when experiencing symptoms of fever, cough, sore throat, or shortness of breath.

The Rapid Response Team of the Health Protection and Communicable Disease Control is available round-the-clock to receive notifications or inquiries related to communicable diseases on its hotline numbers 66740948 or 66740951.
======================
[In early December 2019, Qatar reported 3 cases of MERS-CoV infection, a fatal case and 2 asymptomatic contacts of the fatal case. The fatal case denied a history of contact with camels or recent travel. She did have a history of underlying medical conditions (which may have led to contact with the health sector in the 2 weeks prior to onset of illness). Prior to these cases, the most recent report of a case of MERS-CoV infection in Qatar was in 2017 when there were 3 cases reported (see prior ProMED-mail posts listed below.)

The location of residence of this patient was not available, nor were other epidemiological variables, including possible high risk exposures.

The HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Qatar is available at