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Antartica

General:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
***********************************************
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:
************************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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;
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
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:
**********************************
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: Fri, 6 Dec 2019 03:03:18 +0100 (MET)
By Pierre-Henry DESHAYES

Half Moon Island, Antarctica, Dec 6, 2019 (AFP) - The swimsuit-clad tourists leap into the icy water, gasping at the shock, and startling a gaggle of penguins.   They are spectators at the end of the world, luxury visitors experiencing a vulnerable ecosystem close-up.   And their very presence might accelerate its demise.   Antarctica, a vast territory belonging to no one nation, is a continent of extremes: the coldest place on Earth, the windiest, the driest, the most desolate and the most inhospitable.   Now, it's also a choice destination for tourists.

All around Half Moon Island, off the Antarctic Peninsula, blocks of ice of all sizes float by on a calm sea, their varying forms resembling weightless origami shapes.    On this strip of land, that juts out of the Antarctic Polar and towards South America, visitors can see wildlife normally only viewed in zoos or nature documentaries along with spectacular icy landscapes.   The ethereal shades of white that play across the pillowy peaks change with the light, acquiring pastel hues at dawn and dusk.   "Purity, grandeur, a scale that's out of this world," says Helene Brunet, an awestruck 63-year-old French pensioner, enjoying the scene.    "It's unbelievable, totally unbelievable. It's amazing just to be here, like a small speck of dust."

AFP joined the 430 passengers on board the Roald Amundsen, the world's first hybrid electric cruise ship, on its maiden voyage in the Southern Ocean.    "It's not your typical beach, but it's awesome to do it," says a numb Even Carlsen, 58, from Norway, emerging from his polar plunge in the three-degree C (37.4 F) water.   When tourists go ashore, bundled up in neon-coloured windbreakers and slathered in SPF50 sunscreen, they have to follow strict rules: clean your personal effects so you don't introduce invasive species, keep a respectful distance from wildlife to avoid distressing them, don't stray from the marked paths and don't pick up anything.   "We mucked up the rest of the world. We don't want to muck up Antarctica too," says an English tourist, as she vacuums cat hair off her clothes before going ashore.

- 'Heart of the Earth' -
The Antarctic peninsula is one of the regions on Earth that is warming the fastest, by almost three degrees Celsius in the past 50 years, according to the World Meteorological Organization -- three times faster than the global average.    In March 2015, an Argentinian research station registered a balmy 17.5 degrees Celsius, a record.    "Every year you can observe and record the melting of glaciers, the disappearance of sea ice... (and) in areas without ice, the recolonisation of plants and other organisms that were not present in Antarctica before," said Marcelo Leppe, director of the Chilean Antarctic Institute.

Antarctica is "like the heart of the Earth," he added, saying that it expands and contracts like a heart beating, while the mighty current which revolves around the continent is like a circulatory system as it absorbs warm currents from other oceans and redistributes cold water.   The Antarctic Treaty, signed 60 years ago by 12 countries -- it now has 54 signatories -- declared the area a continent dedicated to peace and science, but tourism has gradually increased, with a sharp rise in the past few years.   Tourism is the only commercial activity allowed, apart from fishing -- the subject of international disputes over marine sanctuaries -- and is concentrated mainly around the peninsula, which has a milder climate than the rest of the continent and is easier to access.

Cruise ships have roamed the region for around 50 years, but their numbers only started to increase from 1990, as Soviet ice-breakers found new purposes in the post-Cold War era.   Some 78,500 people are expected to visit the region between November and March, according to the International Association of Antarctica Tour Operators (IAATO).   That's a 40-percent increase from last year, due in part to short visits by a few new cruise ships carrying more than 500 passengers, too many to disembark under IAATO regulations.     "Some might say 'Well, 80,000 people, that doesn't even fill a national stadium'... (and that it) is nothing like Galapagos which welcomes 275,000 a year," says IAATO spokeswoman Amanda Lynnes.    "But Antarctica is a special place and you need to manage it accordingly."

- 'Leave Antarctica to the penguins' -
It is Antarctica's very vulnerability that is attracting more and more visitors.   "We want to see this fantastic nature in Antarctica before it's gone," Guido Hofken, a 52-year-old IT sales director travelling with his wife Martina, says.    They said they had paid a supplement to climate compensate for their flight from Germany.

But some question whether tourists should be going to the region at all.   "The continent probably would be better off being left to penguins and researchers, but the reality is, that is probably never going to happen," said Michael Hall, professor and expert on polar regions at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand.   "Vicarious appreciation never seems to be enough for humans. So with that being the case, it needs to be made as low risk to the Antarctic environment and as low carbon as possible," said Hall.    "However, when the average tourist trip to Antarctica is over five tonnes of CO2 emissions per passenger (including flights), that is a serious ask."

Soot or black carbon in the exhaust gases of the scientific and cruise ships going to the region is also of concern, said Soenke Diesener, transport policy officer at German conservation NGO Nabu.   "These particles will deposit on snow and ice surfaces and accelerate the melting of the ice because the ice gets darker and will absorb the heat from the sun and will melt much faster," he told AFP.   "So the people who go there to observe or preserve the landscape are bringing danger to the area, and leave it less pristine than it was," he added.

- Responsible tourism -
Antarctic tour operators insist they are promoting responsible tourism.   The trend is for more intimate, so-called expedition cruises, in contrast to popular giant cruise liners elsewhere which are criticised for being invasive and polluting.   With greener ships -- heavy fuel, the most commonly used for marine vessels, has been banned in Antarctica since 2011 -- cruise companies have sought to make environmental awareness a selling point, occasionally earning them accusations of greenwashing.

Global warming, pollution and microplastics are the result of human activities on other, faraway continents, say tour operators.   Here, their motto is "Take nothing but photographs, leave nothing but footprints, keep nothing but memories".   But before they've even set foot on the cruise ships departing from South America -- the most common itinerary -- visitors to Antarctica will already have flown across the world, causing emissions that harm the very nature they have come so far to admire.

Most visitors hail from the Northern Hemisphere, and almost half are from the United States and China, IAATO says.   "I'm a tourist who feels a little guilty about taking a flight to come here," admits Francoise Lapeyre, a 58-year-old globetrotter om France.   "But then again, there are priorities. There are some trips I just won't take, because they leave a big footprint and they're not worth it.   "Crisscrossing the planet to go to a beach for example," she says.

- Don't mention climate change -
Like other expedition cruises where accessible science is part of their trademark, the Roald Amundsen, owned by the Hurtigruten company, has no dance floor or casino.  Instead, there are microscopes, science events and lectures about whales and explorers like Charles Darwin.   But they steer clear of climate change, which is only mentioned indirectly.   That's a deliberate decision as the subject has proven "quite controversial", said Verena Meraldi, Hurtigruten's science coordinator.   "We held several lectures dedicated specifically to climate change but it leads to conflicts. There are people who accept it as a fact, others who don't," she said.   Onboard, "passengers" are referred to as "guests" and "explorers" rather than "cruisers".   "Explorers" are typically older, well-heeled, often highly travelled pensioners who are handed walking sticks as they step ashore.   "My 107th country," says a Dane, stepping ashore onto Antarctica.

The Roald Amundsen "guests" choose between three restaurants, from street food to fine dining -- a far cry from the conditions endured by the Norwegian adventurer for whom the ship is named, who had to eat his sled dogs to survive his quest to reach the South Pole in 1911.   They have paid at least 7,000 euros ($7,700) each for an 18-day cruise in a standard cabin, and up to 25,000 euros ($27,500) for a suite with a balcony and private jacuzzi.   Other cruises are banking on ultra-luxury, with James Bond-like ships equipped with helicopters and submarines, suites of more than 200 square metres (2,153 square feet) and butler services.   With a seaplane to boot, the mega-yacht SeaDream Innovation will offer 88-day cruises "from Pole to Pole" starting in 2021. The two most expensive suites, with a price tag of 135,000 euros per person, are already booked.
 
- Worlds collide -
Outside, in the deafening silence, wildlife abounds.   All around are penguins, as awkward on land as they are agile in water. Massive and majestic whales slip through the waves, and sea lions and seals laze in the sun.   On Half Moon Island, chinstrap penguins -- so called because of a black stripe on their chin -- strut about in this spring breeding season, raising their beaks and screeching from their rocky nests.   "This is to tell other males 'This is my space' and also, maybe, 'This is my female'," ornithologist Rebecca Hodgkiss, a member of the Hurtigruten's scientific team, explains, as a group of tourists stroll around ashore.   The colony of 2,500 penguins has been gradually declining over the years, but it's not known if that is man's fault or they have just moved away, according to Karin Strand, Hurtigruten's vice president for expeditions.   Invisible to the naked eye, traces of humankind are however to be found in the pristine landscape.   Not a single piece of rubbish is in sight but microplastics are everywhere, swept in on ocean currents.   "We've detected them in the eggs of penguins for example," Leppe told AFP.

- Venice under water -
The Antarctic, which holds the world's largest reserve of freshwater, is a ticking time bomb, warn experts and studies.   They say that the future of millions of people and species in coastal areas around the world depends on what is happening here.   As a result of global warming, the melting ice sheet -- especially in the western part of the continent -- will increasingly contribute to rising sea levels, radically re-drawing the map of the world, says climate scientist Anders Levermann, of the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.   This meltwater will contribute 50 centimetres (almost 20 inches) to the global sea level rise by 2100, and much more after that, he said.   "For every degree of warming, we get 2.5 metres of sea level rise. Not in this century, but in the long run," he said.

Even if the international community meets its obligations under the Paris Agreement to limit global warming to under two degrees Celsius, sea levels will still rise by at least five metres.   "Which means that Venice is under water, Hamburg is under water, New York, Shanghai, Calcutta," he said.   It's impossible to predict when, but the scenario appears unavoidable, says Levermann.   In the same way that a cruise ship powering ahead at full speed can't immediately stop, sea levels will continue to rise even if all greenhouse gas emissions were to cease immediately, a study has said.

- Changing the world? -
The tourism industry says it hopes to make "ambassadors" out of Antarctica visitors.   "It's good for the animal life and for the protection of Antarctica that people see how beautiful this area is, because you cherish what you know and understand," said Hurtigruten chief executive Daniel Skjeldam.   Texan tourist Mark Halvorson, 72, says he is convinced.   "Having seen it, I am that much more committed to having a very high priority in my politics, in my own inner core convictions to being as environmentally friendly in my life as I can," he said.   So, do Guido and Martina Hofken see themselves as future "ambassadors of Antarctica"?    "Just a little bit, probably. But I don't think I will change the world," Guido Hofken concedes.    "The best thing would be for nobody to travel to Antarctica."
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."
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Norfolk Island

General:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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:
***********************************************
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:
************************************
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:
**********************************
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:
**********************************
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;
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
*
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:
**********************************
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

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Iraq

Iraq US Consular Information Sheet
2nd October 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
In 2005, Iraqi citizens adopted a new constitution and participated in legislative elections to create a permanent, democratic government, and in May 2006, a new Gove
nment of Iraq (GOI), led by Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, was sworn in. Although the GOI has made political, economic and security progress, Iraq still faces many challenges, including overcoming three decades of war and government mismanagement that stunted Iraq's economy, sectarian and ethnic tensions that have slowed progress toward national reconciliation, and ongoing (even if abating) insurgent, sectarian, criminal, and terrorist violence. Conditions in Iraq are extremely dangerous. While Iraqi Security Forces now take the lead in providing security in most provinces, Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) continues to assist the Iraqi government in providing security in many areas of the country. The workweek in Iraq is Sunday through Thursday. Visit the Department of State Background Notes on Iraq for the most current visa information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: Passports valid for at least six months and visas are required for most private American citizens. An Iraqi visa may be obtained through the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. Travelers should not rely on obtaining a visa upon arrival at an airport or port of entry in Iraq. Visitors to Iraq who plan to stay for more than 10 days must obtain a no-fee residency stamp. In Baghdad, the stamps are available for all visitors at the main Residency Office near the National Theater. Contractors in the International Zone may also obtain exit stamps at the Karadah Mariam Police Station (available Sunday and Wednesday, 10:00-14:00.). There is a 10,000 Iraqi dinar (USD 8) penalty for visitors who do not obtain the required residency stamp. In order to obtain a residency stamp, applicants must produce valid credentials or proof of employment, two passport-sized photos, and HIV test results. An American citizen who plans to stay longer than two months must apply at the Residency Office for an extension. Americans traveling to Iraq for the purpose of employment should check with their employers and with the Iraqi Embassy in Washington, D.C. for any special entry or exit requirements related to employment. American citizens whose passports reflect travel to Israel may be refused entry into Iraq or may be refused an Iraqi visa, although to date there are no reported cases of this occurring.
U.S. citizens who remain longer than 10 days must obtain an exit stamp at the main Residency Office before departing the country. In Baghdad, they are available for all visitors at the main Residency Office near the National Theater. Contractors in the International Zone may also obtain exit stamps at the Karadah Mariam Police Station (available Sunday and Wednesday, 10:00-14:00). Exit stamp fees vary from USD 20 to USD 200, depending on the length of stay, entry visa and other factors. Those staying fewer than 10 days do not need to get an exit stamp before passing through Iraqi immigration at the airport. Visitors who arrive via military aircraft but depart on commercial airlines must pay a USD 80 departure fee at the airport.
Note: For information on entry requirements for other countries, please go to the Entry/Exit Requirements section in the Country Specific Information Sheet for the country you are interested in at http://travel.state.gov/travel/cis_pa_tw/cis/cis_1765.html. You may also contact the U.S. embassy or consulate of that country for further information.
Visit the Iraqi Embassy web site at http://www.iraqiembassy.us for the most current visa information. The Embassy is located at 1801 P Street NW, Washington, DC 20036; phone number is 202-742-1600; the fax is 202-333-1129.
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:
The risk of terrorism directed against U.S. citizens in Iraq remains extremely high. The Department of State continues to strongly warn U.S. citizens against travel to Iraq, which remains very dangerous.

Remnants of the former Baath regime, transnational terrorists, criminal elements and numerous insurgent groups remain active throughout Iraq. Multinational Force-Iraq (MNF-I) and Iraqi Security Forces (ISF)-led military operations continue, and attacks persist against MNF-I and the ISF throughout the country. Turkish government forces have carried out operations against elements of the Kongra-Gel (KGK, formerly Kurdistan Worker’s Party, or Partiya Karkeren Kurdistan (PKK)) terrorist group that are located along Iraq’s northern border. Despite recent improvements in the security environment, Iraq remains dangerous, volatile and unpredictable. Attacks against military and civilian targets throughout Iraq continue, including in the International (or “Green”) Zone. Targets include hotels, restaurants, police stations, checkpoints, foreign diplomatic missions, and international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel. Such attacks can occur at any time. Kidnappings still occur; the most recent kidnapping of an American citizen occurred in July 2008. Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs), and mines often are placed on roads, concealed in plastic bags, boxes, soda cans, dead animals, and in other ways to blend with the road. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses and placed on vehicles at intersections, particularly in crowded areas. Rockets and mortars have been fired at hotels, and vehicle-borne IEDs have been used against targets throughout the country. Occasionally, U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to certain areas depending on prevailing security conditions. In addition to terrorist and criminal attacks, sectarian violence occurs often. Detailed security information is available on the Embassy's web site at http://iraq.usembassy.gov and at http://www.centcom.mil.
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, including the Travel Warning for Iraq, and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found. Travelers are also referred to the U.S. Embassy Baghdad’s Warden Notices which are available on the Embassy web site at http://iraq.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 and Tips for Traveling Abroad.
CRIME: The U.S. Embassy and MNF-I are working with Iraqi authorities to establish law enforcement and civil structures throughout the country. U.S. and British military personnel are providing police protection as well, as the security situation permits. Petty theft is common in Iraq, including thefts of money, jewelry, or valuable items left in hotel rooms and pick-pocketing in busy places such as markets. Carjacking by armed thieves is very common, even during daylight hours, and particularly on the highways from Jordan and Kuwait to Baghdad. Foreigners, primarily dual American-Iraqi citizens, and Iraqi citizens are targets of kidnapping. The kidnappers often demand money but have also carried out kidnappings for political/religious reasons.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to 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. While U.S. Consular Services in Iraq are limited due to security conditions, the Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.See our information on Victims of Crime.There is no 911-equivalent emergency telephone number in Iraq.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Basic modern medical care and medicines are not widely available in Iraq. The recent conflict in Iraq has left some medical facilities non-operational and medical stocks and supplies severely depleted. The facilities in operation do not meet U.S. standards, and the majority lack medicines, equipment and supplies. Because the Baghdad International Airport has limited operations for security reasons, it is unlikely that a private medical evacuation can be arranged.
Iraq does not allow visitors with HIV/AIDS to enter the country. At this time there is no waiver available for this ineligibility. However, please inquire directly with the Embassy of Iraq at http://www.iraqiembassy.org before you travel for any changes.

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://www.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.
AVIAN INFLUENZA: The WHO and Iraqi authorities have confirmed human cases of the H5NI strain of avian influenza, commonly known as the "bird flu." Travelers to Iraq and other countries affected by the virus are cautioned to avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets, and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals. In addition, the CDC and WHO recommend eating only fully cooked poultry and eggs. For the most current information and links on avian influenza, see the State Department's Avian Influenza Fact Sheet.
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 as well as whether medical evacuation would be possible from Iraq. 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 Iraq is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
All vehicular travel in Iraq is extremely dangerous. There have been numerous attacks on civilian vehicles, as well as military convoys. Attacks occur throughout the day, but travel at night is exceptionally dangerous and should be avoided. There have been attacks on civilian vehicles as well as military convoys on Highways 1, 5, 10 and 15, even during daylight hours. Travelers are strongly urged to travel in convoys with at least four vehicles in daylight hours only. Travel in or through Ramadi and Fallujah, in and between al-Hillah, al-Basrah, Kirkuk, and Baghdad and between the International Zone and Baghdad International Airport, and from Baghdad to Mosul is particularly dangerous. Occasionally, U.S. Government personnel are prohibited from traveling to select areas depending on prevailing security conditions. There continues to be heavy use of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and/or mines on roads, particularly in plastic bags, soda cans, and dead animals. Grenades and explosives have been thrown into vehicles from overpasses, particularly in crowded areas. Travel should be undertaken only when absolutely necessary and with the appropriate security.
Buses run irregularly and frequently change routes. Poorly maintained city transit vehicles are often involved in accidents. Long distance buses are available, but are often in poor condition and drive at unsafe speeds. Jaywalking is common. Drivers usually do not yield to pedestrians at crosswalks and ignore traffic lights (if available), traffic rules and regulations. Roads are congested. Driving at night is extremely dangerous. Some cars do not use lights at night and urban street lights may not be functioning. Some motorists drive at excessive speeds, tailgate and force other drivers to yield the right of way. 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 air carriers registered in Iraq, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Iraq's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
There is credible information that terrorists are targeting civil aviation. Military aircraft arriving and departing from Baghdad International Airport (ORBI) have been subjected to small arms and missile fire. Travelers choosing to utilize civilian aircraft to enter or depart Iraq should be aware that, although there have been no recent attacks on civilian aircraft, the potential threat still exists. Official U.S. Government (USG) personnel are strongly encouraged to use U.S. military or other USG aircraft when entering or departing Iraq. All personnel serving in Iraq under Chief of Mission (COM) authority are prohibited from entering or departing ORBI on commercial airlines unless they receive COM approval, which is granted on a case-by-case basis for emergency purposes only. Other personnel not under COM authority must be guided by their own agencies. Personnel under COM authority assigned to the Erbil and Sulaymaniyah areas are permitted to use commercial flights in and out of Erbil on a case-by-case basis.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
As of September 21, 2006, Iraqi law prohibits adult Iraqis and foreigners from holding and transporting more than U.S. $10,000 in cash out of Iraq. In addition, it permits adult Iraqi and resident foreigners to hold and transport no more than 200,000 Iraqi dinars to cover travel expenses. Iraqi law also prohibits taking more than 100 grams of gold out of the country. Iraqi customs personnel are taking action to enforce these laws and may pose related questions to travelers during immigration and customs exit procedures. (Civil customs personnel also will verify passport annotations related to any items such as foreign currency, gold jewelry, or merchandise that were declared by passengers upon entry into Iraq on Form-8.)
All U.S. citizens are reminded that it is their duty to respect Iraqi laws, including legal restrictions on the transfer of currency outside of Iraq. If you are detained at the airport or at any other point of exit regarding your attempt to transfer currency out of Iraq, you should contact – or ask that Iraqi authorities immediately contact -- the American Embassy.

Transporting large amounts of currency is not advisable. Almost all of the international companies working in Iraq have the capability to make payments to their employees and at least four Iraqi banks are also able to convert cash into an international wire transfer directed to a bank account outside Iraq. Branches of the Credit Bank of Iraq on Al-Sa’adoon St., Baghdad (creditbkiq@yahoo.com), Dar Es Salaam Bank (info@desiraq.com), Iraqi Middle East Investment Bank (coinvst@iraqimdlestbank.com) and Al-Warqaa Investment Bank (warkabank@hotmail.com) all have this capability. Please be aware that large wire transfers may require Central Bank of Iraq approval because of measures in place to combat money laundering. Such approvals can be obtained by the sending bank, if information on the origin of the funds and the reason for its transfer are provided. Additional information on banking in Iraq is available at the Central Bank of Iraq web site http://www.cbi.iq/.
Customs and MNF-I officers have the broad authority to search persons or vehicles at Iraq ports of entry. Officers may confiscate any goods that may pose a threat to the peace, security, health, environment, or good order of Iraq or any antiquities or cultural items suspected of being illegally exported. Goods that are not declared may be confiscated by an officer. Persons may also be ordered to return such goods, at their expense, to the jurisdiction from which they came. Please see our Customs Information.
The banking and financial infrastructure has been disrupted and is in the process of rebuilding. Hotels usually require payment in foreign currency. Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) are extremely limited but the Trade Bank of Iraq (TBI) provides ATM services in dinars and U.S. dollars at the TBI head office in central Baghdad and two other locations (See http://www.tbiraq.com.)
Telecommunications are very poor. There is limited international phone service in Iraq at this time. Local calls are often limited to a neighborhood network. There are no public telephones in the cities; however, calls may be made from hotels, restaurants or shops. Limited cellular telephone service and Internet service are available in Iraq.
Due to security conditions, the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is able to provide only limited emergency services to U.S. citizens. Because police and civil structures are in the process of being rebuilt, emergency service and support will be limited.
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 Iraqi laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Iraq 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: The U.S. and international media have occasionally reported on the difficult situation faced by Iraq's children, and it is completely understandable that some American citizens want to respond to such stories by offering to open their homes and adopt these children in need. However Iraqi law does not permit full adoptions as they are generally understood in the United States. It is not possible to adopt Iraqi children at this time. For more information on this issue, please refer to our flyer Intercountry Adoptions – Iraq.
Iraq is not party to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, nor are there any international or bilateral treaties in force between Iraq and the United States dealing with international parental child abduction. The security situation in Iraq limits consular access to children. For more information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
The Travel Warning on Iraq urges U.S. citizens to defer travel to Iraq. However, Americans living or traveling in Iraq despite that Warning 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 Iraq. 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. U.S. citizens may also contact the consular section of the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq located in the International Zone via e-mail at baghdadacs@state.gov, via landline at 1-240-553-0581, extension 2413 (this number rings in Baghdad) or the U.S. Embassy's web site at http://iraq.usembassy.gov. The after-hours number in case of extreme emergency is GSM 1-914-822-1370 or Iraqna 07901-732-134.
* * * * * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Iraq dated January 22, 2008, to update sections on Country Description, Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon 6 Jan 2020
Source: Rudaw [in Kurdish, trans. ProMED Mod.NS, abridged, edited]

The number of patients infected with seasonal influenza H1N1 in Kurdistan region has reached 38. Khalis Qadir, director general at the Kurdistan Regional Ministry of Health, told Rudaw that 4 of these patients have died and only one is from Kurdistan region. Qadir indicated that most cases were from Erbil governorate as of the 38 patients, 17 were from Erbil, 11 were from Duhok and 10 were from Sulaymaniyah.
Date: Thu 5 Jul 2018
Source: IraqiNews.com [edited]

Mosul, Iraq's former Islamic State (IS) capital, is witnessing a growing rate of scabies infections in its western region, medical workers reported as the city struggles to overcome destruction resulting from the war against the extremist group. Moamen Shahwani, a doctor at the health department in Mosul, was quoted by the Iraqi website Sky Press in a press statement that western Mosul has recorded 150 scabies cases, warning that parasites causing the disease are spreading in the city.

He attributed the spread of the disease to several factors, most importantly the return of displaced families to the regions, which are still scarred by the war against Daesh (IS) and the resulting waste matter. "Garbage, debris and remains of corpses are almost at every corner; moreover, there is a shortage in water, electricity and other essential services," Shahwani said.

The doctor noted that, besides registered cases, there are other unregistered ones, with infected persons seeking treatment at outpatient clinics or resorting to herbal medicines. "The disease is highly dangerous and rapidly progressing, and it is difficult to contain it in a short period [in] an environment that lacks the simplest services," he added.

Mosul was IS's capital and base of operations in Iraq. It was from its Grand Nuri Mosque that IS founder, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, proclaimed the group's rule. Iraqi forces recaptured the city last July [2017] after an operation that lasted for more than 8 months. Most of the city's infrastructure was demolished due to battles, and authorities continue to extract dead bodies from under the debris.  [Byline: Mohamed Mostafa]
====================
[Scabies is found worldwide and is an indicator of poor hygienic conditions, including lack of personal hygiene and clean clothes, crowded sleeping conditions and inadequate water resources. Thus, it is not surprising that scabies is found in Mosul under the present circumstances. More importantly, scabies can be an indicator of infections transmitted by human lice, like _Borrelia recurrentis_, _Rickettsia prowazekii_ and _Bartonella quintana_. Thus, those treating persons with severe febrile illness in Mosul should consider these infections. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Tue 26 Jun 2018
Source: Rudaw [edited]
<http://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/26062018>

After 3 reported deaths caused by viral haemorrhagic fever in Iraq's Euphrates Valley, a rights group has called on the government to undertake measures to prevent the disease from spreading, while officials say: "The situation doesn't call for worry." "The Iraqi High Commission for Human Rights warns of spreading the viral haemorrhagic fever, which causes human deaths and has great dangers to public health and the economy of Iraq," read a statement from IHCHR on Tuesday [26 Jun 2018].

The virus is spread by mosquitoes, ticks, rodents, and bats into livestock and humans, or when humans butcher already-infected livestock. "We call on the Ministry of Health and Diwaniyah Health Department to fumigate animal sheds in the province and carry out rapid preventive measures to prevent the spreading of the disease to Iraq's provinces," added the rights group.

They call for butchers only to work at licensed locations and for the police and relevant administrations to issue instructions. Additionally, posters should be displayed, and seminars should be offered as part of an educational campaign. "After 2 people lost their lives due to the hemorrhagic fever in the Diwanyah province, our ministry has swiftly undertaken the necessary measures to prevent the disease and provide necessary medications," Sayf Badir, a spokesperson for the ministry, said in a statement.

A source from the Diwanyah Hospital told Baghdad Today of another death on Monday [25 Jun 2018], increasing the number to 3. The Provincial Council of Diwanyah held a meeting in the presence of the governor and the head of the province's police to discuss the issue. Dr. Sabah Mahdi, the director of the National Center for Containing and Preventing Diseases, said on Monday [25 Jun 2018] that the 1st recorded case of the disease in Iraq was in 1979. He revealed that there are continuous efforts by the veterinaries to spray pesticides on cattle fields.

"To prevent this disease, we advise all ranchers, laboratory employees, and veterinary employees to wear personal protection gear while dealing with animals," added Mahdi. "The preventive measures are continuous, and by following up on all the cases, the situation doesn't call for worry." The World Health Organization defines viral haemorrhagic fever as "a general term for a severe illness, sometimes associated with bleeding, that may be caused by a number of viruses." Symptoms are sudden and include fever, muscle ache, dizziness, neck pain, backache, headache, and sore eyes, among other symptoms. The mortality rate is 30 percent. There is no vaccine available for humans or animals. There have been no reported cases outside of Diwanyah.
======================
[If the virus is believed to be spread by mosquitoes, ticks, rodents, and bats into livestock and humans, the identity of the virus has not been determined. However, if it is transmitted to humans when they butcher livestock, that raises the possibility that the etiological agent is Congo-Crimean haemorrhagic fever (CCHF) virus.

Cases in Iraq would not be surprising because cases have occurred this year (2018) across the region, including Iran and Afghanistan, and was suspected in 2 fatal and 4 suspected cases in Iraq in 2010. Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever (CCHF) is caused by infection with a tick-borne Nairovirus in the family Bunyaviridae. It is a viral zoonosis (animal to human) caused by infection with a tick-borne virus.

The hosts of the CCHF virus are mostly wild and domestic animals, including cattle, sheep and goats. Human transmission may occur when human beings come into contact with infected ticks (through tick bites) or direct contact with blood or tissues of an infected animal. CCHF can be transmitted from one infected human to another by contact with infectious blood or body fluids. In humans, until the etiological agent is identified, effective prevention will be difficult. ProMED-mail would appreciate receiving the name of the virus involved and the laboratory tests used to identify it. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map: Qadisiyyah Governorate, Iraq:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/25538>]
Date: Mon 9 Oct 2017
Source: MedPage Today [edited]

US service members deployed to Iraq showed signs of having been infected with latent visceral leishmaniasis during their service, researchers said.

In one study, latent visceral leishmaniasis was identified in asymptomatic Operation Iraqi Freedom soldiers (10.2 percent of 88), potentially putting them at risk of activation of the disease if they are immunosuppressed, according to Edgie-Mark Co of the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Texas <https://academic.oup.com/ofid/article/4/suppl_1/S122/4295608/A-Stealth-Parasite-Prevalence-and-Characteristics>.

In another study, 20 veterans with asymptomatic latent visceral leishmaniasis had no active disease, although it was not clear how likely the condition was to resurface and cause serious health problems, reported Nate Copeland of the Clinical Trials Center at Walter Reed Army Institute in Bethesda, Maryland, and colleagues <https://academic.oup.com/ofid/article/4/suppl_1/S122/4295606/Clinical-Evaluation-of-Latent-Visceral>.

Both studies were presented at the annual ID Week meeting, sponsored jointly by the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society (PIDS), the Society for Healthcare Epidemiology of America (SHEA), and the HIV Medicine Association (HIVMA).

Leishmaniasis is spread by sand flies and is common in the Middle East. The zoonotic parasitic disease can cause chronic fever, weight loss, spleen problems, and pancytopenia. Bacterial infections, malnutrition, and severe bleeding can also occur. Researchers are concerned because visceral leishmaniasis, unlike the more common cutaneous form, can cause serious health problems.

"Visceral leishmaniasis can be severe, and even life-threatening if not recognized and treated appropriately," Copeland told MedPage Today.

He said that more than 20 cases of active visceral leishmaniasis were reported among US service members in the Iraq region from 2000-2013, along with hundreds of cutaneous cases.

The study by Copeland [et al.] checked 88 soldiers from the El Paso area who'd served in areas with endemic visceral leishmaniasis from 2002-2011 (86 percent male, median age 39). Via various tests, they found that 10.2 percent showed signs of asymptomatic visceral leishmaniasis.

"If you have a healthy immune system, it shouldn't be an issue. That's what your immune system does, it suppresses the disease," Co told MedPage Today. "But once you have conditions that weaken the system, that's when the disease reactivates." HIV, treatment with immunosuppressant drugs, and the use of steroids could put these soldiers at risk of emergence of active disease, he said.

"Reactivation has been reported in the literature among immunocompromised patients such as solid organ transplants patients and rheumatologic patients with immunosuppressive treatment," said Kanokporn Mongkolrattanothai of Children's Hospital of Los Angeles, who has treated leishmaniasis patients.

Mongkolrattanothai, who was not involved with the studies, told MedPage Today that the new studies are "useful" in light of the life-threatening nature of visceral leishmaniasis.

In the study of 20 soldiers with active visceral leishmaniasis (all male, median age 38.5), "the majority tested positive with a test showing a good cell-mediated immune response, which is essential for control of the _leishmania_ parasites," Copeland said. "These service members were all counseled on the clinical syndrome of visceral leishmaniasis as well as potential risk factors for activation based on what is known at this time."

These patients will be able to visit for re-checks every 1 or 2 years, Copeland said, "but if they remain asymptomatic they likely do not need further care in light of being a healthy and immune-competent group."

Tests revealed that another 2 service members showed signs of genetic material from leishmania parasites in their blood. "While they are also without symptoms, we are following them very closely, every 3-6 months, and monitoring their levels of parasite," Copeland said. "We have also been doing some evaluation as to whether these individuals have any evidence of an immunodeficiency allowing them to have parasites circulating in their blood stream."

"Neither service member is being treated at this point, " he said, "because there are definite known risks to treatment, but no clearly defined benefit to treating people without symptoms. [But] if they were to develop symptoms, there would be a very low threshold to treat them."

The next steps are to understand the risk to service members of latent visceral leishmaniasis infection and gain insight into risk factors for activation, he said.

"In tuberculosis, we have a very similar disease, conceptually," he said. "You have a parasite that most often causes no problems in healthy people exposed, but a certain subset go on to active disease early on after exposure, and others reactivate months to years later, often as a result of some risk factor."

"While we are not sure if the later reactivation is the case in leishmaniasis, we are concerned it may be," Copeland added. "In tuberculosis, there is clear evidence that if you treat those with latent infection, especially those with risk factors for reactivation, you can decrease the risk of future active disease. So that begs the question, would the same be true in leishmaniasis? In other words, can we treat these asymptomatic people now and prevent them from ever getting disease?"  [Byline: Randy Dotinga]
========================
[We know very little about latent Leishmaniasis in healthy subjects. There is no doubt that the exposure to leishmaniasis in the US armed forces in Iraq was extensive (see ProMED reports below from 2001 to 2004).

The tests described here respond with an Interferon-gamma response to stimulation with Leishmania antigens. The test may be false positive or negative and we have no data showing that even if the tests correctly identify people who have been exposed to Leishmania, they will eventually become ill with clinical visceral leishmaniasis.

The authors draw a comparison with tuberculosis. We know a lot more about latent tuberculosis but even here treating latent tuberculosis based on a positive quantiferon test in healthy, asymptomatic individuals is controversial. These people, if treated, are exposed to side effects and the benefit is not well quantified. It is a good rule in clinical medicine, that we treat patients and not laboratory results. Thus a sensible scenario would be to do follow up in Leishmania test positive, asymptomatic individuals.

For subjects with a confirmed (repeated) positive PCR for Leishmania in their blood or other samples like a bone marrow, the infection is no longer asymptomatic and should be treated accordingly, probably with liposomal amphotericin B. - ProMED Mod EP]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
Date: Sun 24 Sep 2017
Source: Alghad Press [in Arabic, trans. Mod.NS, edited]

The Parliamentary Health and Environment Committee revealed on [Sun 24 Sep 2017] the spread of plague and called for a national campaign against rodents that are causing the disease.

The deputy head of the Parliamentary Health and Environment Committee, Fares Al-Barefkani, told Alghad Press that "new cases of plague have been identified, and the causes of the disease are known and are related to the poor municipal, disease control, sewage, and landfill services, in addition to widespread residential slums."

Al-Barefkani indicated that "there are a lot of residential slums that have emerged and are not under the control of Baghdad municipality and lack health services." He called for "a serious national campaign to combat rodents in the residential neighbourhoods that cause plague and provide medicines that help to eliminate the disease" and stressed that "there is a need to support Baghdad municipality and the health and the environment directorates to educate people on how to combat plague."

Al-Barefkani added that "the Parliamentary Health and Environment Committee does not have accurate data on the number of cases because we are in the process of follow-up in all the governorates."

On Tuesday [12 Sep 2017], the Ministry of Health denied some social media and other media reports about the occurrence of plague cases.
===================
[ProMED would again appreciate more information regarding whether plague cases have occurred in Iraq as it had been previously denied. If plague is present there, a program to eradicate rodents alone will not be effective in preventing human cases as the infected flea vector will seek other blood sources, such as humans.

This publication regarding the history of _Yersinia pestis_ in Iran also reviews the history of plague in other countries in the Middle East including Iraq:

Hashemi Shahraki A, Carniel E, Mostafavi E: Plague in Iran: its history and current status. Epidemiol Health. 2016 Jul 24; 38: e2016033; available at

"Throughout its history, Iraq has experienced multiple epidemics of plague. In 716 and 717 CE, a large outbreak known as al-Ashraf (the Notables) was recorded in Iraq and Syria. In an epidemic of bubonic plague in 1772 and 1773, many victims died in cities such as Basra (with 250 000 deaths) and Mosul. In 1801 CE, a large plague epidemic occurred in Mosul and Baghdad. A plague epidemic occurred again in Baghdad in 1908. From 1923 to 1924, approximately 90 cases of pneumonic plague were reported in Baghdad, and some plague outbreaks were reported in Basra." - ProMED Mod.LL]

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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 13:58:41 +0100 (MET)
By Suy SE

Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - A US cruise ship blocked from several Asian ports over concerns that a passenger could have been infected with the new coronavirus docked at a Cambodian pier Thursday, as frustrated holidaymakers expressed hope their ordeal may soon be over.   The Westerdam was supposed to be taking its 1,455 passengers on a dream 14-day cruise around east Asia, beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and disembarking on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.   But the ship was turned away from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand over fears of the novel coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 1,300 people in China.

Cruise operator Holland America has insisted there are no cases of the SARS-like virus on board and Cambodia announced Wednesday that the boat would be able to dock in Sihanoukville, on its southern coast.   By evening, the ship moved into the beach town's port, moving past the small fishing vessels that usually ply the waters.   As it slowly approached the pier, people onshore snapped selfies of themselves with the massive vessel.   The mood was equally buoyant on the boat.   "Thank you Cambodia! You believed in us when no one would!" tweeted passenger Lydia Miller around 7 pm (1200 GMT). "We promise to spend lots of money in your country."

Fellow cruiser Christina Kerby -- who has been posting light-hearted updates from the Westerdam -- tweeted she was "feeling rebellious tonight so I'm wearing sneakers in the dining room".   But all passengers would have to remain onboard until flights have been arranged, said provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun.    "The arrangement of the planes to take them from (Sihanoukville) airport to Phnom Penh airport is underway," he said, explaining that three flights were scheduled Friday morning.    Buses were lined up by the pier ready to transfer passengers to Sihanoukville's airport. Holland America has said they would foot the bill to return all guests.

- 'Disease of fear' -
Before the ship docked, doctors conducted health checks for the passengers.    The samples of 20 on board who were sick were sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh to test for the virus, said transport minister Sun Chanthol.    Cambodian premier Hun Sen is a staunch Chinese ally and has been vocal in his support of Beijing's handling of the epidemic, even going so far as to visit China last week in a show of solidarity.   "The permission to dock is to stop the disease of fear that is happenin
around the world," he told state-affiliated media website Fresh News on Wednesday.    "We must help them when they asked us for help," he added.   Neighbouring Thailand, which blocked the Westerdam from docking in its eastern seaboard port, on Thursday received two cruise liners in holiday resort town Phuket. 

Both Seabourne Ovation and Quantum of the Seas were allowed to dock, and passengers to alight for roughly 10 hours as part of the scheduled stop.    "They were all checked by their doctors on the ship, and we also examined them when they disembarked," Phuket governor Pakapong Tawipat told AFP.    He added that the passengers and the crew members "were not Chinese", and that Phuket was part of their regular routes, unlike the Westerdam.    Japan's premier Shinzo Abe expressed worries last week over a possible infection on the Westerdam, and said measures will be taken to "reject entries" for foreigners into the country.    Cambodia, which has one confirmed case of the virus, is the recipient of billions of dollars in soft loans, infrastructure, and investment from China.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 11:14:36 +0100 (MET)

Jakarta, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupted Thursday as fiery red molten lava streamed down from the crater and it belched clouds of grey ash 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky.   Authorities did not raise the rumbling volcano's alert status after the early-morning eruption, but they advised commercial planes to take caution in the area.   But any activity at Merapi raises concern and local residents were ordered to stay outside a three-kilometre no-go zone around the rumbling crater near Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta.    Volcanic ash rained down on a 10-square kilometre area, according to the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre.

Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of some 280,000 residents.   It was Merapi's most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives.   The Southeast Asian archipelago has more than 17,000 islands and islets -- and nearly 130 active volcanoes.   It sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 08:13:16 +0100 (MET)

Sydney, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Australia on Thursday announced a ban on travellers from China would extend for at least a week beyond Saturday's planned deadline, as the death toll from the coronavirus soared.    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would maintain "entry restriction on foreign nationals who have recently been in mainland China" for further week "to protect Australians from the risk of coronavirus".   A decision to extend the ban further will be taken week-to-week, he said.   The decision is a blow to Australian tourism operators who have seen business from Chinese visitors dry up, as well as for tens of thousands of Chinese students hoping to return to Australia for the new academic year.

China's official death toll and infection numbers from a new coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods, fuelling concern the epidemic is far worse than being reported.   The virus has now officially killed more than 1,350 people in China and the World Health Organisation has warned the disease has not yet peaked.   "I just want to assure all Australians, that we are doing everything we can to keep Australians safe at this time, and to ensure that we are mitigating everything that is possible to address any of the threats," Morrison said.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 06:46:12 +0100 (MET)

Sydney, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Dams near Sydney overflowed Thursday after days of torrential rain, as Australia braced for more storms expected to bring dangerous flash flooding to the country's east.   Recent downpours have brought relief to areas ravaged by bushfires and drought -- as well as chaos and destruction to towns and cities along the eastern seaboard.   On Thursday, Nepean Dam south of Sydney was at full capacity and spilling over, with video footage showing excess water cascading over the dam wall and downstream.   Two other dams in New South Wales, Tallowa and Brogo, were also overflowing and more dams could reach capacity in the coming days, a WaterNSW spokesman told AFP.

Sydney's dams have seen water levels spike dramatically -- the Nepean was just a third full less than a week ago -- though many inland areas are facing severe water shortages missed out on the flows.   A devastating months-long bushfire crisis that killed 33 people has effectively been ended by the downpours, with just one blaze yet to be brought under control in New South Wales.   Hundreds of people have been rescued from floodwaters in recent days.   Police said a man's body was discovered in a flooded river on Queensland's Sunshine Coast on Thursday, though the cause of his death was not immediately clear.

Wild weather is set to ramp up again from Friday, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi would bring "damaging to destructive winds" and heavy rainfall to remote tourist destination Lord Howe Island.   Senior meteorologist Grace Legge said storms were also expected for Queensland and New South Wales -- with areas still recovering from bushfires likely to be hit again.   "Any showers and thunderstorms that do develop are falling on already saturated catchments, so there is a risk with severe thunderstorms of flash flooding," she said.   Emergency services have warned residents in affected areas to be cautious in the dangerous conditions.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 06:24:23 +0100 (MET)

Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Vietnam announced Thursday that a commune of 10,000 people will be placed under quarantine due to fears over the spread of the new coronavirus.    "As of February 13, 2020, we will urgently implement the task of isolation and quarantine of the epidemic area in Son Loi commune," said a health ministry statement.    "The timeline... is for 20 days".    There are 15 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Vietnam, five of them in Son Loi commune.
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2020 21:09:17 +0100 (MET)

Geneva, Feb 12, 2020 (AFP) - The UN health agency on Wednesday said it was extending its global emergency designation for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo but said the sharp decline in cases was "extremely positive".   The recent outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and has since killed more than 2,300 people in eastern DR Congo -- an area where several militia groups are operating.   "As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO, however, said it was downgrading the national and regional risk of the disease from very high to high, while it kept the global risk at low.    Tedros also voiced hope that the emergency could be lifted within the next three months on the advice of the WHO's Emergency Committee of international experts.   The World Health Organization last July declared it a "public health emergency of international concern" -- a designation that gives the WHO greater powers to restrict travel and boost funding.   Tedros, who will be travelling to DRC on Thursday to meet President Felix Tshisekedi, on Tuesday said only three cases had been reported in the past week.

But for the epidemic to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days -- double the incubation period.   The health emergency designation last year came a few days after a patient was diagnosed with the virus in the provincial capital Goma -- the first case in a major urban hub.   More than a month before that, the WHO reported that the virus had spread to Uganda for the first time.   The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.   The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

This is the second worst outbreak of the disease since 2014 when it killed about 11,000 people -- mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.   Efforts to contain the current outbreak have been hindered by attacks on health workers and conflicts in the east.   The WHO said in November it had moved 49 staff out of the Beni region in eastern DRC because of the insecurity.   The Beni region, straddling the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, has been repeatedly attacked by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which activists say has massacred more than 300 people since October.
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2020 11:48:53 +0100 (MET)

Tomohon, Indonesia, Feb 12, 2020 (AFP) - Bats, rats and snakes are still being sold at an Indonesian market known for its wildlife offerings, despite a government request to take them off the menu over fears of a link to the deadly coronavirus.   Vendors at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island say business is booming and curious tourists keep arriving to check out exotic fare that enrages animal rights activists.   But scientists are debating how the new virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people in China and spread to dozens of countries around the world, was transmitted to humans.

A wildlife market in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, is thought to be ground zero and there is suspicion it could have originated in bats.    The possible link wasn't on many radar screens at the Indonesian market, however.   Its grubby stalls feature a dizzying array of animals including giant snakes, rats impaled on sticks and charred dogs with their hair seared off by blowtorches -- a gory scene described by some critics as "like walking through hell".

Bat seller Stenly Timbuleng says he's still moving his fare for as much as 60,000 rupiah ($4.40) a kilogram to buyers in the area, where bats are a speciality in local cuisine.   "I'm selling between 40 and 60 kilograms every day," the 45-year-old told AFP.   "The virus hasn't affected sales. My customers still keep coming."   Restaurateur Lince Rengkuan -- who serves bats including their heads and wings stewed in coconut milk and spices -- says the secret is preparation.   "If you don't cook the bat well then of course it can be dangerous," she said.   "We cook it thoroughly and so far the number of customers hasn't gone down at all."

This despite a request from the local government and the health agency to take bats and other wildlife out of circulation -- a call that has been all but ignored.   "We're also urging people not to consume meat from animals suspected to be carriers of a fatal disease," said Ruddy Lengkong, head of the area's government trade and industry agency.   Indonesia has not yet reported a confirmed case of the virus.   In the capital Jakarta, vendors selling skinned snakes and cobra blood on a recent Saturday night didn't have any trouble finding takers.   "It's good for you, sir," said one vendor of his slithering fare.   "Cures and prevents all diseases."
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2020 17:59:57 +0100 (MET)

Malé, Maldives, Feb 10, 2020 (AFP) - The Maldives' speaker of parliament on Monday apologised to a British tourist after footage of her arrest by several policemen triggered a social media storm.   Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise in the Indian Ocean popular with honeymooners and celebrities.   Police said the bikini-clad woman, who was walking on a main road, was "inappropriately" dressed and allegedly unruly and drunk when she was detained after refusing to comply with requests to cover up on Thursday.   The Maldives previously confined tourists to resort islets separate from the local Muslim population, but in recent years has allowed foreigners to stay on inhabited islands.

Tourists can wear swimwear such as bikinis in the resorts but are subject to local dress codes elsewhere.   Videos shared on social media showed three men trying to detain the traveller, while a fourth person tried to cover her with a towel.   The woman was heard shouting "you're sexually assaulting me" during the incident.   The speaker, Mohamed Nasheed, told parliament he was extending an apology to the woman over the incident, which saw her detained by police for two hours before they released her.

The tourist has since left the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, but Nasheed said he hoped tourism authorities would invite her to return to the luxury vacation spot.   Maldives Police Service Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said on Twitter after the footage was shared online that the incident "seems to be badly handled".   "I apologise to the tourist & the public for this. The challenge I have taken up is to professionalise the police service & we are working on that. This matter is being investigated."   A police statement on Friday called on tourists to respect "cultural sensitivities and local regulations".

The video of the incident also sparked anger among Maldivians. Some took to social media to criticise the tourist's behaviour after other videos showed her grabbing the sunglasses of a police officer.   Former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon criticised both the tourist and the police.   "She should have respected the religious and cultural norms of the country in terms of modest attire in a residential area," Maumoon said on Twitter.   "Condemn the man-handling by the Maldivian police. It could have been handled better and more professionally."
Date: Fri 7 Feb 2020
Source: Food Safety News [edited]

Almost 250 new infections have been recorded in a multi-country outbreak of salmonellosis linked to eggs from Poland. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that as of January 2020, 18 countries have reported 656 confirmed and 202 probable cases since February 2017. There are 385 historically confirmed and 413 historical probable cases going as far back as 2012, making it the largest European _Salmonella_ Enteritidis outbreak ever recorded. However, ECDC officials said the true extent of the outbreak was likely underestimated. Since the last update in November 2018, 248 new cases have been reported, of which 124 were confirmed, 36 probable, 42 historical-confirmed and 46 historical-probable infections.

Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK have recorded 1656 infections since 2012. The UK has the most with 688 confirmed and probable cases, Netherlands has 280, Belgium has 202 and Czech Republic has 111. Information on hospitalization is available for 427 patients in 12 countries, and 136 needed hospital treatment among the confirmed and historical-confirmed cases. Two historical-confirmed deaths, a child and an elderly patient, were also reported.

In each year from 2016 to 2018, outbreak cases peaked in September, with large waves reported between late spring and early autumn. Such a large seasonal increase was not seen in 2019. Epidemiological, microbiological and food tracing investigations have linked cases before 2018 to eggs from laying hen farms of a Polish consortium. Despite control measures in 2016 and 2017, farms of the Polish consortium were positive in 2018 and 2019 with outbreak strains, suggesting persistent contamination, according to officials. Investigations on the laying hen production and feed supply chains did not find the possible origin of contamination.

One of the outbreak strains was found from 2017 to 2019 in primary production in Germany. This outbreak strain represents two-thirds of confirmed cases.

In September 2018, a cluster of 9 confirmed cases was associated with the consumption of an RTE raw liquid egg-white drink distributed by Dr. Zak's. _Salmonella_-positive samples of RTE liquid egg whites from 2 batches matched those from this outbreak cluster. Both batches were produced by a French company. One was produced with raw materials such as pasteurized white egg from a Spanish company. The other used raw materials from 13 German laying hen farms and 11 Dutch laying hen farms. An investigation of this outbreak showed positive batches were produced with eggs from Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, who all supplied _Salmonella_-free eggs to the French company.

On the same day as production of one of the contaminated batches, a different batch of liquid eggs was produced at the French company with eggs supplied by a Polish packing center from a Polish laying farm belonging to the Polish consortium. However, the possibility of cross-contamination was ruled out due to the different production line used with different equipment (tanks, filling machine) and because of heat treatment on packaged products.

Investigations in the UK identified 14 cases potentially part of the outbreak travelling to Cyprus and staying in the same place between end of May and end of June 2018. This site received eggs from a Polish laying farm through the Polish packing center and a Dutch wholesaler.

Measures taken in 2016 and 2017, including depopulation of positive flocks, were not enough to eliminate contamination in the Polish consortium. So, the laying hen farms of this group were still positive for outbreak strains in 2018 and 2019. Between August 2018 and December 2019, 7 of 13 sampled Polish laying hen farms belonging to the Polish consortium tested positive for _Salmonella_ Enteritidis. >From November 2019 to January 2020, all flocks belonging to the Polish group were tested in accordance with Regulation 2160/2003, but _Salmonella_ was not detected.

Polish authorities reported that all _Salmonella_ Enteritidis positive flocks belonging to the Polish consortium were depopulated, including flocks found positive in May 2019. From 2015 to 2019, 16 laying hen farms, 13 of which belonged to the Polish consortium, were positive for at least one of the 4 SNP addresses causing human infections. Four rearing farms belonging to the Polish company were positive for _Salmonella_ Enteritidis between January 2017 and July 2019.

ECDC officials said the outbreak was still ongoing, and more infections were expected. "Since no evidence has been provided that the source of contamination has been eliminated, it is expected that further infections will occur and that new cases will be reported in the coming months. Additional investigations are necessary to identify the source of contamination."  [Byline: Joe Whitworth]
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[Salmonellosis is often thought to be associated with cracked eggs or eggs dirty with fecal matter, a problem controlled by cleaning procedures implemented in the egg industry. It is clearly the case, however, that most of the salmonellosis outbreaks linked to eggs were associated with uncracked, disinfected grade A eggs, or foods containing such eggs. The undamaged eggs become contaminated during ovulation and thus were contaminated with the bacteria before the egg shell was formed. To avoid this, uncooked eggs should be used only as an ingredient, if pasteurized.

The continuing outbreak was summarized in this 2019 report: Pijnacker R, Dallman TJ, Tijsma ASL, et al. An international outbreak of _Salmonella enterica_ serotype Enteritidis linked to eggs from Poland: a microbiological and epidemiological study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2019;19(7):778-786.

Abstract
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Background: _Salmonella_ spp. are a major cause of food-borne outbreaks in Europe. We investigated a large multi-country outbreak of _Salmonella enterica_ serotype Enteritidis in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Methods: A confirmed case was defined as a laboratory-confirmed infection with the outbreak strains of _S._ Enteritidis based on whole-genome sequencing (WGS), occurring between 1 May 2015 and 31 Oct 2018. A probable case was defined as laboratory-confirmed infection with _S._ Enteritidis with the multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis outbreak profile. Multi-country epidemiological, trace-back, trace-forward, and environmental investigations were done. We did a case-control study including confirmed and probable cases and controls randomly sampled from the population registry (frequency matched by age, sex, and postal code). Odds ratios (ORs) for exposure rates between cases and controls were calculated with unmatched univariable and multivariable logistic regression.

Findings: A total of 18 EU and EEA countries reported 838 confirmed and 371 probable cases; 509 (42%) cases were reported in 2016, after which the number of cases steadily increased. The case-control study results showed that cases more often ate in food establishments than did controls (OR, 3.4 [95% CI, 1.6-7.3]), but no specific food item was identified. Recipe-based food trace-back investigations among cases who ate in food establishments identified eggs from Poland as the vehicle of infection in October 2016. Phylogenetic analysis identified 2 strains of _S._ Enteritidis in human cases that were subsequently identified in _Salmonella_-positive eggs and primary production premises in Poland, confirming the source of the outbreak. After control measures were implemented, the number of cases decreased but increased again in March 2017, and the increase continued into 2018.

Interpretation: This outbreak highlights the public health value of multi-country sharing of epidemiological, trace-back, and microbiological data. The re-emergence of cases suggests that outbreak strains have continued to enter the food chain, although changes in strain population dynamics and fewer cases indicate that control measures had some effect. Routine use of WGS in _Salmonella_ surveillance and outbreak response promises to identify and stop outbreaks in the future. - ProMED Mod.LL]

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Date: Sun 9 Feb 2020
Source: San Francisco (CA) Chronicle [subscription required, edited]

Several cases of hepatitis A were confirmed in customers who ate in the same California restaurant, health officials said. The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services announced [Fri 31 Jan 2020], that the patients ate at 555 East American Steakhouse on or around [24 Dec 2019], KABC-TV reports.

The department did not disclose how many cases were diagnosed. The source of the illness is still under investigation, officials said.

Hepatitis A can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water. Symptoms can include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, dark urine, nausea, and jaundice. Most patients eventually recover completely, but some may require hospitalization or develop severe illness, health officials said.

The restaurant's management and staff are cooperating with health officials and there is no continuing risk to the public, officials said.

"We are notifying the public of the exposure so that people can immediately seek medical care if they begin to develop symptoms," Long Beach health officer Dr. Anissa Davis said in a statement. "Individuals who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A or have had the disease are protected," Davis said. "Those who are not immune to hepatitis A should consult their medical provider if they develop symptoms, and let their provider know they may have been exposed to hepatitis A."
======================
[This cluster (the number of cases is not stated) may be related to an HAV-contaminated food (such as shellfish) or an infected food service worker. If the former were the case, one might expect to see cases related to other restaurants. It would be interesting to know if the HAV strain is that from the still on-going multistate outbreak. This outbreak has been controlled in California and involved primarily homeless and substance abusing individuals and is related to poor sanitation rather than food/water vehicles. - ProMED Mod.LL]

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