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Antartica

General:
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Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
the northern parts of the country. Temperatures of between 20C to 35C are fairly standard throughout the year. Generally the winter effects of the American continent only last for short periods.
Safety & Security:
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The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Road Safety:
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Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
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When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.

Currency:
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Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Health Facilities:
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Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
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The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
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Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
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The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
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This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
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There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
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Tetanus (childhood booster)
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Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
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Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
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Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 17 May 2018 09:57:07 +0200

Buenos Aires, May 17, 2018 (AFP) - Tourism regulation in Antarctica has become an urgent matter due to environmental threats, officials from the 53 member countries of the Antarctic Treaty warned at their annual meeting, held this week in Buenos Aires.

In the absence of rules, travel agencies offer trips to the region on boats sometimes equipped with helicopters or submarines, according to Segolene Royal, French ambassador for the Arctic and Antarctic poles.   "This activity creates considerable disturbance ... we are witnessing a race toward large-scale tourism that is dangerous for ecosystems," she said at the assembly on Wednesday.

During the austral summer of 2016/2017, around 44,000 tourists set off for Antarctica, compared with just 9,000 in 1995/1996, according to French authorities.   However, the push for regulation is not about banning tourism, former environmental minister Royal said, but rather about ensuring it is managed in compliance with the treaty and its environmental protection protocol.

In Buenos Aires, the Antarctic Treaty Consultative Meeting  -- whose mission is to regulate human activity on the continent -- also sought to encourage scientific cooperation between countries that have collectively set up around 100 research bases across the ice.   Also up for analysis is China's proposed fifth permanent scientific station in Antarctica, which would be located in the Ross Sea area south of New Zealand.
Date: Wed, 5 Jul 2017 13:01:49 +0200
By Marlowe HOOD

Paris, July 5, 2017 (AFP) - A chunk of ice bigger than the US state of Delaware is hanging by a thread from the West Antarctic ice shelf, satellite images revealed Wednesday.   When it finally calves from the Larsen C ice shelf, one of the biggest icebergs in recorded history will be set adrift -- some 6,600 square kilometres (2,550 square miles) in total, according to the European Space Agency (ESA).

The iceberg's depth below sea level could be as much as 210 metres (almost 700 feet), or about 60 storeys, it said.   "The crack in the ice is now around 200 kilometres (125 miles) long, leaving just five kilometres between the end of the fissure and the ocean," the ESA said in a statement.   "Icebergs calve from Antarctica all the time, but because this one is particularly large its path across the ocean needs to be monitored as it could pose a hazard to maritime traffic."

Scientists tracking the berg's progression expect it to break of within months.    The Larsen C shelf will lose more than 10 percent of its total surface area.   The massive ice cube will float in water and by itself will not add to sea levels when it melts.   The real danger is from inland glaciers.   Ice shelves float on the sea, extending from the coast, and are fed by slow-flowing glaciers from the land.    They act as giant brakes, preventing glaciers from flowing directly into the ocean.   If the glaciers held in check by Larsen C spilt into the Antarctic Ocean, it would lift the global water mark by about 10 centimetres (four inches), researchers have said.

The calving of ice shelves occurs naturally, though global warming is believed to have accelerated the process.   Warming ocean water erodes the underbelly of the ice shelves, while rising air temperatures weaken them from above.   The nearby Larsen A ice shelf collapsed in 1995, and Larsen B dramatically broke up seven years later.   The ESA is keeping an eye on Larsen C with its Copernicus and CryoSat Earth orbiters.

Man-made global warming has already lifted average global air temperatures by about one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) since pre-industrial levels.    Antarctica is one of the world's fastest-warming regions.   The world's nations undertook in the Paris Agreement, inked in 2015, to cap average global warming at "well under" 2 C.
Date: Wed, 22 Jun 2016 21:35:09 +0200
By Jean-Louis SANTINI

Washington, June 22, 2016 (AFP) - Two sick workers were evacuated from a remote US research station near the South Pole on Wednesday in a risky rescue mission carried out in the dead of Antarctica's winter, a US official said.   A Twin Otter turboprop plane flew in dark and cold conditions to pick up the workers from the Amundsen-Scott station, about 250 meters from the geographic South Pole, a spokesman for the US National Science Foundation (NSF), Peter West told AFP.

The plane's crew and a medical team had made the 10-hour journey to the South Pole in the middle of Antarctica's 24-hour winter on Tuesday night to reach the unidentified patients, who could not be treated on site.   The NSF -- the US research agency that operates the Amundsen-Scott Station -- organized the rescue mission last week given the condition of the first patient, which was not disclosed for privacy reasons.   "It was really an emergency," West said.   It later became apparent that the second worker also needed to be evacuated.

The sick workers -- employees of the US company Lockheed Martin who worked on base logistics -- were then taken to the Rothera base, a British research station some 2,200 kilometers (about 1,365 miles) away, the spokesman said.   The pair, who were not identified, were then to be transferred to a hospital in South America, West said, without giving further details.   The Amundsen-Scott base was home to 48 people -- 39 men and nine women -- who work on-site throughout the austral winter, which spans February through October.

- Rare rescue mission -
Near the world's southernmost point, workers spend this period withstanding nearly complete darkness and dramatically low temperatures -- on Tuesday, the thermometer dropped to -60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees Fahrenheit).   It was only the third time that an emergency rescue operation has been launched in the middle of winter.   In 2001, the only doctor at the Amundsen-Scott station was suffering from a life-threatening pancreatic condition and required urgent evacuation. A second medical evacuation was carried out that year.

In 1999, the US station's doctor Jerri Nielsen, who was self-treating her own breast cancer, required medical evacuation but weather conditions were more favorable, as the mission took place in the spring.  The Twin Otter plane, operated by the Canadian company Kenn Borek Air, is specially designed to operate in extremely cold temperatures.

Research projects at the Amundsen-Scott station include monitoring long-term levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) in the atmosphere.     The station also operates two telescopes that observe "cosmic microwave background" radiation -- the faint light signature left by the Big Bang -- to study the origins of the universe, dark energy and dark matter.
Date: Wed, 18 Jun 2014 09:04:56 +0200 (METDST)
by Martin PARRY

SYDNEY, June 18, 2014 (AFP) - Antarctic scientists warned Wednesday that a surge in tourists visiting the frozen continent and new roads and runways built to service research facilities were threatening its fragile environment.   Tourist numbers have exploded from less than 5,000 in 1990 to about 40,000 a year, according to industry figures, and most people go to the fragmented ice-free areas that make up less than one percent of Antarctica.   A growing number of research facilities are also being built, along with associated infrastructure such as fuel depots and runways, in the tiny ice-free zones.

It is these areas which contain most of the continent's wildlife and plants, yet they are among the planet's least-protected, said a study led by the Australian government-funded National Environmental Research Programme (NERP) and the Australian Antarctic Division.   "Many people think that Antarctica is well protected from threats to its biodiversity because it's isolated and no one lives there," said Justine Shaw from the NERP of the study published in the journal PLoS Biology.   "However, we show that there are threats to Antarctic biodiversity.   "Most of Antarctica is covered in ice, with less than one percent permanently ice-free," she added.   "Only 1.5 percent of this ice-free area belongs to Antarctic Specially Protected Areas under the Antarctic Treaty System, yet ice-free land is where the majority of biodiversity occurs."   Five of the distinct ice-free areas have no protection at all while all 55 of the continent's protected zones are close to sites of human activity.

- Fragile ecosystems -
Steven Chown of Monash University, another collaborator in the study, said the ice-free areas contain very simple ecosystems due to Antarctica's low species diversity.   This makes its native wildlife and plants extremely vulnerable to invasion by outside species, which can be introduced by human activity.   "Antarctica has been invaded by plants and animals, mostly grasses and insects, from other continents," he said.    "The very real current and future threats from invasions are typically located close to protected areas.    "Such threats to protected areas from invasive species have been demonstrated elsewhere in the world, and we find that Antarctica is, unfortunately, no exception."

The study said the current level of protection was "inadequate by any measure" with Shaw saying more was needed to guard against the threat posed by the booming tourism industry.   "(We need) to protect a diverse suite of native insects, plants and seabirds, many of which occur nowhere else in the world," she said.   "We also need to ensure that Antarctic protected areas are not going to be impacted by human activities, such as pollution, trampling or invasive species."   Antarctica is considered one of the last frontiers for adventurous travellers.   Most travel by sea, some paying in excess of US$20,000 for a luxury cabin in the peak period from November to March. There is also a healthy market for sightseeing flights.

Approximately 30 nations operate permanent research stations on the continent including the US, China, Russia, Australia, Britain, France and Argentina, and more are on the way.   China's state media said in December that the country was building its fourth base and a fifth was being planned.   Fellow study author Hugh Possingham, from NERP, said that without better protection "this unique and fragile ecosystem could be lost".   "Although we show that the risks to biodiversity from increasing human activity are high, they are even worse when considered together with climate change," he added.    "This combined effect provides even more incentive for a better system of area protection in Antarctica."
Date: Sun, 17 Nov 2013 12:27:56 +0100 (MET)

WASHINGTON, Nov 17, 2013 (AFP) - A powerful 7.8 magnitude undersea earthquake struck in the Scotia Sea, a remote region in the far south Atlantic near Antarctica, US earthquake monitors reported Sunday.   The quake struck at 0904 GMT in the ocean some 893 kilometers (550 miles) southwest of Grytviken, South Georgia, and 1,140 kilometres (710 miles) southeast of Ushuaia, Argentina, said the US Geological Survey, which monitors earthquakes worldwide.   The epicenter was at a depth of 10 kilometers (6.2 miles), and was near that of a 6.8 magnitude undersea earthquake that the USGS registered in the Scotia Sea some 30 hours earlier.

The quake occurred at the boundary between the Antarctic tectonic plate and the Scotia Sea plate, said geophysicist Randy Baldwin at the National Earthquake Information Center in Golden, Colorado.   "They're sliding past one another horizontally, it's not a subduction zone," Baldwin told AFP. "There will be aftershocks probably for weeks."   There were no tsunami warnings since there were no vertical movements in the seafloor as occur in a subduction quake, when one tectonic plate moves under another one, Baldwin said.   Yet despite the enormous energy unleashed the area is so remote that there is little or no impact to humans, he said.   "You couldn't pick a more remote area for an earthquake," he said.
More ...

Ireland

Ireland US Consular Information Sheet
December 2, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Ireland is a highly developed democracy with a modern economy. Tourist facilities are widely available.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Irela
d for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is necessary, but a visa is not required for tourist or business stays of up to three months.
Visit the Embassy of Ireland web site (www.irelandemb.org/) for the most current visa information, or contact the Embassy at 2234 Massachusetts Avenue, NW, Washington, DC
20008, tel: 1-202-462-3939, or the nearest Irish consulate in Boston, Chicago, New York or San Francisco.

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:
Ireland remains largely free of terrorist incidents.
While the 1998 ceasefire in Northern Ireland is holding, there have been incidents of violence in Northern Ireland associated with paramilitary organizations.
These have the potential for some spillover into Ireland.
Travelers to Northern Ireland should consult the Country Specific Information sheet for the United Kingdom and Gibraltar.

Several Americans have reported incidents of verbal abuse, apparently in reaction to U.S. policy on the war on terrorism.
As elsewhere in Europe, there have been public protests, which for the most part were small, peaceful and well policed.
Americans are advised, nonetheless, to avoid public demonstrations in general and to monitor local media when protests occur.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Ireland has a low rate of violent crime.
There have been a limited number of incidents in which foreigners and tourists have been victims of assault, including instances of violence toward those who appear to be members of racial minority groups.
In addition, there have been several reported assaults in Dublin by small, unorganized gangs roaming the streets in the early morning hours after the pubs close.
There is a high incidence of petty crime – mostly theft, burglary and purse snatching – in major tourist areas.
Thieves target rental cars and tourists, particularly in the vicinity of tourist attractions, and some purse and bag snatching incidents in these areas have turned violent, especially in Dublin.
Travelers should take extra caution to safeguard passports and wallets from pickpockets and bag snatchers.

Crimes involving credit and debit cards and automated teller machines (ATMs) are also a concern.
Travelers should protect their PIN numbers at all times and avoid using ATM machines that appear to have been tampered with.
There has been an increase in Ireland of the use of “skimmers” on ATM machines, especially in tourist areas.
Skimmers are usually small electronic devices that are attached to the outside of an ATM machine in order to “skim” the ATM or credit card data for later criminal use.
Most ATMs in Ireland now have electronic warnings about their use and advise customers to look closely at the ATM before using it.


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 in Ireland, in addition to reporting to local police (Gardai), please contact the U.S. Embassy in Dublin for assistance.
The Embassy staff can, for example, assist you in finding appropriate medical care, contacting family members or friends, and learning how funds can be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
The Irish Tourist Assistance Service (ITAS) is a free nationwide service offering support and assistance to tourists who are victimized while visiting Ireland. If you are a tourist victim of crime, report the incident to the nearest Garda Station (police station), which will contact ITAS.
All tourist victims of crime are referred to ITAS by the Gardai. To learn about possible compensation in the United States if you are a victim of a violent crime while overseas, see our information on Victims of Crime
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Ireland is 999 or 122.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Modern medical facilities and highly skilled medical practitioners are available in Ireland.
Because of high demand, however, access to medical specialists can be difficult and admissions to hospitals for certain non-life-threatening medical conditions may require spending significant periods of time on waiting lists.
Those traveling to or intending to reside in Ireland who may require medical treatment while in the country should consult with their personal physicians prior to traveling.
Over-the-counter medication is widely available.
Irish pharmacists may not be able to dispense medication prescribed by your U.S. physician and may direct you to obtain a prescription from an Irish doctor before providing you with your required medication.
A list of Irish general practitioners in each area of Ireland may be obtained from the web site of the Irish College of General Practitioners at http://www.icgp.ie/go/find_a_gp. Emergency services usually respond quickly.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Ireland.

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’s) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
FOOT AND MOUTH DISEASE: The Irish Department of Agriculture and Food advises all incoming passengers to Ireland that the current foot and mouth situation in Great Britain represents a high risk of the spread of disease to Ireland.
If you are traveling from Great Britain to Ireland and have visited a farm with cattle, sheep, goats or pigs on your travels, you must report to the Irish Department of Agriculture and Food office at the port of entry.
Fresh meat or unpasteurized milk products purchased in Great Britain may not be brought into Ireland.
If you are carrying any of these products, they must be disposed of in the bins provided at the port of entry.
For further information, please visit the Irish Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food at www.agriculture.gov.ie.
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 following information concerning Ireland is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
As driving is on the left side of the road in Ireland, motorists without experience in left-drive countries should be especially cautious.
Tourists driving on the wrong side of the road are the cause of several serious accidents each year.
Turning on red is not legal in Ireland.
The vast majority of rental cars are manual transmission; it can be difficult to find automatic transmission rental cars.
Road conditions are generally good, but once travelers are off main highways, country roads quickly become narrow, uneven and winding.
Roads are more dangerous during the summer and on holiday weekends due to an increase in traffic. As in the United States, police periodically set up road blocks to check for drunk drivers.
Penalties for driving under the influence can be severe.
More information on driving in Ireland can be found on the U.S. Embassy in Dublin‘s web site at http://dublin.usembassy.gov/service/other-citizen-services/other-citizen-services/driving.html.

For specific information concerning Irish driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please visit the official tourism guide for Ireland at http://www.tourismireland.com.

Taxis are reasonably priced but availability varies with time of day and where you are in the country.
Bus service in the cities is generally adequate, although many buses are overcrowded and frequently late.
Intercity bus and train services are reasonably good.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Ireland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Ireland’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
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Most Irish banks will not accept U.S. $100 bills.
ATMs are widely available, but some, particularly in rural areas, may not accept cards from U.S. banks.
Credit cards are widely accepted throughout Ireland.
A number of travelers have been told by their airline that their passport must remain valid for six months after their entry into Ireland.
The Government of Ireland has advised that this is a recommendation of the airline industry and is not an Irish legal requirement. Travelers must be in possession of a valid passport to travel.
Please see Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Ireland’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Ireland 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 Ireland 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 Ireland.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the Embassy in Dublin.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at 42 Elgin Road, Ballsbridge, Dublin 4.
The Embassy can be reached via phone at 353-1-668-8777, after hours number 353-1-668-9612, fax 353-1-668-8056, and online at http://dublin.usembassy.gov
*

*

*
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Ireland dated May 12, 2008, and updates sections on Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Special Circumstances.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 27 Feb 2019
Source: The Times [abridged, edited]

A total of 384 cases mumps have been reported this year [2019] from Irish Universities, HSE figures have shown.

There were 64 new cases reported last week, bringing the total to 384 since the start of the year [2019]. The number of cases has been rising steadily in recent weeks, with 278 in the 1st 6 weeks of the year. Last year [2018] there had been 52 cases by the end of February. There were 576 cases in total last year [2018].  [Byline : Catherine Sanz]
===================
[Also see ProMED-mail Mumps update (02): USA (CO, TX), Europe (Ireland) http://promedmail.org/post/20190221.6329434 for more on the outbreak in Ireland. - ProMED Mod.LK]

["Before the U.S. mumps vaccination program started in 1967, about 186,000 cases were reported each year, but the actual number of cases was likely much higher due to underreporting. Since the pre-vaccine era, there has been a more than 99% decrease in mumps cases in the United States. Since the 2-dose vaccination program was introduced in 1989, mumps cases have ranged year to year from a couple of hundred to several thousand.

However, in recent years, there has been an increase in the number of reported cases, from 229 cases in 2012 to 6366 cases in 2016. The recent increase has been mainly due to multiple mumps outbreaks reported across the country in settings where people often have close contact with one another, like college campuses." CDC (<https://www.cdc.gov/mumps/outbreaks.html>). - ProMED Mod.LK]
Date: Tue 12 Feb 2019, 5:30 AM
Source: Irish Examiner [edited]

There has been an 84% increase in the number of cases of mumps reported to the Health Protection Surveillance Centre in recent weeks.

Over the 1st 5 weeks of this year [2019], the number of cases has increased to 231, compared to just 36 over the same period last year [2018], an increase of 195. There were 50 cases of the highly infectious disease reported over the week ending [Sat 2 Feb 2019].

MMR uptake rates among children in Ireland remain below the target of 95% needed to prevent the spread of mumps, according to the HPSC.

Last week [4-10 Feb 2019], the HSE alerted Trinity College Dublin that there had been cases of mumps in the university and other students might have been exposed.  [Byline: Evelyn Ring]
==========================
[The increase in cases is likely the result of growing vaccine hesitancy, similar to the situation with measles, which is part of the same MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine. - ProMED Mod.LK]
Date: Mon 18 Feb 2019
Source: Independent [edited]

A rare form of deadly meningitis is on the rise in Ireland following a pattern seen in other countries, disease specialists have revealed.  The number of cases of the [_Neisseria meningitidis_ serogroup] W strain has increased from one in the year 2014 to 12 last year [2018]. There has also been an increase in [meningococcal] meningitis [serogroup] Y over the same period, up from 3 to 8 (See:  <http://www.hpsc.ie/news/newsarchive/2019newsarchive/title-18757-en.html>).

Neither strain is currently included in the vaccines to protect against meningitis [that] are commonly given to children.

The increase follows a similar trend in the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, which has in turn led to the MenACWY vaccine now being offered by health services to teenagers and college and university students.

No such vaccination programme has been introduced here yet, but the rise in cases will have to be examined by the group of experts which advises the HSE [Health Service Executive] on what jabs should be given free to various groups of patients.

Like other forms of the disease, it can be very serious if not treated quickly with antibiotics. Without emergency treatment, it can lead to life-threatening blood poisoning, and result in permanent brain or nerve damage.

The report [source?] from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre, the country's disease watchdog, said that during January [2019] there were 17 cases of different forms of meningitis. Four of these involved the W and Y strains. Two people died from meningitis during January [2019]. Overall, the incidence of meningitis in Ireland has fallen in the past 2 decades.

In the past, the meningitis B and C strains presented the highest risk, but the introduction of vaccines for both has led to a fall in circulation of both.

The report pointed out that in 2000, the meningitis C vaccine began to be routinely given to children, which went along with a catch-up programme for teenagers. Since the introduction of the meningitis C vaccine, the annual incidence of the strain has decreased substantially from 135 cases in 1999 to 20 last year [2018].

A vaccine to protect against meningitis B was introduced in recent years, but only for children born after October 2016, leaving parents of older children to pay Euro 300 [USD 340] to have the jab privately. The annual incidence of meningitis B has also reduced considerably from 292 cases in 1999 to 46 cases in 2018.

The report said that changing trends in the incidence of the infection have been reported in other European countries in recent years. In Italy, the number of meningococcal W cases has been increasing since 2013. "The Netherlands has also seen an increase in reported cases of meningococcal W cases, which had been very rare prior to 2015. Between 2010 and 2014, an average of 4 cases of meningococcal W were reported annually but increased substantially over the following years to 80 cases in 2017. "This rapid upsurge in meningococcal W in the Netherlands has been attributed to a meningococcal W," it added.

The report said that 17 cases and 2 related deaths were reported from 1-29 Jan this year [2019]. "This was slightly less than in the same period last year when 19 cases -- and 2 related deaths -- were notified. "Amongst the 17 cases notified from 1-29 Jan 2019, different strains were reported, and different age groups were affected."

The report added that although meningitis notifications have been stable in the 1st 4 weeks of 2019 compared to the previous year [2018], ongoing monitoring of trends is needed "to assess the circulation, distribution and evolution of specific control strategies, particularly preventive vaccination programmes, and to inform national vaccination policy."  [Byline: Eilish O'Regan]
========================
[A recent (23 Jan 2019) report from the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC) gives numbers of cases that are slightly different from the news report above for a similar period of time (<http://www.hpsc.ie/news/newsarchive/2019newsarchive/title-18757-en.html>): "Twenty meningococcal cases were notified to HPSC in Ireland between 24 Dec 2018 and 22 Jan 2019, compared with 19 cases in the same period last year [2018]. There is not an outbreak. Meningococcal disease is known to have increased incidence in winter and early spring. Among the 20 cases, different age groups were affected, different strains were reported (B,C,W,Y), different regions of the country reported the cases and there were no links found between the cases. Sadly, 3 of the cases have died; none was caused by meningococcal strains that are covered by the vaccines in the national childhood programme (the strains were not B or C)."

_Neisseria meningitidis_ only infects humans; there is no animal reservoir, and the organism dies quickly outside the human host. _N. meningitidis_ colonizes the mucosal membranes of the nose and throat; up to 5-10 percent of a population may be asymptomatic nasopharyngeal carriers, but the carrier rate may be higher in epidemic situations. Droplets of nasopharyngeal secretions from these carriers are responsible for the spread of the disease. Close and prolonged contact with an infected person or a carrier facilitates the spread of the disease.

Several meningococcal vaccines are available. Immunity following use of a meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine is specific for the type of capsular polysaccharide that the vaccine contains, with no cross-protection against infection due to other meningococcal polysaccharide groups. Although there are at least 13 _N. meningitidis_ serogroups, based on the antigenic specificity of their capsular polysaccharides, disease due to serogroups A, B, C, Y, and W are most common.

There are vaccines that contain capsular polysaccharide (A, C, Y, W), either alone or conjugated to protein. Conjugate vaccines are preferable, because, unlike the polysaccharide vaccines, conjugate vaccines immunize infants, reduce the carriage of meningococci in the throat and thus its transmission, as well as confer a more sustained immune response, and, therefore, longer-term protection than the polysaccharide vaccines. Serogroup B vaccines are based upon meningococcal B protein antigens, because group B polysaccharide is poorly immunogenic in humans and is a potential auto-antigen.

Following the mass introduction into the population of a vaccine specific for one particular serogroup, the incidence of disease due to that serogroup has been found to fall dramatically, e.g., serogroup C disease in several countries (e.g., UK, Netherlands, and Australia) following the introduction of conjugate C vaccine and serogroup A in the African Meningitis Belt following conjugate A vaccine, only to be followed by the emergence of a "replacement" pathogen, e.g., serogroup W. in subsequent years.

Because of the continuing rapid increase in the UK in serogroup W disease, the UK replaced the adolescent meningococcal C conjugate vaccine for 13-14-year-olds with the quadrivalent ACWY conjugate vaccine in the autumn of 2015. In addition, catch up campaigns were set up to give the ACWY vaccine to all 13-18-year-olds and new university admissions during 2015 to 2017 (<https://www.rivm.nl/bibliotheek/rapporten/2017-0031.pdf>).

Neither B nor ACWY vaccinations were included in the Dutch National Immunisation Programme. However, as of May 2018, the meningococcal ACWY vaccination replaced C vaccination at age 14 months and from October 2018, 13-14 year olds were offered ACWY vaccination (<https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5915972/>). A detailed discussion of these issues in the Netherlands appears in a publication "Meningococcal disease in the Netherlands. Background information for the Health Council. RIVM Report 2017-0031 M.J.Knol et al," which is available at <https://www.rivm.nl/bibliotheek/rapporten/2017-0031.pdf>. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Sat 12 Jan 2019
Source: Food Safety News [abridged, edited]

Authorities in the United Kingdom and Ireland are investigating a foodborne outbreak suspected to be caused by norovirus in live oysters.  The oysters are thought to have come from Ireland and been purified in the UK, and it is believed they are no longer on the market.  Harvesting records and purification operations at the unnamed implicated business in Ireland have been checked with nothing proving that oysters harvested at the time were contaminated. A number of people fell ill in England, and the investigation has pointed towards a potential norovirus outbreak linked to one restaurant.

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) told Food Safety News that it has sought detailed clarification on traceability and delivery channels.  "We have started investigations in relation to this notification from the Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed. It is not yet certain if the oysters that were consumed by the people who became ill were actually from Ireland," said a spokeswoman.

Nevertheless, at the request of the FSAI, the Sea-Fisheries Protection Authority (SFPA) checked the harvesting records and purification operations at the implicated business in Ireland. There is nothing to demonstrate that any oysters harvested at that time were contaminated. There are also no other reports of illness. The FSAI and the SPFA are continuing inquiries."

High risk factors for shellfish-related norovirus include cold weather (low water temperatures), high prevalence of norovirus gastroenteritis in the community, and high rainfall (potentially leading to sewage system overflows). There is no regulatory limit for norovirus relating to shellfish.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advised consumers not to change their choice of eating out as a result of the outbreak.  "We are working with Public Health England to investigate why a number of people have reported digestive symptoms after eating out," a spokeswoman told Food Safety News. This is being investigated as a potential norovirus outbreak linked to one restaurant. We're working to determine the actual cause of the illnesses and which producer or supplier may be implicated."

Norovirus can contaminate food and water and can also spread through contact with the feces or vomit of an infected person. It causes an estimated 3 million cases of diarrhea and vomiting each year and is estimated to be the 3rd most common cause of foodborne illness in the UK.

Although symptoms can be unpleasant, it is considered a mild infection because it is usually short lived, and most people get better without medical treatment. Outbreaks have been caused by infected oysters and fresh produce such as berries and salad.
======================
[Note that norovirus has not yet been confirmed in the UK and Ireland, but appears likely. Both norovirus and paralytic shellfish poisoning are associated with shellfish, however, norovirus is a highly infectious virus, and paralytic shellfish poisoning is caused by a biotoxin produced by algae.

Researchers analyzed the genetic sequences of 1077 samples of noroviruses found in oysters. Some sequences had been stockpiled in genetic databases since 1983. The scientists found that 80 percent of the known human noroviruses matched those found in oysters. The majority of the matches were in oysters from coastal waters, more likely to be contaminated with human sewage.

Noroviruses mutate very quickly, as do influenza viruses, and big outbreaks usually begin after a new strain emerges. There was a "convergence" between new strains circulating in oysters and those circulating in humans, the researchers also found.

Yongjie Wang, a food science specialist at Shanghai Ocean University and lead author of the study, concluded that oysters were an important reservoir for human noroviruses, a place where they can hide between outbreaks and mutate. They also can be transmitted back to humans, presumably when oysters are eaten raw.

Citation. Yongxin Yu, et al. Molecular Epidemiology of Oyster-Related Human Noroviruses and Their Global Genetic Diversity and Temporal-Geographical Distribution from 1983 to 2014. Applied and Environmental Microbio. 81(21): 7615-7624. DOI: 10.1128/AEM.01729-15

See also:

[HealthMap/ProMED maps available at:
Date: Sat 29 Dec 2018
Source: Osburn Oracle [abridged, edited]

The Health Service Executive (HSE) is dealing with a measles outbreak in Dublin's North Inner City, which has seen 13 cases in both children and adults since July this year [2018].

The organisation said the transmission of the disease has occurred in hospitals and homes in Dublin due to "poor vaccine uptake" and has urged the public to vaccinate themselves against the virus.

The Department of Public Health has notified all emergency departments and GPs in Wicklow, Dublin, and Kildare of the outbreak and has sent them additional information on the disease.

The Dublin outbreak comes in light of an ongoing measles outbreak in Europe, with 31 people across the continent succumbing to the disease in 2018. Most of the cases in the EU in 2018 were reported in Romania, France, Greece, and Italy.

This week, Irish holidaymakers were warned to take precautions as new WHO figures revealed that European cases of measles this year [2018] reached an 8-year high. The number of cases of the highly infectious disease during 2018 have already outstripped any year since 2010.

The HSE has warned that most people who contract measles while on holidays do not know they were exposed to the virus until they develop the disease. They have identified airports, planes, and concerts as areas where an unrecognised exposure to the measles virus can occur.
********************************
Ireland
Date: Sun 30 Dec 2018
Source: The Journal [abridged, edited]

The number of reported measles cases in Ireland more than trebled this year. Seven in 10 of the confirmed cases involved people who were not vaccinated.

There were 85 reported cases as of 17 Dec [2018], up from just 25 for the whole of 2017. The majority of these cases -- 73 -- were confirmed, while 12 were deemed to be probable or possible cases. The last confirmed case was in October [2018]. Seven in 10 of the confirmed cases (51; 69%) involved people who were not vaccinated.

When taking into consideration only confirmed cases among people aged 12 months and older (all of whom are eligible for vaccination as part of the national programme), there were 64 cases, of whom 43 individuals were not vaccinated (67%).

Males accounted for 53 of the confirmed cases, while 32 females were affected. Children aged 4 and under were the group most affected, with 24 cases. There were 13 cases among people aged 15-19 years and 11 cases among both the 20-24 and 35-44 age groups.

The HSE released a number of warnings about the condition during the year [2018] after a spike in reported cases.

The majority of the cases this year [2018] involved onward transmission in hospital and community sessions (that is, the condition spreading after a person with measles came into contact with others).

At least 5 of the 85 cases were related to people returning to Ireland after being exposed to a person with measles while abroad.

The rate of measles infections across Europe reached a record high this year [2018]: more than 41 000 children and adults were infected with measles in the 1st 6 months of 2018, according to the World Health Organization.

There have been 72 measles-related deaths in Europe this year [2018], twice as many as in 2017, but none in Ireland.

Here's a geographical breakdown of where the measles cases occurred here:
East: 29
Midwest: 33
Southeast: 15
South: 4
West: 3
Northeast: 1
There were no confirmed cases in the midlands.

Dr Suzanne Cotter, specialist in public health medicine at the Health Protection Surveillance Centre (HPSC), said the worst outbreak originated in the midwest after a person who had been exposed to measles abroad returned to Ireland.

She said this particular case "resulted in a very large outbreak," which spread to the west and southeast following onward transmission in community and healthcare settings. "Not being vaccinated is the main risk factor," Cotter said. She said there is "a certain amount of vaccine-hesitancy" among some groups, due in part to misinformation being spread about vaccines. [See URL above for advice from the Department of Health in relation to the MMR vaccine. - ProMED Mod.LK]  In recent years, the uptake rate for the MMR vaccine has remained quite stable. The uptake rate among children aged 24 months was 92% in the 2nd quarter of 2018, unchanged from the same period last year [2017]. Cotter said these figures are "good but not good enough," adding that the goal is to reach at least 95%.

Cotter said many of the adults who contracted measles "assumed they were immune" but "didn't know if they had measles as a child or didn't know if they had the vaccine."  "People frequently don't have their vaccine records; there was no automated system in previous decades," she said. Cotter said some people's parents "chose to delay vaccination years ago and then completely forgot about it," adding that "Those individuals are really hard to identify."  She noted that some individuals may have intended to get the vaccine but genuinely forgot and have the attitude of, "I've survived this long without having measles; do I need to worry about it now?"  A substantial proportion of individuals with measles were hospitalised this year [2018]. It's not a mild illness and can be quite severe.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2019 12:35:15 +0100
Watamu, Kenya, March 19, 2019 (AFP) - If you live in a country with venomous snakes, or are travelling to one, here are a few tips to avoid being bitten.

- Do not provoke -

Snakes usually will not attack unless they feel threatened. In the bush, wear sturdy leather shoes and stomp heavily when walking, striking with a stick on the ground in front of you to warn any reptiles you are coming -- they will most likely just slither away.
Most strikes occur when snakes feel cornered or under threat, or when people accidentally step on them.

- Be alert and prepared -

Outside, have a good look around you for snakes that may hang from tree branches or swim in water, and be careful when turning over rocks or other objects. And remember: snakes are evolved to be well-camouflaged in their environment, whether it be the desert, forest or bush.
Thick, protective gloves are recommended for gardening and farming.
Carry a lamp at night.
Birds can help too: Many species possess an alarm cry to alert others of hidden danger.
Inside, check your bed and dark corners -- snakes can enter homes in pursuit of prey, heat or water.
The neater your home, the more likely you will spot an out-of-place snake. A mosquito net around your bed can be an effective snake repellent.

- Once bitten -
If you or someone else is bitten, try and remember the colour and shape of the snake, and seek immediately medical care at a clinic or hospital.
Remove any bracelets, rings or watches that may hamper blood flow in case of swelling.
Do NOT try and catch the snake, apply a tourniquet, cut the wound, suck out the venom, or drink alcohol or coffee.
Also do not seek to inject your own antivenom, which can induce a violent allergic reaction and needs to be administered in a professional environment with adrenaline and oxygen on hand.

Sources: Doctors Without Borders, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Health Action International, Bio-Ken research centre.

Date: Tue, 19 Mar 2019 08:06:51 +0100

Sentani, Indonesia, March 19, 2019 (AFP) - At least 89 people are known to have died after flash floods and landslides tore through Indonesia's Papua region, with the toll expected to rise further as rescuers hunt for dozens still missing, the national disaster agency said Tuesday.   Scores have also been injured in the disaster, triggered by torrential rain on Saturday, with some 6,800 people evacuated to temporary shelters.   The military has taken up the grim task of putting mud-caked corpses into body bags, with the search hampered by mountains of debris including rocks and fallen trees.

Seventy-four people remain unaccounted for, while around 150 suffered broken bones, cuts and other injuries.   "Many people are choosing to stay at shelters because they're still traumatised and scared of more flash floods, so some evacuation centres are packed," said national disaster agency spokesman Sutopo Purwo Nugroho.

The government has issued a 14-day state of emergency in Papua, which shares a border with independent Papua New Guinea on an island just north of Australia.   Flooding is common in Indonesia, especially during the rainy season which runs from October to April.   In January, floods and landslides killed at least 70 people on Sulawesi island, while earlier this month hundreds in West Java province were forced to evacuate when torrential rains triggered severe flooding.

Meanwhile, three people were killed -- including two Malaysian tourists -- and some 182 were injured after an earthquake Sunday triggered a landslide on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok, next to Bali.   Lombok was rocked by several earthquakes last summer, killing more than 500 people and leaving over 150,000 homeless.

Last September, the country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island which killed around 2,200 people.    The Southeast Asian archipelago of some 17,000 islands is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth, straddling the Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide. Earthquakes and volcanic eruptions are common.
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2019 23:35:47 +0100
By Nova SAFO

Chicago, March 18, 2019 (AFP) - The US Midwest struggled Monday with historic flooding that claimed at least three lives, displaced residents and damaged hundreds of homes and businesses.    Swollen waters hit much of Nebraska, as well as parts of Iowa, Wisconsin, and South Dakota, after a major storm last week dumped snow and rain, even as melting snow was already raising the levels of area waterways.   Neighboring states could also be affected as floodwaters drain, officials said.    President Donald Trump on Monday described the floods as "devastating" and said the White House would remain in close contact with state officials.    "Our prayers are with the great people of South Dakota," he said in one tweet.    In another aimed at Iowa residents, he said: "We support you and thank all of the first responders working long hours to help the great people of Iowa!"

- 'Historic' flooding -
The National Weather Service (NWS) described the flooding as "major" and "historic," forecasting that it would continue across large sections of the middle of the country.    "Flood Warnings and Advisories are scattered throughout the Plains, Mississippi Valley, and western parts of the Ohio Valley region, with a focus in Nebraska and western Iowa," the NWS said in an advisory.    "Farther west and north, areal flooding is also possible in the Northwest and Northern Plains as snowmelt continues over frozen ground."   The early damage assessment total for the state of Nebraska was more than $260 million, according to emergency management officials.

Record flooding was reported in 17 locations in the state and 10 American Red Cross shelters were operating for displaced residents.    At its highest point, the Missouri River was expected to crest at 47.5 feet (14.5 meters), beating its 2011 record by more than one foot.    "Comparisons to 2011 were inevitable," the NWS office in Iowa tweeted, "but these floods have resulted in many more rescues and widespread damage in eastern Nebraska and western Iowa."   Failing levees were blamed for flooding in numerous communities -- damaging homes and businesses.    The US Army Corps of Engineers, which maintains federal levee systems, said a majority were compromised along an approximately 100-mile portion of the Missouri River in southeast Nebraska.

- Military base under water -
Hundreds of people were rescued in Nebraska, where 54 cities issued emergency declarations, as did four Native American tribal areas.    Fremont, a city of more than 25,000, was surrounded by floodwaters over the weekend and cut off from aid.    It finally received food and other emergency supplies Sunday after crews managed to clear debris and mud from a road, officials said.    Three dozen Iowa counties were under states of emergency.    Roads were closed throughout Wisconsin and more than 200 people were evacuated, according to officials.

A third of Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska was overcome with floodwater, and was not expected to be dry again until Thursday.   "It's important to understand that this is going to take weeks and months to recover so this will be a prolonged effort," one of the base's leaders, Kevin Humphrey, said in a statement.    Three people were reported killed.   A Nebraska farmer died Thursday, during the height of the storm, trying to rescue a motorist stranded by floodwaters, the Omaha World-Herald reported.    On the same day, 80-year-old Betty Hamernik died after being trapped by floodwaters in her home in rural Columbus, Nebraska, according to the newspaper.    Aleido Rojas Galan, 55, was killed Friday in Iowa when his vehicle was swept away by floodwaters, TV station KETV said.
Date: Mon, 18 Mar 2019 16:57:59 +0100

Kiev, March 18, 2019 (AFP) - Eleven people have died and more than 30,000 have been infected this year in a major measles outbreak in Ukraine, the European country worst hit by the disease, Kiev said Monday.  The latest victim was a nine-year-old girl who died from complications Saturday after contracting the highly infectious disease, the health ministry said.

Some 30,500 people, including 17,000 children, have been infected so this year.   Authorities said shortages of vaccine in previous years and anti-vaccination sentiment, often driven by online campaigns spreading false information about the alleged risks, were the main reasons behind the outbreak.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends a 95-percent vaccination rate to prevent mass hospitalisations and fatalities.   But in Ukraine, just 42 percent of one-year-olds had been vaccinated as of end-2016, according to the United Nations children's agency UNICEF.   Measles cases more than tripled across Europe in 2018, with Ukraine accounting for most of the gain.

Europe as a whole saw nearly 83,000 cases last year, according to WHO figures.  The Ukrainian government reported 54,000 cases in 2018. There were 16 deaths nationwide.  In 2019, the authorities launched a special campaign including sending mobile vaccination teams to rural schools in two western regions particularly hard hit in the outbreak.   Measles is characterised by high fever and a reddish rash. It usually triggers only mild symptoms but remains one of the leading causes of death among young children globally.
Date: Sun, 17 Mar 2019 16:19:02 +0100

Paris, March 17, 2019 (AFP) - Eurostar trains from Paris to London were hit by cancellations and "severe delays" on Sunday as French customs officers staged work-to-rule industrial action.     The customs officers are demanding higher pay and better working conditions while seeking to demonstrate what might happen if full border controls are put in place once Britain leaves the European Union.

Paris-to-London trains were experiencing "severe delays and lengthy queues for our services," Eurostar said on its website. "We strongly recommend that you do not travel today."   Four trains had been cancelled by lunchtime on Sunday, with another three on Monday and one on Tuesday.   Sunday's work-to-rule was just the latest in a string of strike actions by the French customs officers.

Work-to-rule strikes began in early March, in the Channel ports of Dunkirk and Calais, northern France, leading to long delays for trucks waiting to cross to Britain.   The customs workers want better pay but also more staff to cope with British travellers who will no longer have European passports once the UK leaves the European Union.

Brexit is due to happen on March 29 but looks increasingly likely to be delayed as the British parliament is yet to agree on a divorce plan.   On Wednesday French unions representing the around 17,000 customs workers rejected a government offer of a 14 million euro ($15.8 million) payroll boost, saying it was insufficient.
Date: Sun, 17 Mar 2019 16:15:35 +0100

Mataram, Indonesia, March 17, 2019 (AFP) - At least two people were killed and dozens injured Sunday after an earthquake on the Indonesian tourist island of Lombok triggered a landslide, officials said.    The 5.5-magnitude quake is thought to have caused the landslide at the Tiu Kelep waterfall in the north of the island.   "Two people died in the landslide in the Tiu Kelep waterfall after the earthquake, one of them is a Malaysian," a disaster agency spokesman told AFP.   At least 44 people were injured in the earthquake, according to the agency, including eight Malaysians, while more than 30 houses were destroyed and about 500 others slightly damaged.

Indonesia is one of the most disaster-prone nations on Earth due to its position straddling the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, where tectonic plates collide.   Lombok was rocked by several earthquakes last summer, killing more than 500 people and leaving over 150,000 homeless.   Last September, the country was hit by an earthquake and tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island which killed around 2,200 people.
Date: Fri 15 Mar 2019
Source: Prothom Alo [edited]

The 3 members of a family from Baliadangi upazila's [2nd-lowest tier of regional administration] Ujarmoni village in Thakurgaon [district] are suspected to have been infected with the deadly Nipah virus, reports United News of Bangladesh [apparently later confirmed as Nipah virus; see below. - ProMED Mod.TY].

The victims include a 28 year old mother; her son, aged 8; and her daughter, aged 4. They were taken to Rangpur Medical College Hospital on Thursday [14 Mar 2019], said ABM Maniruzzaman, the resident medical officer of Baliadangi Upazila Health Complex. He said the victims had been suffering from fever for the last 3 days. They also reported headache and vomiting. The trio was 1st taken to Thakurgaon Modern Sadar Hospital and later shifted to RMCH.

Nipah virus is transmitted from animals to humans and can also be transmitted through contaminated food or directly between people, according to the World Health Organisation. There is no vaccine for the virus, which is spread through body fluids and can cause inflammation of the brain.

The mother's husband said his wife and children fell sick after eating jujube [fruit of the _Ziziphus jujuba_ bush] on Wednesday night [13 Mar 2019].

Thakurgaon civil surgeon Abu Mohammad Khairul Kabir said their blood samples had been collected for testing. A medical team from the Institute of Epidemiology, Disease Control and Research is scheduled to visit RMCH.

In February [2019], 5 members of a family died mysteriously in Baliadanga upazila. It is unclear what caused their deaths [Nipah virus is suspected]. In 2001, Nipah virus was identified as the causative agent in an outbreak of human disease occurring in Bangladesh. Genetic sequencing confirmed this virus as Nipah virus, according to the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
======================
[This is the 2nd family in Bangladesh to have been infected by Nipah virus this year [2019]. Nipah virus infections occur sporadically in Bangladesh. 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 the fruit. [The above report suggests that the family may have eaten contaminated jujube fruit]. This is the season for cases of Nipah virus infection to occur. The transmission season is usually January to April."

"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."

An image of a _Pteropus_ fruit bat can be found at

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Rangpur Division, Bangladesh: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/16030>]
Date: Fri 15 Mar 2019
Source: Le Journal de Mayotte [in French, trans. ProMED B, edited]

The circulation of Rift Valley fever (RVF) continues in Mayotte. An animal disease of viral origin, Rift Valley fever mainly affects domestic ruminants (cattle, sheep, goats), causing abortions and high mortality in young animals. It can be transmitted from the infected animal to humans.

In total, since the beginning of the epidemic (end of November [2018]),
- samples taken by veterinarians from sick animals or during abortions led to the identification of 8 new outbreaks this week [week of Mon 11 Mar 2019], for a total of 60 cases in animals (including 49 cattle). Animal foci are located mainly in the centre and north west of the island;
- a total of 101 human cases of RVF have been reported to the platform/cell watch and health emergencies of the ARS OI (CVAGS) of Mayotte by the CHM laboratory. Of those who could be interviewed, almost 80% report having been in contact with animals;
- since the beginning of the health alert, human cases have been located mainly in the centre and north west of the island, with nearly 60% of cases in Chiconi and Tsingoni.

Since 25 Feb 2019, the weekly number of new human cases has been on the decrease.  [byline: Anne Perzo]
========================
[This Rift Valley fever (RVF) outbreak has been going on since November 2018. The number of human cases of RVF has increased from 82 to 101 in about 2 weeks. However, it is good to learn that the number of new human cases is decreasing. The above report implies that the human infections are the result of contact with infected animals or their products, with fewer from virus transmission by mosquito vectors. The cattle cases certainly are the result of mosquito transmission.

Because RVF virus can be transovarially transmitted in populations of aedes mosquito vectors, and those resulting eggs can persist for a long period of time in nature, cases can occur periodically when the virus-containing eggs hatch, and infected adult females emerge from them. There is a risk that RVF will reappear on the island after the current outbreak has ended.

Recent studies have shown that RVF virus may severely injure human foetuses if contracted by mothers during pregnancy. There is no indication of whether any of the 101 RVF virus-infected people were pregnant. Abortions in infected livestock are common. There is no vaccine available for human use, but there is for livestock. There is no mention of whether the livestock populations in the area have been vaccinated.

The clinical findings related to the above human cases are not mentioned. In an earlier comment, ProMED noted that: "The most common complication associated with RVF is inflammation of the retina. As a result, approximately 1-10% of affected patients may have some permanent vision loss. Approximately 1% of humans that become infected with RVF virus die of the disease." - ProMED

[ealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Region d'outre-mer de Mayotte, France:
Date: Thu 14 Mar 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

Tasmania health officials are advising people who live on the east coast, or plan on travelling there, to ensure they protect themselves against mosquitoes following a number of cases of Barmah Forest virus. To date, 5 confirmed cases of the mosquito borne disease have been reported, with 2 additional cases being investigated. Officials note that these cases represent the 1st time the officials have been able to confirm the virus was contracted in Tasmania.

Public Health Services has partnered with University of Tasmania to conduct mosquito trapping in an attempt to learn more about this outbreak. PHS and UTAS staff will volunteer their time this weekend [16-17 Mar 2019] to set a number of traps on the East Coast. The trapping will attempt to confirm the presence of mosquito species known to carry the virus, and also to hopefully trap a mosquito carrying the virus for further research.

Barmah Forest virus is spread by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is related to Ross River virus. Barmah Forest virus is relatively common in mainland states but has not been thought to be present in Tasmania until recently.

Many people may be asymptomatic. If symptoms are present, they can manifest as fever, headache, aches and pains in muscles and joints, tiredness, rash, and swollen or stiff joints. Symptoms usually develop 3-21 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Most people recover completely in a few weeks.

Preventing insect bites will also protect against other mosquito borne diseases, such as Ross River virus, and tickborne diseases, such as Flinders Island spotted fever.

To protect against mosquitoes and ticks,
- avoid mosquito-infested areas when possible;
- cover up with a loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirt and long pants when outside;
- apply mosquito repellent to exposed skin;
- take special care during peak mosquito-biting hours, especially around dawn and dusk, and when outdoors or camping; and
- remove potential mosquito-breeding sites from around the home and screen windows and doors.
=======================
[Clearly, Barmah Forest virus (BFV) is currently being transmitted in Tasmania, reportedly for the 1st time. Interestingly, Dr Steve Berger's comment (Barmah Forest virus - Australia (02): (TS) comment http://promedmail.org/post/20190310.6360212) indicated that 19 cases of BFV infections have been reported in Tasmania from 1999-2018, suggesting that these infections were acquired in other Australian states. The previously ProMED-mail-posted cases of BFV infections have been in Queensland state. It will be interesting to learn which mosquito species are transmitting the virus in Tasmania. The Tasmania Public Health Services' advice to prevent mosquito bites should be taken seriously. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Tasmania, Australia:
Date: Fri, 15 Mar 2019 19:08:37 +0100
By Joaquim Nhamirre

Maputo, March 15, 2019 (AFP) - Tropical cyclone Idai battered Mozambican coastal city Beira Friday, leaving half a million people virtually cut off after power lines crashed, airport shut and roads were swamped by flooding that killed 66 people nationwide.   "There is no communication with Beira. Houses and trees were destroyed and pylons downed," an official at the National Institute of Disaster Management (NIDM) told AFP.   Authorities had to close Beira international airport after the air traffic control tower, the navigation systems and the runways were damaged by the storm.   "Unfortunately there is extreme havoc," said the official.   "Some runway lights were damaged, the navigation system is damaged, the control tower antennas and the control tower itself are all damaged.    "The runway is full of obstacles and parked aircrafts are damaged."

Late on Wednesday, the national carrier LAM cancelled all flights to Beira and Quelimane, which is also on the coast, as well as to Chomoio, which is inland.    Power utility Electricidade de Mocambique said in a statement that the provinces of Manica, Sofala and parts of Inhambane have been without power since Thursday.   Officials did not report any confirmed deaths, but local Beira station STV reported a child had died in Manica province west of the city, apparently the victim of a falling roof.   "There was no tsunami-type storm but Beira and Chinde (400 kilometres, 250 miles northeast of Beira on the coast) were badly hit," added the NIDM official.

Another official, Pedro Armando Alberto Virgula, in Chinde, said a hospital, police station and seven schools there lost their roofs and four houses were destroyed.   Virgula added that efforts were under way to assess the damage caused after Idai made landfall late on Thursday.   Local officials said that this week's heavy rains claimed 66 lives, injured 111 people and displaced 17,000 people.   The World Food Programme (WFP) said it would move 20 tonnes of emergency food aid to the affected areas.   The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) had warned that the storm could pack winds of up to 190 kilometres per hour (118 miles per hour).

- 'Devastation' -
At least 126 people were killed by the downpour that has struck parts of Mozambique, Malawi and South Africa over the past week, officials said.   Heavy rains in neighbouring Malawi have affected almost a million people and claimed 56 lives, according to the latest government toll.   Authorities there have opened emergency relief camps where malaria and shortages of supplies have led to dire conditions, according to AFP correspondents.

Malawian President Peter Mutharika this week declared a natural disaster.   Mozambique's weather service has warned that heavy rain will continue to batter Beira and surrounding areas until Sunday.   The UN warned of damage to crops, "including about 168,000 hectares (415,000 acres) of crops already impacted by flooding in early March, which will undermine food security and nutrition".   Mozambique and Malawi, two of the poorest countries in the world, are prone to deadly flooding during the rainy season and chronic drought during the dry season.   In neighbouring Zimbabwe, weather services have warned that violent thunderstorms, lightning and strong winds will be experienced in the eastern regions of the country.