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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
***************************************
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
* * *
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: Sun 22 Sep 2019
Source: La Voz [in Spanish trans. Mod.TY, edited]

Viruses transmitted by mosquitoes are emerging in the Americas. To historic dengue in recent years have been added Zika and chikungunya [viruses], 2 pathogens that before were restricted only to Africa. Madariaga has now been added to that list [of viruses new in the Americas].

Researchers from the Instituto de Medicina Regional of the Universidad Nacional del Nordeste (IMR-Unne) and from the Instituto de Virologia, and J. M. Vanella of the Universidad Nacional de Cordoba (Inviv, UNC) detected its presence in mosquitoes captured in the Chaco. "Madariaga is a virus that causes disease in equine animals and is of low pathogenicity for humans, but in 2010 caused an outbreak in humans in Panama with 10 cases," said Marta Contigiani, who works in the UNC laboratory. It was also isolated in 2015 and 2016 from human samples in Haiti.

Ornella Stechina, of the IMR-Unne, was the person who detected presence of the virus in the mosquitoes. The work was done with the financial support of this institution with Mariana Stein, a researcher from CONICET [the national science agency] as the person in charge.

Contigiani explained that there have been no subsequent cases in horses since 1988. "In other provinces in the country, serological studies have detected [Madariaga] virus infections. There is a vaccine for equine animals, but its application is not obligatory," she said.

However, she warned that global climate change (including deforestation in the Amazon Basin) influences the geographic distribution and emergence of diseases, with appearance of new environments that are favorable for the development of vectors and that favor the development of the [transmission] cycle.

"To this we must add the genetic changes that are observed in these viruses," she stated.

For some time, experts have been issuing alerts about the emergence and reemergence of arboviruses, pathogens that are transmitted by insects.

"West Nile virus rapidly invaded North America, and now cases are being found in Central and South America. Also, Mayaro and eastern equine encephalitis viruses have increased their activity and have been found in new regions," said Raquel Gleiser, a researcher at the Instituto Multidisciplinario de Biologia Vegetal of the UNC (Imbiv) in an article published in the Journal of Medical Entomology.

Madariaga virus is a strain of eastern equine encephalitis virus, which was early on detected in Argentina. Contigiani did not discard the possibility that a variant that had greater capacity to replicate, the proliferation of competent vectors, and propitious environmental conditions could cause an outbreak in the region.

The evidence for warning about Madariaga virus is not at the same level as for chikungunya [virus], although they are in the same family (Togaviridae). "For now, the epidemiological behavior is different. Chikungunya virus has _Aedes aegypti_ as its vector, whereas the vector of Madariaga virus is within the _Culex_ genus," she said.

This study detected the virus in mosquitoes of the _Culex_ genus in wildland areas in Choco province. Thus, they identified this vector in Argentinian territory for the 1st time.

Although the mosquito species or species that had the virus could not be detected, the genus _Culex_ has more than 1000 species, many of which are of urban habits such as _Culex pipiens_ that we hear buzzing at night.

Madariaga virus can infect various mammals that could serve as hosts, such as rats and bats, as well as birds.

In Argentina, it was found for the 1st time in animals in the decade of the 1930s. The strain found in the Chaco belongs to the same lineage discovered in those years, which indicates that the virus is endemic in the region.

For now, the infections studied in humans has been for the most part mild and asymptomatic.

Adrian Diaz of the Cordoba Institute, Griselda Oria (IMR-Unne), and Carolina Torres of the Universidad de Buenos Aires participated as part of the work that was published a week ago in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene [reference below].

The researchers suggest that more epidemiological studies be done to determine the vectors and potential hosts and do deeper studies about the genetic characteristics of the [virus] strains that circulate in the country in order to know whether this virus is endemic in the region or is reintroduced.

"Ideally, studies will be done [in the field] with sentinel animals to detect virus circulation as well. In other countries, they use sentinel chickens for these types of studies," Contigiani commented, and clarified that in case [virus] circulation was detected, animal health officials must take relevant measures.

"There is no human vaccine, so [human] health officials must indicate measures [needed] for prevention and control," she added.

The vector is the most common, _Culex_. However, there is no virus circulation in Cordoba.

_Culex_ is a genus of hematophagous mosquitoes in the Culiidae family, many species of which act as vectors of important diseases, such as West Nile, filariasis, virus encephalitis (Japanese, Venezuelan, equine, and St. Louis) and avian malaria, as well as Madariaga virus. There are more than 80 varieties [of what?].  [Byline: Lucas Viano]
=================
[The isolation of Madariaga virus from Culex mosquitoes in northern Argentina is interesting, but, as the authors point out, merits additional studies to determine whether it is a human or animal (especially equine) pathogen of importance for human or animal health in Argentina. Studies of the Culex species involved in transmission of the virus and determination of the animal hosts are essential to understand cycles of transmission.

Reference:
Ornela Sofia Stechina, Griselda Ines Oria, Carolina Torres, Luis Adrian Diaz, Marta Contigiani and Marina Stein. First Detection of Madariaga virus in Mosquitoes Collected in a Wild Environment of Northeastern Argentina. 2019. Am. J. Trop. Med. Hyg., 00(0), 2019, pp. 1-3 DOI: <https://doi.org/10.4269/ajtmh.19-0475>.

Chaco province is in the far north of Argentina. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Chaco Province, Argentina: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/54342>]
Date: Sun 4 Aug 2019
Source: Diario Uno [in Spanish, trans. ProMED Mod.JG, edited]

A family living in El Borbollon, Las Heras, ate ham and sausages after fixing pork at their home, but after this, 11 persons needed medical attention because of the occurrence of symptoms related to trichinellosis.

It was reported that the Provincial Livestock Direction confiscated homemade ham and sausages after receiving an alert from the Epidemiology Area of Lagomaggiore Hospital, which stated they received and attended (infected) people with symptoms of thichinellosis.

The operation was carried out last Friday in a household located in El Borbollon, which was pointed out as the infection source after 3 persons (2 of them less than legal age) were brought to Lagomaggiore Hospital seeking medical care. As days went by, 8 additional compatible cases -- presenting with similar symptoms -- were reported in Lencinas Hospital.

Once the protocol involving Food Hygiene, Zoonoses, Livestock Farming, and Epidemiology local departments and also the local municipality was activated, 2 pieces of ham, 2 pork shoulders, one piece of pork tenderloin, dry sausages and Bondiola pork were confiscated. Considering the size of these pieces, it is thought a large animal was involved.

Laboratory tests were immediately performed, and because of positive results, the meat products were destroyed and properly disposed of in a local slaughterhouse, aiming to prevent the dissemination of this disease.

Trichinellosis is a parasitic disease caused by ingesting _Trichinella spiralis_ larvae located in muscles (meat). This condition is characterized by high fever, muscle pain and vomiting or diarrhoea. The disease affects humans and many mammals. This condition is acquired by eating infected pork meat.

Common symptoms are diarrhoea, abdominal pain, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, and in severe cases also fever.
=====================
[Trichinellosis caused by _Trichinella spiralis_ is common in Argentina, especially in northern Argentina (see ProMED reports below). The source of meat is pigs from small farms or even "backyard pigs" slaughtered and processed without proper veterinary control. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Mendoza, Mendoza, Argentina: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/5900>]
Date: Wed 24 Jul 2019
Source: Jujuy al Momento [in Spanish, trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

The disease [virus], transmitted by rodents, has now taken the life of a man, and there are 18 confirmed cases [of hantavirus infection]. There is concern in the health sector because of the lack of environmental policies to confront the problem of trash dumps, one of the environments where these animals [rodents] proliferate.

- There are now 18 confirmed cases of hantavirus [infections].
- There are 372 suspected cases.
- The increase in the number of trash dumps in the whole province contributes to aggravation of the situation.

The Ministry of Health indicated that there are 372 suspected cases of hantavirus [infections] in Jujuy, with 18 confirmed cases. An adolescent died in the Talar locality, and 17 patients are recuperating favorably.

The majority of the cases are registered in Palma Sola and San Pedro with 4 in each locality.

There was also a case of hantavirus [infection] very close to San Salvador that occurred in the Palpala rural area. This city is one of those with evidence of the greatest increase in trash dumps, to the point that several of them begin to increase in proximity to the plazas and urban neighborhoods.

_Hantavirus_ is a genus that groups various RNA viruses that are transmitted by rodents and, in humans, generally produces 2 types of afflictions: a type of viral hemorrhagic fever, a hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome; or hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, a very serious affliction.

The disease has a strict relationship to trash deposits since this is where these [reservoir] animals eat and reproduce. Despite this, the Ministry of the Environment, headed by Maria Ines Zigaran, still has not recognized policies to attack the problem.
=====================
[Cases of hantavirus infections have been increasing in Jujuy province since early April 2019. The number of confirmed hantavirus infections in Jujuy province has increased from 11 cases reported on 8 Apr 2019, in the localities of San Pedro, Palma Sola, Libertador General San Martin, and Calilegua, to 15 cases on 10 May 2019, and now to 18 cases reported above. The above report of 372 suspected cases is a surprisingly large number. It will be interesting to learn how many of these cases are ultimately confirmed as hantavirus infections. The confirmed cases are from a variety of locations, indicating that the virus and its reservoir rodent hosts are widespread in the province. The public is well advised to follow the Ministry's recommendations for avoidance of infection.

The hantaviruses responsible for these 18 confirmed cases are not stated in the earlier reports or the one 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 (in 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 (in western Argentina, in _O. flavescens_); and Laguna Negra (in northern Argentina, in _Calomys laucha_). Seoul virus with its brown rat (_Rattus norvegicus_) host (a frequenter of trash dumps) is another possibility. 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]

[Map of Argentina:

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Jujuy province, Argentina: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/53166>]
Date: Sat 29 Jun 2019 10:38 ART
Source: La Voz, Argentina [in Spanish, trans. Rapp. Kathryn Soderholm, abridged, edited]

The Ministry of Health of San Luis issued an epidemiological alert after 3 cases of trichinosis were confirmed by laboratory. The cases are one child, his father, and his mother. Another 12 probable cases are under investigation, all from the distant towns of Concaran and Villa Mercedes, 163 [101 mi] and 100 kilometres [62 mi], respectively, from the provincial capital [San Luis].

The affected patients would have contracted the disease after consuming sausages purchased in La Punilla at the beginning of June [2019], and the symptoms were detected 48 hours ago, the News Agency of the provincial state declared.

The head of Epidemiology, Rodrigo Verdugo, confirmed that the analyses were performed last [Thu 27 Jun 2019] after the suspected cases were referred on [26 Jun 2019].

The other 12 cases are being investigated and will be confirmed by blood sample.

The boy, who is 8 years old, remains hospitalized in the San Luis Hospital; another patient hospitalized in Merlo and another in Villa Mercedes.

Representatives from the department of Epidemiology with the Sanitary and Fiscal Control Program (Cosafi) toured La Punilla and Concaran, where the other cases originated, making visits to the premises that may have samples of these foods, explained Claudia Olarte, head of the Epidemiological Surveillance Service.

Verdugo noted that "this is the 1st outbreak" of this year [2019] and recalled that in 2018, 3 cases were detected, one of which also originated in La Punilla, so the Health department is also investigating in nearby towns such as Papagayos and Villa del Carmen.
=====================
[La Punilla is approximately 200 km [about 125 mi] south of Cordoba, in San Luis province. Trichinellosis has been reported often from Argentina. The source is homemade sausages from backyard pigs, slaughtered and used or sold at local markets without veterinary control. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Argentina:
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
--------
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:
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Sudan

Sudan US Consular Information Sheet
August 29, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Sudan is a diverse, developing country in northeastern Africa. The capital city is Khartoum. The civil war between the northern and southern regions, which began in 1
83, ended in 2005. A multi-party conflict continues in the west in Darfur, and the armed Ugandan group known as The Lord’s Resistance Army is present in the south. Security conditions are adverse in these and some other regions. Transportation networks and other forms of infrastructure are poor and do not meet western standards. Even where available, water and electric services suffer frequent outages. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Sudan for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: The Government of Sudan requires all travelers to present a passport and an entry visa. Most travelers must obtain the entry visa before arrival; only American citizens who also possess a Sudanese national identification document (such as a Sudanese passport or national identification card) may apply for an entry visa at Khartoum International Airport. The Government of Sudan routinely denies visas to travelers whose passports contain visas issued by the Government of Israel or other evidence of travel to Israel such as exit or entry stamps.

Travelers must obtain an exit visa before departure from Sudan as well as pay any airport departure tax not included in the traveler’s airline ticket. Visitors may obtain the latest information and further details from the Embassy of Sudan, 2210 Massachusetts Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20008, tel.: 202-338-8565.

Travel permits issued by the semi-autonomous Government of Southern Sudan (GOSS) or by the South Sudan Relief and Rehabilitation Commission (SSRRC) are not adequate for entry to the country, although travelers may find these documents useful to present to local authorities when in the south. Personal baggage, including computers, is routinely searched upon arrival to and departure from Sudan. The authorities will seize material deemed objectionable, such as alcohol or pornography, and may detain or arrest the traveler. Travelers intending to bring electronic items should inquire about entry requirements when they apply for a visa; restrictions apply to many devices, including video cameras, satellite phones, facsimile machines, televisions, and telephones. Travelers are not allowed to depart Sudan with ivory, some other animal products, or large quantities of gold.

All visitors must register with the authorities within three days of arrival. Travelers must register within 72 hours of arrival in Sudan at the Ministry of Interior. All foreigners traveling more than 25 kilometers outside of Khartoum must obtain a travel permit from the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs in Khartoum. This applies to all travel, including private, commercial, and humanitarian activities. Americans risk detention by Sudanese authorities when traveling more than 25 kilometers outside of Khartoum without a travel permit issued by the Ministry of Humanitarian Affairs. Travelers must register again with the police within 24 hours of arrival. The government requires a separate travel permit for travel to Darfur. These regulations are strictly enforced and even travelers with proper documentation may expect delay or temporary detention from the security forces, especially outside the capital. Authorities expect travelers to strictly respect roadblocks and other checkpoints.

Travelers who wish to take any photographs must obtain a photography permit from the Government of Sudan, Ministry of Interior, Department of Aliens.

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:
On January 1, 2008, unknown assailants shot and killed two U.S. Embassy employees - an American USAID officer and a Sudanese national driver. Terrorists are known to operate in Sudan and continue to seek opportunities to carry out attacks against U.S. interests. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, or kidnappings. U.S. citizens should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, which include tourist sites and locations where westerners are known to congregate, and commercial operations associated with U.S. or Western interests. Terrorists are known to have targeted both official facilities and residential compounds. Anti-American sentiment is prevalent and Americans should exercise utmost caution at all times.

The U.S. Embassy’s ability to provide consular services in Sudan, including emergency assistance, is severely limited. Many areas outside the capital of Khartoum are extremely difficult to access.

Travel in many parts of Sudan is hazardous. Outside the major cities infrastructure is extremely poor, medical care is limited, and very few facilities for tourists exist.

Conflict among various armed groups and government forces continues in western Sudan, in the states of North Darfur, South Darfur, and West Darfur. Banditry and lawlessness are also common in the west. Many local residents are in camps for internally-displaced persons, and receive humanitarian assistance for basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. Expatriate humanitarian workers have been the targets of carjackings and burglaries.

Land mines remain a major hazard in southern Sudan, especially south of the city of Juba. Visitors should travel only on main roads unless a competent de-mining authority such as the UN has marked an area as clear of mines. The armed Ugandan group known as The Lord’s Resistance Army is present along the southern border and reportedly has announced it will target Americans.
Occasional clashes between armed groups representing communal interests continue to occur in the centrally-located states of Upper Nile, Blue Nile, and Bahr al Ghazal. Banditry also occurs.
Sudan shares porous land borders with nine other countries, including Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Conflict in these countries occasionally spills over into Sudan.

Americans considering sea travel in Sudan's coastal waters should exercise caution as there have been incidents of armed attacks and robberies by unknown groups in recent years, including one involving two American vessels. Exercise extreme caution, as these groups are considered armed and dangerous. When transiting in and around the Horn of Africa and/or in the Red Sea near Yemen, it is strongly recommended that vessels convoy in groups and maintain good communications contact at all times. Marine channels 13 and 16 VHF-FM are international call-up and emergency channels, and are commonly monitored by ships at sea. 2182 Mhz is the HF international call-up and emergency channel. Wherever possible, travel in trafficked sea-lanes. Avoid loitering in or transiting isolated or remote areas. In case of emergency, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In the event of an attack, consider activating Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons.

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

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

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

CRIME: Crime is on the increase throughout Sudan. Additional security measures should be taken at places of residence to protect life and property. Anti-American sentiments can be found throughout the country. Americans should exercise caution by avoiding crowded public areas and public gatherings. Americans should avoid traveling alone. Report all instances of anti-American acts and crime targeting westerners to the American Embassy, and report incidents of crime to the Sudanese Police.

Americans should guard their backpacks or hand luggage. When traveling by air, travelers should maintain constant contact with their baggage and assure that they do not contain illicit items, such as alcohol or military ordinance. Americans have been removed from international airlines and detained when suspect items have been detected in checked baggage.

Carjacking and armed robbery continue to occur in western and southern Sudan. Sexual assault is more prevalent in the areas of armed conflict. Travelers who do not use the services of reputable travel firms or knowledgeable guides or drivers are especially at risk. Travel outside of Khartoum should be undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles so that there is a backup in case of mechanical failure or other emergency. Solo camping is always risky.

The Sudanese mail system can be unreliable. International couriers provide the safest means of shipping envelopes and packages, although anything of value should be insured.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Individuals with medical conditions which may require treatment are discouraged from traveling to Sudan. Medical facilities in Khartoum fall short of U.S. standards; outside the capital, very few facilities exist and hospitals and clinics are poorly equipped. Travelers must pay cash in advance for any medical treatment. Ambulance services are not available. Medicines are available only intermittently; travelers should bring sufficient supplies of needed medicines in clearly-marked containers.

Malaria is prevalent in all areas of Sudan. The strain is resistant to chloroquine and can be fatal. Consult a health practitioner before traveling, obtain suitable anti-malarial drugs, and use protective measures, such as insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito nets. Travelers who become ill with a fever or a flu-like illness while in Sudan, or within a year after departure, should promptly seek medical care and inform their physician of their travel history and the kind of anti-malarial drugs used. For additional information about malaria and anti-malarial drugs please see the Center for Disease Control travelers’ health web site, http://www.cdc.gov/malaria/index.htm.

Officially, people with HIV are not granted a visa and are not permitted to enter Sudan. A negative HIV test result must be presented at a Sudanese embassy or at Khartoum airport in order to obtain a visa. However, anecdotal reports indicate this requirement is not enforced in practice. Please confirm this requirement with the Embassy of Sudan at www.sudanembassy.org.

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

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sudan is provided for general reference only, and may not be accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Road conditions throughout Sudan are hazardous due to erratic driver behavior, pedestrians and animals in the roadways, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles. Only major highways and some streets in the cities are paved; many roads are narrow, rutted, and poorly maintained. Local drivers do not observe conventions for the right-of-way, stop in the road without warning, and frequently exceed safe speeds for road, traffic, and weather conditions. Driving at night is dangerous and should be avoided if possible; many vehicles operate without lights.

In the north and west, dust storms and sand storms, known locally as haboobs, greatly reduce visibility when they occur. Roads in these areas can be quickly covered with shifting sand at any season of the year. Roads in southern Sudan often are impassable during the rainy season, from March to October.
U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling, including traffic laws. In Sudan vehicles have the steering wheel on the left side and drivers use the right side of the road.

Traffic from side streets on the right has the right-of-way when entering a cross street, including fast-moving main streets. Traffic on the right has the right-of-way at stops. Right turns on a red light are prohibited. Speed limits are not posted, but the legal speed limit for passenger cars on inter-city highways is 120 kph (about 70 mph), while in most urban areas the limit is 60 kph (about 35 mph.) The speed limit in congested areas and school zones is 40 kph (about 25 mph).

Many local drivers carry no insurance despite the legal requirement that all motor vehicle operators purchase third-party liability insurance from the government. Persons involved in an accident resulting in death or injury must report the incident to the nearest police station or police officer as soon as possible. Persons found at fault can expect fines, revocation of driving privileges, and jail sentences, depending on the nature and extent of the accident. Persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol face fines, jail sentences, and corporal punishment.

Americans may use their U.S. driver's licenses for up to 90 days after arrival in Sudan, and then must carry either an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a Sudanese driver's license. There are no restrictions on vehicle types, including motorcycles and motorized tricycles.

Public transportation is limited to within and between major urban areas. Passenger facilities are basic and crowded, especially during rush hours and periods of seasonal travel. Schedules are unpublished and subject to change without notice. Vehicle maintenance does not meet U.S. standards. There is routine passenger train service on the route from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa (on the border with Egypt) and to Port Sudan (on the Red Sea.) Bus service between major cities is regular and inexpensive. Intra-city bus service in the major urban areas is regular, but most buses and bus stops are privately-operated and unmarked. Taxis are available in the major cities at hotels, tourist sites, and government offices. The motorized rickshaws in common use in Khartoum are unsafe. Travelers are encouraged to hire cars and drivers from reputable sources with qualified drivers and safe vehicles. Irregularly-scheduled mini-buses provide some public transit to rural communities; many areas lack any public transportation.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Sudan, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sudan’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

Enforcement of aviation safety standards in Sudan is uneven; civil aviation in Sudan continues to experience air incidents and accidents, including 5 crashes with at least 64 fatalities between November 8, 2007, and June 30, 2008. Incidents included engine failures, collapsed landing gear, and planes veering off the runway. Whenever possible, Americans traveling to Sudan despite the ongoing travel warning are advised to travel directly to their destinations on international carriers from countries whose civil aviation authorities meet international aviation safety standards for the oversight of their air carrier operations under the FAA’s International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) program. Adverse seasonal weather conditions, such as dust or sand storms in the north between April and June and severe rain storms in the south between March and October, cause frequent flight cancellations.

Two hijackings originated in Sudan in 2007; no passengers were harmed.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In November 1997, the U.S. imposed comprehensive financial and commercial sanctions against Sudan, prohibiting U.S. transactions with Sudan. Travelers intending to visit Sudan despite the Travel Warning should contact the Department of the Treasury, Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), Office of Compliance, telephone 1-800-540-6322 or 202-622-2490, regarding the effect of these sanctions.

Travelers must be prepared to pay cash for all purchases, including hotel bills, airfares purchased locally, and all other travel expenses. Major credit cards, including Visa, MasterCard, or American Express, cannot be used in Sudan due to U.S. sanctions. Sudan has no international ATMs. Local ATMs draw on local banks only.

Travelers, including journalists, must obtain a photography permit before taking any photographs. Even with a photography permit, photographing military areas, bridges, drainage stations, broadcast stations, public utilities, slum areas, and beggars is prohibited.

Sudan is a conservative society, particularly in the capital and other areas where the Muslim population is the majority. Alcohol is prohibited by law and modest dress is expected. Loose, long-sleeved shirts and full-length skirts or slacks are recommended attire for women visitors. Women who are not Muslim are not expected or required to cover their heads. Men may wear short-sleeved shirts but short pants are not acceptable in public.

Please see our information on Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sudanese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in alcohol or illegal drugs in Sudan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States as well in Sudan.

Sudan’s Public Order Courts have continued to serve as the state mechanism for morality enforcement since the early 1980's. Today the court still issues punishments ranging from fines, to lashings, to lengthy prison sentences for offences such as drinking alcohol, wearing inappropriate clothing, or associating with unmarried women.

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 Sudan are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Sudan. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Sharia Ali Abdel Latif, Khartoum, Sudan; tel: 249 1 83 774-701, http://sudan.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information dated March 12, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Aviation Safety Oversight, and Criminal Penalties.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:59:23 +0100 (MET)

Juba, Dec 12, 2019 (AFP) - Devastating flooding in South Sudan following a fierce drought could tip parts of the country into famine in the next few months, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday.   According to the UN refugee agency nearly one million people were affected by floodwaters that submerged entire towns, compounding an already dire humanitarian situation after six years of war.

The WFP said that 5.5 million people are expected to be going hungry in early 2020 -- the time at which the population is generally benefiting from their harvest in October and November of the previous year.   An earlier harvest failed due to drought. This time crops have been washed away.    "The number of people in need is likely to increase because of the catastrophic level of destruction caused by floods since October following a drought that hammered parts of the country earlier in the year," the agency said in a statement.

The floods wiped out 73,000 metric tons of potential harvests as well as tens of thousands of cattle and goats, said the WFP.   "We know the problems that we've been having in South Sudan, but the rains and the floods have led to a national disaster and are much worse than anyone could have anticipated," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.    "In fact, if we don't get funding in the next few weeks and months, we are literally talking about famine. We need support, we need help and we need it now."   The agency estimated its needs at $270 million (242 million euros) for the first half of 2020.   South Sudan declared a "man-made" famine affecting around 100,000 people in 2017. 

The term "famine" is used according to a scientific system agreed upon by global agencies, when at least 20 percent of the population in a specific area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 people per day for the entire population.   "Famine in South Sudan was defeated after four months in 2017 by a concerted large-scale humanitarian response," said the WFP.   "Experts now say the country's food security outlook has never been so dire."   Political instability is also high as President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar have again delayed their formation of a power-sharing government, this time by 100 days until February 2020.
Date: Sat, 30 Nov 2019 18:41:31 +0100 (MET)
By Waakhe Simon Wudu

Juba, Nov 30, 2019 (AFP) - In Andrew Makech's home village near Rumbek in central South Sudan, few have ever heard of a condom, and broaching the topic of its use would be considered taboo.   However the 35-year-old on Saturday joined hundreds in the capital Juba to get tested for HIV/Aids and learn about the use of condoms to combat the disease, in a rare public sex education campaign in the country wracked by six years of war.   The campaign, launched by the Okay Africa Foundation NGO in partnership with government, comes ahead of World Aids Day on Sunday, and highlights that despite great strides made in raising awareness about the disease around the globe, many are still at risk.

In South Sudan, HIV rates are currently believed to be low, at around 200,000 people infected in a population of around 12 million, however few protect themselves or get themselves tested, and only 10 percent of those infected are receiving anti-retroviral treatment, according to the World Health Organisation.   Makech told AFP that in his village anyone using a condom would be considered a prostitute and that asking someone to use one would probably insult them.   At the campaign launch at the Kampala University College in Juba, demonstrations were carried out on how to use both male and female condoms -- as students listened attentively and took photos with their phones -- and around 5,000 condoms were distributed.   Data Emmanuel Gordon from the Okay Africa Foundation said the campaign was motivated by a lack of awareness on how to stop the spread of HIV/Aids.

In South Sudan "the use of condoms is attributed to immorality. When you use condoms you are immoral. People think the use of condoms is for... going outside your marriage to have sex with someone," said Gordon.   Chris Isa, who works on HIV prevention at the South Sudan Aids Commission said there was a perception that educating young people about sex exposed them to immorality.   "The fact that we don't talk about sex in this country doesn't mean it is not happening so we really need to accept that we need to condomise and not compromise," said Isa.

South Sudan plunged into war in 2013, two years after achieving independence, and the conflict has devastated health infrastructure in the country. A peace deal was signed in September 2018 which largely stemmed fighting, but a power-sharing government has yet to be formed.   Isa said HIV prevalence was particularly high in the military, with five in every 100 soldiers testing positive.   He said that if testing was more widely carried out, many more than the almost 200,000 currently recorded could be infected because "all the ingredients and the factors for the spread of the virus are evident in our society."
Date: Thu 14 Nov 2019
Source: WHO Emergencies preparedness, response, Disease Outbreak News (DONs) [edited]

On 10 Oct 2019, the National IHR Focal Point for Sudan notified WHO of 47 suspected [human] cases of Rift Valley fever (RVF), including 2 deaths in Arb'aat Area, Towashan Village, in El Qaneb locality, Red Sea State. The suspected cases presented with high-grade fever, headaches, joint pain, vomiting. There were no hemorrhagic signs or symptoms observed. The 1st case presented to the health facility on 19 Sep 2019.

On 28 Sep 2019, a total of 14 samples were sent to the National Public Health Laboratory in Khartoum, and 5 tested positive for RVF by immunoglobulin M (IgM) enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) and reverse-transcriptase polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). These samples were also tested for malaria and were found negative.

On 13 Oct 2019, a total of 10 suspected RVF cases were recorded in Barbar and Abu Hamed localities, of River Nile State. Of the 10 suspected RVF cases, 5 samples were tested and 4 were found positive for RVF. From 19 Sep 2019 until 11 Nov 2019, a total of 293 suspected human RVF cases, including 11 associated deaths have been reported from 6 states; including the Red Sea (120), River Nile (168), Kassala (2), White Nile (1), Khartoum (1), and Al Qadarif (1) States. The most affected age group is 15-45 years old, which accounts for 83% of the total suspected cases. The male to female ratio is 2.6, with a high proportion of the cases being farmers (37.5%).

These human RVF cases are concomitant with abortions and deaths among goats in the areas where the human suspected and confirmed cases have been reported. From 25 Sep through 3 Nov 2019, 21 goats in Red Sea State were reported as positive for RVF, including 4 deaths; and in River Nile State 16 goats, with 3 deaths, and 37 sheep, with 5 deaths, were confirmed positive for RVF by ELISA test at the Central Veterinary Research Laboratory in Khartoum.

Public health response
----------------------
Red Sea State
-------------
- Activation of RVF task force committee;
- printing and distribution of RVF guidelines;
- deployment of surveillance teams for daily reporting and active case finding in the affected areas;
- establishment of 2 health centers and one dispensary with a capacity of 11 beds, laboratory items, drugs, and supplies to provide health services in the affected villages;
- conducting household inspections and fogging: In Arb'aat area, a total of 452 households were inspected, out of which 30 were found positive for the presence of a competent vector; in Port Sudan, out of 1225 households inspected, 29 were found positive for the competent vector, and fogging was provided to 1949 households;
- the Veterinary Epidemiology Department of the Ministry of Animal Resources conducted vector control in 4 animal enclosures in the affected villages.

River Nile State
- A joint investigation conducted by the State Ministry of Health (SMoH) and WHO on 12 Oct 2019;
- initiation of an RVF Action plan by the SMoH and WHO;
- initiation of Integrated Vector Management (IVM), surveillance, case management, and Rapid Response Team (RRT) activities.

WHO risk assessment
-------------------
RVF is endemic in Sudan. There have been 3 outbreaks affecting humans previously documented in 1973, 1976, and 2008. During the outbreak in 2008, a total of 747 laboratory-confirmed cases were reported, including 230 deaths.

The recent floods, following heavy rains on 13 Aug 2019, caused flash floods in 17 of the 18 states, including Abyei area in West Kordofan State. These floods have favored vector abundance, distribution, and longevity. The current RVF outbreak started on 19 Sep 2019 and has affected states impacted by the floods.

The uncontrolled movements of animal populations within and outside the country borders may increase the spread of the disease to new areas.

RVF can cause significant economic losses due to livestock travel and trade restrictions, as well as high mortality and abortion rates among infected animals.

In a country where the export of livestock is one of the major sources of the national income, the current RVF outbreak, in the context of political unrest and a debilitated health system requires an urgent need for external assistance.

WHO advice
----------
Rift Valley fever (RVF) is a mosquito-borne viral zoonosis that primarily affects animals but also has the capacity to infect humans. The majority of human infections result from direct or indirect contact with the blood or organs of infected animals. Herders, farmers, slaughterhouse workers, and veterinarians have an increased risk of infection.

Awareness of the risk factors of RVF infection and measures to prevent mosquito bites is the only way to reduce human infection and deaths. Public health messages for risk reduction should focus on:
- reducing the risk of animal-to-human transmission resulting from unsafe animal husbandry and slaughtering practices;
- practicing hand hygiene as well as wearing gloves or other personal protective equipment when handling sick animals or their tissues and when slaughtering animals;
- reducing the risk of animal-to-human transmission arising from the unsafe consumption of raw or unpasteurized milk or animal tissue. in endemic regions, all animal products should be thoroughly cooked before eating;
- reducing the risk of mosquito bites through the implementation of vector control activities (e.g. insecticide spraying and use of larvicidal to reduce mosquito breeding sites), use of insecticide-impregnated mosquito nets and repellents, light-coloured clothing (long-sleeved shirts and trousers);
- restricting or banning the movement of livestock to reduce the spread of the virus from infected to uninfected areas;
- routine animal vaccination is recommended to prevent RVF outbreaks. Vaccination campaigns are not recommended during an outbreak as they may intensify transmission among the herd through needle propagation of the virus;
- outbreaks of RVF in animals precede human cases, thus the establishment of an active animal health surveillance system is essential in providing early warning for veterinary and public health authorities.

WHO advises against the application of any travel or trade restrictions with the affected country based on the current information available on this event.
=====================
[The report above provides a good overview of the development of the current Rift Valley fever outbreak. Surveillance and responses require a One Health approach since both humans and animals are affected and environmental change, in this situation extensive flooding, has promoted vector abundance. Effective vector control over extensive geographical areas is difficult to achieve and is expensive. Maintenance of herd immunity through vaccination of animals can be a successful preventive measure prior to the occurrence of cases. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Neighbouring Egypt, which suffered introductions of RVF from Sudan in the past, has undertaken preventive measures. This relates initially to the 2 governorates bordering Sudan, namely the Red Sea and the New Valley governorates. In the Red Sea governorate, vaccination has already started. Reportedly, as of 18 Nov 2019, a total of 12 801 animals have been vaccinated, including 11 568 sheep and goats, 712 camels, and 421 cows and buffalo. The vaccination, which is free of charge, is being continued. In the New Valley governorate, 62 guidance seminars about RVF for animal breeders in the 5 provincial centers have been undertaken; the implementation of a "magnified immunization campaign for a month" is said to commence "next Saturday" (23 Nov 2019), "aimed at immunizing 120 000 cattle, goats, and sheep." Intensified surveillance in animals has, reportedly, been applied in both governorates; no suspected cases detected. - ProMED Mod.AS]

5th November 2019
http://www.emro.who.int/sdn/sudan-news/who-scales-up-cholera-vigilance-in-khartoum-sudan.html

5 November 2019, Khartoum, Sudan -- To prevent a potential spread of the current cholera outbreak to Khartoum State – including to the country’s capital Khartoum City – and at the request of the Federal Minister of Health Dr Akram Eltoum, WHO is working closely with health partners, nongovernmental organizations, and at-risk communities to ensure that suspected cases are quickly identified and responded to, and that people can effectively protect themselves from infection.  “The risk of cholera spreading is very real. If not properly managed, this could have potentially serious consequences. More than eight million people live in Khartoum State, where the public health system is impacted by the economic crisis, recent flooding, and ongoing outbreaks of infectious diseases,” said Dr Naeema Al Gasseer, WHO Representative in Sudan.

As of 3 November, Sudan’s Ministry of Health reported 332 suspected cases of cholera, concentrated in Blue Nile and Sennar States. Two cases were confirmed in Khartoum State on 19 October.  Together with the Ministry of Health, WHO has conducted initial risk mapping in Khartoum State to identify which areas are more likely to be at increased risk of an outbreak. This will allow for more informed planning to ensure high-risk areas, including Sharq Elnil and Ombada localities, are better prepared to respond as needed.  Scaling up health capacities to detect and respond to cholera

To ensure that health facilities and cholera treatment centres in Khartoum State are equipped to diagnose and treat suspected patients, WHO has delivered cholera medicines and supplies sufficient for 400 severely dehydrated patients, and 500 Rapid Diagnostic Tests used for immediate detection and screening of cholera patients in health facilities.  WHO is also supporting the establishing of two cholera treatment centres in Ombada and Bahri localities by providing additional cholera medicines, medical supplies, and Rapid Diagnostic Tests.

To strengthen disease surveillance in Khartoum State, WHO, with support MSF, is providing refresher training for 271 health staff and paramedics from all 7 localities on cholera detection and management. An additional 35 health staff are being trained to form Rapid Response Teams who will be the first to respond to suspected cases at locality level.  Ensuring communities are aware of prevention and treatment actions.  “A key aspect of preventing and controlling cholera is how well at-risk communities are able to protect themselves by drinking safe water, properly handling food, avoiding defecation in open areas, handwashing, and knowing what to do when they see the first signs of infection,” said Dr Al Gasseer.

WHO and the Khartoum State Ministry of Health are working with more than 1700 male and female health promoters and volunteers who will play a critical role in raising awareness among communities on cholera, hygiene practices, and environmental health, as well as linking communities with available health services and involving them more in health planning activities.

WHO’s work to protect people from cholera in Sudan is made possible through the Sudan Humanitarian Fund.

For more information
Inas Hamam
Communications officer
WHO Regional Office
hamami@who.int
Date: Sun 27 Oct 2019
Source: Radio Dabanga and AllAfrica [edited]

According to the Sudanese Ministry of Health and the World Health Organization (WHO), 323 suspected cholera cases, including 10 deaths, were reported in Blue Nile state, Sennar and Khartoum between the end of August 2019 and [22 Oct 2019]. The 1st case was detected on [28 Aug 2019], the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Sudan says in its latest Sudan Situation Report. Two cases were recently recorded in Ombadda locality in Omdurman, the twin-city of Khartoum.

On [6 Oct 2019], humanitarian partners in Sudan launched the Cholera Readiness and Response Plan, that targets 2.5 million people in 8 high-risk states (Blue Nile state, Sennar, El Gedaref, Kassala, El Gezira, White Nile state, Khartoum, and River Nile state).

An oral cholera vaccine campaign launched on 11 Oct 2019 is ongoing, targeting 1.6 million people in high risk communities in Blue Nile and Sennar states. The aim of the campaign is to contain the outbreak and prevent its spread to neighboring states.

Risk assessment
---------------
Sudan has been facing a continuous surge of acute watery diarrhea/suspected cholera cases since 2016. The current outbreak was reported following recent heavy rains and flooding in 17 out of 18 states across the country. As a result of the flooding, the country reported widespread damage to infrastructure, thus more cholera cases can be expected in the future.
======================
[As stated in Lutwick LI, Preis J, Choi P: Cholera. In: Chronic illness and disability: the pediatric gastrointestinal tract. Greydanus DE, Atay O, Merrick J (eds). NY: Nova Bioscience, 2018; pp 113-136, oral rehydration therapy can be life-saving in outbreaks of cholera and other forms of diarrhea:
"As reviewed by Richard Guerrant et al (1), it was in 1831 that cholera treatment could be accomplished by intravenous replacement, and, although this therapy could produce dramatic improvements, not until 1960 was it 1st recognized that there was no true destruction of the intestinal mucosa, and gastrointestinal rehydration therapy could be effective, and the therapy could dramatically reduce the intravenous needs for rehydration. Indeed, that this rehydration could be just as effective given orally as through an orogastric tube (for example, refs 2 and 3) made it possible for oral rehydration therapy (ORT) to be used in rural remote areas and truly impact on the morbidity and mortality of cholera. Indeed, Guerrant et al (1) highlights the use of oral glucose-salt packets in war-torn Bangladeshi refugees, which reduced the mortality rate from 30 per cent to 3.6 per cent (4) and quotes sources referring to ORT as "potentially the most important medical advance" of the 20th century. A variety of formulations of ORT exist, generally glucose or rice powder-based, which contain a variety of micronutrients, especially zinc (5).

"The assessment of the degree of volume loss in those with diarrhea to approximate volume and fluid losses can be found in ref 6 below. Those with severe hypovolemia should be initially rehydrated intravenously with a fluid bolus of normal saline or Ringer's lactate solution of 20-30 ml/kg followed by 100 ml/kg in the 1st 4 hours and 100 ml/kg over the next 18 hours with regular reassessment. Those with lesser degrees of hypovolemia can be rehydrated orally with a glucose or rice-derived formula with up to 4 liters in the 1st 4 hours, and those with no hypovolemia can be given ORT after each liquid stool with frequent reevaluation."

References
----------
1. Guerrant RL, Carneiro-Filho BA and Dillingham RA. Cholera, diarrhea, and oral rehydration therapy: triumph and indictment. Clin Infect Dis. 2003;37(3):398-405; available at: <http://cid.oxfordjournals.org/content/37/3/398.long>.
2. Gregorio GV, Gonzales ML, Dans LF and Martinez EG. Polymer-based oral rehydration solution for treating acute watery diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2009;(2):CD006519. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD006519.pub2; available at: <http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD006519.pub3/full>.
3. Gore SM, Fontaine O and Pierce NF. Impact of rice based oral rehydration solution on stool output and duration of diarrhea: meta-analysis of 13 clinical trials. BMJ 1992; 304(6822): 287-91; available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1881081/>.
4. Mahalanabis D, Choudhuri AB, Bagchi NG, et al. Oral fluid therapy of cholera among Bangladesh refugees. Johns Hopkins Med 1973; 132(4): 197-205; available at: <http://www.searo.who.int/publications/journals/seajph/media/2012/seajph_v1n1/whoseajphv1i1p105.pdf>.
5. Atia AN and Buchman AL. Oral rehydration solutions in non-cholera diarrhea: a review. Am J Gastroenterol. 2009; 104(10): 2596-604, doi: 10.1038/ajg.2009.329; abstract available at: <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19550407>.
6. WHO. The treatment of diarrhea, a manual for physicians and other senior health workers. 4th ed. 2005; available at: <http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2005/9241593180.pdf>. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED maps available at:
Adamawa State, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/6479>
More ...

Liechtenstein

Switzerland and Liechtenstein US Consular Information Sheet
December 01, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Switzerland is a highly developed democracy.
Liechtenstein is a democratically run constitutional monarchy.
Read the Department of
State Background Notes on Switzerland for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required for travel to both Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
A visa is not required for stays up to 90 days in either country.
For more information on entry requirements for both countries, travelers may contact the Embassy of Switzerland at 2900 Cathedral Avenue, NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 745-7900, or the nearest Swiss Consulate General in Atlanta, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.
Visit the Embassy of Switzerland’s web site at http://www.swissemb.org for the most current visa information.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Although there have been no recent terrorist attacks in Switzerland, violence by anti-globalization, anti-Semitic, and anti-establishment (anarchist) groups does occur from time to time.
This violence is typically in the form of property damage and clashes between these groups and the police.
The potential for specific threats of violence involving American citizens in Switzerland is remote.
Nevertheless, the Consular Agencies in Zurich and Geneva may close periodically to assess their security situation.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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

CRIME:
Switzerland has a low rate of violent crime.
However, pick-pocketing and purse snatching do occur in the vicinity of train and bus stations, airports, and some public parks, especially during peak tourist periods (such as summer and Christmas) and when conferences, shows, or exhibits are scheduled in major cities.
Liechtenstein has a low crime rate.
Travelers may wish to exercise caution on trains, especially on overnight trains to neighboring countries.
Thieves, who steal from passengers while they sleep, can enter even locked sleeping compartments.
Thieves have been known to work in pairs to target train passengers; while one member of the pair creates a diversion at a train window or on a platform, the other steals items left briefly unattended.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Switzerland, through its 26 cantons (states), has programs to assist victims of crime and their immediate relatives.
Medical, psychological, social, financial, and legal assistance are available throughout the country.
These programs also protect the rights of the victim during criminal proceedings.
The victim may receive compensation for some damages, if requested during the criminal procedure.
Information is available at the Swiss Department of Justice located on Bundesrain 20, 3003 Bern, telephone: 41-31-322-4750, as well as on the Internet at http://www.bj.admin.ch/bj/en/home.html
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Switzerland is fire 118; police 117; medical 144.
For additional assistance, including possible U.S. compensation, see our information for Victims of Crime.

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

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

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Switzerland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Although many roads are mountainous and winding, road safety standards are high.
In some mountain areas, vehicle snow chains are required in winter.
Road travel can be more dangerous during summer, winter holidays, the Easter break, and Whitsunday weekend (late spring) because of increased traffic.
Travel on expressways (indicated by green signs with a white expressway symbol) requires purchase of a sticker or “vignette,” which must be affixed to the car’s windshield.
Vignettes can be purchased at most border crossings points, gas stations and at Swiss post offices.
Drivers using the highway system without a vignette are subject to hefty fines levied on the spot.
Public transportation in Switzerland and Liechtenstein is excellent.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of Switzerland’s national tourist office at http://www.myswitzerland.com/en.cfm/home.

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

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Travelers who plan to participate in mountain activities (summer and winter) are strongly encouraged to buy mountain search and rescue insurance. Costs of search and rescue operations are the responsibility of the victim. Search and rescue insurance is available inexpensively in Switzerland and may be purchased at many Swiss post offices.
Information can be obtained from the Swiss National Tourist Office, at http://www.myswitzerland.com, at most tourist information offices or with the Swiss Air Rescue Organization at http://www.rega.ch/en/start_en.aspx .
Such insurance has proved useful as uninsured rescues can easily cost $25,000.

Switzerland’s customs authorities encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes.
ATA Carnet Headquarters located at the U.S. Council for International Business, 1212 Avenue of the Americas, New York, N.Y. 10036, and issues and guarantees the ATA Carnet in the United States.
For additional information call (212) 354-4480, send an email to atacarnet@uscib.org, or visit http://www.uscib.org for details.
Please see our information on Customs Information.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Switzerland’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Switzerland are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Switzerland are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Bern, with the Consular Agencies in Geneva or Zurich, or through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy, Consulate, or Consular Agent to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Sulgeneckstrasse 19, 3007 Bern; Tel. (41)(31) 357-7011 (2 p.m. – 5 p.m.); fax (41)(31) 357-7280.
The Embassy’s email address is bernacs@state.gov.
The U.S. Embassy website at http://bern.usembassy.gov answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting and residing in Switzerland.

The U.S. Consular Agency in Zurich is located at the American Center of Zurich, Dufourstrasse 101, 8008 Zurich; Tel: (41)(43) 499-2960 (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.), fax (41)(43) 499-2961.
The U.S. Consular Agency in Geneva is located at rue Versonnex 7, CH-1207 Geneva, Tel: 022-840-51 60 (10 a.m. – 1 p.m.); fax 022-840-51 62.
There is no U.S. Embassy or Consulate in Liechtenstein.
For assistance and information on travel and security in Liechtenstein, U.S. citizens may contact or register at the U.S. Embassy in Bern at the address above.
*
*
*
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated March 3, 2008 with changes to the sections on Crime and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed, 15 Jan 2014 18:09:10 +0100 (MET)

GENEVA, Jan 15, 2014 (AFP) - Liechtenstein will close its only maternity ward, where some 200 babies are born each year, after all the gynaecologists working there quit at the same time, the government said Wednesday.    "The government regrets the closure of the maternity ward," Health Minister Mauro Pedrazzini said in a statement.

The doctors had decided to leave amid uncertainty over the future of the establishment, the authorities in the tiny landlocked country between Switzerland and Austria explained, saying the ward would close for good during the spring.   The citizens of Liechtenstein in 2011 rejected by popular vote to dish out the cash needed to build a new hospital building and replace the ageing infrastructure.

Since then, the authorities in the country of fewer than 37,000 people, have been struggling to push through a modernisation plan for the maternity ward to bring it up to the standards demanded by the doctors working there.   Each year, some 200 babies are born at the ward, while another some 200 babies are born to Liechtenstein citizens who decide to travel abroad to give birth, mainly to neighbouring Switzerland and Austria.   Once the Liechtenstein ward closes, all young Liechtensteiners will be born abroad.
Date: Tue, 17 Nov 1998 12:14:59 -0500 From: ProMED-mail
14 Mar 2000 VADUZ, Liechtenstein (AP) - Liechtenstein's government Tuesday approved a package of measures to tighten rules against money laundering, insisting that this tiny country has no wish to attract dirty money. The bill, which has been sent to parliament for immediate action, would increase the obligations of financial institutions to report suspicious deposits and expand bribery sanctions to cover payoffs to foreign officials. Banks would have to make more thorough checks on the origin of funds. The government has appointed a special prosecutor to investigate allegations - reported last year in the German news magazine Der Spiegel - that the Alpine principality has become an international money laundering center. See http://www.infobeat.com/stories/cgi/story.cgi?id=2564961602-dc8
More ...

Timor-Leste

General Information:

The People’s Republic of China is the world’s third largest nation in land mass and shares borders with 16 other countries. It is the worlds most populated country. Nowadays many Irish travellers will b

going to China for business or holiday trips. Much of the country is mountainous or semidesert and the country lies almost entirely in the temperate zone. Only portions of the southern-most area - the provinces of Yunnan and Guangdong, and the Zhuang autonomous region of Guangxi - lie within the tropics. The monsoon climate is a major influence in the south, but the north and west have a typical continental climate.

Weather Profile: 

During the summer, warm moist maritime air masses bring heavy rains to eastern China, and hot humid summer weather is typical. Winter offers a sharp contrast when Siberian air masses dominate. In late winter and spring strong north winds sweep across north China and hazy days caused by dust storms are common. Beijing’s spring is mostly dry. In July and August the weather turns hot and humid. Autumn is the nicest time of the year with many warm, clear days and little wind usually. Chest Complaints  Because of the prevailing dust, increased transportation and the burning of soft coal during the winter, Beijing and other major cities in China have a high rate of pollution. This may exacerbate bronchial and/or sinus complaints. The dust level in Lhasa is also very high and this may lead to respiratory problems.

Safety & Security:

The risk of crime against tourists is low but care of personal belonging should be observed at all times. Maintenance of buildings and general safety precautions may not always be in place and so checking for fire exits (and that they are unblocked) is wise. Use the hotel safety boxes and carry photocopies of any important documents rather than the originals where possible.

Local Medications:

Western brand-name drugs or non-prescription medicines are seldom available locally although some Chinese equivalents are to be found at reasonable prices. Always carry your own medication (well marked) on your person and bring enough for your trip.

Rabies:

Rabies is a serious problem throughout China. Reports indicate that as many as five million people are bitten each year by rabid dogs and that approximately 5,000 of these patients die. Travellers should stay well clear of any warm blooded animals, especially dogs. Any contact (lick, bite or scratch) should be treated seriously and immediately by washing out the wound, applying an antiseptic and then seeking urgent medical attention.

River Boat Travel:

Many of the older river boats in China use untreated river water for washing dishes and in the bathrooms. This increases the risk of illnesses such as traveller’s diarrhoea and a parasitic disease called schistosomiasis (Bilharzia). Also be careful that the ferry is not overcrowded and be aware of any sharp corners or rusty edges due to lack of maintenance.

Altitude Sickness in Tibet:

Virtually all of the Tibetan Autonomous region, much of Quinghai and Xinjiang, parts of Sichuan, Yannan and Gansu are above 13,000 feet in altitude. Some main roads in Tibet, Qinghai and Xinjiand go above 17,000 feet. At these levels the available oxygen is very low and altitude sickness may occur. Travellers may experience severe headaches, nausea, dizziness, shortness of breath or a dry cough. These symptoms usually settle over a few days with rest, but if not travellers should seek medical assistance and, if possible, descend to a lower altitude. Travellers with a history of cardiac problems or respiratory difficulties should avoid such high altitudes where possible.

Insect Bites and Malaria:

During the summer months, carry a supply of insect repellent ointments for your trip and use sensible, light coloured clothing to cover yourself when there are mosquitoes or sandflies about. The risk of malaria in most of China is limited but prophylactic tablets may be prescribed depending on your actual itinerary. Other serious mosquito borne diseases do occur so these will need to be considered.

Sunlight:

The sunlight during the summer months and in Tibet at high elevations can be intense so travellers should bring sun screen and sun-glasses and a sensible wide-brimmed hat.

Acupuncture:

Many tourists are tempted to experience this oriental art in its homeland while visiting China. It is essential to ensure that sterile needles are used at all times as otherwise there may be a risk of transmission of a blood borne disease such as the HIV virus or Hepatitis B.

AIDS risk in China:

Official figures suggest that AIDS is a very limited risk in China. Only 707 cases were reported up to October 2000. These very low figures are very difficult to verify and so all travellers should take care not to place themselves at risk where possible.

Customs Regulations: 

Never carry any medication for another individual unless they are part of your family. The Chinese authorities have strict drug regulations which may be enforced.

Vaccination Requirements: 

 There are no vaccination requirements for entry / exit purposes but travellers on short trips should consider the following ... * Poliomyelitis (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water disease) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Hepatitis A (food & water disease) Those planning to spend a longer time in China should consider additional vaccination against conditions like Rabies, Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Meningococcal Meningitis, Diphtheria and Mantoux Test / BCG vaccination.

Summary: 

China is teeming with people and a culture very different to ours. It is a land of many contrasts. Travellers generally stay healthy if they follow standard commonsense healthcare advice.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 5 Mar 2015 13:53:47 +0100 (MET)

Dili, East Timor, March 5, 2015 (AFP) - An American tourist has returned to the United States after six months trapped in East Timor over the discovery of drugs in a taxi that she was sharing.    Stacey Addison arrived back in Portland, Oregon, on Wednesday, embracing her mother tightly during an emotional reunion at the city's airport, TV reports showed.    "It's a great feeling, it's a relief to finally be back home, be out of there," she told a local station, adding her experience in East Timor, a tiny half-island nation bordering Indonesia, had been an "emotional rollercoaster".   A Facebook group set up to advocate for her release carried a celebratory message on Tuesday announcing that she had left East Timor: "IT'S FINALLY HAPPENED! STACEY IS ON HER WAY HOME!!!!"   Addision was arrested on September 5 after methamphetamine was found in the shared taxi that was en route to the capital Dili, but denied any wrongdoing.

The veterinarian, who had just crossed from Indonesia when she was arrested, wrote on Facebook that another passenger -- who was a stranger -- picked up a package containing the drugs, and police later detained everyone in the car.   She was initially released from jail after several days but was later re-arrested, although no charges were laid against her.    Addison was released again in December, but East Timor authorities hung on to her passport while they continued to investigate her case.    Her lawyer had warned that the probe could take two years but last week the East Timor government announced that prosecutors had decided not to pursue her case and "Ms. Addison is now free to leave".   The State Department had supported Addison and pressed for her release.   East Timor, a poor half-island nation that was occupied by Indonesia for over two decades, imposes tough punishments for drugs cases, including the death penalty for traffickers.
Date: Tue, 4 Feb 2014 00:59:28 +0100 (MET)

JAKARTA, Feb 03, 2014 (AFP) - A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit eastern Indonesia Tuesday but there was no tsunami alert, seismologists said.   The quake struck at 7:36 am local time (2236 GMT Monday), 318 kilometres (197 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili in the Banda Sea at a depth of 18 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between East Timor and the Maluku islands.   In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.   A 6.1-magnitude quake struck Indonesia's main island of Java in January, damaging dozens of buildings.   Another 6.1 quake that hit Aceh province on Sumatra island in July 2013 killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
Date: Sun, 1 Dec 2013 04:07:58 +0100 (MET)

AMBON, Indonesia, Dec 01, 2013 (AFP) - A 6.3-magnitude quake hit off eastern Indonesia and East Timor Sunday, seismologists said, but there was no tsunami alert or reports of damage or casualties.   The quake struck at 10:24 am local time (0124 GMT), 351 kilometres (217 miles) east-northeast of the East Timor capital Dili at a relatively shallow depth of 10 km, the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center did not issue any alerts following the tremor in the remote region at the eastern end of the Indonesian archipelago between the islands of Timor and New Guinea.   In an initial assessment, the USGS said there was a low likelihood of damage or casualties.   Indonesian officials said they had not received any reports of casualties or damage so far.   "From data, the epicentre is quite a distance from the nearest cities and the intensity of shaking is not destructive," Suharjono, the technical head of Indonesia's geophysics and meteorology agency, told AFP.

An AFP correspondent in Dili said no tremor was felt.   Johanes Huwae, a police official in the Maluku provincial capital Ambon, one of the cities closest to the epicentre, said "there was no shaking, everything's safe", while the national disaster management agency reported "slight shaking for three to five seconds" in Southwest Maluku.   Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.   A 6.1-magnitude quake that struck Aceh province on Sumatra island in July killed at least 35 people and left thousands homeless.
Date: Tue 20 Mar 2012
From: Helen Hanson <helenjhanson@gmail.com> [edited]

Re: Meng Ling Moi's post from Japan re: DENV-3 in 3 Japanese travelers returning from East Timor in March [see ProMED-mail archives 20120319.1074013 and 20120306.1060914]

I am the Australian Embassy's doctor in Dili, East Timor. Our clinic sees expatriates and some locals.

It is likely that I saw one or more of the travellers concerned prior to their return to Japan.

Our small one-doctor clinic saw 45 test-confirmed cases of dengue in February [2012] alone, mostly expatriates. These are not included in the 161 test confirmed cases for East Timor quoted in the previous post. Serotyping is not available in Dili, however reports from my colleagues at the ASPEN military medical facility, where blood samples have been sent to Australia for analysis, have also shown DEN-3 to be the circulating serotype.
-------------------------------------------------
Dr Helen Hanson
Australian Embassy Clinic
Dili, East Timor
helenjhanson@gmail.com
=========================
[ProMED-mail thanks Dr Helen Hanson for this 1st hand report. These types of reports from health professionals in the field who are dealing with outbreaks are especially valuable sources of reliable, current information. Her report confirms the circulation of dengue virus 3 in East Timor.

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of East Timor can be accessed at
<http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Tuesday 6th March 2012
A ProMED-mail post
<http://www.promedmail.org>

- East Timor (national). 2 Mar 2012. As of 24 Feb [2012], the Ministry of Health had received 563 reports of dengue (161 confirmed by laboratory tests) in every district except one, including 192 reports of DHF that causes severe abdominal pain, vomiting, and in worst cases, death. This is a 36 per cent increase over reports for the 1st 2 months of 2011. As of 1 Mar [2012], 10 people had died from dengue, according to the government.
=====================
[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail interactive map of East Timor can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/r/1KlU>. - 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: 1 Dec 2019
Source: Saudi MOH (14 Nov 2019 to 1 Dec 2019) [edited]

In the period since the last update (13 Nov 2019, MERS-CoV (69): Saudi Arabia (RI, AS, MK) http://promedmail.org/post/20191113.6776647), there have been a total of 3 newly confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection reported by Saudi Arabia and 11 newly reported outcomes (2 deaths and 9 recoveries).
Date: Mon, 28 Oct 2019 12:42:34 +0100 (MET)

Riyadh, Oct 28, 2019 (AFP) - Seven people have been killed and 11 injured in floods after heavy rain lashed northeastern parts of Saudi Arabia, Al-Ekhbariya state television reported Monday.   Rescue services in the northeastern city of Hafer al-Batin, about 100 kilometres southwest of Kuwait, said that 16 people were forced to evacuate their homes.   Seven affected by the rain were provided with shelter, it added.  Schools in Hafer al-Batin suspended classes on Monday due to the weather.   In January, 12 people were killed in floods in Saudi Arabia.  Ten died in the northwestern city of Tabuk, one in the Islamic holy city of Medina and another in a northern border area.
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 2019 12:04:37 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, Oct 6, 2019 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together as the ultraconservative kingdom begins offering up tourist visas for the first time.   The tourism authority said in a statement published on Twitter that Saudi women travelling alone would also be able to check into a hotel by presenting valid ID.

In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel had to prove they were married.    "This is no longer required for tourists," the statement said.   Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it was opening its doors to holidaymakers with the goal of diversifying its oil-dependent economy.   The kingdom had previously only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers, and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.   Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.   On September 28, Saudi authorities warned that tourists who violated "public decency", including with immodest clothing and public displays of affection, would be subject to fines.
Date: Sun, 29 Sep 2019 17:39:45 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, Sept 29, 2019 (AFP) - Five people were injured in a fire that broke out at a new high-speed train station in Saudi Arabia's western city of Jeddah on Sunday, state television reported, with huge palls of smoke seen rising into the air.    The station serves the main Haramain High Speed Rail system. The route opened to the public in October last year, transporting passengers between Mecca and Medina, Islam's holiest sites.

"Five people who sustained minor injuries because of the fire were transported to hospital," Al-Ekhbariya state television reported.   The General Directorate of Saudi Civil Defence said in an earlier tweet that it was working to extinguish the fire.   A video uploaded on Twitter by the Mecca provincial government showed plumes of grey smoke rising from what looked like the inside of the complex.   An AFP correspondent said security forces closed the main road linking Mecca and Jeddah and cordoned off the site.   The blaze erupted at 12:35 pm local time (0935 GMT), according to the Haramain High Speed Rail's Twitter account.

The railway runs 450 kilometres (280 miles) via the Red Sea port of Jeddah, transporting passengers at speeds of up to 300 kilometres per hour.   Saudi King Salman inaugurated the railway in September 2018. Officials described it as the biggest transportation project in the region.   In 2011, the kingdom signed a deal for a Spanish consortium to build the rail track, supply 35 high-speed trains and handle a 12-year maintenance contract.   Saudi is boosting its infrastructure spending and expanding its railways -- including a $22.5 billion metro system under construction in the capital Riyadh -- as it seeks to diversify its oil-dependent economy.
Date: Sat, 28 Sep 2019 19:56:29 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, Sept 28, 2019 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia on Saturday said it would impose fines for violations of "public decency", including immodest clothing and public displays of affection, a day after the austere kingdom opened up to foreign tourists.   The interior ministry said it had identified 19 such "offences" but did not specify the penalties, as the ultra-conservative Islamic country begins issuing tourist visas for the first time as part of a push to diversify its oil-reliant economy.   "The new regulations require men and women to dress modestly and to refrain from public displays of affection. Women are free to choose modest clothing," a statement said.   "The regulations are meant to ensure that visitors and tourists in the kingdom are aware of the law relating to public behaviour so that they comply with it."

Saudi Arabia on Friday said citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.   Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.   But the conservative country, which forbids alcohol and is notorious for sex segregation, is seen as an unlikely destination for global tourists aside from Muslim pilgrims visiting holy sites in Mecca and Medina.   Men and women must avoid "tight fitting clothing" or clothes with "profane language or images", read an instruction on an English language website launched by the tourism authority.   "Women should cover shoulders and knees in public," it added.

But tourism chief Ahmed al-Khateeb said foreign women were not obligated to wear the body-shrouding abaya robe that is still mandatory public wear for Saudi women.   Prince Mohammed has sought to shake off his country's ultra-conservative image -- lifting a ban on cinemas and women drivers while allowing gender-mixed concerts and sporting extravaganzas.   The relaxed social norms in a kingdom have been welcomed by many Saudis, two-thirds of whom are under 30.   But new public decency guidelines, first approved by cabinet in April, are widely perceived to be vague and have sparked public concern that they would be open to interpretation.   They have also stoked fears of a revival of morality policing.   Saudi Arabia's religious police once elicited widespread fear, chasing men and women out of malls to pray and berating anyone seen mingling with the opposite sex.   But the bearded enforcers of public morality, whose powers have been clipped in recent years, are now largely out of sight.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2019 10:21:01 +0100 (MET)
By Marie-Pierre FEREY

Paris, Dec 16, 2019 (AFP) - French commuters endured a twelfth day of misery on Monday as the government and unions traded blame for a crippling transport strike over a pensions overhaul that has put holiday travel plans at risk for thousands.   Some 630 kilometres (390 miles) of traffic jams clogged Paris and its suburbs during the morning rush hour, nearly double the average levels, as most metro lines were again closed or operating just a handful of trains.

Across France, just one in three high-speed TGV trains and one in four regional trains were running, though most cities were not enduring the chaos seen in the capital.   "Until now I've been working from home or taking my car," a man who gave his name as Francois told AFP at the Saint-Lazare station in Paris, saying he had left home at just before 5:00 am.   "But the car is no longer an option, because of the cost but also because it's exhausting."   Unions plan a fresh day of mass demonstrations on Tuesday and insist the government must abandon planned pension reforms that they say could force millions of people to work longer before retiring.

Mass walkouts are again expected by teachers, hospital workers and other public employees as well as by lawyers protesting over plans to introduce a single pension system that would do away with 42 separate regimes.   The government has said it is willing to negotiate, in particular a "pivot age" of 64 that would grant rights to a full pension, but has defended a key project of President Emmanuel Macron's wide-reaching reform drive.    "Going on strike is legitimate, but you can also respect events like the year-end festivities," Environment Minister Elisabeth Borne told France 2 television, saying it would be "irresponsible" of union leaders to "ruin vacations".

Rail operator SNCF has already warned that unless the strike ends in a few days, it will not have time to get service back to normal by December 25.   "We're going to try to make miracles happen" for the Christmas holidays that begin on Saturday, SNCF's Rachel Picard told the Parisien newspaper over the weekend.   "If the government drops its project and we start serious talks on how to improve the system... everything will be fine," Philippe Martinez of the hardline CGT union said Sunday.   "Otherwise, the strikers will decide on what to do on Thursday or Friday."
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2019 09:52:36 +0100 (MET)
By Ferdh Cabrera

Padada, Philippines, Dec 16, 2019 (AFP) - Rescuers in the southern Philippines used heavy equipment and their bare hands on Monday in hopes of finding several people feared trapped beneath a building toppled by a powerful earthquake that claimed at least three lives.   Sunday's tremor cracked schools, toppled homes and injured dozens but largely spared big cities on the island of Mindanao, which is still recovering from a string of deadly quakes in October.

Searchers have pulled survivors from the collapsed market building in the town of Padada, but were still looking for a person who had texted authorities saying six people were trapped under the rubble.   "The person can no longer be reached," fire official Fred Trajeras told reporters, adding that rescuers' held out hope survivors could be found.   A young child was killed when a family home collapsed near the epicentre, and searchers pulled the bodies of two victims from the collapsed market building.

However applause erupted after Lesley Jane Gatos, 31, was pulled from the rubble on Sunday, shortly after the tremor.   Gatos used her phone to call for help and then began making noise to attract the attention of rescuers, who reached her after clearing a path in the debris.   "Finally I was able to get out. I saw people. They clapped because I was the first one rescued," she told AFP.   The collapsed building was near the epicentre of the 6.8 magnitude quake and is in the same region that was hit by three tremors above 6.0 in a matter of weeks in October.   Those quakes killed some two dozen people and forced tens of thousands into shelters as well as heavily damaging homes and offices.

The Philippines is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", an arc of intense seismic activity that stretches from Japan through Southeast Asia and across the Pacific basin.   Searchers were fanning out across the quake-hit areas of Mindanao on to fully assess the damage, but have already reported several schools and hospitals were cracked.   President Rodrigo Duterte, who is from Davao and was there during the quake, was not hurt.  "The first lady... said the car she was riding (in) was swaying," spokesman Salvador Panelo said.
Date: Mon, 16 Dec 2019 04:25:33 +0100 (MET)
By Holly ROBERTSON

Sydney, Dec 16, 2019 (AFP) - Australia's biggest city is facing a "public health emergency" over the bushfire smoke that has choked Sydney for weeks, leading doctors warned Monday after hospitals reported a dramatic spike in casualty department visits.   Hundreds of climate change-fuelled bushfires have been raging across Australia for months, with efforts to contain a "mega-blaze" burning north of Sydney destroying an estimated 20 homes overnight and fires near Perth threatening towns.

More than 20 medical groups including the Royal Australasian College of Physicians -- which represents 25,000 doctors and trainees -- released a joint statement Monday calling on Australia's government to address the toxic air pollution.   "The air pollution in NSW is a public health emergency," the Climate and Health Alliance said.   "Smoke from bushfires has produced air pollution of up to 11 times the base 'hazardous' level in parts of Sydney and New South Wales.   "Bushfire smoke is particularly hazardous because of the high levels of tiny particles (PM2.5)."   The New South Wales state health department said it recorded a 48 percent increase in the number of people visiting hospital emergency rooms with respiratory problems in the week ending December 11 compared to the five-year average.   Visits spiked 80 percent on December 10, when air quality plummeted across Sydney prompting up to 20,000 residents to march in protest the following day.

The Climate and Health Alliance called on the government to take urgent action to curb emissions, saying climate change is worsening bushfires that are having "devastating impacts on human health".   "The air pollution events resulting from bushfires will become more and more frequent and are a result of climate change," it said.   "Our governments must act quickly to rapidly and deeply reduce greenhouse gas emissions, which we know are driving climate change."   Prime Minister Scott Morrison last week made a rare admission that climate change is one of the "factors" behind the fires, but defended Australia's record on emissions reduction and failed to announce further measures to address the issue.

- 'Heartbreaking' -
Six people have been killed, more than 700 houses destroyed and at least three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land burned this bushfire season.   More than 100 fires are currently burning in New South Wales, where efforts to contain a 400,000-hectare blaze near Sydney using backburning are believed to have sparked another fire that destroyed an estimated 20 homes.   A New South Wales Rural Fire and Rescue Service spokeswoman told AFP the fire was "likely the result of embers from the backburning operation" but that work had been "absolutely critical" and many more homes could have been lost without it.   The devastating fires have focused attention on climate change, with scientists saying the blazes have come earlier and with more intensity than usual due to global warming and a prolonged drought that has also caused towns to run out of drinking water and forced farmers off their land.

More than 35,000 people living in a drought-stricken area of southern Queensland will be restricted to using a maximum of 80 litres (21 US gallons) of water each per day under "emergency" rules from Thursday, as local authorities begin trucking in water from other regions.   "The rain has gone around us now for three years. It's been heartbreaking," Southern Downs Council mayor Tracy Dobie told ABC.   Treasurer Josh Frydenberg on Monday singled out bushfires and drought as the biggest domestic challenges for the economy, telling reporters in Canberra the dry spell had taken a quarter of a percentage point off GDP growth and reduced farm output by "a significant amount" over the past two years.   Official data shows 2019 is on track to be one of the hottest and driest years on record in Australia, with the country set to experience a heatwave this week that forecasters predict will break temperature records -- and firefighters say will make their job even tougher.
Date: Sat, 14 Dec 2019 04:27:07 +0100 (MET)
By Béatrice DEBUT

Adelaide, Afrique du Sud, Dec 14, 2019 (AFP) - South African farmer Steve Bothma heaved a sigh of relief when the weatherman finally predicted rain.   His excitement was short-lived. Just a few days later, the forecast changed. It was back to cloudless sunshine.   In South Africa's Eastern Cape province, no one can remember the last proper downpour. Some say it was five years ago, others six. "This is a disaster," said Bothma, 51, who in his three decades working the land has never seen such dry weather.     "Older people who are 70 or 80 years old would tell you exactly the same thing," he added.

Southern Africa is grappling with one of the worst droughts in decades -- the outcome of years of absent or erratic rainfall, and temperatures that have reached record highs.   Millions are facing hunger due to poor harvests and dwindling livestock.    "It is usually beautifully green at this time of the year," said Bothma, as a hot gust of wind swept through his sheep pen.   "But now even the pine trees are dying."

South Africa is one of the world's driest countries at the best of times.   Rapid urbanisation and growing water consumption have placed a strain on water reserves and caused the coastal city of Cape Town to almost run dry in 2018.   But the ongoing drought has compounded the situation.    Dam levels dropped dangerously low in October, prompting President Cyril Ramaphosa to call for "drastic measures".   South Africa is in "a dire situation", said Ramaphosa in October, highlighting that five out of nine provinces were badly hit.

- To the slaughterhouse -
Bothma has had to cull around 60 percent of his merino sheep, including lambs.   Because of the drought, he could only afford to keep 2,000 as "breeding stock".   "Usually I keep them until they are five or six years old," Bothma explained, as his staff selected animals for the next trip to the slaughterhouse.

The price he gets for his merino wool has plunged by around 40 percent over the past year due to the drought and a foot-and-mouth disease outbreak in the north of the country.      "The wool is full of dust and not very strong," said Bothma.   Years of dry weather have left scars in the landscape.   Arid fields flanked the windy gravel road leading to the nearest town of Adelaide, tucked at the bottom of a mountain range.    Cows chewed pieces of wood and sheep ambled in search of food.   In town, livestock roamed the streets and nibbled at scorched grass on the golf course.   The nearest dam dried up at the start of the year.

- 'Can't wash' -
Some of Adelaide's 15,000 inhabitants had been without running water for seven months.  A South African aid group, Gift of the Givers, has been helping by delivering water to the area since April.     On a recent water mission, hundreds of people In the township of Bezuidenhoutville rushed up with an array of empty bottles, buckets, iceboxes and even paint cans.      "We are keeping it for food and drink," said Rodney Douglas, 59, pushing a wheelbarrow piled high with plastic jerrycans.

Assanda Sais, 38, complained that she could only spare enough water to bathe once a week and that her house was "smelling".    "We keep dirty water to flush," she explained.   Bezuidenhoutville's local middle school has had to shorten its week by half a day due to the lack of water.    Many children were missing class altogether.   "Kids have to help parents to carry water," said teacher Zeenat Gangat, sweltering as the sun beat down on the container walls of a classroom.   "They can't wash," she added. "They complain about stomach issues."

- Poor infrastructure -
Local authorities have tried to ease the situation by connecting sections of the town to a reservoir fed by Fish River, around 50 kilometres (30 miles) away.   The water is allocated on a rotational basis, but even then the pipeline to the river is way too narrow.   Adelaide deputy mayor Bornboy Ndyebi said the town's pipelines were in poor shape, and Thandekile Mnyimba, who heads the regional district of Amathole, told AFP that water trucks supplied by the government had broken down.

South Africa's main opposition, the Democratic Alliance (DA), has accused the ruling party of acting too late.   "It is only when the dam reached a very low level - around four percent -- that they woke up," said DA councillor Ernie Lombard.   Ramaphosa has sought to pin the blame on years of poor governance under former president Jacob Zuma, whom he succeeded in 2018.   "Corruption in the water sector has in no small part contributed to the situation we currently face," he declared.

- 'Can't sleep at night' -
Water insecurity could become "the biggest developmental and economic challenge facing this country," Ramaphosa added.   Adelaide is already suffering from South Africa's ailing economy, marked by low growth and chronic unemployment.    Close to 70 percent of the small town's inhabitants are out of work. When houses go up for sale, they stay on the market.

The manager of Adelaide's only hotel said she was worried if too many rooms were booked at the same time, as "it takes two weeks to do the washing".   On nearby farms, high-yielding avocado trees now barely produce 10, low-grade fruit instead of 50.   Helpless farmers watch their animals succumb to thirst and hunger. Alton Snaer has lost nine of his 15 cows.   "I can't sleep at night," said the retired farmer.   Bothma feared that more months without rain would force him "to close the books".   "Farmers are taking their life," he said, eyes reddened by the dust. 
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2019 16:41:23 +0100 (MET)
By Mariëtte Le Roux and Joseph Schmid

Paris, Dec 13, 2019 (AFP) - French commuters gritted their teeth for a ninth day of public transport strikes Friday, with unions vowing to keep up their protest against a pension overhaul through the holidays unless the government backs down.   Officials have said they are ready to negotiate, with Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer meeting teachers' representatives on Friday to try and stave off another day of class shutdowns.   "It was an intense and frank meeting... but we still need details, and maintain our call to strike on Tuesday," Stephane Crochet of the SE-Unsa union said.

Unions are hoping for a repeat of 1995, when they forced a rightwing government to back down on pension reforms after three weeks of metro and rail strikes just before Christmas.   The prospect of a protracted standoff has businesses fearing big losses during the crucial year-end festivities, and travellers worried that their Christmas plans may be compromised.   "Right now it's a catastrophe here, but we're hoping there will be a solution before Christmas," Frederic Masse, a foie gras producer at the huge Rungis wholesale food market south of Paris, told AFP on Friday.

The capital city was again choked by huge traffic jams as most metro lines remained shut, only a handful of buses and trams were running, and one in four TGV trains were cancelled.   "I'm sick of this, and I won't be able to keep working if it goes on," Zigo Makango, a 57-year-old security agent, told AFP onboard a bus in the Bobigny suburb northeast of Paris.   To get home at night Makango said he has to use taxis, but "my boss doesn't reimburse me for that".

- 'Historic reform' -
President Emmanuel Macron on Friday expressed his "solidarity" with people impacted by the strike, "but I want the government to continue its work" in forging a single pension system, a key campaign promise.   "It's a historic reform for the country," he told journalists at an EU summit in Brussels. 

The overhaul unveiled by Prime Minister Edouard Philippe would do away with 42 separate regimes, some of which offer early retirement and other benefits to public-sector employees such as train drivers, dockers and even Paris Opera employees.   But Philippe angered unions further by proposing a reduced payout for people who retire at the legal age of 62 instead of a new, so-called "pivot age" of 64.

They have called for new mass demonstrations for next Tuesday, the third since the action started on December 5 in the biggest show of strength in years by France's notoriously militant unions.   Philippe insisted on Twitter that "My door is open and my hand outstretched".   But Laurent Brun of the hard-line CGT union, the largest among public-sector workers including those at rail operator SNCF, has already warned "There won't be any Christmas truce" unless the government drops the plan entirely.

- France divided -
A poll released Thursday by the Elabe institute found France evenly divided on Philippe's plan, with 50 percent for and 49 percent against.  But 54 percent rejected the mooted 64-year cutoff for a full pension, and 54 percent supported the protest.

Staff at four of France's eight oil refineries were on strike Friday, affecting output and raising fears of shortages down the line.   And both Paris operas, the Garnier and the Bastille, again cancelled Friday performances and others through the weekend.   Macron's government insists the changes will make for a fairer system and help erase pension system deficits forecast to reach as much as 17 billion euros ($19 billion) by 2025.   The average French person retires at just over 60, years earlier than most in Europe or other rich OECD countries.
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2019 14:05:22 +0100 (MET)

Milan, Dec 13, 2019 (AFP) - More than 300 flights were cancelled Friday in Italy due to a planned one-day strike by workers from Alitalia and Air Italy.   Alitalia said in a statement that 315 flights were cancelled on Friday, with another 40 cancelled Thursday night and Saturday morning. It was not immediately clear how many flights were cancelled at Air Italy.   The 24-hours strike, which involves pilots, flight attendants and ground personnel, was called by three unions to draw attention to what they called "the ongoing crisis at Alitalia and Air Italy."

The strike was felt most in Sardinia, with about 30 flights cancelled.    Money-losing Alitalia has been under special administration since 2017 when employees rejected a restructuring plan that would have laid off 1,700 workers out of an approximately 11,000.   The government has so far looked for buyers without success.    Unions plan to meet on Tuesday with Economy Minister Stefano Patuanelli.    A potential consortium of buyers for the ailing carrier fell apart last month after Atlantia, which operates Rome's airports, pulled out.
Date: Fri, 13 Dec 2019 05:24:44 +0100 (MET)
By Neil SANDS

Wellington, Dec 13, 2019 (AFP) - Adventure tourism is a key part of New Zealand's international appeal but the White Island volcano eruption is a tragic reminder that such activities carry genuine risk that must be better explained to travellers, experts say.   The South Pacific nation offers a wealth of adrenaline-fuelled pursuits, from heli-skiiing on snow-capped mountains to ballooning and blackwater rafting through caves.

Some, such as bungee-jumping, jet-boating and zorbing -- where you hurl yourself down a hill inside an inflatable ball -- were invented or popularised in a country that prides itself on catering to intrepid visitors.   The tourism industry as a whole is among New Zealand's biggest earners, generating about NZ$16.2 billion ($10.7 billion) and attracting 3.8 million international visitors annually.     "Adventure tourism is a massive sector in New Zealand. We are promoting ourselves as the adventure capital of the world," professor Michael Lueck, a tourism expert at Auckland University of Technology, told AFP.

New Zealand is also renowned for its rugged landscapes, which feature prominently films such as Kiwi director Peter Jackson's "Lord of the Rings".   Day-trips to White Island combined both, taking tourists including cruise ship passengers to a desolately beautiful island off the North Island coast where they could experience the thrill of standing on an active volcano.   Instead, at least 16 people are believed to have died and dozens suffered horrific burns when 47 tourists and guides were caught on the island during Monday's eruption.

The disaster has raised questions about why tourists were allowed on a volcano where experts had recently raised threat levels, as well as broader issues about the regulation of risky activities in the tourism sector.   "There will be bigger questions in relation to this event," Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern told parliament after the eruption.   "These questions must be asked, and they must be answered."

- 'Slapdash' or world's best? -
The disaster on White Island -- also known as Whakaari -- is not the first mass-fatality accident to affect tourists in New Zealand.   In 2015, seven people were killed when a scenic helicopter flight crashed into Fox Glacier. Two years earlier, a hot-air balloon claimed 11 lives and in 2010 nine died when a plane carrying skydivers plunged into a paddock.

Briton Chris Coker's son Brad, 24, died in the skydive plane crash and since then he has campaigned from afar for tighter regulations in New Zealand's adventure tourism sector.   "In my opinion, the New Zealand authorities... are still slapdash about tourist safety," Coker told news website stuff.co.nz after the White Island eruption.   "To run tourists there is insane. I know they signed a waiver and so on, but it's not really taking care of people."

Trade body Tourism Industry Aotearoa disputes such assessments, saying operators are "working within a world's best regulatory framework", but could not eliminate risk completely.   "Operators put safety first, but adventure activity inherently carries some risk and it's critical that 'adventure' remains in adventure tourism," TIA chief executive Chris Roberts told AFP.   "Operators take all practical actions to minimise the risks and the safety culture of individual operators remains the key factor in preventing accidents."

Roberts said the issue was not tourism operators, but the alert system they relied on at volcanic destinations such as White Island, which attracts about 17,000 visitors a year.   The GeoNet monitoring agency raised White Island's threat level in the week before the eruption but also advised current activity "does not pose a direct hazard to visitors".   "The reviews need to look at the science and specifically the guidance provided about volcanic activity, and whether the operating practices followed for the past 30 years need to change," Roberts said.

- 'Understand the risks' -
Travel companies such as White Island Tours brief customers before setting off and require them to sign a waiver declaring they understand the risk, as well as supplying equipment such as hard-hats and gas masks.   However, some relatives of those affected by the eruption have expressed scepticism that their loved ones truly appreciated the potential danger they faced.   Options for legal redress are limited under New Zealand's Accident Compensation Commission scheme, which covers victims' medical bills and provides modest compensation but does not allow civil suits for damages.

Neither Roberts nor Lueck expected the White Island eruption to hit international arrivals in New Zealand, which have continued to climb despite major earthquakes in 2011 and 2016.   The nature of any review arising from White Island remains uncertain, but Lueck said at the very least tourists needed to be better informed about any risks.   "Operators and tourism boards should have tourists understand what these risks are, and not brush over quickly signing a waiver," he said.   "Only then can tourists make an informed decision and decide whether or not they want to take that particular risk."
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2019 21:25:36 +0100 (MET)

Kinshasa, Dec 12, 2019 (AFP) - Twenty-three cases of Ebola have been recorded in four days in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, where deadly violence is hampering efforts to end the 16-month-old epidemic, authorities said on Thursday.   Ten cases were recorded on Tuesday alone in Mabalako in North Kivu province, after six on Monday, according to the Multisectoral Committee for Epidemic Response (CMRE).   Three out of the six were practitioners of traditional medicine, it said.

On Wednesday, three cases were recorded in North Kivu, including one in the Biena neighbourhood -- which has had no new Ebola cases for the last 85 days.   More than 2,200 people have died since the epidemic was declared on August 1, 2018.   As of November 22, the rate of new cases had fallen to 10 per week.   CMRE said "security reasons" -- attacks on Ebola health workers and sites by armed groups and angry youths -- had "paralysed" work in the key zones of Beni, Biakato and Mangina.   The attacks led to a pullout of locally-employed Ebola workers in Biakato by the UN's World Health Organization (WHO) and Doctors Without Borders (MSF).
Date: Thu, 12 Dec 2019 15:59:23 +0100 (MET)

Juba, Dec 12, 2019 (AFP) - Devastating flooding in South Sudan following a fierce drought could tip parts of the country into famine in the next few months, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Thursday.   According to the UN refugee agency nearly one million people were affected by floodwaters that submerged entire towns, compounding an already dire humanitarian situation after six years of war.

The WFP said that 5.5 million people are expected to be going hungry in early 2020 -- the time at which the population is generally benefiting from their harvest in October and November of the previous year.   An earlier harvest failed due to drought. This time crops have been washed away.    "The number of people in need is likely to increase because of the catastrophic level of destruction caused by floods since October following a drought that hammered parts of the country earlier in the year," the agency said in a statement.

The floods wiped out 73,000 metric tons of potential harvests as well as tens of thousands of cattle and goats, said the WFP.   "We know the problems that we've been having in South Sudan, but the rains and the floods have led to a national disaster and are much worse than anyone could have anticipated," said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.    "In fact, if we don't get funding in the next few weeks and months, we are literally talking about famine. We need support, we need help and we need it now."   The agency estimated its needs at $270 million (242 million euros) for the first half of 2020.   South Sudan declared a "man-made" famine affecting around 100,000 people in 2017. 

The term "famine" is used according to a scientific system agreed upon by global agencies, when at least 20 percent of the population in a specific area has extremely limited access to basic food; acute malnutrition exceeds 30 percent; and the death rate exceeds two per 10,000 people per day for the entire population.   "Famine in South Sudan was defeated after four months in 2017 by a concerted large-scale humanitarian response," said the WFP.   "Experts now say the country's food security outlook has never been so dire."   Political instability is also high as President Salva Kiir and his rival Riek Machar have again delayed their formation of a power-sharing government, this time by 100 days until February 2020.
Date: Wed, 11 Dec 2019 09:33:13 +0100 (MET)
By Holly ROBERTSON

Sydney, Dec 11, 2019 (AFP) - Up to 20,000 protesters rallied in Sydney on Wednesday demanding urgent climate action from Australia's government, as bushfire smoke choking the city caused health problems to spike.   Sydney has endured weeks bathed in toxic smoke as hundreds of blazes have raged across the countryside, with hospitals recording a 25 percent increase in the number of people visiting emergency departments last week.   On Tuesday smoke alarms rang out across Australia's biggest city, with thick haze triggering smoke alarms and forcing buildings to be evacuated, school children to be kept indoors, and ferries to be cancelled.   The devastating fires have focused attention on climate change, with scientists saying the blazes have come earlier and with more intensity than usual due to global warming and a prolonged drought.   Police estimated the crowd size at 15,000, organisers put the figure at 20,000.

Many of the protestors voiced anger at the government's silence in the face of the crisis.   "The country is on fire" said 26-year-old Samuel Wilkie attending his first climate protest. He described politicians' response as "pathetic".    "Our government is not doing anything about it," said 29-year-old landscape gardener Zara Zoe. "No one is listening, no one is doing anything."   Prime Minister Scott Morrison -- a staunch backer of Australia's vast coal industry -- has said little about the smoke since the crisis began, preferring to focus on fire-hit rural communities.   Organiser Chloe Rafferty said that had created anger at the conservative government's inaction.   "I think the wider public can see that we are not expecting the climate crisis in the future but we are facing the climate crisis now," she told AFP.   "People are experiencing it in their day-to-day lives."   As well as a rise in people visiting hospitals with smoke-related health symptoms, the number of emergency calls for ambulances spiked 30 percent last week.    "For most people, smoke causes mild symptoms like sore eyes, nose and throat," top health department official Richard Broome said.   "However, people with conditions like asthma, emphysema and angina are at greater risk because the smoke can trigger their symptoms."

Smoke from bushfires is one of the biggest contributors to air pollution in Australia, releasing fine particles that can lodge deep within people's lungs and cause "severe" health impacts over time, according to scientist Mick Meyer from government-funded scientific research agency CSIRO.   "The impact of smoke on people remote from the fires may, on occasion, substantially exceed the direct injury to people within the fire zone," he wrote in The Conversation.   "But we currently lack the operational tools to understand the extent of these impacts or to manage them."   Six people have been killed and more than 700 houses destroyed in bushfires this fire season.   Though the human toll has been far lower than the deadliest fire season in 2009 -- when almost 200 people died -- the scale of this year's devastation has been widely described as unprecedented.   Three million hectares (7.4 million acres) of land has been burnt -- the size of some small countries -- and vast swathes of koala habitat scorched.   Official data shows 2019 is on track to be one of the hottest and driest years on record in Australia.