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Austria

Austria - US Consular Information Sheet
July 29, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Austria is a highly developed, stable democracy with a modern economy.
Tourism is an important pillar of the Austrian economy and facilities are widely availab
e.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Austria for additional information, or see the information at the Austrian National Tourist Office web site, http://www.austria.info.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A valid passport is required. U.S. citizens can stay without a visa for tourist/business for up to 90 days in each six-month period. That 90-day period begins when you enter any of the Schengen countries: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
Note:
Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passports upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function.
If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry.
Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passports may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.
There are no vaccination requirements for international travelers.
Visit the Embassy of Austria web site at http://www.austria.org/ for the most current visa information. There are four Austrian Consulates General in the United States. As each one serves clients from a particular region, please contact the appropriate office for assistance. If you reside outside the U.S. please contact the responsible Austrian Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.
A list of Austrian Embassies/Consulates is available at http://www.bmeia.gv.at/aussenministerium/buergerservice/oesterreichische-vertretungen.html.
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:
Austria remains largely free of terrorist incidents. However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Austria’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.

Austrian intelligence experts have registered increased radicalization of immigrant Muslim individuals and of small conspiratorial groups, as well as intensified use of the Internet as a propaganda and communications platform. Despite some terrorism-related incidents in 2007 directed against individual Austrian nationals or the Government of Austria, authorities overall believe the likelihood of terrorist attacks in Austria remains relatively low; the State Department rates Austria as a “Medium” threat for transnational terrorism.

Every year, a number of avalanche deaths occur in Austria's alpine regions. Many occur when skiers/snowboarders stray from the designated ski slopes. Leaving the designated slopes to ski off-piste may pose serious risks and may delay rescue attempts in case of emergency. Skiers/snowboarders should monitor weather and terrain conditions, and use the available avalanche rescue equipment. Avalanche beepers (transceivers) are the most common rescue devices and, when properly used, provide the fastest way of locating an avalanche victim, usually enabling authorities to begin rescue operations within minutes.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State’s, 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:
Austria has one of the lowest crime rates in Europe, and violent crime is rare. However, crimes involving theft of personal property have increased in recent years.
As such, most crimes involving Americans are crimes of opportunity involving theft of personal belongings. Travelers are also targets of pickpockets who operate where tourists tend to gather. Some of the spots where such crimes are most frequently reported include Vienna’s two largest train stations, the plaza around St. Stephan’s Cathedral and the nearby pedestrian shopping areas (in Vienna’s First District).

There has been an increase in thefts and pick-pocketing on public transportation lines, especially on those lines coming into and out from the city center. U.S. citizens are advised to secure personal belongings and always take precautions while on public transportation and in public places such as cafes and tourist areas. Many citizens have had to disrupt travel plans while awaiting replacements for lost and stolen passports since emergency passports are generally only authorized in rare circumstances such as critical medical emergencies.
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.
Information on the Austrian crime victim compensation program can be found on the U.S. Embassy web site at http://vienna.usembassy.gov/en/embassy/cons/compens.htm.
The local equivalent to the 911 emergency line in Austria is 133.See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
There are an adequate number of hospitals available in Austria. Local hospitals will not settle their accounts directly with American insurance companies. The patient is obliged to pay the bill to the local hospital and later claim a refund from his/her insurance carrier in the United States. MEDICARE payments are not available outside the United States.

The Austrian Medicine Import Act generally prohibits the import of prescription drugs into Austria, with two exceptions:
A) Travelers residing outside the European Union are allowed to carry with them (as part of their personal luggage) drugs and medicines, but only the quantity that an individual having a health problem might normally carry; and,
B) Travelers while staying in Austria may receive drugs and medicines for their personal use by mail. The quantity is limited to the length of their stay in Austria and must never exceed three packages.
Generally, it is recommended that travelers have either a prescription or written statement from their personal physician that the medicines are being used under a doctor's direction and are necessary for their physical wellbeing while traveling.
Public health conditions in Austria are excellent. The level of community sanitation in Vienna meets or exceeds that of most large American cities. Disease incidence and type are similar to that seen in the major cities of Western Europe and the United States. At the present time, air pollution is not a major health problem in Vienna.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Austria.

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 (CDC) 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.

Any person, regardless of citizenship, who wants to take up residence in Austria, must be covered by some health insurance plan that covers full medical treatment in Austria. American citizens interested in joining the health insurance plan under the Austrian system should apply to the Health Insurance Agency (Gebietskrankenkasse) in the province (Bundesland) where they reside.
Further information may be obtained from the appropriate “Gebietskrankenkasse” http://www.sozialversicherung.at/portal/index.html?ctrl:cmd=render&ctrl:window=esvportal.channel_content.cmsWindow&p_menuid=955&p_tabid=6&p_pubid=687.
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 Austria is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Road conditions in Austria are generally excellent. During the winter, however, roads in alpine areas may become dangerous due to snowfall, ice, or avalanches. Some mountain roads may be closed for extended periods and tire chains are often required. Drivers should exercise caution during the heavily traveled vacation periods (December-February, Easter, July-August). Extra caution is recommended when driving through autobahn construction zones, particularly on the A-1 East/West Autobahn. Reduced lanes and two-way traffic in these zones have resulted in several deadly accidents in recent years. Traffic information and road conditions are broadcast on the English language channel fm4, located between 91 and 105 FM depending on the locale.

A U.S. driver’s license alone is not sufficient to drive in Austria. The U.S. driver’s license must be accompanied by an international driver’s permit (obtainable in the U.S. from American Automobile Association and the American Automobile Touring Alliance) or by an official translation of the U.S. driver’s license, which can be obtained at one of the Austrian automobile clubs (OEAMTC or ARBOE). This arrangement is only acceptable for the first six months of driving in Austria, after which all drivers must obtain an Austrian license.

Austria requires all vehicles using the autobahn to display an “Autobahn Vignette” highway tax sticker on the inside of the vehicle’s windshield. The sticker may be purchased at border crossings, gas stations in Austria, and small “Tabak” shops located in Austrian towns. Fines for failing to display a valid autobahn vignette on the windshield of your car are usually around $120.

Austrian autobahns have a maximum speed limit of 130 km/hr, although drivers often drive much faster and pass aggressively. The use of hand-held cell phones while driving is prohibited. Turning right on red is also prohibited throughout Austria. The legal limit for blood alcohol content in Austria is .05 percent and penalties for driving under the influence tend to be stricter than in many U.S. states.

Tourists driving rented vehicles should pay close attention to the provisions of their rental contract. Many contracts prohibit drivers from taking rented vehicles into eastern European countries. Drivers attempting to enter countries listed as “prohibited” on the car rental contract may be arrested, fined, and/or charged with attempted auto theft. Austrian police are authorized to hold the rented vehicle for the car rental company.
Emergency roadside help and information may be reached by dialing 123 or 120 for vehicle assistance and towing services (Austrian automobile clubs), 122 for the fire department, 133 for police, and 144 for ambulance.
The European emergency line is 112.
Austrian Federal Railroads (Österreichische Bundesbahnen) offer excellent railroad service to all major towns of the country and also direct connections with all major cities in Europe. Trains are well maintained and fares are reasonable. There is also an extensive network of bus lines operated by the Austrian Postal Service (Österreichische Post). All major cities also offer excellent public transportation services.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the web-site of Austria’s national tourist office (Österreich Werbung) at http://www.austria.info and the national authority responsible for road safety (Kuratorium für Verkehrssicherheit) at http://www.kfv.at/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Austria’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Austria’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 using U.S. issued debit cards in Austrian Automatic Teller Machines (ATMs) may encounter problems. If the request for cash is rejected, travelers should check their accounts immediately to see whether the money was in fact debited from their account. If this is the case, they should notify their banking institution immediately. Prompt action may result in a refund of the debited amount. Receipts should always be requested and kept for verification with your home bank.
Please see our 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 Austrian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Austria 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 Austria 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 Austria.
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 Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy is located at Parkring 12a, tel. +43- 1-31339-7535, fax: +43-1-5125835, web site: http://vienna.usembassy.gov/en/index.html
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This replaces the Country Specific Information sheet for Austria dated January 23, 2008, without substantive changes.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 15 Jan 2019 15:26:31 +0100

Vienna, Jan 15, 2019 (AFP) - Around 60 guests were evacuated from an Austrian hotel and holiday apartment house early Tuesday after the buildings were engulfed by an avalanche, rescue services said.   "It was lucky the avalanche didn't occur four hours earlier when all of the guests were in the dining room," said Heribert Eisl, of the mountain rescue team in Ramsau am Dachstein, a village in the central Styria region where the accident happened at 1:00 am (0000 GMT).

The dining room was filled with snow up to one metre (three feet) below the ceiling, he told a news conference.   The avalanche shattered the hotel's windows and overturned vehicles in the car park, but no-one was injured, Eisl said.   "We hadn't expected the avalanche to wreak such damage," he continued.

A number of areas in the Austrian Alps have been on high avalanche alert for the past 10 days as a result of heavy snowfall across the west and centre of the country since early January.    In some regions, more than three metres of snow has fallen.   The army has been called in to help clear roads and roofs and evacuate residents in the wake of the bad weather, which has also affected southern Germany and parts of Switzerland.
Date: Mon, 7 Jan 2019 20:17:54 +0100

Vienne, Jan 7, 2019 (AFP) - Three skiers and two snowshoe hikers have died as heavy snow and avalanches hit Austria, isolating several areas of the mountainous country, authorities said Monday.

Two German skiers lost their lives in avalanches in the western region of Vorarlberg on Sunday, and a Slovenian died in the region of Salzburg, rescue services said.   The bodies of two missing snowshoe hikers were discovered Monday as snow caused chaos in parts of the country, blocking roads and shuttering schools.   Two other hikers are still missing in the country's northeast.   Up to 1.5 metres (five feet) of snow has fallen in central and north Austria since the middle of last week, with up to three metres accumulating in the mountains around Salzburg, Austria's meteorological service said.

Some 2,000 people, including tourists, were left stranded in villages in the Soelktal valley in the southeast.    Army helicopters used in avalanche control were grounded due to the bad weather.    In the Hochkar mountain range in Lower Austria, ski resorts were closed until further notice, with inhabitants and tourists requested to vacate the area.    More snow is expected this week, with up to 80 centimetres forecast from Tuesday.
Date: Tue 16 Oct 2018
Source: Food Safety News [edited]

Austria has become part of a multi-country hepatitis A outbreak with 31 confirmed cases linked to frozen strawberries imported from Poland.  The outbreak of hepatitis A virus (HAV) is connected to the one recently declared over in Sweden which affected 20 people in 6 counties. Of these cases, 17 were confirmed and 3 were probable. Dates of symptom onset ranged from 30 May 2018 to 10 Jul 2018. Ages ranged from 9 to 92 years and 13 out of 20 were women.

In July and August 2018, Austria recorded 9 hepatitis A cases with the source unknown. Researchers reported in the Eurosurveillance journal that by sharing the sequence information identified in Sweden internationally, 14 cases in Austria were found linked to strawberries from the same producer.

Genotyping of the hepatitis A outbreak strain in Sweden showed of 17 of the 20 cases confirmed an identical genotype IB strain. Environmental investigations and interviews with kitchen personnel found strawberries had not been heated adequately before serving. Following the outbreak, the juice bar chain where at least 10 cases had fallen ill stopped using frozen strawberries in smoothies and changed to pasteurized frozen pellets of the fruit.

The incriminated batch of frozen strawberries was withdrawn in June 2018 but it had best before date 6 Apr 2020. In total, 1664 packages with 5 kg [11 lbs] strawberries each were removed from the Swedish market.

Almost 2 months after the initial outbreak alert in Sweden, Austria reported a case of HAV infection with a strain indistinguishable from the Swedish outbreak strain. It can take up to 6 weeks after exposure for symptoms to develop. In late August 2018, the Austrian reference laboratory for viral hepatitis reported 5 cases sharing the Swedish outbreak genotype IB strain to the Ministry of Health (MOH). The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES) was told to investigate the outbreak.

As of early October 2018, 36 cases of laboratory-confirmed acute hepatitis A had been reported to public health authorities in Austria since June 2018. Of those, 14 met the definition of a confirmed case and 4 were classified as non-outbreak infections based on sequence-typing data. For confirmed cases, disease onset ranged from 8 Jun to 20 Sep 2018, age range was between 5 and 70 years, with 8 males and 6 females affected. 12 patients ate strawberry ice cream during the incubation period and 9 remembered the restaurants where they ate it. For the remaining 18 cases, sequence-typing data was not yet available and patient interviews regarding food exposure during their incubation periods is ongoing, according to the researchers.

Since mid-May 2018, only one wholesaler in Austria purchased frozen strawberries from the producer in Poland, but further distribution included two wholesalers in Slovakia and one ice cream producer in Italy.

The Austrian importer of frozen strawberries from the Polish producer is expecting a supply of 22 tons at the end of 2018 and has requested evidence for a HAV-negative test result of samples. It has also asked for a guarantee from purchasers that frozen strawberries are heated before consumption.

There are several challenges with HAV outbreaks related to berries, according to the researchers. "First, the trace back can be difficult as berries are typically harvested by one producer, then packed by another food business operator whereby batches may then be mixed or split. Another point to consider during HAV outbreak investigations is the long incubation period of hepatitis A up to 6 weeks. After such a long time, it can be difficult to recall food consumption and collect food leftovers. Furthermore, the time from the onset of symptoms to a primary diagnosis and the sequence information can take several weeks," they said.

"In the current outbreak, leftovers from the suspected frozen strawberries in Sweden were sent to Livsmedelsverket and the presence of HAV could be confirmed by real-time PCR and Sanger sequencing, providing evidence for the source of infection. While being invaluable in tracing the source of infections, the molecular detection of viruses in food is challenging." Researchers also said boiling recommendations could be considered for frozen strawberries in Sweden. Such advice is already in place for frozen, imported raspberries because of the risk of norovirus.  [Byline: Joe Whitworth]
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[Frozen berries have been implicated in hepatitis A transmission in the past. The exact mechanism of contamination of the berries is generally not clearly established, but hepatitis A is essentially only a human pathogen transmitted by the fecal-oral route. Transmission can be through food or water contamination or, as has been occurring in a number of large and some still ongoing outbreaks in the USA, through poor sanitation involving marginalized populations such as the homeless, with spill over into other groups. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps
Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2018 16:14:43 +0200

Vienna, July 10, 2018 (AFP) - An American tourist brought an unexploded World War Two shell to Vienna airport in her luggage, Austrian police said on Tuesday.   The 24-year-old had found the bomb on Sunday while walking in the Dachstein mountains, according to police in Lower Austria state.

She kept the shell in her belongings as a souvenir and declared it to customs officers when she came to the airport on Monday, who immediately rang the police.   A bomb disposal unit was called and in order to safely remove the device, the baggage hall and parts of the arrivals area were closed for around 15 minutes.   There was no danger to passengers and no delays as a result, according to police.

The tourist was charged with public endangerment through negligence and given a four-figure fine.   More than 70 years after World War II and a century after World War I, unexploded bombs still regularly turn up across Austria and Germany, often during construction work.
Date: Mon 25 Jun 2018
Source: AGES (The Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety) press release [in German, trans. submitter SZ, edited]

On [Fri 22 Jun 2018] AGES confirmed brucellosis in a dairy herd in the Rohrbach district in Upper Austria.

Since January [2018], increased number of abortions in cows and calf deaths have occurred on the affected farm. The farm's veterinarian investigated and collected blood samples. AGES confirmed brucellosis on [Fri 22 Jun 2018].

The competent authority acted without delay and has already taken all relevant measures. The dairy farm affected is currently restricted from selling milk and moving animals.

Brucellosis is a disease caused by bacteria of the genus Brucella. The infection of humans usually takes place via foods such as raw milk. Infection of farmers or veterinarians is also possible when assisting cows during parturition or when handling aborted material. In Austria, during the last decade, between 1 and 7 imported cases per year were found in humans. In 2018, 2 cases of brucellosis have been reported in humans.

Brucellosis is a very rare disease in humans and animals in Austria. The incubation period of brucellosis is usually 1 to 2 months. Up to 90 percent of all infections are without disease symptoms; infection can only be detected by testing for specific antibodies in the patient, they are an expression of an effective immune defense.

In acute [human] brucellosis, early symptoms are fatigue, mild fever, headache and body aches. After a short, symptom-free interval, flu-like symptoms may appear, which do not stop after 7 to 10 days, as is usual with influenza.

A typical indicator of brucellosis infection are elevated evening temperature (up to 40 C [104 F]) associated with excessive sweating. The disease can be treated with antibiotics.

In Austria, the cattle population (since 1999) and the sheep and goat populations (since 2001) are officially recognized free of this pathogen. The control of this animal disease in the present case focuses on the detection, isolation and culling of the infected animals as well as on the control of animal movements in order to avoid the spread of the pathogen. The milk from the affected farm has not caused any risk to consumers, since it is consistently undergone the compulsory pasteurization.
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Communicated by:
Sabine Zentis
Castleview English Longhorns
Gut Laach
D-52385 Nideggen
Germany
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[According to the media, about 50 percent of the 100 milking cows on the affected holding are infected. ('Top agrar online' dated 29 Jun 2018, in German, at <https://www.topagrar.com/news/Rind-Rindernews-Brucellose-auf-Milchviehbetrieb-in-Oesterreich-9316224.html>).

According to Austria's most recent periodic report to the OIE (Jun-Dec 2017), the last identification of Brucellosis (Brucella abortus) in Austria took place in March 2008.

Hopefully the epidemiological investigation undertaken by Austria's animal health authorities will discover soon the source of infection, and identify/test any other animal holding(s) which may have been in contact with the affected farm during recent months.

AGES is a company of the Republic of Austria, owned by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Labour, Social Affairs, Health and Consumer Protection and the Austrian Federal Ministry for Sustainability and Tourism. AGES was founded on 1st June, 2002.

Further exhaustive information on Brucellosis in animals is available in OIE's terrestrial Manual at

A map of Upper Austria, Austria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/2787>. - ProMED Mod.AS]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 07:52:47 +0100
By Amelie BARON

Port-au-Prince, Feb 21, 2019 (AFP) - With flaming barricades and widespread looting, 10 days of street violence in Haiti have all but buried a tourism industry that managed to resurrect itself after a devastating earthquake in 2010.   Ugly, violent footage beamed around the world has again sent the message that this impoverished Caribbean country is politically unstable and no place to go on vacation.

The final straw was the helicopter evacuation last week of 100-odd Canadian tourists trapped as angry protesters demanded the resignation of the president, whom they accuse of corruption.   "We have been through 12 days of hell. We managed the crisis but today we are suffering from the aftershocks," said Tourism Minister Marie-Christine Stephenson.

- Blacklist -
Beside the direct effects of the demonstrations, the United States delivered another crushing blow on February 14 when it urged its citizens not to travel to Haiti, which thus joined a no-go list with war-torn countries like Syria, Yemen and Afghanistan.

The minister said the US travel alert for Haiti was too harsh, calling the riots something that flared up unexpectedly and are now over.   "OK, they lasted 12 days but I am not sure that other Caribbean countries, which have had riots of their own, have been punished as severely and quickly as we have," said Stephenson.   Overnight, the decision by the US State Department hit the tourism industry hard. Travel web sites simply stopped offering flights to Haiti's two international airports.   Hotels are reporting cancellation of reservations and many empty rooms.

Officials in the industry have yet to tally up the damage but say that for the second time in less than a year, they will have to lay off workers.   In July of last year, three days of riots over a government attempt to raise fuel prices ruined the summer vacation season for Haiti's tourism industry.   It is not just hotels that will suffer again, said Beatrice Nadal-Mevs, president of the Haitian Tourism Association.   "This is going to affect everyday people because these are direct jobs that are going to be lost and supply chains will be threatened: farming, fishing, crafts, transport," Nadal-Mevs said.

- Mardi Gras cancelled -
With the opposition planning more demonstrations to seek the resignation of President Jovenel Moise, the sector got yet more bad news with word that Carnival celebrations have been called off in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.   City Hall said it could not guarantee revelers' safety.   The festivities, which this year were planned for March 3-5, usually draw many Haitians living abroad and fleeing the winter cold in Canada and the eastern US.

Another major Carnival celebration is scheduled to take place in the city of Gonaives, but the government has not said if it will go ahead.   As grim as things are, some foreign tourists have gone ahead with visits to Haiti.   On Wednesday, a group of Australians under police escort visited a square featuring statues of heros of Haiti's independence from France. Days ago, demonstrators at the same plaza were throwing rocks at police, who responded with volleys of tear gas grenades.

A woman named Carole, who did not want to give her last name, said, "I trust the company we're traveling with. They not only want to take us but they want to bring us back."   Kevin McCue, another of the people in the group of 20, said he was glad that their tour operator had not opted for Plan B, which would have meant skipping Haiti and spending the whole week in the neighboring Dominican Republic.   "Tourism is alive and well here. People should come. The more they come, the better they spread some money among people who need it and the better for Haiti," said McCue.
Date: Thu, 21 Feb 2019 07:20:54 +0100
By Shafiqul ALAM

Dhaka, Feb 21, 2019 (AFP) - At least 70 people were killed when fire tore through crumbling apartment blocks in a historic part of Dhaka, setting off a chain of explosions and a wall of flames down nearby streets, officials said Thursday.    It started in one building where chemicals for deodorants and other household uses were illegally stored and spread at lightning speed to four nearby buildings, the fire service said.    People became trapped by the flames at a nearby bridal party and a restaurant. TV images showed the gates to one building were chained up so residents were unable to escape.

Traffic jams in the clogged narrow streets held up the rescue operation.   Bangladesh fire chief Ali Ahmed said at least 70 people were killed but that the toll would likely rise.    "The number of bodies may increase. The search is still going on," he told AFP.   Doctors said at least 10 of the scores of injured were in critical condition.   Firefighters who took almost 12 hours to bring the fire under control, went through the blackened floors of the building, littered with spray cans, looking for bodies.

The fire started at about 10.40pm (1640 GMT) on Wednesday at Chawkbazar in the old Mughal part of the capital.   Ahmed said it may have been started by a gas cylinder and quickly spread through the building where chemicals were stored in rooms alongside the apartments.   Chemicals used for household products were also stored in the nearby buildings. They exploded as the fire spread, witnesses said.     "There was a traffic jam when the fire broke out. It spread so quickly that people could not escape," the fire chief said.   Another fire official told reporters the blaze was under control but was not extinguished despite the efforts of more than 200 firefighters.   "It will take time. This is not like any other fire," he said, adding that the inferno had been made more devastating by the "highly combustible" chemicals.   Fire trucks had struggled in the narrow streets to reach the scene and there was also a lack of water for the battle, officials said.   The main gate of one five storey building was chained up, trapping residents inside, according to images shown on Bangladesh television.

- 'Flames were everywhere' -
Members of a bridal party in a nearby community centre were also caught in the fire and many were injured. Others were caught in small restaurants.   Dhaka deputy police commissioner Ibrahim Khan said at least two cars and 10 cycle rickshaws were burned in the fire.   "The victims included passersby, some people who were eating food at a restaurants and some members of the bridal party," he told AFP.   "I saw the charred body of a woman who was holding her daughter in her lap as their rickshaw was caught in the fire," said one witness.

Haji Abdul Kader, whose shop was destroyed, said he only survived the blaze as as he had left to go to a pharmacy.   "When I was at the pharmacy, I heard a big bang. I turned back and saw the whole street, which was jam packed with cars and rickshaws, in flames. Flames were everywhere," he told AFP.   "I got burned and rushed to hospital," he said.

Doctors at Dhaka Medical College Hospital said at least 55 people were injured, including 10 in a critical condition.   Hundreds of people rushed to the hospital looking for missing relatives.  However, most of the bodies of the dead were charred beyond recognition.    Sohag Hossain, one of the injured, told the Daily Star that he and two friends were working at a plastic factory in one of the buildings at the time of the fire.    They heard an explosion and could not escape the flames.

A similar blaze in 2010 in an old Dhaka building, which was also used as a chemical warehouse, killed more than 120 people in one of the worst fire disasters in the city of 20 million people.      Dhaka authorities launched a crackdown on chemical warehouses in residential areas following the blaze, but efforts to rein in the practice have waned.   Many buildings in Bangladesh lack adequate fire safety measures and the enforcement of fire regulations in factories and apartment buildings is lax.  
Date: Wed 20 Feb 2019, 2:13 PM CET
Source: El Pais in English [edited]
<https://elpais.com/elpais/2019/02/20/inenglish/1550655774_604104.html>

An investigation has been opened to determine the cause of death of a 46-year-old woman, who became ill after eating at a one-star Michelin restaurant called RiFF in Valencia. A total of 23 other patrons, including the victim's husband and 12-year-old son, also fell sick after the meal but their symptoms were mild and they have reportedly all recovered. The case was confirmed by regional health chief Ana Barcela, who expressed her condolences to the family and said that an investigation was already underway. "We've conducted a primary inspection of the establishment and everything appears to be normal," she said. "Analytical tests will now be carried out on the food products."

Barcela explained that the regional public health department will be in charge of the investigation and for determining the causes behind the woman's death. According to sources from the regional health department, the food poisoning outbreak was reported on [Sun 17 Feb 2019], after the 3 family members fell ill. They began to show symptoms of food poisoning - vomiting and diarrhoea - on [Sat 16 Feb 2019]. According to Europa Press, the father and son recovered but the woman's symptoms were more severe, and she died in her home early on the following morning. The investigation into the death revealed that a total of 9 patrons had experienced illness, mainly vomiting, after eating at the same restaurant.

Subsequently, it emerged that a further 14 people had also suffered light symptoms. "17 people have been interviewed, of whom 14 stated that they had some kind of mild symptoms," explained regional health chief Ana Barceló today, [Wed 20 Feb 2019]. "The samples that have been collected over the last few days have been sent to the National Toxicology Institute to be analyzed." Public health officials inspected the restaurant on [Mon 18 Feb 2019], but did not find any problems that could have contributed to the food poisoning. Investigators also collected samples of ingredients and raw food products that were part of the menu, and are currently analyzing them.

Barcela added that at this point she could not confirm whether the sickness had been caused by morel mushrooms that were on the restaurant's menu. "We will have to wait for the autopsy to be carried out on the woman before we can determine whether it was the ingestion of a food that directly caused her death, or whether it prompted a state that led to this fatal outcome, or if she had an existing condition," she explained on [Wed 20 Feb 2019].

Forensic teams are working to determine whether she could have been poisoned by something she ate, or whether she may have choked on her own vomit. In a statement, the owner of RiFF, Bernd H. Knaller, announced that the restaurant will remain closed until the cause of the food poisoning outbreak is determined and "activities can resume with full assurances for the staff and the patrons." The owner said he has been cooperating with the regional health department on the investigation and pointed out that the inspection "showed that the restaurant complies with all sanitary regulations." He added: "Regardless of what caused the situation, I want to convey my deep regret for what happened, and I hope all of the facts will be clarified shortly." [Byline: Cristina Vazquez]
Date: Mon 18 Feb 2019
Source: The News International [edited]

An elderly man died due to complications of the Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever (CCHF), commonly known as Congo virus, at the Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre (JPMC) on early [Sun 17 Feb 2019] morning, becoming the 2nd victim of the deadly tick-borne disease in the city [Karachi] in 2019.

"MUY, an elderly person of 75 years of age, died due to CCHF complications at JPMC on early [Sun 17 Feb 2019] morning," said JPMC Executive Director Dr. Seemin Jamali while taking to The News. She added that the deceased had earlier been taken to a private hospital from where he was shifted to Jinnah hospital.

It is the 2nd death in the city caused by the CCHF within a week as earlier on [Tue 12 Feb 2019] morning, a 35-year old woman from Orangi Town had died of Congo virus at an isolated ward of the JPMC.

CCHF is a tick-borne viral disease, which is caused when a person comes in contact with an animal infected with the Congo virus due to the presence of the parasite on its skin. Mostly butchers, sheep and animal herders and those who are associated with cattle farming become victims of the CCHF, which has a 40 to 50% mortality rate.

Dr. Jamali said both the woman from Orangi Town and the latest CCHF victim, who lived in the Landhi area of the city, were brought to the JPMC from Liaquat National Hospital where they had tested positive for the lethal disease.

She said the 2nd victim had a history of dealing with cattle and was in a serious condition when brought to the JPMC. He was suffering from high grade fever as well as internal and external bleeding, low platelets count and other comorbidities.

"We had moved both the patients to an isolation ward where they were given antiviral drugs, mega units [blood/platelets?] and other symptomatic treatment, but they could not survive due to the complications of the lethal ailment. All precautionary measures had also been adopted to prevent other patients and the medical staff from contracting the viral infection," she said.

"There were many people who contracted this disease in Karachi during their interaction with cattle, but they survived due to their strong immunity and the medical care they received at hospitals, including the JPMC. People should take precautionary measures while dealing with cattle and livestock," Dr. Jamali said. She added that in case the symptoms of red spots on the body, high-grade fever and blood oozing from mouth and nose are found in any patient, they should be rushed to a major hospital.

According to Dr. Kamran Rizvi, district officer (preventive) of Karachi Metropolitan Corporation, around 16 people died at various hospitals in Karachi last year [2018] due to CCHF, a majority of whom were residents of different areas of Balochistan, including Quetta, as people from the province are now regularly brought to Karachi for treatment.

He said a total of 41 Congo virus patients were brought to different hospitals in Karachi last year [2018], of whom 16, mostly males, could not survive while the others were successfully cured.
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[The CCHF virus is now endemic in both rural and urban parts of the country, and he best safeguard on the human side is to inform the public regarding the risks and provide education on the use of appropriate practices and protection measures.

Persons working in close contact with animals are at risk for CCHF due to presence of ticks that can transmit the virus through bites or crushing during removal through skin cuts, etc. The animals do not show clinical disease during viraemia and the virus can be transferred in butchering, handling of meat and hides, etc.  The veterinary aspect of the problem requires establishment of animal screening with measures for tick control. Collaborative work by health and veterinary sectors with support of entomologists for setting up CCHF surveillance can help plan prevention and control programs - ProMED Mod.UBA]
[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Tue 19 Feb 2019, 1:32 PM
Source: KCRG-TV9 [edited]

TV9 has learned the Johnson County Public Health Department and the Iowa Department of Public Health are investigating reports of food poisoning following an event in Swisher, Iowa.

The illnesses have been linked to the Swisher Men's Club's Game Feast Dinner this past weekend [16-17 Feb 2019]. The group's Facebook page says the fundraiser has been going on for 15 years and features dishes that include meat from animals that are often hunted. The health departments are looking for anyone who may have attended the meal to try to track down the source of the illnesses. It's asking attendees to email <diana.vonstein@idph.iowa.gov> with their contact information.

Johnson County Public Health Director Dave Koch tells TV9 part of their investigative efforts have included taking part in a conference call with officials from the Iowa Department of Public Health on [Tue 19 Feb 2019]. Koch says part of the investigation will also include testing samples of the food that was served along with conducting tests on any individuals who think they may have contracted an illness.

It is unclear how many people may be claiming to be sick however the club posted the following message to their Facebook page which reads in part: "The Swisher Men's Club is aware of a number of illnesses as a result of our Game Feast Dinner. We are actively working with the county and state health departments to determine the cause of these illnesses."

TV9 has reached out to the Swisher Men's Club for comment. President Mike Brown, Jr. referred back to the statement provided on Facebook. Brown declined TV9's offer for an on-camera interview, but did say they are relaying all necessary information to the Iowa Department of Public Health.  [Byline: Josh Scheinblum & Aaron Scheinblum]
Date: January 2019
Source: Nigeria CDC: Nigeria monkeypox monthly situation report

Nigeria monkeypox -- monthly situation report
---------------------------------------------
Key indicators / Numbers
New suspected cases reported / 6
New confirmed cases / 3
Total deaths / 0
Healthcare worker infection / 0

Epidemiological summary
- Nigeria continues to report sporadic cases of monkeypox after the index case reported in September 2017.
- In the reporting month (January 2019), 6 new suspected monkeypox cases were reported in 4 states (Bayelsa - 2; Rivers - 1; Bauchi - 1; Lagos - 1; Borno - 1; Delta - 1) out of which 3 confirmed cases were recorded in 2 states (Rivers - 1, Bayelsa - 2). - No death recorded.
- All reported cases (suspected and confirmed) are males.
- The confirmed cases are all between 32-39 years of age.
- The South-South region of the country has the highest burden of monkeypox.
- Since the beginning of the outbreak in September 2017, 311 suspected cases and 7 deaths have been reported in 26 states. Of this, 132 were confirmed in 17 states (Rivers, Bayelsa, Cross River, Imo, Akwa Ibom, Lagos, Delta, Edo, FCT [Federal Capital Territory], Abia, Oyo, Enugu, Ekiti, Nasarawa, Benue, Plateau, Anambra)
- Results of animal surveillance carried out in 2 states are awaited.

[Available at the source URL above]:
Figure 1 [graph]: weekly trend of Nigeria monkeypox cases as at 31 Jan 2019
Figure 2 [graph]: line graph of Nigeria monkeypox cases weeks 31-52, 2017; 1-52, 2018 and 1-2, 2019
Figure 2 [map]: map of Nigeria showing distribution of monkeypox cases by LGA [local government area], September 2017-January 2019
=======================
[The number of monkeypox cases in Nigeria continues to increase slowly but steadily, with 6 new suspected and 3 new confirmed cases in January 2019. Interestingly, all cases are male individuals. Monkeypox virus transmission continued over a broad geographic area in Nigeria last year (2018). The report above provides the most recent update of the monkeypox situation in Nigeria. This outbreak has been unusual. Rather than sporadic or rare cases, there have been over 100 cases scattered over a large geographic area since 2017 and again this year (2019). The reasons for this relatively sudden appearance are not clear. Perhaps there has been an epizootic of monkeypox virus infections among its rodent hosts, with spill-over to people. As mentioned earlier, prevention will require a proactive public education effort to convince local people to take measures to prevent contact with the infected rodents and their excreta to avoid transmission, a difficult task involving so many local people over such a large geographic area.

Interested readers can see the graphs of cases by week and a map showing the location of cases by state.

Non-human primates are not monkeypox virus reservoirs. The main reservoirs of monkeypox virus are suspected to be rodents, including rope squirrels (_Funisciurus_ spp, an arboreal rodent) and terrestrial rodents (genera _Cricetomys_ and _Graphiurus_). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Nigeria:
Date: Wed 20 Feb 2019
Source: Daily Times [edited]

The Sindh Health Department, on Tue 19 Feb 2019, admitted its failure to formulate an action plan to prevent the spread of the extensively drug-resistant (XDR) strain of typhoid fever in the province. The provincial minister for health, Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho, sighed that the health department still awaited vaccines for XDR typhoid from the federal government as the province battles the outbreak caused by a bacterial strain resistant to most known antimicrobials. She added that the strain had claimed 4 lives since its outbreak from Hyderabad [Sindh] in November 2016, which later spread to Karachi and other cities and towns of the province.

Dr Pechuho said that the Sindh Health Department had asked the local governments to improve the chlorination in water supplies, noting that the disease had spread due to the lack of sanitation and the presence of open garbage dumps in Karachi and other places. More than 5000 children have been affected by this typhoid strain, she continued. XDR typhoid is caused by antimicrobial resistant (AMR) strains of _Salmonella enterica_ serotype Typhi (or _S._ Typhi) and has been declared by WHO as a notable public health concern.

A report by the Provincial Disease Surveillance and Response Unit (PDSRU) reported 5274 cases of XDR typhoid out of 8188 typhoid fever cases in Sindh from 1 Nov 2016 through 9 Dec 2018. 69 percent of these cases was reported in Karachi, while 27 per cent in Hyderabad district, and 4 percent in other districts across the province.

The WHO recommended typhoid vaccination in response to confirmed outbreaks of typhoid fever. These vaccinations should be implemented in combination with other efforts to control the disease. At present, azithromycin remains the only affordable first-line oral therapeutic option to manage patients with XDR typhoid in low-resource settings.
====================
[The following is extracted from the CDC notice regarding this multiply-resistant typhoid strain in Pakistan

"The XDR strain of _Salmonella_ Typhi is resistant to most antibiotics (ampicillin, chloramphenicol, trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, ciprofloxacin, and ceftriaxone) used to treat typhoid fever. Healthcare providers should:
- Obtain a complete travel history (asking about travel to South Asia, including Pakistan) from patients with suspected typhoid fever.
- Collect stool and blood cultures from patients with suspected typhoid fever and request antimicrobial susceptibility testing on isolates.
- Be aware that the Pakistan outbreak strain remains susceptible to azithromycin and carbapenems. Azithromycin is effective for uncomplicated (diarrhea or bacteremia without secondary complications) typhoid fever and should be used to treat patients with suspected uncomplicated typhoid fever who have traveled to Pakistan. When culture and sensitivity results are available, adjust treatment accordingly. Adult azithromycin dosage is usually 1000 mg orally once, then 500 mg orally daily OR 1000 mg orally once daily for at least 5-7 days. Pediatric azithromycin dose is 20 mg/kg orally, once then 10-20 mg/kg orally once per day (maximum 1000 mg per day) for at least 5-7 days.
- Carbapenems should be used for patients with suspected severe or complicated typhoid fever who have traveled to Pakistan. Severe or complicated typhoid fever would include, but not be limited to, patients with gastrointestinal complications (such as typhoid-related intestinal perforation, peritonitis, intestinal haemorrhage, hepatitis), neurologic complications (such as typhoid encephalopathy, including altered consciousness, delirium, confusion), or bacteraemia with sepsis or shock. When culture and sensitivity results are available, adjust treatment accordingly. Consider getting an infectious diseases consultation for these patients.
- Be aware that relapses can occur, often 1-3 weeks after clinical improvement.
- Be aware that most (90%) _S._ Typhi isolates from patients coming from South Asia have decreased susceptibility or resistance to fluoroquinolones, including ciprofloxacin; therefore, fluoroquinolones should not be used as empiric treatment for suspected typhoid fever in patients who have traveled to this area.
- Report all cases of confirmed typhoid fever to the appropriate local or state health departments." - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Pakistan:
Date: Tue, 19 Feb 2019 21:26:43 +0100

Geneva, Feb 19, 2019 (AFP) - An avalanche left four skiers injured Tuesday at a resort in the Swiss Alps where rescue operations went on after dark with police fearing people could still be trapped under the snow.   The authorities held a press conference to announce the injuries, including one person seriously hurt, after local reports said up to a dozen people were engulfed by the avalanche.   Police officers said that based on witness reports other skiers could still be buried and the search would continue into the night.

Swiss RTS television said the army had set up lighting to aid the 240 rescue workers at the site.   The police had earlier tweeted that several people were under the avalanche that hit early afternoon on a slope 2,600 metres (8,600 feet) up at Crans-Montana, which was busy with skiers during school holidays.   A local newspaper, Le Nouvelliste, had quoted the head of Crans-Montana's municipal government, Nicolas Feraud, as estimating that "between 10 and 12 people" were buried under the snow.   "We are shocked and hope for good news about these people," Feraud was quoted as saying. 

A first attempt at locating victims using sniffer dogs was unsuccessful, a rescue worker told Le Nouvelliste, with four helicopters joining the search from the air.   Pierre Huguenin, of the Institute for Snow and Avalanche Research, described the snow in the area as damp and dense.   According to statistics from his institute, after 15 minutes under an avalanche, the chances of survival are no more than 50 percent.   Le Nouvelliste said the avalanche swept over 300 to 400 metres (yards) of the lower section of the Kandahar piste.   It quoted rescue workers as saying the snow was compacted and more than two metres (seven feet) thick.

Crans-Montana's website had listed the risk of an avalanche at two on a scale that runs from one (lowest risk) to five.    As the victims were on a designated ski slope, they were unlikely to have detector equipment to help rescue workers locate them.   The vast majority of deadly avalanches in the Alpine nation hit people skiing off-piste.    "We don't know yet whether the avalanche detached by itself or was set off by skiers, or a rockfall," Swiss avalanche expert Robert Bolognesi told the daily 20 Minutes.
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2019 16:17:29 +0100

Prague, Feb 20, 2019 (AFP) - Czech authorities said Wednesday they would slap checks on beef imported from Poland after veterinarians found the dangerous Salmonella bacteria in a 700-kilogramme batch of Polish beef.   "Tests have shown the presence of Salmonella enteritidis, which can cause serious diarrhoea and affect human health, in beef imported from Poland on February 13," Agriculture Minister Miroslav Toman told reporters.

Czech veterinary authorities have warned the European Commission and Polish authorities through a rapid warning system, he said, adding that they are also checking whether any of the meat has been consumed.   "The State Veterinary Administration (SVS) will immediately adopt an extraordinary measure -- all beef imported from Poland must be tested in a lab before hitting the market," Toman added.

SVS head Zbynek Semerad said meat from the 700-kilo (1,500-pound) batch had been distributed to five "places" in the Czech Republic and one in Slovakia.   "I will inform my Slovak counterpart. As far as we know, not all of the meat has been distributed to the end customer," Semerad said.   The case comes on the heels of a scandal which saw Poland export a total of 2.7 tonnes of suspect beef to around a dozen fellow EU members, triggering an EU probe.

The scandal erupted in January when the TVN24 commercial news channel aired footage of apparently sick or lame cows being butchered at a small slaughterhouse in northeast Poland in secret late at night when veterinary authorities were unlikely to visit.   Poland is a leading producer and exporter of meat in Europe, turning out around 600,000 tonnes of beef per year and exporting most of it mainly to the EU, according to meat producer associations.
Date: Wed, 20 Feb 2019 09:56:54 +0100

Kuala Lumpur, Feb 20, 2019 (AFP) - Six people, including three foreigners, were killed when a fire broke out Wednesday in a Malaysian karaoke centre, with rescuers describing scenes of chaos as the blaze engulfed the building.   The fire erupted before dawn on the fourth floor of an eight-storey building in the city of Ipoh, northern Perak state.

Firefighters rushed to the scene and found the bodies of six people who had died of smoke inhalation, Perak fire department acting director Sayani Saidon told AFP.   "We came across two locals, two Vietnamese women and a Bangladeshi man. We are still determining the identity of the sixth person," she said.

Firefighters rescued eight people alive, including two in critical condition, she added.     People inside were unable to find the way out after the fire erupted as exit lights did not come on, she said. Those that survived had run to an upper level to escape the flames.   "When the fire happened, all the electricity went out, and it was dark, so the exit signs weren't clear," she said.   The building was originally an office block, and had 30 karaoke rooms on the fourth and fifth floors.