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Antartica

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

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

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

New Zealand US Consular Information Sheet
September 22, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
New Zealand is a highly developed, stable parliamentary democracy, which recognizes the British monarch as sovereign. It has a modern economy, and tourist fa
ilities are widely available. The New Zealand Tourist Board, which has a wide range of information of interest to travelers, can be contacted via the internet at http://www.newzealand.com/USA/.
Read the Department of State Background Note on New Zealand for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
U.S. citizens eligible for a visa waiver do not need a visa for tourist stays of three months or less. For more information about visa waivers and entry requirements, contact the Embassy of New Zealand: 37 Observatory Circle NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 328-4800; or the Consulate General of New Zealand in Los Angeles: 2425 Olympic Blvd Suite 600E, Santa Monica, CA 90404, telephone (310) 566-6555.
Visit the Consulate of New Zealand web site at http://www.nzcgla.com for the most current visa information.

Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.
For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
U.S. citizens in New Zealand should review their personal security practices, be alert to any unusual activity around their homes or businesses, and report any significant incidents to local police.

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

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for other callers, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves overseas, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME:
Crime rates in New Zealand are low but have increased in recent years. The most prevalent crime is theft or attempted theft from cars, camper vans and hostels. To help protect against theft, do not leave passports, or other valuable items in unattended vehicles. Violent crime against tourists is unusual; however, visitors who are traveling alone should be especially vigilant, and avoid isolated areas that are not frequented by the public.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate for assistance.
The embassy/consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
In New Zealand, a private organization called Victim Support works both independently and with the NZ Police to assist victims of crime. Victim Support is available 24 hours per day on 0800-842-846, 0800-Victim, by email at victim@xtra.co.nz.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in New Zealand is 111.
See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Quality medical care is widely available, but waiting lists exist for certain types of treatment.
High-quality medication (both over-the-counter and prescription) is widely available at local pharmacies, though the products’ names may differ from the American versions.
Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of New Zealand.
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning New Zealand is provided for general reference only.

All traffic travels on the left in New Zealand, and drivers should exercise extra caution if accustomed to driving on the right. Driving on the wrong side of the road is a leading cause of serious injury and death for American tourists.
Cars turning left must yield to oncoming cars that are turning right.
Proceed carefully through intersections.
Red means “stop”—do not turn at a red light.

New Zealand has only 100 miles of multilane divided motorways. Most intercity travel is accomplished on two lane roads.
While these are in good condition, New Zealand's rugged terrain means motorists often encounter sharper curves and steeper grades than those found in the U.S. interstate highway system. Renting a car or camper is a popular way to enjoy New Zealand's natural beauty, but visitors unfamiliar with local conditions should drive particularly conservatively.
Posted speed limit signs should be observed. Drivers should use caution to avoid animals when driving in rural areas.

Pedestrians are advised to look carefully in all directions before crossing a street or roadway, and to use crosswalks.
Pedestrians do not have the right of way except in crosswalks.
New Zealand law requires that cars yield to pedestrians in a crosswalk, and that cars stop at least two meters (approximately 6 feet) from a crosswalk that is in use.

Traffic circles are common throughout New Zealand.
When approaching a traffic circle, always yield to traffic coming from the right –noting that traffic already in the circle has the right-of-way-- and merge to the left into the circle.

Public transportation, including buses, trains and taxis, is for the most part reliable and safe.
In case of emergency, phone the local police at 111.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
For specific information concerning the operation and rental of motor vehicles, contact the New Zealand Tourist Board via the Internet at http://www.newzealand.com/USA/ or the Land Transport Safety Authority at http://www.ltsa.govt.nz.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of New Zealand’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of New Zealand’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Some heavily populated parts of New Zealand are in areas of very high seismic activity. General information regarding disaster preparedness is available from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Many tourists come to New Zealand to participate in extreme adventure sports, such as bungee jumping, sky diving, hiking, rappelling, climbing, motorcycling, and kayaking.
All too often, injuries and even death result from participation in such activities.
Travelers are advised to employ caution and common sense when engaging in adventure sports.
Never participate in such sports alone, always carry identification, and let someone else know where you are at all times.
Before kayaking, check the river conditions and wear a life jacket.
When hiking, rappelling, or climbing, carry a first aid kit, know the location of the nearest rescue center, and bring a friend along.

New Zealand is an island nation, and the government is serious about preserving its delicate ecosystem.
The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (MAF) imposes strict regulations regarding what can be imported into New Zealand.
People failing to declare goods that could be quarantined can be fined up to $100,000 NZ and/or face up to five years in prison. People failing to declare risk goods such as fresh fruit, seeds, and plants can receive an instant fine of $200 NZ.
When importing a pet, thorough veterinary documentation and a quarantine period are required.
Unfinished wood products, used hiking shoes and gardening tools, fresh food items, and items such as used pet carriers may be seized and destroyed by MAF.
More information can be found at http://www.biosecurity.govt.nz/personal-travel-belongings-and-mail/arriving-by-air/what-you-cannot-bring
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 those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating New Zealand laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in New Zealand are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in New Zealand 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 New Zealand.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy in Wellington is located at 29 Fitzherbert Terrace, Thorndon, Wellington.
The telephone number is (64) (4) 462-6000.
The fax number is (64) (4) 471-2380.
The Embassy’s web site is http://wellington.usembassy.gov.
The U.S. Embassy in Wellington does not have a consular section and thus cannot provide consular services to American citizens.
All consular services for American citizens are provided by the Consulate General in Auckland.
The U.S. Consulate General in Auckland is located on the third floor of the Citigroup Centre, 23 Customs Street East, between Commerce and Queen Streets. The telephone number is (64) (9) 303-2724. The fax number is (64) (9) 366-0870.
See information on services to Americans at http://wellington.usembassy.gov/service.html.
The Consulate General in Auckland handles all consular matters in New Zealand.

For after-hours emergencies anywhere in New Zealand, a duty officer can be contacted by telephone. Persons seeking after-hours assistance may call (64) (4) 462-6000; after listening to a brief recording, the caller may leave a message on the voice mail system, describing the nature of the emergency and giving a point of contact. The phone system will automatically call the duty officer in Wellington or in Auckland, who will listen to the message and take the appropriate action .
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*

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This replaces the Country Specific Information dated January 31, 2008, to update the Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information sections.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri 16 Aug 2019
Source: 1 News Now [abridged, edited]

A spike in measles cases this week is the worst since the outbreak started, Auckland Regional Public Health Service said.

In the past week, there have been 81 new cases.

As of midday [16 Aug 2019], the total number of cases in Auckland this year [2019] was 456.
Date: Mon 29 Jul 2019
Source: RNZ [abridged, edited]

An inmate at Mt Eden remand prison has been isolated after contracting measles on Sat 27 Jul 2019. The man and his cellmate are in isolation, and only staff who are immune from the contagious disease are working with them.  The sick prisoner did not leave the prison or have any visitors during the exposure period. The prison has almost 1000 inmates, and about 500 staff. Corrections are taking particular measures to monitor the 120 other prisoners who were in same 2 units as the man last week.

Nationwide, 54 people contracted measles last week -- the largest number so far this year [2019] -- with 50 in Auckland, mostly in the Counties Manukau area.  From last month [Jun 2019], health authorities in Auckland started giving out the measles vaccine at one year instead of 15 months in an effort to curb the region's outbreak of the disease.  There was one case each in Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Capital and Coast and Canterbury.

About 1/3rd of all cases are children under 9 years old, and the next most common group are people in their 20s.  About 85 percent of those infected are people who have not been vaccinated.  In total, 407 people have been confirmed to have had measles in New Zealand this year [2019]. The disease has been on the rise across the world in recent years, with cases tripling worldwide.
Date: Sat 22 Jun 2019
Source: News Hub [edited]

Seafood lovers have been warned to be careful with raw mussels after an outbreak of foodborne illness.  New Zealand Food Safety announced on Fri 21 Jun 2019 that it has seen an uptick in the number of people contracting food poisoning from _Vibrio parahaemolyticus_.

Most of the people who got sick ate commercial grown mussels harvested in Coromandel. Symptoms are stomach cramps, watery diarrhoea and sometimes nausea, vomiting and fever. There are concerns the strain affecting people could be unusually aggressive.

"It is possible that the strain of _Vibrio parahaemolyticus_ is unusually aggressive, which may mean that even low numbers could cause illness," NZ food safety director of regulation Paul Dansted said. "Additional testing of mussels and the waters that they are being grown in is also underway to help us understand why this has happened. The mussels at the centre of the outbreak were all bought in their raw state, in the shell. They are not the mussels that can be bought in plastic pottles. Those mussels are cooked and marinated and are not affected."

NZ Food Safety says people need to be careful when cooking mussels and heat them above 65C [149 F]. It also advised washing hands after handling shellfish and to avoid cross-contamination between raw and cooked shellfish.  [Byline: Katie Fitzgerald]
========================
[It is important to stress that _Vibrio parahaemolyticus_ is naturally present in marine waters and does not imply sewage contamination, as would be the case with _Salmonella_ spp. or _Escherichia coli_. It is commonest in warmer waters such as those of the American Gulf Coast, but warmer waters in more northern climates such as in Washington State, Alaska and British Columbia, accentuated by global warming, can also be associated with shellfish-associated _V. parahaemolyticus_.

Indeed, eating raw shellfish only during months containing an "r" in its name may decrease eating them during the warmer months (May, June, July, and August), but only in the Northern Hemisphere (it should be reversed below the equator). However, since global warming has occurred, and with the shellfish being shipped quickly from warmer to colder areas, the old adage is not very helpful anymore. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Mon 17 Jun 2019 13:22 NZST
Source: Stuff [abridged, edited]

Another 7 Aucklanders contracted measles over the weekend [15-16 Jun 2019], bringing the total number of cases in the region to 115.  Auckland Regional Public Health Service (ARPHS) announced the new cases on Monday afternoon [17 Jun 2019].

The Auckland region is experiencing an outbreak of the highly contagious and potentially life-threatening viral illness.  The majority of cases have been in people from West Auckland.

Last week [week of 10 Jun 2019], ARPHS and the Ministry of Health announced the vaccination age would be brought forward in the region, to 12 months.

In a post on the Immune Advisory Centre website [<http://www.immune.org.nz/hot-topic/measles-overseas-and-new-zealand>], ARPHS also said it would be changing its response in the next fortnight, "as contact tracing is not stopping the spread of the virus."

The most recent figures from ESR [Institute of Environmental Science and Research ], the science agency which tracks measles notifications, show there were 195 cases across the country as of [7 Jun 2019].  [Byline: Hannah Martin]
===================
[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of New Zealand:
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 01:30:52 +0200

Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake stuck near the uninhabited Kermadec islands northeast of New Zealand Sunday, the US Geological Survey said as authorities monitored for signs of a tsunami.   New Zealand's civil defence organisation said it was monitoring the situation and if a tsunami was generated it would take at least two hours to reach the country.   The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within 300 km of the epicentre along the coasts of the Kermadec islands."   The earthquake struck at 10:55am (2255 GMT Saturday) some 928 kilometres (575 miles) north-northeast of the New Zealand city of Tauranga in North Island at a depth of 34 km.
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2019 18:28:15 +0200 (METDST)

Abuja, Aug 21, 2019 (AFP) - Nigeria on Wednesday announced that three years had elapsed since it last recorded a case of polio, a key step towards eradicating the notorious disease in Africa.    "Three years without a case of wild polio virus is a historic milestone for Nigeria and the global community," said Faisal Shuaib, director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.   Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, was the last country on the continent to suffer from outbreaks of the wild polio virus, but has recorded none since August 2016. 

The West African giant will submit data on its polio cases to the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020, a move that could pave the way for the whole of the continent to be declared free of the virus.   "If the data confirms zero cases, the entire African region could be polio-free by middle of next year," the WHO representative in Nigeria, Clement Peter, said.    The poliovirus infects the brain and spinal cord, potentially causing lasting muscle pain, weakness or paralysis.    The virus only infects humans, with young children highly vulnerable.   It is transmitted through contact with the faeces of infected individuals, such as through unsanitary water or food.   It has no cure but can be prevented through immunisation.

Only Pakistan and Afghanistan are still battling incidents of the disease around the world.   The fight against the virus in Nigeria was slowed by the Boko Haram insurgency that has torn apart the northeast of the country over the past decade.    The insecurity, which has displaced more than two million people, hampered vaccinations in the region and prevented access to people in remote areas.    While fighting jihadists, Nigeria and neighbouring countries in the Lake Chad Basin have held polio vaccination campaigns to prevent the spread of the virus.

Once a worldwide scourge, the number of cases around the globe have fallen by more than 99 per cent since 1988, according to the WHO.   In 2012, Nigeria had 122 polio sufferers, more than half of the 223 victims worldwide.   Despite the progress, aid organisations warned there could be no letup.   "The battle is not over yet," Pernille Ironside, Unicef's deputy representative for Nigeria, said.    "We have to maintain our effort and intensify them to make sure the historic gains are sustained."
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 23:46:29 +0200 (METDST)

Los Angeles, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - The jam-band Phish announced Tuesday that plague-infected -- yes, that plague -- prairie dog colonies had forced the cancellation of overnight camping and vending for its annual concert series near Denver.   The band will still play over the Labor Day holiday weekend but said in a statement that health officials overseeing Colorado's Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge urged precautionary measures like restricting parking and camping to prevent potential spread of the disease.   "We recognize the tremendous inconvenience this may cause for those who had planned on camping," said Phish, a rock band known for its improvisation and hardcore fan base.   Officials had closed parts of the 15,000-acre refuge starting in July, a statement from the US Fish & Wildlife Service said. Some were re-opened in recent days but several trails remain closed.   Today the plague can be treated with antibiotics but is best known for killing 60 percent of Europe's population during the Black Death of the Middle Ages.

The last epidemic in the United States was in the 1920s in Los Angeles.   Humans can contract the easily spreadable plague from fleas that transmit it from infected rodents, as well as from coming into contact with infected bodily fluids or by inhaling coughed-up bacteria.  

Many dedicated Phish fans had decried the lack of information concerning the August 30-September 1 concerts in the lead-up to Tuesday's announcement: "People are already changing their plans. People are mad," fan Keegan Lauer told a local CNN affiliate of the confusion.   "People are Phish fans and Phish fans that are mad are really mad."
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 23:40:37 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - Unions representing Ryanair cabin crew in Spain warned on Tuesday of a 10-day strike in September to protest against the anticipated closing of some airport bases for the low-cast Irish airline.   After meeting with Ryanair representatives for more than seven hours, "which ended without an accord," the unions USO and Sitcpla issued a warning of a strike at 13 Ryanair bases in Spain, the USO said in a statement.   It said the protest was over the possible closing of Ryanair bases at airports on the popular tourist Canary islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria and also the "future uncertainty" for Girona in northeast Spain.   More meetings between unions and Ryanair management could be held next week, USO said.   Cabin crew are set to observe the strike mainly on Fridays and Sundays in September.

Ryanair had announced last month that it would close some bases because of problems with Boeing's crisis-hit 737 MAX jet, which has been grounded after two fatal accidents.   The Irish no-frills airline said it expected to take delivery of just 30 Boeing 737 MAX 200 jets by the end of May 2020, instead of the 58 that it originally expected, and shortfall would mean it would have to close some bases.   Ryanair also announced in July that it intends to eliminate 900 jobs in its 13,000-strong workforce, and it has faced several protests by employees in Europe.   Pilots in the UK and Ireland warned of strikes in August and September to protest against their working conditions and salaries.
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 15:45:49 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - A 90-year-old woman has died and 53 people are in hospital in Spain, including several pregnant women, after eating contaminated meatloaf, officials said Tuesday.   Listeria is a commonly found bacteria and most people who consume foods that contain it do not become ill.  But for elderly people, pregnant women or those with serious conditions like diabetes or cancer, it poses a serious threat.   The outbreak of listeria is affecting mainly the southwestern region of Andalusia where 114 cases have been confirmed, according to the regional health department.

Outside Andalusia, only one case has so far been confirmed in the neighbouring region of Extremadura, Spain's Health Minister Maria Luisa Carcedo told Cadena Ser radio.   A 90-year-old patient affected by the outbreak died overnight at a hospital in Seville, the capital of Andalusia, the regional government said in a statement.   It said another 53 people are in hospital including 18 pregnant women and two new-borns.

Spanish consumer group Facua said two pregnant women who ate meatloaf, suspected of being contaminated with listeria, "lost their babies" in Seville.   An investigation has been opened because there appears to be a link to the outbreak of listeria, the health ministry said.   The regional government of Andalusia warned last Thursday that meatloaf sold under the commercial name "la Mecha" made by Seville-based company Magrudis was the source of a listeria outbreak.   The factory was closed and all of its meatloaves were recalled from shops, the health ministry said.   Listeriosis begins with flu-like symptoms including chills, fever and muscle aches. It can take up to six weeks after consuming contaminated foods for symptoms to occur.
Date: Tue 20 Aug 2019
Source: WTOP [edited]

Health authorities in Spain are on high alert after a 90 year old woman died amid a listeria outbreak in the southern region of Andalusia that has affected more than 110 people.

Jose Miguel Cisneros, director of the infectious disease department at Seville's Virgen del Rocio Hospital, on Tuesday [20 Aug 2019] announced the 1st casualty since the outbreak was declared on 15 Aug [2019]. Authorities have closed the pork meat supplier's plant and recalled all of its products. Cisneros said roughly half of the 114 people affected by the bacteria remain hospitalized.

Health minister Maria Luisa Carcedo said an investigation is looking into how the meat evaded what she called "strict food safety controls".

Listeria is a bacteria that usually causes mild illness in healthy people but can be dangerous to pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
======================
[The listeriosis outbreak, which was previously reported to have affected 44 people mainly in the cities of Huelva and Seville (ProMED-mail post Listeriosis - Europe (06): (Spain) meat, recall, alert http://promedmail.org/post/20190817.6627473), is now said to involve 114 people.

Huelva, with a population of 144,258 residents, is a city located along the Gulf of Cadiz coast in south western Spain in the autonomous community of Andalusia (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huelva>). Seville, with a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia, located about 80 km (50 mi) inland from the Gulf of Cadiz coast (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seville>).

A map showing the location of Huelva and Seville can be found at

We still have not been told the characteristics of the meat product involved in this listeriosis outbreak. Adequate cooking of the meat before eating should have markedly reduced the risk for listeriosis. However, refrigerated ready-to-eat cold cut meats are well-recognized sources for listeriosis. Even if initial contamination added only a few listeria organisms to the food, the contamination can be significant for refrigerated foods because _Listeria monocytogenes_ can subsequently multiply at refrigerator temperatures to sufficient number to cause disease. Refrigerated ready-to-eat meat products should not be served to people who are likely to be at increased risk for listeriosis, such as pregnant women, adults aged 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems.

The meat ("La Mecha" made by the Magrudis company, based in Seville) suspected to be the source has been recalled, but because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop, more cases can be expected.

In the USA and Europe, clusters of related cases are identified based on clinical isolates of _L. monocytogenes_ that have similar genotypes. Food is confirmed to be the source if listeria isolated from it has a genotype that matches the genotype of the clinical outbreak strain. We await further developments in the investigation of this outbreak. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Spain:
Date: Mon 19 Aug 2019
Source: ARY News [edited]

One more case of Congo virus [has been] reported in Karachi as a young boy was diagnosed with the disease after being admitted at a hospital in Nazimabad area, ARY News reported on Sunday [18 Aug 2019]. Doctors confirmed that the 17 year old boy, named as [QS] who is [a] resident of Sohrab Goth and worked at a dairy farm, was diagnosed with Congo virus during the initial medical examination tests.

It is pertinent to mention here that the 1st case of Congo virus was reported on [11 Feb 2019] in the metropolis as a woman, [TF], [who] had been brought to Jinnah Hospital in critical condition.

In 2018, at least 16 deaths were reported in Karachi from the life-threatening virus, and 41 patients -- mainly from Quetta, Balochistan -- were diagnosed with it.

Earlier on [25 Jul 2019], a Congo virus alert had been issued for the metropolis, stipulating precautionary instructions for all those people who visit cattle farms. The alert was issued by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to hospitals, directing the management to adopt special precautions for a Congo-affected patient. The letter of the KMC further asked hospitals to establish special wards for Congo patients, and run awareness campaigns about the virus through banners and posters.

The disease is caused when a tick attaches itself to the skin of cattle, and when that infected tick or animal comes in contact with people, the highly contagious virus is transmitted into the human body and the person falls ill. This disease has a 40% to 50% mortality rate. The initial symptoms of Congo fever include headache, high fever, rashes, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain and vomiting.

Precautions: people should wear light-coloured and airy clothes while going to cattle farms. Use of mask and gloves is also recommended while touching animals.
Date: Wed 21 Aug 2019
Source: The Canberra Times [edited]

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) health officials are investigating a cluster of hepatitis A cases in Canberra's South Korean community. There have been 8 cases of the virus in the ACT and Sydney since June 2019. The cluster of cases comes as South Korea experiences a large outbreak of the virus, with more than 11,000 cases reported in the country in 2019.

ACT Health said it was working with its counterparts in New South Wales to investigate the cause of the outbreak. An ACT Health spokesman said most of the people affected by hepatitis A in recent weeks in Canberra had not reported travelling overseas recently. "Australia has a low incidence of hepatitis A, and when outbreaks occur, they are linked to consumption of contaminated food products or person-to-person spread," the spokesperson said. "However, at this stage of the investigation, no specific food has been connected to the outbreak."

Symptoms of the virus may include nausea, vomiting, fever and yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools.

"The ACT Health directorate is reminding the South Korean community in Canberra and anyone travelling to South Korea, of the importance of vaccination prior to travel and practicing good hand hygiene to reduce the risk of spread," the spokesman said. Health officials have recommended at least one dose of a hepatitis A vaccination before travel. Two doses prevent an infection.

Handwashing in soap and water for at least 15 seconds has also been recommended by health officials to help prevent the spread of the virus.
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[Since no travel was involved, it is not clear if the cases were from imported food, food contaminated by an infected food handler or from transmission from an asymptomatic person. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Australia:
Date: Tue 20 Aug 2019, 4:29 PM
Source: Arka News Agency [edited]

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

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

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

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

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

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Mon 19 Aug 2019
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [edited]

Viral hepatitis, outbreaks, hepatitis A outbreaks
-------------------------------------------------
Since March 2017, CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) has been assisting multiple state and local health departments with hepatitis A outbreaks, spread through person-to-person contact.

The hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent HAV infection.

The following groups are at highest risk for acquiring HAV infection or developing serious complications from HAV infection in these outbreaks and should be offered the hepatitis A vaccine in order to prevent or control an outbreak:
- people who use drugs (injection or non-injection);
- people experiencing unstable housing or homelessness;
- men who have sex with men (MSM);
- people who are currently or were recently incarcerated; and
- people with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C.

One dose of single-antigen hepatitis A vaccine has been shown to control outbreaks of hepatitis A and provides up to 95% seroprotection in healthy individuals for up to 11 years.

Pre-vaccination serologic testing is not required to administer hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccinations should not be postponed if vaccination history cannot be obtained or records are unavailable.
[further information available at URL above]
=============================
[Overall, the top 4 states for HAV cases remain Kentucky, Ohio, Florida and West Virginia.

As the numbers of cases continue to raise in a number of states, and news of smaller (so far) outbreaks occur in others, the question at the end of ProMED-mail post http://promedmail.org/post/20190104.6241686 by a Kentucky official -- "This is a disease of developing countries. One has to ask: Why are we seeing it in the USA?" -- is more and more relevant. We are seeing these outbreaks because of the inability to deal with marginalized populations among our midst. The dramatic cutbacks in public health infrastructure in some of these states clearly feed the fire of these outbreaks. They must be addressed by bolstering public health resources and education and directly addressing the needs of these marginalized populations. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Fri 16 Aug 2019
Source: Fox News [edited]

A 7 year old girl from Mt Vernon, Ohio has been infected with a rare mosquito borne virus that, in severe cases, can cause encephalitis, or an inflammation of the brain. The girl, who was not identified, has been confirmed to have La Crosse virus (LACV), local news outlet Knox Pages reported, citing the Knox County Health Department. It wasn't immediately clear where or when the girl was infected.

La Crosse virus is typically caused by a bite from an infected eastern tree-hole mosquito [_Aedes triseriatus_], which "lays its eggs in tree holes and man-made containers" and "typically bites during the day", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A rare disease -- there is an average of 70 cases in the United States each year, according to the federal health agency -- LACV can make a person feel ill with fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Most people begin to notice symptoms 5 to 15 days after they are bitten. In severe cases, however, LACV can lead to encephalitis -- though this is commoner in children under 16 "and is often accompanied by seizures," says CDC. "Coma and paralysis occur in some cases," it added.

The disease is diagnosed through blood and spinal fluid tests. There's no specific treatment for the mosquitoborne ailment. "Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and no effective anti-viral drugs have been discovered. Severe illnesses are treated by supportive therapy which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections," CDC added, noting that most people infected make a full recovery.

People are most at risk for LACV if they live in wooded areas. Most cases in the US have occurred in upper Midwestern, mid-Atlantic and southwestern [sic. southeastern] states. Ohio, specifically, sees about 20 cases of the disease each year, according to the Knox Pages.

The best way to prevent LACV and other mosquitoborne ailments is by draining standing water -- like in birdbaths, buckets or on pool covers -- which can serve as a breeding ground for these insects. Other preventative measures include covering skin with long-sleeved pants and shirts while outside and using insect repellent containing DEET or another EPA-recognized ingredient.  [byline: Madeline Farber]
=======================
[The previous case of La Crosse virus encephalitis in Ohio was in a boy, also 7 years old. Severe neurological cases of La Crosse virus encephalitis mainly occur in pre-school age children. They are seldom fatal, but prolonged hospitalization and sequelae including personality changes, may occur.

As noted earlier, La Crosse encephalitis virus (LACV) is a member of the California serogroup of arboviruses. A map of the distribution of California virus serogroup neuroinvasive disease cases (mainly LACV cases) shows 3 major focal geographic areas: (1) in the unglaciated areas of south eastern Minnesota/south western Wisconsin/north western Illinois, (2) Ohio, where this case occurred, and (3) the central Appalachian Mountain areas of Virginia/West Virginia and North Carolina/Tennessee, (see the CDC map at <http://www.cdc.gov/lac/tech/epi.html>).

Cases may occur earlier in the summer season than other arthropod-borne viruses because the virus can be transovarially transmitted by the infected female to her eggs, so that emerging adults may already be infected and ready to transmit the virus without the need to take an infectious blood meal from an infected forest mammal. It is wise to eliminate fresh water catchments, which are breeding sites of _Aedes triseriatus_, the La Crosse virus vector mosquito. The Asian tiger mosquito _Aedes albopictus_ can also transmit the virus.

The CDC has a good summary of LACV, its epidemiology, geographic distribution, and clinical characteristics at

An image of _Aedes triseriatus_ can be seen at

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Ohio, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/237>]