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Argentina

Irish Diplomatic and Consular Information for Argentina
**********************************************************************
Address:
Embassy of Ireland
Suipacha 1380
2nd Floor
1011 Buenos Aires
Telephone:
+54-1
-4325-8588 / 4325-0849
Fax:
+54-11-4325-7572
Email:

Ambassador:
Her Excellency Paula Ní Shlattara
Secretary:

Jonathan Conlon
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Argentina - US Consular Information Sheet
October 02, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Last year, Argentina's charm, natural beauty and diversity attracted more than 400,000 American citizen visitors, and this year's total is expected to be even higher. Buenos Aires and other large cities have well-developed tourist facilities and services, including many four- and five-star hotels. The quality of tourist facilities in smaller towns outside the capital varies. The country suffered a major financial crisis in 2001-2002. While it has made a dramatic recovery, continued economic hardship has been linked to a rise in street crime. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Argentina for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport is required for U.S. citizens to enter Argentina. U.S. citizens do not need a visa for visits of up to 90 days for tourism and business. U.S. citizens who arrive in Argentina with expired or damaged passports may be refused entry and returned to the United States at their own expense. The U.S. Embassy cannot provide guarantees on behalf of travelers in such situations, and therefore encourages U.S. citizens to ensure their travel documents are valid and in good condition prior to departure from the United States. Different rules apply to U.S. citizens who also have Argentine nationality, depending on their dates of U.S. naturalization. For more information, check the Argentine Ministry of the Interior web site at www.mininterior.gov.ar/migraciones/. Most dual nationals are permitted 60-day visits. Dual nationals who stay beyond their permitted time are required to depart on an Argentine passport.
The application process for an Argentine passport is lengthy, and the U.S. Embassy is not able to provide assistance in obtaining Argentine passports or other local identity documents. Children under 21 years of age who reside in Argentina, regardless of nationality, are required to present a notarized document that certifies both parents' permission for the child's departure from Argentina when the child is traveling alone, with only one parent, or in someone else's custody (click on the "international child abduction" link below for more information). An airport tax is collected upon departure, payable in dollars or Argentine pesos.

American citizens wishing to enter Brazil are required to obtain a visa in advance from the Brazilian Embassy or consulate nearest to the traveler's place of residence. The U.S. Embassy in Buenos Aires cannot assist travelers to obtain Brazilian visas. For more information, see the Country Specific Information for Brazil.
Visit the Embassy of Argentina’s web site at http://www.embassyofargentina.us/ 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:
Traffic accidents are the primary threat to life and limb in Argentina. Pedestrians and drivers should exercise caution. Drivers frequently ignore traffic laws and vehicles often travel at excessive speeds. The rate and toll of traffic accidents has been a topic of much media attention over the past year. The Institute of Road Safety and Education, a private Buenos Aires organization dedicated to transportation safety issues, reports that Argentina has the highest traffic mortality rate in South America per 100,000 inhabitants.

Care should be exercised when traveling in Brazil and Paraguay, near the Argentine border, where criminal entities are known to operate. These organizations are involved in the trafficking of illicit goods, and some individuals in the area have been designated by the U.S. Treasury Department for financially supporting terrorist organizations.
The U.S. government is supportive of coordinated efforts by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay to combat illegal activity in that region. Americans crossing from Argentina into Paraguay or Brazil may wish to consult the most recent Country Specific Information for those countries.

Demonstrations are common in metropolitan Buenos Aires and occur in other major cities as well. Protesters on occasion block streets, highways, and major intersections, causing traffic jams and delaying travel. While demonstrations are usually nonviolent, hooligans in some of the groups sometimes seek confrontation with the police and vandalize private property. Groups occasionally protest in front of the U.S. Embassy and U.S.-affiliated businesses. U.S. citizens should take common-sense precautions and avoid gatherings or any other event where crowds have congregated to protest. Information about the location of possible demonstrations is available from a variety of sources, including the local media. Additional information and advice may be obtained from the U.S. Embassy at the telephone numbers or email address listed at the end of this document.

Domestic flight schedules can be unreliable. Occasional work stoppages, over-scheduling of flights and other technical problems can result in flight delays, cancellations, or missed connections. Consult local media for information about possible strikes or slow-downs before planning travel within Argentina.
Public transportation is generally reliable and safe. The preferred option for travel within Buenos Aires and other major cities is by radio taxi or "remise" (private car with driver). The best way to obtain safe taxis and remises is to call for one or go to an established stand, rather than hailing one on the street. Hotels, restaurants, and other businesses can order remises or radio taxis, or provide phone numbers for such services, upon request. Passengers on buses, trains, and the subway should be alert for pickpockets and should also be aware that these forms of transport are sometimes interrupted by strikes or work stoppages.

Argentina is a geographically diverse country with mountains, forests, expansive deserts, and glaciers, making it a popular destination for outdoor and adventure sports. Despite the best efforts of local authorities, assisting visitors lost or injured in such remote areas can be problematic. American citizens have been killed in recent years while mountain climbing, skiing, trekking, and hunting. Travelers visiting isolated and wilderness areas should learn about local hazards and weather conditions and always inform park or police authorities of their itineraries. Reports of missing or injured persons should be made immediately to the police so that a search can be mounted or assistance rendered.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs' web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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

CRIME: Most American citizens visit Argentina without incident. Nevertheless, street crime in the larger cities, especially greater Buenos Aires and Mendoza, is a problem for residents and visitors alike. As in any big city, visitors to Buenos Aires and popular tourist destinations should be alert to muggers, pickpockets, scam artists, and purse-snatchers on the street, in hotel lobbies, at bus and train stations, and in cruise ship ports. Criminals usually work in groups and travelers should assume they are armed. Criminals employ a variety of ruses to distract and victimize unsuspecting visitors.
A common scam is to spray mustard or a similar substance on the tourist from a distance. A pickpocket will then approach the tourist offering to help clean the stain, and while doing so, he or an accomplice robs the victim. Thieves regularly nab unattended purses, backpacks, laptops, and luggage, and criminals will often distract visitors for a few seconds to steal valuables. While most American victims are not physically injured when robbed, criminals typically do not hesitate to use force when they encounter resistance. Visitors are advised to immediately hand over all cash and valuables if confronted. Thieves will target visitors wearing expensive watches or jewelry.

Your passport is a valuable document and should be guarded. Passports and other valuables should be locked in a hotel safe, and a photocopy of your passport should be carried for identification purposes. The U.S. Embassy has observed a notable rise in reports of stolen passports in the past year. Some travelers have received counterfeit currency in Argentina. Unscrupulous vendors and taxi drivers sometimes pretend to help tourists review their pesos, then trade bad bills for good ones. Characteristics of good currency can be reviewed at the Argentine Central Bank web site at www.bcra.gov.ar.
Along with conventional muggings, so-called express kidnappings continue to occur. Victims are grabbed off the street based on their appearance and vulnerability. They are made to withdraw as much money as possible from ATM machines, and then their family or co-workers are contacted and told to deliver all the cash that they have on hand or can gather in a couple of hours. Once the ransom is paid, the victim is usually quickly released unharmed. There have been some foreign victims. Visitors are particularly advised not to let children and adolescents travel alone.
Travelers worldwide are advised to avoid packing valuables in their checked baggage. In Argentina, officials have publicly acknowledged the systematic theft of valuables and money from checked baggage at Buenos Aires airports. Authorities are working to resolve the problem and have made a number of arrests, but travelers should exercise continued care and caution. In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm
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 can be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed. The Argentine Federal Police have established a special Tourist Police Unit to receive complaints and investigate crimes against tourists. The unit, located at Corrientes 436 in Buenos Aires, responds to calls around the clock at 4346-5748 or toll-free 0800-999-5000 from anywhere in the country. The local equivalent to the "911" emergency line in the city of Buenos Aires or in the surrounding Province of Buenos Aires is 911 for police assistance. In the city of Buenos Aires, dial 100 in case of fire and 107 for an ambulance. In the Province of Buenos Aires, fire and ambulance numbers vary by location. See our information for Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: The public health system in Argentina provides emergency and non-emergency services free of charge to all, regardless of nationality or immigration status. However, the quality of non-emergency care in public hospitals is generally below U.S. standards. Medical care in private hospitals in Buenos Aires is generally good, but varies in quality outside the capital. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization in private facilities and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost thousands of dollars or more. Private physicians, clinics, and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.
HIV/AIDS restrictions. The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Argentina.
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 Preventions hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith
MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policies apply overseas and will cover prior conditions and emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation, which could cost tens of thousands of dollars. If not covered, visitors are encouraged to consider purchasing travel insurance. No Medicare benefits are available abroad. 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 Argentina is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving in Argentina is generally more dangerous than driving in the United States. By comparison, drivers in Argentina tend to be very aggressive, especially in the capital city of Buenos Aires, and frequently ignore traffic regulations. U.S. driver's licenses are valid in the capital and the province of Buenos Aires, but Argentine or international licenses are required to drive in the rest of the country. For further information, please contact the Argentine Automobile Club, Av. Libertador 1850, 1112 Capital Federal, telephone (011) (54)(11) 4802-6061, or contact the Embassy of Argentina as listed in the above section on Entry Requirements. Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the websites of Argentina's national tourist office and national roadways office at www.turismo.gov.ar and www.vialidad.gov.ar.

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

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In addition to being subject to all Argentine laws affecting U.S. citizens, dual nationals may also be subject to other laws that impose special obligations on Argentine citizens. In some instances, dual nationality may hamper U.S. Government efforts to provide protection abroad. Please see our information on Customs Regulations.

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 also be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Argentina's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Argentina are strict, and convicted offenders can expect lengthy jail sentences and fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children and using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country are crimes 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 Argentina are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Argentina. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy. By registering, American citizens make it much easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Avenida Colombia 4300 in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires (near the Plaza Italia stop on the "D" line subway). The main Embassy switchboard telephone is (54) (11) 5777-4533. Recorded consular information, including instructions on whom to contact in case of an American citizen emergency, is available at tel. (54) (11) 4514-1830. The Consular Section fax is (54) (11) 5777-4293. The Consular Section is open to the public from 8:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on American and Argentine holidays. Additional information on Embassy services is available on the Internet at http://argentina.usembassy.gov or by e-mail: BuenosAires-ACS@state.gov
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This replaces the Country Specific Information December 28, 2007 to update Sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, and Registration/Embassy Locations.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat 18 May 2019
Source: Food Safety News [edited>

Two cases of foodborne botulism linked to hummus have been confirmed by Argentinian health authorities. The National Administration of Drugs, Foods and Medical Devices (ANMAT) reported that an investigation confirmed the botulism cases and results of an epidemiological survey determined illness was associated with a hummus product. Hummus was sold under the brand Tsuki Macro Vegan, which is based in Palermo, Buenos Aires.

The general directorate of hygiene and food safety and ANMAT inspected the processing establishment where the product was made and imposed a ban on processing and marketing. It was also detected that the product did not have the relevant sanitary authorization. The processing firm was asked to carry out an immediate withdrawal from the national market of all units of the implicated branded hummus.

ANMAT advised the public to refrain from consuming the product and to keep the containers closed and separated from other foods. The agency also told those who sell the products to stop marketing it.

Botulism is a rare but life-threatening condition caused by toxins produced by _Clostridium botulinum_ bacteria. In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18-36 hours after eating a contaminated food. However, they can start as soon as 6 hours after, or up to 10 days later. Botulism can cause symptoms including general weakness, dizziness, double vision, and trouble with speaking or swallowing. Difficulty in breathing, weakness of other muscles, abdominal distension, and constipation may also occur. People experiencing these problems should seek immediate medical attention.

The latest incident follows a different outbreak in Rancul, a town in the La Pampa province of Argentina, at the start of May 2019 with 4 suspected cases. Health authorities in La Pampa reported that 4 people older than 57 years old were in a serious condition and needed hospital treatment. The poisoning was a result of a meal shared by 7 friends in Rancul. The suspected source is preserves such as peppers that were prepared in a homemade way by one of the people who fell ill.
===================
[Hummus is an unusual source of botulism but has been reported, also from a commercially produced product.

Mad'arova L, Dorner BG, Schaade L, et al.: Reoccurrence of botulinum neurotoxin subtype A3 inducing food-borne botulism, Slovakia, 2015. Euro Surveill. 2017 Aug 10; 22(32): pii: 30591. doi: 10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2017.22.32.30591.

Abstract
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A case of foodborne botulism occurred in Slovakia in 2015. _Clostridium botulinum_ type A was isolated from 3 nearly empty commercial hummus tubes. The product, which was sold in Slovakia and the Czech Republic, was withdrawn from the market, and a warning was issued immediately through the European Commission's Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed (RASFF). Further investigation revealed the presence of botulinum neurotoxin (BoNT) subtype BoNT/A3, a very rare subtype implicated in only one previous outbreak (Loch Maree in Scotland, 1922). It is the most divergent subtype of BoNT/A with 15.4% difference at the amino acid level compared with the prototype BoNT/A1. This makes it more prone to evading immunological and PCR-based detection. It is recommended that testing laboratories are advised that this subtype has been associated with foodborne botulism for the 2nd time since the 1st outbreak almost 100 years ago, and to validate their immunological or PCR-based methods against this divergent subtype. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Fri 10 May 2019 11:20 ART
Source: Jujuy al Momento [in Spanish trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

Hantavirus [infections]: 1 dead and 14 confirmed cases confirmed by the provincial Ministry of Health. The only fatal case is from the El Talar locality, [a young man] between 15 and 19 years of age. Of the cases, 2 were registered from rural areas in Palpala.

- The government confirmed that a young man died of [a] hantavirus [infection]
- There are another 14 cases that are progressing well.
- The general concern is the large number of trash dumps that could lead to new cases.

The [Jujuy] provincial Ministry of Health, through its Provincial Sub-Directorate of Epidemiology, confirmed that to date there were 15 confirmed cases of hantavirus [infections]: 14 progressing favourably and 1 dead who was between 15 and 19 years of age from the El Talar locality.

The other 14 cases are from the following localities: 3 in San Pedro, 3 in Libertador General San Martin, 3 in Palma Sola, 1 in El Remate (Palpala), 2 in la Mendieta, 1 in Aguas Calientes, and 1 in Forestal (Palpala).

Hantavirus [causes] an emergent zoonotic disease transmitted by rodents including mice and rats.

It should not be surprising that the total number of suspected cases is 241 [over what period of time? - Mod.TY] given that in the province the problem of garbage dumps has increased markedly in the absence of state policies: companies dump pathogenic waste in the open, there are garbage dumps on the side of the roads, and more and more small dumps are found in downtown neighborhoods.

One of the most serious pictures is in Palpala (where 2 of the confirmed cases are located), where the accumulation of trash has gotten onto the plazas and sports centers.

Recommendations:
- avoid living with rodents and contact with their secretions;
- avoid that rodents enter or make nests in houses;
- close openings in doors, walls, and around pipes;
- carry out cleaning (floors, walls, doors, tables, drawers, and cupboards) with one part bleach with 9 of water (leave for 30 minutes and later rinse). Wet floors before sweeping in order to not raise dust;
- locate vegetable gardens and fire wood piles at least 30 meters (33 yards) around houses;
- ventilate places that had been closed (houses, sheds) for at least 30 minutes. Cover the mouth and nose with a mask before entering;
- camp far from weeds and trash dumps, do not sleep directly on the ground, and drink potable water;
- when encountering a live rodent: do not touch it and inform the municipality;
- when encountering a dead rodent: wet it down with bleach together with everything with which it could have been in contact and wait for a minimum of 30 minutes. Pick it up using gloves and bury it at least 30 cm [12 inches] deep or burn it;
- people who present with symptoms of the disease must go quickly to a health facility for a [medical] consultation.
======================
[The number of confirmed hantavirus infections in Jujuy province has increased from 11 cases in the localities of San Pedro, Palma Sola, Libertador General San Martin, and Calilegua reported on 8 Apr 2019 to the 15 cases mentioned above. These cases are from a variety of locations indicating that the virus and its reservoir rodent hosts are wide-spread in the province. The public is well advised to follow the Ministry's recommendations for avoidance of infection.

The hantaviruses responsible for these 15 cases are not stated in the report above. An earlier report from Jujuy province this year (2019) apparently presumed that the hantavirus involved in that case was Laguna Negra, although it is not stated that this virus had been laboratory confirmed. As noted in ProMED-mail archive no. http://promedmail.org/post/20110430.1348, several hantaviruses have been associated with human infection and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Argentina: Andes virus (western Argentina, in the long-tailed pygmy rice rat host, _Oligoryzomys longicaudatus_); related Andes-like viruses Hu39694 (in central Argentina; rodent host unknown); Lechiguana (in central Argentina in the yellow pygmy rice rat, _O. flavescens_); Oran (in northwestern Argentina in _O. longicaudatus_); Bermejo (western Argentina in _O. flavescens_); and Laguna Negra (in northern Argentina in _Calomys laucha_). Without laboratory confirmation, it is not possible to say with certainty which hantavirus was involved. Andes virus seems unlikely in these cases in Jujuy province. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Argentina:
Date: Wed, 1 May 2019 01:24:23 +0200

Buenos Aires, April 30, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of Argentines demonstrated Tuesday in a partial strike that grounded airplanes and shut banks and other businesses to protest the economic policies of President Mauricio Macri.   "I came here to protest because I can't manage on my salary. The government has to go. It hasn't managed to sort out the economic situation," said Juan Arrique, a 32-year-old trucker demonstrating in Buenos Aires.

The truck drivers' union was one of the main groups calling for the protests that saw airplanes parked on the tarmac and transit buses lined up in rows at their terminal.   Sea traffic was also suspended, most schools closed and many shops as well as banks were shut.   Macri's popularity has fallen in recent months, a disappointing sign for the president just six months out from elections in which he hopes to win a second term.   In an effort to reduce the state deficit, the government last year launched an austerity plan that has cut services to low-income Argentines.

The measures came in exchange for a $56 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to help the South American country battle its currency crisis and soaring prices.   Inflation over the last 12 months was around 55 percent, while the spending power of ordinary citizens has been in freefall.   "Take Macri, leave the dollars," read one banner in reference to the IMF loan repayments.   The same slogan was also scrawled on the wall of a building next to that of the US bank JP Morgan.

Unemployment is increasing, poverty now affects 32 percent of the population and 41 percent of children, while businesses lay off workers and consumption drops.   The partial strike followed a protest called by trade unions in early April which saw thousands of demonstrators march in Buenos Aires against Macri's economic policies.
Date: Tue 9 Apr 2019
Source: El Tribuno [in Spanish trans. ProMED Mod. TY, edited]

Authorities of the Jujuy Ministry of Health yesterday [8 Apr 2019] confirmed that 11 cases of hantavirus [infections] are confirmed in the province, distributed in the localities of San Pedro, Palma Sola, Libertador General San Martin, and Calilegua.  "The majority of the affected people have a history of having gone fishing or hunting in the forest," and so "probably did not take the necessary precautions", stated the Jujuy Subsecretary of Prevention for Health, Veronica Serra.

The official stated that 11 hantavirus [infection] cases have been confirmed so far this year [2019], "all of them in the Jujuy Ramal [area]' she said.

Concerning the medical treatment of the infected people, she indicated that some have "greater cardiopulmonary complications than others, but progress favourably," she stated.

Jujuy has registered cases of hantavirus [infections] since 1996, with a yearly average of 17, which generally appear in the summer season. In 2018 there were 7 cases with no fatalities.

Taking these data into account, so far in 2019 there are now 57% more cases compared to last year [2018].

"The majority of the cases are registered until the month of April and we hope that they are maintained within [numbers] expected for this year [2019]," she said, and recalling that more than 20 years ago the cases, "were much higher."

The confirmed [patients] this season were [infected] in the cities of San Pedro, Libertador General San Martin, Calilegua, and in the localities of Aguas Calientes, Palma Sola, and El Remate. Hantaviruses cause an acute virus disease. Wild mice (mainly the long-tailed] mouse) transmit [the virus] to people, and shed the virus in saliva, faeces, and urine.

The most frequent route of infection is by inhalation and occurs when breathing in open or closed places (sheds, gardens, pastures), where faeces or urine of infected rodents shed the virus, contaminating the environment. Other ways to contract the disease are by direct contact, that is to say, touching live or dead infected rodents or the urine or faeces of these rodents and person to person when there is close contact with an infected person during the 1st symptomatic days, through aerosols.

The symptoms of hantavirus [infections] are flu-like: fever, muscle pain, chills, headache, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, and diarrhoea. After a few days, respiratory difficulty may appear and get worse.
======================
[The hantaviruses responsible for these 11 cases are not stated in the report above. An earlier report from Jujuy province this year (2019) apparently presumed that the hantavirus involved in that case was Laguna Negra, although it is not stated that this virus had been laboratory confirmed. As noted in ProMED-mail archive no. http://promedmail.org/post/20110430.1348, several hantaviruses have been associated with human infection and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Argentina: Andes virus (western Argentina, in the long-tailed pygmy rice rat host, _Oligoryzomys longicaudatus_); related Andes-like viruses Hu39694 (in central Argentina; rodent host unknown); Lechiguana (in central Argentina in the yellow pygmy rice rat, _O. flavescens_); Oran (in northwestern Argentina in _O. longicaudatus_); Bermejo (western Argentina in _O. flavescens_); and Laguna Negra (in northern Argentina in _Calomys laucha_). Without laboratory confirmation, it is not possible to say with certainty which hantavirus was involved. Andes virus seems unlikely in this case. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Argentina:
22 Mar 2019
Argentina (Santa Fe province and national).

(Conf.) 180 cases. Municipality most affected: Santa Fe 105 cases. Nationally, the localities with dengue cases are: Ingeniero Juarez (Formosa province), Puerto Iguazu (Misiones), Los Blancos, Oran, and Tartagal (in Salta); Santa Fe, Rosario and Buenos Aires cities; the partido La Matanza and the department of Ledesma in Jujuy. DEN-1 virus circulating with 2 patients with DENV-4. 36 cases with history of travel to Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia and Dominican Republic.
More ...

Jamaica

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Healthy Travelling In Jamaica
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General Information;
Jamaica is the 3rd largest of the Caribbean islands and is situated about 600 miles south of Miami, Florida. The climate in Jamaica remains fairly steady throughout the
year with temperatures averaging 27 - 35 C during the summer months (May to September) and 21 - 27 C during their winter! The ambient temperature and rainfall are both affected markedly by the changes in elevation and geography throughout the island. Rainfall varies from an annual average of 25" in the capital, Kingston, to an average of 250" at Blue Mountain Peak. Most of the rain tends to fall between April/May or October/November. The relative humidity in Kingston ranges from an average low of 63% in February to 86% in October.
Health Care Facilities;
The US Department of State’s consular information sheet states that medical care may be limited. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. A list of some of the IAMAT doctors in Jamaica follows;
- Dr. Luois S. Grant - Kingston - tel 927 1106
- Dr. B.A. Morgan - May Pen - tel 986 2370
- Dr. Noel Black - Ochos Rios - tel 972 2296
Sun Exposure;
Frequently travellers from Ireland to Jamaica will want to soak up the sunshine before returning to our rather less exposed shores. Some will tan easily but even they need to take care with the extent of their sun exposure. Many fair skinned Irish travellers will burn easily and so remember to limit your exposure especially during the first week. Use high sun blocking lotions (15+) while you acliamatise and then only drop down the protective factor (10+) if you are sure you will not burn. Watch out especially for the back of your neck, the front of your ankles and the top of your legs. Many of these areas will be unused to such exposure! Also remember if you are travelling in a car or coach watch out that you cover your exposed elbow which may be cooled by the passing breeze.
Sun Stroke / Dehydration;
In such a warm climate you can become quite significantly dehydrated without realising it. Make sure you drink plenty of fluids and, if you have no blood pressure problems or heart difficulties, then increase the amount of salt you put on your normal meals. This will help to maintain your energy levels.
Mosquito Borne Disease;
Malaria transmission does not normally occur in Jamaica so taking prophylactic tablets is not necessary. Nevertheless mosquitoes abound and so remember to use insect repellants, especially when there are mosquitoes about, day or night.
Animals;
Unfortunately Jamaica is not free of rabies and transmission is reported in some areas. The main animal appears to be the mongoose but obviously try and make sure that you have no exposure to any warm blooded animals. If by any chance you are bitten immediatly wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek medical attention.
Asthmatics;
Because of the dense foliage and high pollen levels the climate may adversly affect some asthma sufferers.
Food & Water Borne Disease;
By comparison to many of the hotter areas throughout the world Jamaica has high health standards. Despite this it would be unwise to take risks so follow simple common- sense rules
* Drink only bottled water (and use it for brushing your teeth)
* Don’t use ice cubes in your drinks
* Eat only food served hot and avoid all shell fish
* Only pasturised dairy products should be consumed
* Don’t eat food from street vendors
Blood Borne Disease
Unfortunately, as in most other countries, AIDs does occur and the blood supply may not be adequately screened.
Swimming in Jamaica;
Beautiful beaches make swimming a must for your holiday but be careful of the coral and also jellyfish. The hot sand may burn your feet so always use flip flops when walking on the beach.
Vaccinations;
None are essential for entry/exit purposes but it is wise to at least protect yourself against * Polio
* Typhoid
* Tetanus
* Hepatitis A
Other vaccines may be required for travellers intending to trek through Jamaica or those who will be undertaking extensive adventure sports. Also remember that if you initially visit a Central or South American country before Jamaica then Yellow Fever vaccine may be required.
General Comments;
Some of the items above may seem too serious to consider a holiday in Jamaica. Nevertheless the vast majority of travellers have a marvellous holiday and develop no sickness following their visit. Some simple commonsense is mainly all that is required. For further information please contact the Tropical Medical Bureau - Dublin.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

21 Feb 2019

https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/news/390/dengue-outbreak-in-the-caribbean
Dengue outbreak in the Caribbean

Dengue outbreak in the Caribbean

Reported via Travel Health Pro:  As of 17 January 2019 and following a recent report of increased cases of dengue in Jamaica in January 2019 [1], the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) has advised that there is a possibility of an outbreak of dengue in the Caribbean region [2]. The last major regional outbreak occurred in 2009 [1]. Countries in the region have been advised to increase their disease surveillance measures. Residents and travellers are advised to take measures to reduce mosquito breeding sites and follow mosquito bite prevention advice.

Dengue is a viral infection transmitted through the bite of an infected Aedes mosquito. Although most patients with dengue will recover spontaneously, a small number will develop more severe life-threatening forms of the disease. Dengue is common in the tropics including the Caribbean, South and Central America, Africa, SE Asia, the Indian sub-continent and the Pacific Islands.

Check our Country Information pages for individual country recommendations.

Date: Mon 14 ay 2918
Source: Loop [edited]

A new species of mosquito has been discovered in Jamaica. It is the Asian tiger mosquito or _Aedes albopictus_, which is similar to the _A. aegypti_ mosquito, which is endemic to Jamaica and which transmits the dengue, chikungunya, Zika, and other viruses.

Acting Chief Public Health Inspector for St Catherine, Grayston Hutchinson told last Thursday's [10 May 2018] monthly meeting of the St Catherine Municipal Corporation that the Asia tiger mosquito was discovered following surveillance throughout the island.

He was responding to questions from councillors attending the monthly meeting.

The tiger mosquito is so named because of its striped appearance, which resembles that of the tiger.

Similar to the _Aedes aegypti_ mosquito, the female is the carrier of several viruses, including yellow fever, dengue, chikungunya, and Zika.
===================
[_Aedes albopictus_ has been expanding throughout the world including in North, Central America, and Caribbean: Barbados (not established), Belize, Cayman Islands, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Trinidad (not established), and USA (<https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/disease-vectors/facts/mosquito-factsheets/aedes-albopictus>). It is not surprising that it has been found in Jamaica. It was found last year (2017) in several locations in southern California and is distributed across the southern USA and more recently in the northern states.

Reference
---------
Bonizzoni M, Gasperi G, Chen X, James AA. The invasive mosquito species _Aedes albopictus_: current knowledge and future perspectives. Trends Parasitol. 2013; 29(9): 460-8. doi: 10.1016/j.pt.2013.07.003; <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3777778/> - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map
Date: Fri 23 Oct 2015
Source: Jamaica Observer [edited]

Consultant congenital cardiologist Dr Sandra Williams-Phillips says she has treated at least 12 cases of the feared mosquito-borne Zika virus (ZIK-V) [infection] and that she has written to Health Minister Dr Fenton Ferguson on the matter.

Speaking on a daytime radio programme yesterday [22 Oct 2015], Dr Williams-Phillips said she had received no response to her e-mail to Dr Ferguson, although she could not confirm that the minister had received her correspondence.

The medical doctor of 34 years said she was among the 1st local doctors to identify the presence of the chikungunya virus, which wreaked havoc on the country last year [2014], but that her diagnoses had not been taken seriously.

Dr Williams-Phillips, who treats paediatric as well as adult cases of congenital heart disease, said some of her patients who presented symptoms of the Zika virus [infection] were children. She argued strongly that the symptoms she had seen were convincing enough to diagnose the virus even in the absence of lab tests.

Late yesterday afternoon [22 Oct 2015], on another radio programme, chief medical officer (CMO) in the health ministry, Dr Marion Bullock Ducasse, said the ministry would be launching an investigation into the matter. She said that, even if the patients had recovered, tests could still prove whether they had in fact been infected with the virus.

The CMO said she could not speak on whether Dr Ferguson was in receipt of a report about the cases, but that no official report had come to the ministry from St Catherine [parish], where Dr Williams-Phillips said she treated patients, via the standard reporting system for these types of events.

The CMO has maintained over the past several months, that there are no confirmed cases of the Zika virus in Jamaica. Earlier this month [October 2015], the ministry said a sample which it had sent to the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) in September [2015] tested negative for chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses. "Outside of Brazil [and more recently, Colombia], there have been no cases confirmed in any country in the Latin American and Caribbean region, including Jamaica," Dr Ferguson said at a hand, foot and mouth disease press conference on 2 Oct [2015].

The ministry has also refuted claims by Opposition spokesperson on health, Senator Marlene Malahoo-Forte, that she had been reliably informed about 3 confirmed cases of Zika virus. "I have heard that there are confirmed cases of the Zika virus here.... I got a call from someone whose employee was tested, and I'm reliably advised that it is a confirmed case," Malahoo-Forte stated at a press conference a few weeks ago.

The Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) in May [2015] issued a warning about an outbreak of Zika in Brazil and said there was potential for it to spread to other countries.

The virus causes symptoms which are similar to CHIKV [chikungunya virus] and is transmitted by the same vector -- the _Aedes aegypti_ mosquito.

Communities have been plagued by mosquitoes over the past few weeks, with residents in Portmore [Saint Catherine parish] in particular complaining bitterly about the insects, which they say have descended on their homes in droves. The nuisance is also evident in the Corporate Area [Kingston area], and has citizens concerned about whether the country could soon find itself in the throes of yet another mosquito-borne disease.  [Byline: Alphea Saunders]
====================
[The situation in Jamaica is not clear at the moment. Because infections with Zika, dengue and chikungunya viruses are difficult to distinguish from each other clinically, laboratory confirmation is essential. One hopes that laboratory tests will be carried out to confirm or rule out Zika virus infections in these cases. It would be of interest to know where the confirmed cases reported by the Opposition Senator were tested, if they were tested at all. ProMED awaits further news from Jamaica with interest.

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Jamaica can be accessed at
Date: Fri 11 Jan 2013
Source: Jamaica Gleaner [edited]

The health sector is in a frenzy after the revelation that a Jamaican was on the weekend diagnosed with the highly contagious disease malaria after a recent visit to a country on the African continent.

The infected man was hospitalised and isolated in order to be treated for the illness. "He has responded to treatment, and the region has contacted persons with whom he had close contact and advised those persons as well as the medical facilities in the areas (where) those persons are so that they can take the necessary precautions," he said.  [Byline: Nadisha Hunter]
*****************************
Date: 12 Jan 2013
Source: Caribbean 360 [edited]

The Jamaican government on Friday [11 Jan 2013] dismissed media reports that the island is on alert following an outbreak of malaria fever.

Chief Medical Officer Dr. Michael Coombs in a statement said that the island has had no locally transmitted cases of malaria since 2009.

Last year [2012], there were 5 imported cases of malaria and one confirmed case so far this year [2013].

Dr. Coombs said, regarding the media reports of the imported case, that so far this year [2013], the Ministry of Health has been managing the patient according to World Health Organization guidelines.

"Our public health team has visited the community to check persons with whom the patient had contact. The ministry is also continuing its routine surveillance, which will allow us to be in a position to quickly identify and treat persons if the need arises," Dr. Coombs said.

Malaria, caused by the malaria parasite, is spread when the _Anopheles_ mosquito bites an infected person and then bites others. There is no direct person-to-person transmission. Symptoms include fever, chills, headache, muscle aches, and fatigue. Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhoea are also possible.

Health authorities Friday [11 Jan 2013] urged residents to continue efforts to destroy mosquito breeding sites and protect themselves from mosquito bites.

Dr. Coombs is also advising people to check with the Ministry of Health or their Parish Health Department before they travel to ensure that they take the necessary health related precautionary measures.

There are some countries for which persons need certain vaccines or prophylaxis before they travel.

"We are urging persons to check with us if they are not sure about the requirements for a particular country. This is important to prevent illness and the spread of certain diseases among our population," Dr. Coombs said.
=========================
[The last case of autochthonous malaria in Jamaica was reported in ProMED in 2010. The outbreak started in 2006, and the peak was in 2007 (see reports below). Cases imported from highly endemic areas, such as tropical Africa, are recurrent events, and the last reported case from Jamaica was a patient infected in Haiti.

The outbreaks from 2006-2010 illustrate that transmission potential exists in Jamaica for the reintroduction of autochthonous malaria. Jamaica was declared malaria free in 1972. - ProMed Mod.EP]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/r/1_g4>.]
Sunday 17th June 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org>

- Jamaica. 13 Jun 2012. Jamaican health officials have warned that there has been a spike in dengue fever cases, but says it is not at the level of an outbreak. Director of Emergency Services in the Ministry of Health, Dr. Marion Bullock-Duccase, said several cases have been reported in Kingston and St. Andrew and 2 other parishes, but adds this is not unusual at this time of the year.
===================
[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map showing the location of Jamaica can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/00Vh>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
More ...

Saudi Arabia

Travelling to the Hajj
============================
Background
Every devout Muslim seeks to perform the Hajj on at least one occasion during their life. This pilgrimage, which is a central duty of Islam, brings Muslims from all over the wor
d together as they visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Each year over two million gather to celebrate the five 'pillars' of Islam.
Coping with the Climate
The dates for this festival vary from year to year but this year it is in December. In the evenings it can be significantly cold in 'tent city' and so travellers should bear this in mind when packing.
Travel Restrictions
With this massive influx of people travel in and out of Saudi can be difficult and, where possible, plans should be made well in advance.
Care for the pilgrims
The Saudi government seek to provide the highest level of health care possible for those visiting their Kingdom. This has involved the setting up of a series of rules and regulations which need to be observed. Nevertheless every pilgrim should ensure that their own personal health is sufficient before agreeing to travel. This may involve a consultation with their GP - especially if they have any underlying medical conditions.
Food Restrictions
No food is allowed into Saudi during this time and will be confiscated on arrival.
Vaccine Requirements
In order to reduce the risk of certain diseases the Saudi authorities insist on all travellers providing correctly certified evidence of vaccination against some diseases.
Meningitis
All travellers are required to provide evidence of vaccination against Meningococcal Meningitis (ACYW-135). This vaccine has to have been given to every traveller within the previous three years and at least 10 days before arrival into Saudi Arabia. (Other vaccinations against Meningitis C or Meningococcal A&C are not acceptable.)
Compulsory Medications
Some travellers arriving from what are regarded as 'higher risk' countries will also be given prophylactic antibiotics to lessen the possibility of their carrying Meningococcal Meningitis into the country. This is a compulsory requirement - though the medication given varies depending on the age of the individual and whether or not the female traveller is pregnant.
Yellow Fever
It is also essential for some travellers to have evidence of Yellow Fever vaccination certification. Generally this is only required for those arriving from the countries of Africa and South America. This vaccine needs to have been given within the previous 10 years and at least 10 days before arrival.
Other Recommended Vaccines
Even though it is not a requirement of entry to perform the Hajj or visit Saudi Arabia, travellers are strongly advised to consider the following vaccinations;
Influenza / Pneumococci
These are air-borne diseases and the close proximity of so many pilgrims will make the risk of contracting either or both of these highly infectious diseases much higher. Influenza vaccine needs to be given each year where as Pneumococcal vaccine is often only given on one occasion in a lifetime.
Poliomyelitis
This viral disease is disappearing from much of the world and may be eradicated within a few years. However during 2005 a significant number of outbreaks occurred in various African countries and India. The Hajj was linked to outbreaks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia itself. Vaccination is recommended for all unprotected travellers.
Hepatitis A / Typhoid
With such a massive number of people to be catered for it is hardly surprising that the level of food and water borne disease is high. These vaccines are strongly recommended for all travellers. They provide excellent protection but all travellers will still need to exercise extra care to lessen their personal exposure.
Hepatitis B
The main specific risk of contracting Hepatitis B probably relates to the ritual head shaving which is performed as part of the celebrations. Professional barbers are used and long lines of men wait for their turn. In some cases the blade is not changed between shaves and this potentially presents a serious risk of contamination with Hepatitis B infection.
Ritual sacrifice
It should also be noted that during the celebrations a ritual sacrifice of a small animal is performed. Pilgrims are strongly advised not to undertake the actual act of sacrifice themselves - unless they are very experienced - as otherwise they could seriously injury themselves.
Avoiding Accidents and Dehydration
The desire to perform the Hajj is strong and it is an emotional time for any Muslim. Unfortunately the presence of so many other pilgrims in a very confined space at the same time does increase the risk of various diseases and accidents. This includes the risk of being crushed, as has occurred with disastrous consequences in the past. The degree of dehydration can also be high as there is a significant amount of exercise and walking involved. A good pair of comfortable walking shoes is certainly worth the investment. It will also be important to bring some plasters to treat minor injuries and blisters.
Being Separated from Companions
Due to the numbers involved it is very easy to become separated from travelling companions. It is wise to have a plan in place before arriving so that each member of the party knows where to meet.
Overview
It is extremely important that all those undertaking this pilgrimage recognise the necessity to stay constantly alert to the personal health and accident risks which are present and do everything within their power to avoid them. The Tropical Medical Bureau centres throughout Ireland usually carry both the required and the recommended vaccines for travellers to the Hajj. Appointments should be made well in advance of visa application to ensure that these are given in sufficient time.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 19 Jun 2019 [date accessed]
Source: WHO/EMRO Epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases [edited]

MERS situation update, May 2019
--------------------------
- At the end of May 2019, a total of 2442 laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), including 842 associated deaths (case fatality rate: 34.5%), were reported globally; the majority of these cases were reported from Saudi Arabia (2051 cases, including 765 related deaths with a case fatality rate of 37.3%). During the month of May [2019], a total of 14 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS were reported globally. All 14 cases were reported from Saudi Arabia with 4 associated deaths.

- This month [May 2019], Saudi Arabia has not reported any new cases related to the Al-Khafji city outbreak. The outbreak has presumed to have stopped due to the effective response measures taken by Saudi Arabia. This month [May 2019], one household cluster was reported from Al-Kharj city, including 2 symptomatic national females aged 22 and 44. One 23-year-old national female healthcare worker was also infected this month [May 2019] in Riyadh. All 4 cases that died this month [May 2019] were symptomatic males with one or more co-morbidities.

- The demographic and epidemiological characteristics of reported cases, when compared during the same corresponding period of 2013 to 2019, do not show any significant difference or change.

Summaries:
- Laboratory-confirmed cases reported since April 2012: 2442
- Deaths reported since April 2012 globally: 843
- Number of countries that have reported cases since April 2012: 27
- Number of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region that have reported cases since April 2012: 12
- 13 laboratory-confirmed cases reported linked to an outbreak in Saudi Arabia in April [2019]
- The age group 50-59 years continues to be at highest risk for acquiring infection of primary cases. The age group 30-39 years is most at risk for secondary cases. The number of deaths is higher in the age group 50-59 years for primary cases and 70-79 years for secondary cases.

Date: Fri 31 May 2019 Source: Vaxbeforetravel [edited] <https://www.vaxbeforetravel.com/level-1-travel-vaccine-requirements-updated-pilgrims-attending-hajj>

The Hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is scheduled for 9-14 Aug 2019, which enables those planning on attending this worldwide event have ample time to appropriately prepare for the trip. The Hajj is one of the world's largest mass gatherings each year and is associated with unique health risks.

More than 2 million Muslims from over 183 countries make Hajj each year, with approximately 11,000 Hajj pilgrims traveling from the United States.

Before attending the Hajj, both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ministry of Health in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia published vaccine requirements and travel recommendations. The CDC updated its Level 1 Travel Alert on 31 May 2019, saying those participating in the Hajj should be up-to-date on all routine vaccines, especially the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR).

The CDC says the measles virus is extremely contagious, and the crowded conditions during Hajj provide an ideal opportunity for measles transmission. As of 7 May 2019, the European Region reported 34 300 measles cases in 42 countries during 2019. For travellers who do not have evidence of measles immunity or who lack written documentation of measles vaccination, the CDC recommends 2 doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days, to be completed before travel.

Additionally, the Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that Hajj pilgrims confirm they have been vaccinated against these diseases:

- Yellow fever: all travellers arriving from countries or areas at risk of yellow fever transmission must present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate, stating vaccinated against the disease before the arrival of the Kingdom no later than 10 days and not more than 10 years. The Stamaril vaccine is available in the USA.

- Meningococcal meningitis: visitors are required to submit a valid vaccination certificate with a tetravalent (ACYW135) meningococcal vaccine administered no less than 10 days prior to arrival to Saudi Arabia.

- Poliomyelitis: travellers arriving from countries with circulating wild or vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV2) and from countries at risk of polio reintroduction, are required to submit a valid polio vaccination certificate. - Seasonal influenza: the Ministry of Health in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia recommends that all pilgrims get vaccinated against the 2018/19 seasonal influenza.

Previously, on [15 Apr 2019], a joint declaration regarding vaccinations was issued at the Afghanistan-Pakistan Eminent Ulama Conference. In his opening address, His Excellency the Deputy of Al Azhar Al Sharif, Dr Saleh Abbas Goma Saleh, called upon parents to vaccinate their children to protect them from harm. "The family bears the responsibility of the proper upbringing of, and caring for children and maintaining their health," he said.

The CDC suggests scheduling a visit with a travel vaccine specialist at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure. Travel vaccine counselling sessions can be scheduled at Vax-Before-Travel [<https://www.vaxbeforetravel.com/vax-before-travel/appointment>].

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector vaccine prices for general information, and vaccine financial support programs can be found at Vaccine Discounts. And, pack enough prescription and over-the-counter medicines to last your entire trip.

The CDC says if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, you should call a healthcare provider and mention your recent international travel.

Americans traveling abroad can enrol with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program [<https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/step.html>] to receive the latest safety updates and assistance in an emergency.  [Byline: Don Ward Hackett]
===========================
[Saudi Arabia issues its requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, which are updated annually.

The Hajj requirements for 2019 can be found at
<https://www.saudiembassy.net/hajj-requirements>. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Saudi Arabia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/131>]

Date: 26 May 2019
Source: Saudi MOH 23-26 May 2019 [edited]

In the past 4 days since the last update, there have been a total of 3 newly confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection including 2 deaths reported from Saudi Arabia.
Date: Sun 21 Apr 2019 14:40 IST
Source Business-Standard [edited]

Following the ban on the Ghaziabad-based pharmaceutical company Biomed Pvt Ltd, the ministry is now looking for options to arrange the vaccines in time for vaccinating the pilgrims, the sources said. Around 1.27 lakh people are expected to go for the annual Hajj pilgrimage in July this year [2019] for which the ministry will have to arrange for at least 1.47 lakh doses. [A lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100,000).] Extra vaccines are kept as some are rendered ineffective in the process of delivery to the states.

The Health Ministry is already in talks with 2 firms which import the vaccines, the sources said. Those going to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of Umrah or pilgrimage are required to submit a certificate of vaccination with the quadrivalent (ACYW135) vaccine against meningitis, proving the vaccine was administered no more than 3 years ago and no less than 10 days before arrival in the country.

Biomed Pvt Ltd was a licensed indigenous manufacturer for meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine while 2 firms M/s Sanofi Pasteur India Pvt Lt, Mumbai and M/s GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Mumbai are importers for quadrivalent meningococcal meningitis conjugate vaccine in the country. "Earlier with Biomed Pvt Ltd providing the vaccines, government spent Rs 250 [about USD 3.60] for each vaccine but now if they have to buy from companies which import the vaccines, they may have to shell out around Rs 1500 [about USD 21.50] per dose. The Health Ministry is already in talks with the 2 firms which import the vaccines," the sources said.

Biomed Pvt Ltd was directed to stop the manufacture, sale, and distribution of all human vaccines including the quadrivalent meningococcal meningitis vaccine after type-2 polio virus was found in the sewage and stool samples in Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh in September [2018]. The polio drops were sent for testing, which confirmed that some of them were contaminated with type-2 virus, a strain believed to have been eradicated in 2016.

The managing director of Biomed Pvt Ltd., which was supplying polio vaccines for only government-run immunisation programmes, was arrested after the central drug regulator filed a complaint and an FIR [first information report] was registered.

The destruction of traces of type-2 polio virus was ordered by the central drug regulator to all manufacturers in 2016.
======================
[The problem with oral polio vaccine manufactured by Biomed Pvt Ltd. being contaminated by poliovirus type 2 was discussed by ProMED-mail moderator MPP in Poliomyelitis update (46): (India, Papua New Guinea) trivalent vaccine, fatal http://promedmail.org/post/20181002.6065964.

Umrah and Hajj are pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims. Umrah can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj. The days of Hajj in 2019 begin in the evening of Fri 9 Aug and end in the evening of Wed 14 Aug. The Hajj is a mandatory religious pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey (<https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj>); the Umrah is not compulsory (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umrah>).

Saudi Arabia issues its requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, which are updated annually. The Hajj requirements for 2019 can be found at <https://www.saudiembassy.net/hajj-requirements>. With regard to vaccinations, "The applicant must submit proof of vaccination for meningitis and ACYW135. For infants and children up to 15 years of age, a vaccination report is required for polio as well as meningitis and polio.

Children over 15 years of age should present the same vaccinations requested for adults:
============================
a. meningitis and ACYW135;
b. seasonal (or common) flu, which should be taken 2 weeks before applying for the visa;
c. H1N1 flu, if a vaccine is made available before Hajj season, and should be taken 2 weeks before applying for the visa;
d. infants and children up to 15 years of age should provide a vaccination report for meningococcal and polio;
e. children above 15 years of age should present the same vaccinations requested for adults;
f. health experts advise the following groups to postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah this year for their own safety: The elderly, the terminally ill, pregnant women, and children." "Travelers must carry vaccination certificates with them for inspection by the Saudi Authority at port of entry." - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED map of India: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/142>]
Date: 8 Apr 2019
Source: Saudi MOH 6-8 Apr 2019 [edited]

Since the last update on 5 Apr 2019 [See MERS-CoV (40): Saudi Arabia (SH) http://promedmail.org/post/20190405.6406661], there have been a total of 6 newly confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection reported by Saudi Arabia. In addition, there were 4 outcome reports, one fatality, and 3 recoveries, all previously confirmed cases. [note that information on 7 Apr 2019 events were reported today, 8 Apr 2019].
==========================
[With the addition of these 6 newly confirmed cases, there have been a total of 127 cases of laboratory confirmed MERS-CoV infection reported by Saudi Arabia since 1 Jan 2019. Three of the newly confirmed cases were from Al Khafji, bringing the total number of cases reported from Al Khafji since 29 Mar 2019 to 9, with the 1st case classified as a primary case with a history of contact with camels, and the additional 8 cases classified as unspecified secondary cases.

The remaining 3 cases reported today [8 Apr 2019] include one case each from Makkah, Riyadh and Najran regions.

The HealthMap/ProMED map of Saudi Arabia can be found at

A map showing the regions of Saudi Arabia can be found at
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue 18 Jun 2019
Source: The Namibian [edited]

Oyster and black mussel production at Walvis Bay has been halted due to another outbreak of diarrheal shellfish poisoning (DSP), which can be harmful to humans. The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources issued a notice yesterday [17 Jun 2019], warning people not to eat oysters or mussels from Walvis Bay. This comes 3 months after the last outbreak, which was cleared shortly thereafter.

According to the fisheries biologist, contamination is a seasonal occurrence -- mainly during summer from October to April. The recent outbreak could put a dent in the shellfish industry's economy as most exports are to Asia.

The worst affected area is at Walvis Bay's central production sector called "aquaculture production area 1", which is situated near Pelican Point. Once 2 negative results of tested samples are issued, the alert would be withdrawn, and harvesting, consumption and exports would be cleared again. The samples should be taken at 48-hour intervals, the statement from the ministry noted. Marine biotoxins are not destroyed by cooking or freezing.

The statement indicated that DSP symptoms in humans who may have been poisoned might include, as the name suggests, diarrhea, although nausea, vomiting and stomach cramps are also common. These symptoms could manifest themselves after about half an hour of eating the infected shellfish, and could last a day. No deaths have been recorded from DSP to date, the statement indicated. People who show such symptoms should immediately consult a doctor or healthcare centre.  [Byline: Adam Hartman]
=======================
[It is not clear if the term outbreak refers to in the shellfish or in humans.  Diarrheal shellfish poisoning (DSP) (<http://www.eurosurveillance.org/ViewArticle.aspx?ArticleId=20020>) is a gastrointestinal illness caused by the consumption of shellfish contaminated with algal toxins produced by marine dinoflagellates belonging to the genera _Dinophysis_ spp. (_D. fortii_, _D. mitra_, _D. rotundata_, _D. tripos_, _D. acuta_, _D. norvegica_, and _D. acuminata_) and _Prorocentrum_ spp. (_P. lima_, _P. maculosum_, _P. concavum_, and _P. hoffmannianum_).

The DSP toxins, including okadaic acid (OA) and its analogues dinophysistoxin-1 (DTX-1), dinophysistoxin-2 (DTX-2), and dinophysistoxin-3 (DTX-3), belong to the larger group of lipophilic toxins that also includes the azaspiracid, yessotoxin, and pectenotoxin group toxins.

The term diarrhectic (usually diarrhetic) shellfish poisoning (DSP) was used in this report, but this moderator prefers to use diarrheal shellfish poisoning to avoid any confusion between the almost homophones of diarrhetic and diuretic.

DSP is often mistaken for norovirus-like disease. It is treated with rehydration, and affected individuals usually recover in 1 to 2 days. DSP is most commonly found in shellfish in Europe and Japan but can appear anywhere and bears consideration with the appropriate epidemiology. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Wed 19 Jun 2019 [date accessed]
Source: WHO/EMRO Epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases [edited]

MERS situation update, May 2019
--------------------------
- At the end of May 2019, a total of 2442 laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), including 842 associated deaths (case fatality rate: 34.5%), were reported globally; the majority of these cases were reported from Saudi Arabia (2051 cases, including 765 related deaths with a case fatality rate of 37.3%). During the month of May [2019], a total of 14 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS were reported globally. All 14 cases were reported from Saudi Arabia with 4 associated deaths.

- This month [May 2019], Saudi Arabia has not reported any new cases related to the Al-Khafji city outbreak. The outbreak has presumed to have stopped due to the effective response measures taken by Saudi Arabia. This month [May 2019], one household cluster was reported from Al-Kharj city, including 2 symptomatic national females aged 22 and 44. One 23-year-old national female healthcare worker was also infected this month [May 2019] in Riyadh. All 4 cases that died this month [May 2019] were symptomatic males with one or more co-morbidities.

- The demographic and epidemiological characteristics of reported cases, when compared during the same corresponding period of 2013 to 2019, do not show any significant difference or change.

Summaries:
- Laboratory-confirmed cases reported since April 2012: 2442
- Deaths reported since April 2012 globally: 843
- Number of countries that have reported cases since April 2012: 27
- Number of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region that have reported cases since April 2012: 12
- 13 laboratory-confirmed cases reported linked to an outbreak in Saudi Arabia in April [2019]
- The age group 50-59 years continues to be at highest risk for acquiring infection of primary cases. The age group 30-39 years is most at risk for secondary cases. The number of deaths is higher in the age group 50-59 years for primary cases and 70-79 years for secondary cases.
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2019 06:40:09 +0200
By Sebastien BERGER

Pyongyang, June 18, 2019 (AFP) - On a grey stone column in Pyongyang, a mural shows Chinese and North Korean soldiers rushing into battle against US-led forces in the Korean War. Decades later, the monument is a regular stop for new waves of Chinese going to the North, this time as tourists.   Hundreds of soldiers and workers have been sprucing up the obelisk and its grounds in recent days ahead of a state visit to Pyongyang by Chinese President Xi Jinping this week.   An inscription on it lauds "the Chinese People's Volunteer Army, who fought with us on this land and smashed down the common enemy".   Their "immortal exploits" will "last forever", it proclaims, as will "the friendship forged in blood between the peoples of the People's Republic of China and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea".   Nearly 70 years after Mao Zedong sent millions of soldiers to save Kim Il Sung's troops from defeat as General Douglas MacArthur's men marched up the peninsula, China remains the isolated, nuclear-armed North's key diplomatic backer and main provider of trade and aid.

Now the Friendship Tower, as the monument is known, attracts growing hordes of Chinese tourists -- and the renovations suggest it may also be on Xi's itinerary.   Ordinary Chinese pay travel companies around 2,500 yuan ($360) for a standard three-day trip, arriving overland by train in Pyongyang to tour the capital's highlights, from the Arch of Triumph to Kim Il Sung Square.   The following day they head south to the Demilitarized Zone that has divided the peninsula since the two sides fought each other to a stalemate in 1953, before returning home.   "I'm very interested in North Korea and wanted to come to see what North Korea looks like," said Yu Zhi, a retiree from Anhui province visiting Pyongyang, telling AFP that she had a "special feeling" for the country.   "China is very friendly with North Korea," added her fellow traveller, a woman surnamed Jin. "We have been friends for generations."

- Lips and teeth -
It was not always so. Mao -- whose eldest son Mao Anying was among those killed in what China still calls the "War to Resist US Aggression and Aid the DPRK" -- described the neighbours as "as close as lips and teeth".   Ties then waxed and waned during the Cold War, when founder Kim Il Sung was adept at playing his Soviet and Chinese allies off against each other, and his grandson, the current leader Kim Jong Un, did not visit Beijing to pay his respects for more than six years after inheriting power.   But as he embarked on a flurry of diplomacy last year he made sure that Chinese President Xi Jinping was the first foreign head of state he met, and he has since done so three more times -- more often than Kim has seen any other leader.    Now Xi is going to reciprocate.

At the same time Chinese tourism to the North has reached record highs, according to travel industry sources -- so much so that Pyongyang has imposed a limit on arrivals.   No official figures are available from authorities on either side, but Simon Cockerell, general manager of Koryo Tours, the market leader for Western visitors, said there had been "a huge increase in Chinese tourists".   At peak times 2,000 people a day had been arriving in Pyongyang, he said. "That's far too many because there is no infrastructure to accommodate that many tourists, so problems with train tickets, with plane tickets, hotel space."   As a result North Korean authorities had themselves set a 1,000-a-day cap, he added, although it was unclear whether this applied across the industry or solely to Chinese, who make up the vast majority of arrivals.   "There are issues with just hundreds of people showing up at the same time."

- 'Choices being made' -
China has a proven willingness to use tourism as a geopolitical negotiating weapon -- it banned group tours to South Korea after it deployed a US anti-missile system, THAAD.   With nuclear negotiations at a stalemate the North remains subject to multiple UN Security Council sanctions, and the US imposed a travel ban on its own citizens visiting following the death of student Otto Warmbier, who had been jailed after trying to steal a propaganda poster.   But tourism is not among the sectors targeted by the UN, potentially enabling Beijing to use it as an incentive for its sometimes wayward ally.

The Chinese travel phenomenon is market-driven, rather than prompted by state order -- as well as the market offered by China's huge population, the two countries' border enables cheap overland journeys.   But simply enabling it to take place, said John Delury of Yonsei University in Seoul, meant "We can infer some choices are being made" by Beijing.   "We know it's a lever they can turn on and off," he said.   Even with the diplomatic process at a standstill, he added, "The Chinese think you have to use this window of opportunity to move things forward. There has to be a path on both sides and so something like opening up tourism is a good way to enable that."   At the Monument to the Three Charters for Reunification on the edge of Pyongyang, where two giant stone women form an arch over a road, a secondary school teacher from Shanghai called Peng said: "We are both socialist countries. I feel there are more Chinese coming to visit."
Date: Tue, 18 Jun 2019 06:14:38 +0200

Mae Sai, Thailand, June 18, 2019 (AFP) - Tourists snap selfies by a bronze statue of the diver who died trying to save the 'Wild Boars' football team from a flooded cave, while momentos from their rescue fly off the shelves -- scooped up by the 1.3 million people who have descended on a once serene mountainside in northern Thailand.   "It's amazing what happened here. I followed everything from Australia," tourist John McGowan told AFP after taking photos at the visitor centre around 100 metres from the Tham Luang cave entrance.   "I wanted to see it with my own eyes," the 60-year-old said, adding he was a little disappointed the cave is still off limits to visitors.

For a few dollars tourists can get framed photos at the site, pick up posters of the footballers and take home a souvenir t-shirt  -- some printed with the face of Saman Gunan the Thai diver who died in the bid to save the group.   There has been extraordinary global interest in the picturesque rural backwater of Mae Sai since 12 youngsters -- aged between 11 and 16 -- and their coach entered the Tham Luang cave on June 23, 2018.   They quickly became trapped by rising water levels and the daring, unprecedented mission to extract them through twisting flooded passageways captivated the world for 18 nail-biting days.   When they emerged -- after being heavily sedated and manoeuvered out by expert divers -- they did so into the centre of a global media frenzy.

The cave, which previously received around 5,000 visitors a year, has since been inundated by visitors both Thai and foreign.   "A miracle has happened here with these children," Singaporean tourist Cheong, giving one name, said but adding Tham Luang "must still have a spiritual side" despite the mass popularity.   - Tragedy and luck -   Mae Sai district, where the cave is located, was considered off the beaten track for foreign visitors.    But between October 2018 and April this year alone "1.3 million people visited," site manager Kawee Prasomphol told AFP.

The government now has big plans for the area around the storied cave, Kawee added, allocating a total of 50 million baht ($1.6 million) including a shopping complex, restaurants, hotels and several campsites outside the national park.   Vans disgorge streams of tourists who explore a visitor hub where the centrepiece is a mural entitled "The Heroes".   It depicts the young footballers, stars of the rescue, and junta chief Prayut Chan-O-Cha -- a reminder of the governmental fingerprints in aiding their cause.   At the heart of the mural is the beaming face of Saman Gunan, the Thai Navy SEAL diver who ran out off oxygen attempting to establish an air line to the children and their coach -- the only fatality across the near three-week rescue mission.

Laying white flowers at the foot of his bronze statue, Thai nurse Sumalee, who travelled four hours to the site, described him as "the hero of the whole country" in a sobering reminder of the risks involved in the rescue amid the blizzard of marketing opportunities now attached to the cave story.    Nearby lottery ticket vendors are capitalising on the perceived good fortune linked to the boys' survival and the folkloric appeal of a nearby shrine. The number of stalls has mushroomed from a few dozen to around 250.    Kraingkrai Kamsuwan, 60, who moved his stall to the site weeks after the rescue, sells 4,000 tickets a month ($2.5) but reckons more will visitors will arrive once the cave reopens.    He told AFP: "People want to gamble after wishing for luck from the shrine."
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 12:02:50 +0200

Patna, India, June 16, 2019 (AFP) - Severe heat has left dozens dead over a 24-hour period in India's Bihar state, as the country enters a third week of searing temperatures, officials said Sunday.   The deaths occurred in three districts of the poor northern state, where temperatures have hovered around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in recent days, senior health official Vijay Kumar told AFP.

Forty-nine people died in three districts of the Magadh region that has been hit by drought, he said.   "It was a sudden development on Saturday afternoon. People affected by heatstroke were rushed to different hospitals," Kumar added.   "Most of them died on Saturday night and some on Sunday morning during treatment."   Kumar said about 40 more people were being treated at a government-run hospital in Aurangabad.   "Patients affected by heat stroke are still being brought, the death toll is likely to increase if the heatwave continues."

Most of the victims were aged above 50 and were rushed to hospitals in semi-conscious state with symptoms of high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting.   Twenty-seven people died in Aurangabad district, 15 in Gaya and seven in Nawada district, officials said.    State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees ($5,700) for the family of each victim.   Harsh Vardhan, India's health minister, said people should not leave their homes until temperatures fall.    "Intense heat affects brain and leads to various health issues," he said.

Large parts of northern India have endured more than two weeks of sweltering heat. Temperatures have risen above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the desert state of Rajasthan.   A heatwave in 2015 left more than 3,500 dead in India and Pakistan.   In 2017, researchers said South Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world's population, could see heat levels rise to unsurvivable levels by the end of the century if no action is taken on global warming.
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.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 00:59:42 +0200

Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck Sunday centred 97 kilometres (60 miles) north-east of Ohonua, on the Pacific island of Tonga, the US Geological Survey reported.   The quake hit at 2156 GMT Saturday with an epicentre depth of 10 kilometres, the US global quake monitor said.   The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued no alerts, and there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.   The reported epicentre lies within the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of regular seismic activity.   In February 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 00:19:43 +0200

Geneva, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A woman has drowned in Lake Geneva when her sightseeing boat sank as a violent storm battered parts of Switzerland on Saturday, police said.   A man who was in the same boat was able to swim to another vessel from where he fired "two flares", Joanna Matta, police spokeswoman for the canton (region) of Geneva, told AFP.   The man told officers that the woman had been "passing through Geneva" and that the storm had taken them "by surprise", Matta said.   Three police boats and emergency services rushed to the scene. Police divers later retrieved the woman's body from the lake.

The victim, whose nationality remains unknown, was then taken to a hospital in Geneva where she was declared dead.   In a separate incident, the storm also damaged some of the 465 boats taking part in the 81st edition of the Bol d'Or, an annual regatta on Lake Geneva, the event's press service said.   Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the participants on Saturday afternoon, causing boats to capsize although nobody was injured.

However, the storm broke the mast of the ultra-fast "Real Team" catamaran, which had been in the lead and was forced to pull out of the race.   The bad weather struck western Switzerland on Saturday afternoon, bringing hail and winds reaching up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) per hour, according to the national forecaster MeteoSwiss.   In the neighbouring French region of Haute-Savoie the storm also caused damage and left a 51-year-old German tourist dead after a tree came down at a campsite.
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2019 16:27:09 +0200

Windhoek, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - Drought-hit Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals -- including elephants and giraffes -- to limit loss of life and generate $1.1 million for conservation, the authorities confirmed Saturday.   "Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management," environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the southern African nation estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years.    "The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation," Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.   Namibia's cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.   They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus -- all from national parks.   The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.   The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.   Namibia, a country of 2.4 million people, has previously made calls for aid to assist in the drought emergency that has already affected over 500,000 people.   In April the government announced that it will spend about $39,400 (35,200 euros) on drought relief this year to buy food, provide water tankers and provide subsidies to farmers.
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2019 18:27:56 +0200
By Rosa SULLEIRO

Sao Paulo, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - A nationwide strike called by Brazil's trade unions disrupted public transport and triggered road blocks in parts of the country Friday, ahead of protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's pension reform.   Hours before the opening match of the Copa America in Sao Paulo, some metro lines in the country's biggest city were paralyzed as professors and students also prepared to take to the streets over the government's planned education spending cuts.    It will be the latest mass demonstration against Bolsonaro since he took office in January, but the timing could not be worse for the embattled president as Brazil prepares to play Bolivia in South America's showcase football tournament.

Bolsonaro was expected to attend the opener at Morumbi stadium where police sharpshooters will be deployed as part of increased security for the competition.    One of Brazil's main trade unions estimated 45 million workers had taken part in the strike.   Some 63 cities had been affected by the stoppage, with more than 80 cities recording demonstrations, G1 news site said.   The number of protesters is expected to balloon in the afternoon with demonstrations planned in Brazil's major cities.   Protesters have already blocked some roads in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where G1 said police had used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and clear the streets.   Brazilians were divided over the partial strike.   "This current government wants to destroy everything that we built decades ago so that's why I'm in favor (of the strike) and I am fighting against social inequality," Vania Santos, 49, told AFP in Rio.    In Sao Paulo, Flavio Moreira opposed the stoppage, however, saying it "hurts the commercial part" of the city.

- Pension savings cut -
Bolsonaro's proposed overhaul of Brazil's pension system -- which he has warned will bankrupt the country if his plan is not approved -- is seen as key to getting a series of economic reforms through Congress.    But the changes, including an increase in the retirement age and workers' contributions, have faced resistance from trade unions and in the lower house of Congress, where Bolsonaro's ultraconservative Social Liberal Party has only around 10 percent of the seats.    A pared-back draft of the reform presented to Congress on Thursday -- which reduces expected savings from 1.2 trillion reais ($300 billion) in 10 years to around 900 billion reais -- did little to appease union leaders, who vowed to go ahead with the shutdown.   Such savings are seen as vital to repairing Brazil's finances and economy, which were devastated by a 2015-2016 crisis.

Economy minister Paulo Guedes, who is spearheading the government's reform agenda, has threatened to resign if the bill is not passed or is watered down significantly.   It caps a tumultuous six months for Bolsonaro, who has seen his popularity nosedive as he struggles to push his signature reform through a hostile Congress and keep Latin America's biggest economy from sliding back into recession.   More than 13 million people are unemployed, the latest data shows, with a record number giving up looking for a job.     Fighting between military and far-right factions of Bolsonaro's government has fueled chaos in his administration where his sons and right-wing writer and polemicist Olavo de Carvalho wield enormous influence.   Bolsonaro sacked his third minister on Thursday -- retired general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who had been the government secretary and seen as a moderate voice.   That came on the same day Bolsonaro broke his silence to defend Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who has been accused of wrongdoing while serving as a judge in the sprawling Car Wash anticorruption investigation.