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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: Wed, 10 Apr 2019 16:33:41 +0200

Vienna, April 10, 2019 (AFP) - The Austrian city of Klagenfurt indefinitely suspended its bus services Wednesday after a case of measles was detected in one of the drivers.   "All bus traffic is suspended until further notice in order to prevent infection," the city's KMG public transport operator announced.

The company runs all public transport in the southern city of 100,000 inhabitants, which is also the state capital of Carinthia.   It took the unusual measure after it was revealed that one driver had been diagnosed with measles on 3 April.   Since then two further suspected cases have been reported.   KMG said it was working to establish "the vaccination status of all drivers" before authorising bus services to restart and was embarking on a deep clean of its vehicles.

The resurgence of measles, a once-eradicated and highly-contagious disease, is linked to a growing anti-vaccine movement in richer nations -- which the World Health Organization has identified as a major global health threat.   On Tuesday, New York mayor Bill de Blasio declared a public health emergency in parts of the city, ordering all residents of certain districts in Brooklyn to be vaccinated to fight a measles outbreak concentrated in the ultra-Orthodox Jewish community.
Date: Sun, 3 Mar 2019 04:10:56 +0100
By Sophie MAKRIS

Vienna, March 3, 2019 (AFP) - It looks like a scene from the halcyon days of the railways: travellers finding their sleeper berth, turning on the reading light and stowing their cases under the bed.    But it's still a common nightly ritual at Vienna's main station, where overnight train routes have endured in the age of low-cost flights -- and are even expanding.   From early evening onwards, the departures board at Vienna's "Hauptbahnhof" station becomes a roll call of destinations to whet the appetite of any globetrotter: Venice, Rome, Zurich, Berlin, Warsaw...   It's an unusual sight in a continent where budget airlines and faster trains have become the norm and led to the closure of many slower overnight routes.

But Austria's state railway company OeBB is looking to expand its network.   It already runs 26 such routes, either on its own or in partnerships with other operators.   In late 2016, OeBB bought the night train operation of its German counterpart Deutsche Bahn, which was looking to offload a department it judged insufficiently lucrative.   Around 60 percent of DB's overnight routes were preserved, including a revamped Vienna-Berlin service which started a few months ago.   Pointing to the "moderate growth" in passenger numbers -- more than 1.4 million used the services in 2018 -- OeBB has ordered 13 new trains equipped with state-of-the-art sleeper carriages.

- Eco-friendly -
It's no surprise then that Austria has become the poster child for rail enthusiasts, who say it provides an example of how overnight train travel can provide an alternative to air travel and even help in the fight against climate change.    "With regard to the target of becoming carbon-neutral by 2050, night trains which run on renewable energy are an attractive alternative," according to Thomas Sauter-Servaes, transport expert at the Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

But as with all those who have researched the sector, he admits that cross-border overnight rail travel can represent a logistical and financial challenge.   The profits per passenger take a hit from the extra space that sleeper compartments require, on top of the higher labour costs for those who have to work on the trains overnight and money spent on laundry.   And that's before you take into account the hefty fees sometimes charged by other network owners for use of the rails, the technical difficulty of decoupling and then re-attaching carriages, and navigating the myriad of different rules a train has to adhere to over a long journey.

Sauter-Servaes points out that international air transport has a big commercial advantage in being exempt from VAT and fuel taxes.   Among those preparing to board at Vienna station to spend a night on the rails on a recent evening, some told AFP they had chosen a night train with the environment in mind.   "It's a small gesture, and it won't stop me taking the plane for my holiday in Madagascar this autumn, but it's better than nothing," said Austrian traveller Yvonne Kemper.   David, a 42-year-old from Germany, said he was using the Hamburg service because he needed to get to Goettingen in Germany for a business trip -- a medium-sized town which, typically, is served by night trains but has no airport.

- An Austrian tradition -
OeBB spokesman Bernhard Rieder explained that Austria's attachment to night trains is down to "a tradition stemming from Austria's mountainous terrain, which limited the development of high-speed lines".   He added that "the night train sector is distinct in that it can't function without strong cross-border cooperation."   "Night trains are and will continue to be a niche market, but that doesn't mean a niche market can't be profitable."   But Poul Kattler, from the pan-European "Back on Track" group which campaigns for more cross-border night trains, says the sector should be more ambitious.   "If national railway companies were more aggressive in the market and the EU built a truly common rail policy, we could offer a real transport alternative and a very popular European project," he says.
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
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Congo, Democratic Republic

Democratic Republic of the Congo US Consular Information Sheet
23rd September 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa) located in central Africa, is the third largest country on the continent. The capital
s Kinshasa. French is the official language. Years of civil war and corruption have badly damaged the country's infrastructure. Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Some travelers arriving in the DRC without proper proof of yellow fever vaccination have been temporarily detained, had their passports confiscated, or been required to pay a fine. Information about yellow fever vaccination clinics in the U.S. may be found at http://www2.ncid.cdc.gov/travel/yellowfever/.
Visas must be obtained from an embassy of the DRC prior to arrival.
Travelers to the DRC frequently experience difficulties at the airport and other ports of entry, such as temporary detention, passport confiscation and demands by immigration and security personnel for unofficial “special fees.”
All resident foreigners, including Americans, are required to register at the office of the Direction General de Migration (DGM) in the commune of their place of residence.
Visitors who wish to travel in any mining areas must first obtain government approval from various government agencies or ministries, an often cumbersome and time consuming process.
Dual nationals arriving in the DRC should carefully consider which passport they use to enter the DRC. For departure from the DRC, airlines will require a valid visa for all destination countries before they will issue a ticket or allow a passenger to board. Airlines also require that the passenger have the correct entry stamp in the passport they wish to use to exit the country. Passengers who are unable to leave the country on the passport they used to enter the DRC may not be able to continue on their travel itinerary.
Additional information about visas may be obtained from the Embassy of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, 1726 M Street NW, Washington, DC 20036, tel. (202) 234-7690, or the DRC's Permanent Mission to the UN, 866 United Nations Plaza, Room 511, New York, NY 10017, tel. 212-319-8061, fax: 212-319-8232, web site http://www.un.int/drcongo. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate. 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:
See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Though the DRC is now significantly more stable than it has been over the past decade, security remains problematic. The first democratic elections in more than forty years were held in 2006, and a new government is now in place. Post-election disturbances occurred as recently as March 2007 in Kinshasa, resulting in deaths of civilians and military personnel. During civil disturbances in 2007 there were incidents of hostility towards U.S. citizens and other expatriates.

Both inside and outside Kinshasa, there can be roadblocks, especially after dark. Vehicles are often searched for weapons and valuables, and travelers are checked for identity papers. Security forces regularly seek bribes. If confronted with such a situation, it is suggested that U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm. If detained, report the incident to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa as soon as possible.

The United Nations has its largest peacekeeping operation in the world in the DRC. Known by its French acronym of MONUC, it has close to 17,000 peacekeepers deployed in the country – primarily in the east. Violence nevertheless persists in the eastern DRC due to the presence of several militias and foreign armed groups, with sporadic outbreaks occurring in North Kivu, South Kivu, and northern Katanga provinces, as well as in the Ituri District of Orientale province. Members of the Lord’s Resistance Army entered into northeastern DRC from Sudan in 2005, and have camps in an isolated region of the DRC, Garamba National Park, where they killed eight MONUC peacekeepers in January 2006.

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 overseas callers, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their 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:
In the DRC, poor economic conditions continue to foster crime, especially in urban areas. Travel in many sections of Kinshasa, Kisangani, Lubumbashi and most other major cities, is generally safe during daylight hours, but travelers are urged to be vigilant against criminal activity which targets non-Congolese, particularly in highly congested traffic and areas surrounding hotels and stores. Outlying, remote areas are less secure due to high levels of criminal activity and the lack of adequate training, supervision, and salary payments to the security forces present.

Vehicle thefts, burglaries, and armed robbery occur throughout the country; there have been recent reports of after-dark carjackings, resulting in deaths in the North Kivu area. It is recommended to drive with doors locked and windows closed at all times. If confronted by members of the military or security forces, visitors should not permit soldiers or police officers to enter their vehicles nor get into the vehicle of anyone purporting to be a security official. It is recommended that in such instances U.S. citizens remain courteous and calm and, if threatened, not resist. All incidents should be reported to the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa.

Consistency in administering laws and regulations is notably absent. Travelers should note that in cases of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited. Therefore, valuable items may be safer if kept at home or another secure location.

Security officials and/or individuals purporting to be security officials have detained and later robbed American citizens and other foreigners in the city of Kinshasa. This type of crime has increased in recent months, but generally occurs more frequently during the Christmas and New Year's holidays.

Travelers using public transportation or visiting high pedestrian traffic areas of any type are advised to be vigilant against robbery and pick-pocketing which is a persistent problem in all major cities in the DRC. The presence of “street children”, who can be persistent and sometimes aggressive, remains a problem particularly in Kinshasa.
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:
In the DRC, medical facilities are severely limited, and medical materials are in short supply. Travelers should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with them and should not expect to find an adequate supply of prescription or over-the-counter drugs in local stores or pharmacies. Payment for any medical services required is expected in cash, in advance of treatment.

Malaria is common throughout the DRC and outbreaks of cholera, typhoid, yellow fever, the Ebola virus, and hemorrhagic fever occur.
Travelers should take appropriate precautions to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in the DRC.
For further information, please consult the CDC's Travel Notice on TB at: http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-TB.aspx.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the DRC.

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:
For planning purposes, the minimum estimated cost of medical air evacuation to the nearest suitable health care facility (in South Africa) is $35,000.

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 the DRC is provided for general reference only, and may vary according to location or circumstance.

Inter-city roads are scarce, and throughout the DRC roads are generally in poor condition, and often impassable in the rainy season. When driving in cities, keep windows up and doors locked. At roadblocks or checkpoints, documents should be shown through closed windows. In the event of a traffic incident involving bodily injury to a third party or pedestrian, do not stop to offer assistance under any circumstances. Proceed directly to the nearest police station or gendarmerie to report the incident and request official government intervention. Attempting to provide assistance may further aggravate the incident, resulting in a hostile mob reaction such as stoning or beating.

Presidential and other official motorcades pose serious risks to drivers and pedestrians in Kinshasa. When hearing sirens or seeing security forces announcing the motorcade's approach, drivers should pull off the road as far as possible, stop their vehicles, and extinguish headlights. Vehicles should not attempt to move until the entire motorcade has passed by; the security forces will physically indicate when this has occurred. Failure to comply may result in arrest, and/or vehicle damage with possible personal injury.

Public transportation of all forms is unregulated and is generally unsafe and unreliable. Taxis, mini-buses, and trains are in poor mechanical condition and are invariably filled beyond capacity.

Visitors who wish to travel in any mining areas must first obtain government approval from various government agencies or ministries, an often cumbersome and time consuming process.

Drivers should stop their cars and pedestrians should stand still when passing a government installation during the raising and lowering of the Congolese flag. This ceremony occurs at roughly 7:30 a.m. and 6:00 p.m.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the DRC’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of the DRC’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.
Civil aviation in the DRC continues to experience air incidents and accidents; more than a dozen crashes and in-flight accidents resulted in more than 300 fatalities between 2000 and August 2008. Incidents included hard landings, engine failures, collapsed landing gear, and planes veering off the runway.
In-country air travel schedules are unreliable and planes are frequently overloaded with passengers and/or cargo.
The U.S. Embassy in the DRC has prohibited official travel by U.S. government employees and contractors on all DRC-owned and -operated commercial air transportation services due to concerns regarding safety and maintenance.
International flights on foreign-owned and -operated carriers are not affected by this notice.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Photography: Travelers should note that photography in public places in Kinshasa and around any public or government building or monument in the DRC is strictly forbidden. Persons caught photographing such sites will likely have their photographic equipment confiscated and risk detention and possible arrest.

Travel to and from Congo-Brazzaville (Republic of Congo): Ferry service to and from Kinshasa and Brazzaville stops running in the late afternoon, does not operate on Sundays, and may close completely with minimal notice. If ferry service is functioning, a special exit permit from the DRC's Immigration Service and a visa from the Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) are required for U.S. citizens to cross the Congo River from Kinshasa to Brazzaville.

Ferry and riverboat service to the Central African Republic is suspended due to rebel control of the Ubangui River.
Phone Service: In the DRC, cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is unreliable. Depending on the type of phone, it may be possible to locally purchase a SIM card to use an American-compatible cell phone in the DRC.

Currency: U.S. currency is widely accepted in the urban areas, but most vendors and banking institutions will accept only Series 1996 bills or newer, with the large, off-center portraits, that provide stronger protection against counterfeiting. In addition, bills must be in near perfect condition; even those with minor stains or small tears will be rejected. One dollar bills are rarely accepted, even if in mint condition. U.S. bills should be examined before they are accepted to ensure that they are legitimate, as counterfeit currency is widely circulated. It is recommended that currency exchange be conducted at reputable banks and not on the street where several schemes exist to either short-change the unwitting customer or to pass counterfeit bills.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in any 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. 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.

Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe in the DRC than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Congolese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the DRC are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Accusations of engaging in crimes against the security of the State, which are loosely defined, often result in detention for prolonged periods without being formally arrested. The DRC’s justice system remains plagued by corruption and uneven application of the law. Attorney fees can be expensive and are expected to be paid in advance of services rendered.

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 the DRC 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 the Congo. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Embassy.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs; tel. 243-081-225-5872 (do not dial the zero when calling from abroad). Entrance to the Consular Section of the Embassy is on Avenue Dumi, opposite the Ste. Anne residence. The Consular Section of the Embassy may be reached at tel. 243-081-884-6859 or 243-081-884-4609; fax 243-081-301-0560 (do not dial the first zero when calling from abroad).
*

*

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This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Democratic Republic of the Congo, dated April 29, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 13 May 2019 13:10:47 +0200

Butembo, DR Congo, May 13, 2019 (AFP) - Police and soldiers repelled an attack on an Ebola treatment centre in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo overnight, killing one assailant, a government official said Monday.    The dead man was a member of the Mai-Mai rebel group, Sylvain Kanyamanda, the mayor of Butembo in the North Kivu province, told AFP.   "The security forces prevented the attackers from crossing a 40-metre (130-foot) perimeter" around the centre where Ebola patients were being treated.

North Kivu province is at the centre of a new outbreak of the viral disease which has killed more than 1,100 people since last August out of about 1,600 infected, according to the authorities. Among these, 99 health workers have been infected, and 34 have died.   The Ebola fightback in the region is hampered by the presence of warring armed groups, including the Mai-Mai, and by locals in denial who refuse treatment and ignore prevention advice.

Last week, the UN special representative to the DRC blasted rumours that the world body was trying to cash in on Ebola.   Leila Zerrougui, head of the UN mission to the sprawling central African nation, slammed as "sheer madness" local speculation that "there is no illness, that they want to poison us because they are trying to cash in on us."   The outbreak is the biggest on Congolese soil since the disease was first recorded in the country, then Zaire, in 1976.   An epidemic in 2014-16 killed 11,300 people in West Africa.
Date: Tue, 7 May 2019 20:40:21 +0200

Butembo, DR Congo, May 7, 2019 (AFP) - Medics facing suspicion and hostility as they fight an Ebola outbreak in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo fear their job might become even riskier after one of their vehicles was involved in a fatal crash.   The accident, in the town of Butembo, resulted in the death of the motorbike-taxi rider, sparking an angry response from his fellow riders, said a doctor at the town's hospital, Chrisostome Shako.   "A jeep used in the operation against Ebola accidentally hit the motorbike rider, who was killed. His colleagues threw rocks at the hospital when we were taking the body to the morgue," he told AFP.

The outpouring of fury led to all shops and commercial activity in the town grinding to a halt. Police said they deployed mixed patrols with soldiers to restore calm.   Shako said he feared the motorbike-taxi riders might start targeting the Ebola medics, undermining their ability to respond to the outbreak.   The Ebola epidemic in the Nord-Kivu and Ituri provinces of the Democratic Republic of Congo is the second-deadliest on record, with more than 1,000 deaths registered since August last year.

The medics' work has already been hampered since the weekend by an uptick in insecurity that has singled out the medical teams.   Efforts to roll back the outbreak of the haemorrhagic fever have also been slowed by resistance within communities to preventative measures, care facilities and safe burials.

DR Congo's health minister, Oly Ilunga, has warned that each time the teams are prevented doing their job there is a spike in the number of new Ebola cases and deaths.   The World Health Organization had initially voiced hope it would be able to contain the outbreak, thanks in part to a new vaccine.   But in recent weeks senior WHO officials have conceded that insecurity, scarce financial resources and local politicians turning people against health workers had seriously undermined the containment effort.
Date: Fri 3 May 2019
Source: BBC [abridged, edited]

The DRC is also suffering [besides Ebola] from an outbreak of measles which has killed more than 1000 people, with 50,000 cases reported. WHO staff have confirmed measles in 14 of the country's 26 provinces, in both rural and urban areas.
====================
[The high number of cases may be partially due to the difficulty distributing the MMR vaccine in areas where violence is also causing a problem for the healthcare workers attempting to distribute Ebola vaccine. - Mod.LK]
Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2019 12:52:45 +0200

Butembo, DR Congo, April 30, 2019 (AFP) - Twenty-six people died of Ebola in a single day in the Democratic Republic of Congo's North Kivu province, the highest daily toll since its outbreak nearly nine months ago, the health ministry said Tuesday.    The current outbreak is the second deadliest on record, after the epidemic that struck West Africa in 2014-2016 and killed more than 11,300 people.

The health ministry it had counted 957 deaths in the country, of which 891 were confirmed cases and 66 suspected ones.   "There were 26 deaths from confirmed cases" on Sunday, April 28, in the northeastern North Kivu province, the ministry said in a statement.   It said of the total deaths of 957, 33 were health workers who had succumbed to the disease.   The DR Congo declared a tenth outbreak of Ebola in 40 years last August in North Kivu before the virus spread into the neighbouring Ituri region.

The epicentre was first located in the rural area of Mangina, but then switched to the town of Beni.   Local organisations say the number of Ebola deaths is rising.    Adding to the logistical hitches are a string of assaults on teams fighting the disease.   A Cameroonian doctor working for the World Health Organization (WHO), Richard Valery Mouzoko Kiboung, was shot dead on April 19.   "We will not be intimidated... we will finish our work," said WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus during a visit to Nord-Kivu on Monday.   "Your security is our priority. We will do everything to protect you," he added.
Date: Wed 24 Apr 2019
Source: Digital Congo [in French, machine trans., edited]

Konzo, a food-borne illness that paralyzes the legs and back, has been raging in Feshi territory in southwestern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC)'s Kwango province for several months, the ACP Director General of the Higher Pedagogical Institute (ISP) of Feshi, Professor Simon Masaki, staying in Kinshasa, said here Tuesday [23 Apr 2019].

This disease, he said, particularly affects children and adolescents aged 4 to 18 years. Many children are paralyzed and abandoned to their plight, he lamented. Many families are plunged into distress because of this situation.

The Feshi Hospital Center, which is not well equipped, is not able to take care of these many cases of Konzo, he said. Professor Masaki makes a strong appeal to the provincial and national authorities and partners of the DRC to come to the rescue of the population of Feshi, which is landlocked and very difficult to access. Feshi is located 385 km [239 mi] from Kenge, capital of the Kwango province, and more than 700 km [435 mi] from Kinshasa, capital of the DRC.

Konzo is a disease attacking the lower limbs and spine, causing a deplorable and often irreversible physical deformity. This disease is caused by the consumption of a very bitter cassava variety that would normally remain soaked in water for at least 4 days to remove cyanide before being consumed.

But many people do not respect this deadline. The territory of Kahemba, in the same province of Kwango, was hit in 2018 by Konzo.

Dr. Sadiki Ngeleza of the School of Public Health of the University of Kinshasa conducts field studies on Konzo disease, funded by the National Institutes of Health through the Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), to determine the biological risk factors associated with Konzo and the role of nutritional factors in susceptibility to Konzo.
======================
["Konzo is an epidemic paralytic disease occurring among hunger-stricken rural populations in Africa where a diet dominated by insufficiently processed cassava results in simultaneous malnutrition and high dietary cyanide intake.

"Konzo has been reported in outbreaks mainly among women and children in remote rural populations in DR Congo, Mozambique (where it is known as mantakassa), Tanzania, Central African Republic, Cameroon and Angola." (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Konzo>).

It is unfortunate ProMED-mail posting Undiagnosed paralytic illness - Rep. of Congo: (PN), RFI: http://promedmail.org/post/20101102.3973 was an unanswered RFI. This disease is well known to be associated with cassava and high cyanide intake from consuming inappropriately prepared cassava. As noted in this article, the cassava MUST be correctly prepared, including a lengthy soaking to prevent the toxicity and paralysis from occurring.

ProMED-mail Rapporteur Mary Marshall has suggested this is another disease in the DRC needing attention, more than just studying it. While international responders are seen to rush to control Ebola, people suffer from other diseases without attention or assistance. Is it any wonder they are suspicious?

This rapporteur asks a valid question. Some on-the-ground observers have commented the Ebola control campaign would have greater public acceptance if it were part of a broad health initiative dealing with the many diseases affecting this population. But such an approach would require much greater medical capacity than is likely currently available or perhaps has ever been available. However, a more global approach to the things affecting these groups of people may be met with more acceptance.

Cassava (_Manihot esculenta_) is a root crop widely consumed in Africa and South America. Although it originated in Brazil (where it is called manioc), it was brought to Africa by Portuguese colonists, and it is now an important crop there and in Indonesia and Southeast Asia. It is the principal source of nutrition for about 500 million people. Its leaves are edible, but the prize is its starchy root, rich in protein, minerals, and vitamins A, B, and C.

Cassava is used in a vast variety of cakes, snacks, and desserts and grows wild in many places, being tough and drought-resistant. In a country where hunger is now a reality for many poor households, cassava is among those food crops that can make the crucial difference between starvation and survival. The cassava plant is the world's 3rd most important crop. Cassava enters the North American diet also -- as it is made into tapioca. Surprising for an important edible plant, cassava is quite poisonous without proper preparation. The toxin in cassava is called linamarin. When eaten raw or inadequately prepared, the human digestive system will convert this to cyanide. Even 2 cassava roots contain a fatal dose of poison. While the bitter variety (white cassava) of the plant has larger concentrations of cyanide than the sweet variety (yellow cassava), the sweet cassava is not without risk.

To prepare cassava, it is peeled and grated and soaked in warm water for several days. This allows the cassava's own natural enzyme (linamarase) to convert the cyanogen linamarin to sugar and cyanide gas, and the volatile gas disperses usually harmlessly. However, women -- who are usually charged with processing the plant -- can be sickened by inhaling cyanide gas. What remains after processing can be boiled and eaten, or more usually, dried and ground.

The main toxic principle that occurs in varying amounts in all parts of the cassava plant is a chemical compound called linamarin (Nartey, 1981; for complete bibliographic details of this and other references in this section, see <http://www.fao.org/3/t0207e/T0207E0e.htm#Bibliography>). It often coexists with its methyl homologue called methyl-linamarin or lotaustralin. Linamarin is a cyanogenic glycoside which is converted to toxic hydrocyanic acid or prussic acid when it comes into contact with linamarase, an enzyme that is released when the cells of cassava roots are ruptured. Otherwise linamarin is a rather stable compound which is not changed by boiling the cassava. If it is absorbed from the gut to the blood as the intact glycoside, it is probably excreted unchanged in the urine without causing any harm to the organism (Philbrick, 1977). However, ingested linamarin can liberate cyanide in the gut during digestion.

Hydrocyanic acid or HCN is a volatile compound. It evaporates rapidly in the air at temperatures over 28 deg C (82.4 deg F) and dissolves readily in water. It may easily be lost during transport, storage and analysis of specimens. The normal range of cyanogen content of cassava tubers falls between 15 and 400 mg HCN/kg fresh weight (Coursey, 1973). The concentration varies greatly between varieties and also with environmental and cultural conditions. The concentration of the cyanogenic glycosides increases from the centre of the tuber outwards (Bruijn, 1973). Generally the cyanide content is substantially higher in the cassava peel. Bitterness is not necessarily a reliable indicator of cyanide content.

Traditional processing and cooking methods for cassava can, if efficiently carried out, reduce the cyanide content to non-toxic levels. An efficient processing method will release the enzyme linamarase by disintegrating the microstructure the cassava root. On bringing this enzyme into contact with linamarin, the glucoside is converted into hydrogen cyanide. The liberated cyanide will dissolve in the water when fermentation is effected by prolonged soaking, and will evaporate when the fermented cassava is dried. Sun drying fresh cassava pieces for short periods is an inefficient detoxification process. Cyanide will not be completely liberated, and the enzyme will be destroyed during drying. Sun drying processing techniques reduce only 60% to 70% of the total cyanide content in the first 2 months of preservation. Cyanide residues can be quite high in the dry tubers, from 30 to 100 mg/kg (Casadei, 1988). Simple boiling of fresh root pieces is not always reliable since the cyanide may be only partially liberated, and only part of the linamarin may be extracted in the cooking water. The reduction of cyanides depends on whether the product is placed in cold water (27 deg C/81 deg F) or directly into boiling water (100 deg C/212 deg F). After 30 minutes cooking, the remaining cyanides are, in the 1st case, 8% of the initial value, and in the 2nd case about 30% (Easers, 1986).

Symptoms appear 4 hours after consumption of raw or insufficiently processed cassava and consist of vertigo, vomiting, collapse, and in some cases death within 1 or 2 hours. Treatment is quite effective and cheap. The principle is to increase the detoxicating capacity of the patient by giving an intravenous injection of thiosulphate and thereby making more sulphur available for conversion of cyanide to thiocyanate.

Please note there is no mention of diarrhea occurring almost immediately after ingestion with cassava poisoning. So it is possible this may be some other toxin associated with the meal or some bacterial contamination. Most cassava poisoning patients report tingling in the extremities, and this article does not mention that as clinical sign.

The shelf life of a cassava root is quite short once it is removed from the stem, so there's an urgency to get the food to market. Roots can turn to mush in less than a week. The rush to get cassava to the market may keep some batches of cassava from being processed properly.

Chronic, low-level cyanide exposure is associated with the development of goiter and with tropical ataxic neuropathy, a nerve-damaging disorder that renders a person unsteady and uncoordinated. Severe cyanide poisoning, particularly during famines, when there is obviously pressure to process the cassava more rapidly, is associated with outbreaks of a debilitating, irreversible paralytic disorder called konzo and, in some cases, death. The incidence of konzo and tropical ataxic neuropathy can be as high as 3% in some areas of Africa.

In an effort to avoid this toxicity, it has been reported by Siritunga and Sayre (1) that transgenic cassava free of cyanogens can be produced. The investigators generated transgenic plants in which cytochrome oxidase enzymes that catalyze the 1st step in linamarin synthesis are inhibited. The plants showed a 94% reduction in leaf linamarin content and a 99% decrease in root linamarin levels. Additionally, the same group (2) has reported that transgenic cassava plants can be produced that overexpress the gene for hydroxynitrile lyase, facilitating cyanogenesis during processing and producing a final product with less risk. The tubers of cassava do not have this enzyme, and processing relies on spontaneous conversion. Combining these methods could further decrease the risk of cyanide poisoning from cassava.

The roots of cassava are rich in carbohydrates, mainly starch. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization, cassava is the 3rd most important source of calories in the tropics, after rice and corn. Cassava is consumed in a variety of ways, including eaten as whole root, grated root or root chips. In addition, it is prepared into flour, which in turn can be used for cooking or production of cassava-based products such as breads, crackers, and puddings or beverages made with tapioca pearls. Cassava leaves are also eaten in some countries following extensive boiling. Apart from being used as human food, cassava products are also used as animal feed.

Cassava contains more than one form of cyanogenic glycosides. Different varieties of cassava are generally classified into 2 main types: sweet cassava and bitter cassava. Sweet cassava roots contain less than 50 mg/kg hydrogen cyanide on fresh weight basis, whereas that of the bitter variety may contain up to 400 mg/kg.

Sweet cassava roots can generally be made safe to eat by peeling and thorough cooking. However, bitter cassava roots require more extensive processing. One of the traditional ways to prepare bitter cassava roots is by peeling and grating the roots, and then prolonged soaking of the gratings in water to allow leaching and fermentation to take place, followed by thorough cooking to release the volatile hydrogen cyanide gas. Cutting the roots into small pieces, followed by soaking and boiling in water is particularly effective in reducing the cyanide content in cassava. Whilst fresh cassava requires traditional methods to reduce its toxicity, adequately processed cassava flour and cassava-based products have very low cyanide contents and are considered safe to use.

Cyanogenic glycosides are a group of chemical compounds which occur naturally in over 2000 plant species. There are at least 25 cyanogenic glycosides known to be found in the edible parts of plants. Cyanogenic glycosides alone are relatively non-toxic. However, as a result of enzymatic hydrolysis by beta-glucosidase following maceration of plant tissues as they are eaten, or by the gut microflora, cyanogenic glycosides are broken down to release hydrogen cyanide which is toxic to both animals and humans. The potential toxicity of a cyanogenic plant depends primarily on its capacity to produce hydrogen cyanide.

In humans, the clinical signs of acute cyanide intoxication include rapid respiration, drop in blood pressure, rapid pulse, dizziness, headache, stomach pain, vomiting, diarrhea, mental confusion, twitching and convulsions. Death due to cyanide poisoning can occur when the cyanide level exceeds the limit an individual is able to detoxify. The acute lethal dose of hydrogen cyanide for humans is reported to be 0.5 to 3.5 mg/kg of body weight. Children are particularly at risk because of their smaller body size.

Chronic cyanide intoxication may lead to the development of certain conditions including disturbance of thyroid function and neurological disorders. It tends to affect those individuals who have regular long-term consumption of cassava with poor nutrition status.

References
1. Siritunga D, Sayre RT: Generation of cyanogen-free transgenic cassava. Planta 2003;217:367-73.
2. Siritunga D, Arias-Garzon D, White W, Sayre RT: Over-expression of hydroxynitrile lyase in transgenic cassava roots accelerates cyanogenesis and food detoxification. Plant Biotechnol 2004;2:37-43.

Portions of this comment were extracted from

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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 13 May 2019 23:27:10 +0200

Quetta, Pakistan, May 13, 2019 (AFP) - Four police were killed and nine other people wounded when militants detonated a bomb hidden under a motorbike in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, police said on Monday.   The Pakistani Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack.

Two police were among the wounded, senior police official Abdul Razaq Cheema told AFP.   "Two of the injured are critical," he added.   The motorbike was parked outside a mosque where police personnel were posted in Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province.   Forensic investigators worked at the scene, placing evidence markers around a car, one door of which was open and partially shredded. What appeared to be a pool of blood stained the ground in front of the car.

The attack came two days after Baloch separatists attacked a luxury hotel in the province's second city, Gwadar, where development of a port is the flagship project of a multi-billion dollar Chinese infrastructure initiative in Pakistan.   Five people including a soldier died in the hotel attack, which also left all three militants dead.   The violence came during the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan.   Balochistan, Pakistan's largest and poorest province which borders Afghanistan and Iran, is rife with Islamist, separatist and sectarian insurgencies.

The Pakistani military has been waging war on militants there since 2004, and security forces are frequently targeted.   Rights activists accuse the military of abuses, which it denies.   Balochistan is key to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), part of Beijing's Belt and Road initiative.    CPEC seeks to connect China's western province of Xinjiang with Gwadar, giving Beijing access to the Arabian Sea.
Date: Mon, 13 May 2019 18:12:22 +0200

Jalalabad, Afghanistan, May 13, 2019 (AFP) - At least three people were killed and another 20 wounded in a series of blasts in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad on Monday, an official said.   Nangarhar provincial spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said three blasts rocked the city centre, and had taken place near an armoured police vehicle.   "The nature of explosions is not clear, but it could be IEDs," Khogyani said, using the acronym for improvised explosive devices.   "So far we can confirm three people have been killed and 20 wounded."

No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the area around Jalalabad is home to fighters from both the Taliban and the Islamic State group's Afghan affiliate.   On March 6, at least 16 people were killed in a suicide attack on a construction company in Jalalabad, which is near the Pakistan border.   Violence in Afghanistan has continued apace even during the holy month of Ramadan, and despite government calls for a ceasefire.
Date: Mon, 13 May 2019 13:10:47 +0200

Butembo, DR Congo, May 13, 2019 (AFP) - Police and soldiers repelled an attack on an Ebola treatment centre in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo overnight, killing one assailant, a government official said Monday.    The dead man was a member of the Mai-Mai rebel group, Sylvain Kanyamanda, the mayor of Butembo in the North Kivu province, told AFP.   "The security forces prevented the attackers from crossing a 40-metre (130-foot) perimeter" around the centre where Ebola patients were being treated.

North Kivu province is at the centre of a new outbreak of the viral disease which has killed more than 1,100 people since last August out of about 1,600 infected, according to the authorities. Among these, 99 health workers have been infected, and 34 have died.   The Ebola fightback in the region is hampered by the presence of warring armed groups, including the Mai-Mai, and by locals in denial who refuse treatment and ignore prevention advice.

Last week, the UN special representative to the DRC blasted rumours that the world body was trying to cash in on Ebola.   Leila Zerrougui, head of the UN mission to the sprawling central African nation, slammed as "sheer madness" local speculation that "there is no illness, that they want to poison us because they are trying to cash in on us."   The outbreak is the biggest on Congolese soil since the disease was first recorded in the country, then Zaire, in 1976.   An epidemic in 2014-16 killed 11,300 people in West Africa.
Date: Sat 11 May 2019
Source: The Jakarta Post [edited]

No one really knows what is spreading in the small village of Garonggong in Jeneponto regency, South Sulawesi. However, for the last couple of months, nearly all people living there have been experiencing mysterious symptoms, which started with a fever and pain all over the body, especially in their joints. The unknown disease killed 4 people from a total of 72 people that had experienced similar symptoms. The village administration has declared a health emergency. Several villagers have moved to avoid contagion.  "It has been going on for 2 months. They have experienced the same symptoms, and 4 people have died because of it, including my child, a local, said on Thursday [9 May 2019] as quoted by kompas.com.

The acting head of Jeneponto Health Agency, Syafruddin Nurdin, said it all began in April [2019] when a couple of villagers were infected. By 24 Apr [2019], 17 residents had been admitted to hospitals and community health centers for the same symptoms.  Syafruddin said most of them had experienced similar symptoms, such as a fever, headache, nausea and joint pain. "All of them came from the same village, Garonggong village," Syafruddin told The Jakarta Post on Friday [10 May 2019].

However, the health workers and agency have not been able to identify the disease or the cause of it, or why it had struck many people at the same time.  "The patients gradually lost consciousness. [...] When their blood was tested, all of the suspected diseases such as malaria, dengue fever, Zika, leptospirosis, anthrax, H5N1, were all ruled out. The tests came back negative for all of them," Syafruddin said.

The Health Ministry has yet to provide an explanation on this matter, but the ministry's disease control and prevention director general, Anung Sugihantono, said his side was investigating the outbreak.  A special team consisting of academics, health and environment experts, as well as veterinarians have been deployed to the village to carry out disease surveillance and epidemiology research.

Also, 3 patients have been moved to Makassar, the provincial capital, for further examination and treatment.  "Initial laboratory research had shown indication of typhoid, but further studies are needed," he added. South Sulawesi Health Agency acting head Bachtiar Baso said one of the deceased patients was pregnant. Doctors have been treating the patients using different approaches. "Most doctors treated those admitted to the hospitals for typhoid. Some of them saw their health improve, and some of them did not," he said.

Bachtiar said the investigative team had collected blood samples from the infected patients and animals in the area and had collected soil samples.  The team suspects those affected may have had either leptospirosis, meningitis or the hantavirus, Bachtiar said. "I hope the research results will be revealed soon and the team can gain a better understanding of the disease that has been spreading across Garonggong so we can prepare the necessary medicine and preventative measures," he added.
======================
[A comprehensive laboratory workup is necessary to establish a diagnosis. There is no indication that autopsies were carried out that might provide addition clues about the aetiology. Mention was made of hantaviruses, but no mention was made of supporting laboratory results that might point to Seoul hantavirus infections, but the large number of cases occurring in a single village in a short period of time would be unusual for hantavirus infections or for scrub typhus. There was an outbreak of Japanese encephalitis (JE) in North Sulawesi last year (2018). Although there is no specific mention of encephalitis in these patients, JE should be ruled out.

ProMED-mail would be interested in receiving further information about confirmation of typhus, any new cases, or laboratory results as they become available. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Sulawesi, Indonesia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/535>]
Date: Thu 2 May 2019
Source: PLoS One [edited]

Citation
--------
Rao S, Traxler R, Napetavaridze T, et al. Risk factors associated with the occurrence of anthrax outbreaks in livestock in the country of Georgia: A case-control investigation 2013-2015. PLoS One. 2019;14(5):e0215228. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0215228

Abstract
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Introduction
Anthrax is considered endemic in livestock in Georgia. In 2007, the annual vaccination became the responsibility of livestock owners, while contracting of private veterinarians was not officially required. Six years later, due to increase in human outbreaks associated with livestock handling there is a need to find out the risk factors of livestock anthrax in Georgia.

Objective
To identify exposures and risk factors associated with livestock anthrax.

Methods
A matched case-control study design was used to recruit the owners of individual livestock anthrax cases that occurred between June 2013 and May 2015, and owners of unaffected livestock from within ("village control") and outside the village ("area control"). We collected data about the case and control livestock animals' exposure and risk factors within the one-month prior to the disease onset of the case livestock (or matched case for the controls). We used logistic regression analysis (univariate and multivariable) to calculate the odds ratios of exposures and risk factors.

Results
During the study period, 36 anthrax cases met the case definition and were enrolled in the study; 67 matched village control livestock and 71 matched area control livestock were also enrolled. The findings from multivariable logistic regression analysis demonstrate that vaccination within the last 2 years significantly reduced the odds of anthrax in cattle (OR = 0.014; 95% Confidence interval = or less 0.001, 0.99). The other factors that were significantly protective against anthrax were 'animals being in covered fence area/barn' (OR = 0.065; p-value = 0.036), and 'female animal being pregnant or milking compared to heifer' (OR = 0.006; p-value = 0.037).

Conclusions
The information obtained from this study has involved and been presented to decision makers, used to build technical capacity of veterinary staff, and to foster a One Health approach to the control of zoonotic diseases which will optimize prevention and control strategies. Georgia has embedded the knowledge and specific evidence that vaccination is a highly protective measure to prevent anthrax deaths among livestock, to which primary emphasis of the anthrax control program will be given. Education of livestock keepers in Georgia is an overriding priority.
------------------------------------------------------
Communicated by
Debby Reynolds
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[The major benefits of this research project were not scientific but instructional in bringing home to all concerned at all levels that livestock anthrax is not inevitable but extremely preventable with many benefits in both animal health and public health. The article conclusions needed to be emphasised: "The control strategies that were recommended for anthrax included a combination of vaccination, quarantine, and proper carcass handling and disposal. Overall, the information obtained from this study has involved and been presented to decision makers, used to build technical capacity of regional and national veterinary staff, and fostered a One Health approach to the control of zoonotic diseases like anthrax, which will optimize prevention and control strategies. For example, a multi-agency anthrax One Health team was established to investigate cases and co-develop educational materials for farmers.

"The investigation process involved a series of trainings and workshops for participants and stakeholders to promote an understanding of epidemiological investigations and the economics of disease control with anthrax as a model. Georgia now has embedded the knowledge and specific evidence that vaccination is a highly protective measure to prevent anthrax deaths among livestock. Hence, primary emphasis for disease prevention will be given to vaccination, with a specific mark/tag for vaccination being desirable. Alternatively, a formal vaccination record given to the owner, or livestock registration is recommended. Education of livestock keepers in Georgia on the importance of vaccination is an overriding priority. Vaccination teams can play an increased role with more attention paid to delivery of standard memorable messages at the time of vaccination and to disseminating public announcements. It is overwhelmingly the case that vaccination of livestock against anthrax is protective and is an effective risk mitigation for anthrax in Georgia."

And if the Georgians can do it, anybody anywhere can do it. And you will note that their last outbreak was in 2017. Our thanks to Debby for forwarding this article. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]

[Maps of Georgia can be seen at
Date: Thu 28 Mar 2019
Source: Cronica Digital [in Spanish, trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

Health authorities in Chile today [28 Mar 2019] confirmed the detection in the north of the country of _Aedes aegypti_, the vector of dangerous diseases such as dengue, Zika, chikungunya, and yellow fever [viruses].

The secretariat of the Ministry of Health in the northern Tarapaca region states that on 21 Mar [2019], a specimen of the mosquito was captured in a ovaposition trap for monitoring the presence of these insects in a women's penitentiary in Iquique city.

According to press reports from this region, the presence of larvae of the mosquito was confirmed by the Public Health Institute, although up to now, no locally acquired clinical cases of these _Aedes aegypti_-transmitted diseases have been reported.

The Tarapaca Secretary of Health, Manuel Fernandez, stated that 193 household visits have been made in the area of detection as part of preventive efforts. The official indicated that the mosquito is not able to transmit the indicated diseases without having previously had contact [bitten] with a person infected by any of these viruses. He also called on the public to collaborate with measures against this vector by opening the doors of their houses to the teams that visit to view hygienic conditions and to maximize the recommended measures with that objective.

According to health authorities, Chile, which borders Peru, Bolivia and Argentina [all of which have the mosquito and these viruses], has natural protection with the Andes mountain chain for the length of the country and extensive deserts in the north that make it difficult, but not impossible, for the mosquito to migrate [into the country]. In this respect, he advised that the effects of climate change could be favourable for the arrival of the mosquito and facilitate its reproduction due to the increase of temperature and humidity in some areas.

To date, no cases of dengue or Zika have been reported in the country except for imported ones.
===========================
[Chile has been fortunate in having escaped locally transmitted cases of these viruses due to the absence of _Aedes aegypti_ (except for far distant Easter Island, which has had cases of dengue and Zika virus infections). That situation of geographic and ecological isolation may now be changing with the discovery of a breeding population of this mosquito in the far north of the country. One hopes that this early detection and a timely surveillance effort will permit the mosquito's elimination. Continued surveillance will be critical, since this mosquito is famous for its ability to be moved around by human activity. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Mon 12 May 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

67 confirmed _Salmonella_ cases and 2 probable cases have been linked to sprouts consumption in New Zealand. Illness onset ranged from 23 Dec 2018 to 1 Apr 2019. 66 of the cases became ill between 23 Jan 2019 and 25 Jan 2019. 17 people required hospital treatment.

In the wake of the outbreak, GSF New Zealand [produce manufacturer] recalled certain Pams, Sproutman, and Fresh Harvest brand sprout products. GSF New Zealand said the recall was due to a "production process concern." Regarding the _Salmonella_ outbreak, New Zealand's Ministry of Health reported that "_Salmonella_ Typhimurium phage type 108/170 was the causative pathogen identified from cases, sprouts, and spent irrigation water tested in this outbreak. Subtyping using multiple locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis (MLVA) and whole genome sequencing methods were performed on isolates to confirm cases in the outbreak as well as the outbreak source."

The recalled sprouts had best before dates of 31 Mar 2019 to 4 Apr 2019.

Fresh Harvest branded sprouts were sold throughout the North Island at Countdown, Fresh Choice, and SuperValue. Pams Superfoods Super Salad Mix was sold throughout NZ. Other brands of Pam sprouts were sold on the North Island. Sproutman branded sprouts were sold throughout NZ.  [Byline: Jory Lange]
==================
[A number of significant pathogens, including _Salmonella_, _Listeria_, and enterohemorrhagic _E. coli_, have been linked to transmission from ingestion of a whole variety of different kinds sprouts in the USA and elsewhere.

The following is a relatively recent review on outbreaks caused by sprouts:
Dechet AM, Herman KM, Chen Parker C, et al: Outbreaks caused by sprouts, United States, 1998-2010: lessons learned and solutions needed. Foodborne Pathog Dis. 2014; 11(8): 635-44.

Abstract
--------
After a series of outbreaks associated with sprouts in the mid-1990s, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) published guidelines in 1999 for sprouts producers to reduce the risk of contamination. The recommendations included treating seeds with an antimicrobial agent such as calcium hypochlorite solution and testing spent irrigation water for pathogens. From 1998 through 2010, 33 outbreaks from seed and bean sprouts were documented in the USA, affecting 1330 reported persons. 28 outbreaks were caused by _Salmonella_, 4 by Shiga toxin-producing _Escherichia coli_, and one by _Listeria_. In 15 of the 18 outbreaks with information available, growers had not followed key FDA guidelines. In 3 outbreaks, however, the implicated sprouts were produced by firms that appeared to have implemented key FDA guidelines. Although seed chlorination, if consistently applied, reduces pathogen burden on sprouts, it does not eliminate the risk of human infection. Further seed and sprouts disinfection technologies, some recently developed, will be needed to enhance sprouts safety and reduce human disease. Improved seed production practices could also decrease pathogen burden, but, because seeds are a globally distributed commodity, will require international cooperation." - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of New Zealand:
Date: Mon 12 May 2019
Source: WHO/EMRO, Epidemic and Pandemic Prone Diseases, Outbreaks, Cholera [edited]

Outbreak update - Cholera in Yemen, 12 May 2019
-----------------------------------------------
The Ministry of Public Health and Population of Yemen reported 18,171 suspected cases of cholera with 13 associated deaths during epidemiological week 18 (29 Apr-5 May) of 2019. 15% of cases were severe. The cumulative total number of suspected cholera cases from 1 Jan 2018 to 28 Apr 2019 is 668 891 with 1081 associated deaths (CFR 0.16%). Children under 5 represent 22.7% of total suspected cases during 2019. The outbreak has affected 22 of 23 governorates and 294 of 333 districts in Yemen.

From week 8 [18-24 Feb] in 2019, the trend of weekly reported suspected cholera cases started increasing and reached a peak of more than 29 500 cases in week 14 [1-7 Apr 2019]. During weeks 15 to 18 [8 Apr-5 May 2019] new case numbers began to fall, although it is too early to conclude a downward trend. The decline may be attributed to enhanced efforts to control the outbreak such as enhancement in the community engagement and WaSH [water, sanitation, and hygiene] activities, and scaling up of response by WHO and partners, including establishing of additional DTCs [diarrhoea treatment centres] and ORCs [oral rehydration corners]. Another factor is the 1st round of the OCV [oral cholera vaccination] campaign which took place in April 2019 in 3 districts of Amanat Al Asimah governorate, reaching 1 088 101 people (88% of the target).

The governorates reporting the highest number of suspected cases of cholera during 2019 were Amanat Al Asimah (50 166), Sana'a (36 527), Al Hudaydah (30 925), Ibb (26 421), Dhamar (26 421), and Arman (25 244).

Of a total 5610 samples tested since January 2019, 2920 have been confirmed as cholera-positive by culture at the central public health laboratories. During this reporting period the governorates which reported the highest number of positive culture were Amanat Al Asimah (893), Taizz (704), and Sana'a (342).

WHO continues to provide leadership and support for activities with health authorities and partners to respond to this ongoing cholera outbreak, including case management, surveillance and laboratory investigations, hotspot mapping and OCV campaign planning, water, sanitation, and hygiene (WaSH) and risk communication.
========================
[The numbers reported in this continuing catastrophe are difficult to wrap one's head around. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[Maps of Yemen: <
Date: Mon, 13 May 2019 06:50:44 +0200

Panama City, May 13, 2019 (AFP) - A 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit Panama on Sunday, injuring at least five people and causing damage to businesses and homes, officials said.   The strong quake struck at a depth of 37 kilometers (23 miles) in the far west of the country near the Costa Rican border, according to the US Geological Survey.

It was followed by a smaller 5.4-magnitude quake in Colon province, on central Panama's Caribbean coast, according to the country's National Civil Protection System (Sinaproc).   Five people were injured in the first quake, which hit 22 km from the town of Puerto Armuelles, said Sinaproc.   Four homes were damaged, including two that collapsed, it said.

President Juan Carlos Varela had said on Twitter earlier that just one person was hurt, in Puerto Armuelles.    He reported damage to homes and businesses in the Central American nation.   School classes were suspended for Monday in Baru district, where the first quake struck.   There was no tsunami alert issued from the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The second quake occurred late Sunday and was not related to the afternoon quake near Puerto Armuelles, Sinaproc said.   So far no damage has been reported from the second quake, it added.   In November 2017 a 6.5-magnitude quake on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica left buildings swaying in the capital San Jose and contributed to the deaths of two people who had heart attacks.   Further north, two months earlier in September 2017 a 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people in Mexico.
Date: Sat, 11 May 2019 14:59:03 +0200

Ghazni, Afghanistan, May 11, 2019 (AFP) - A landmine explosion killed seven children and wounded two others in southern Afghanistan on Saturday, officials said, as war ordnance again claimed civilian lives.   The blast occurred in Ghazni province, south of the capital Kabul, when the children stepped on a landmine while playing near a main road, provincial spokesman Aref Noori told AFP.   "The mine was planted by the Taliban on a main road to inflict casualties on security forces," he said.   The Taliban did not immediately respond to a request for comment.   The insurgents often use roadside bombs and landmines to target Afghan security forces, but the lethal weapons also inflict casualties on civilians.   Amanullah Kamrani, a member of Ghazni provincial council, said the children were aged between seven and nine and at least four of them belonged to one family. 

Years of conflict have left Afghanistan strewn with landmines, unexploded mortars, rockets and homemade bombs -- and many are picked up by curious children.   Last month, seven children were killed and 10 more wounded in the eastern province of Laghman when a mortar shell exploded while they were playing with it.    According to the United Nations, 3,804 civilians -- including more than 900 children-- were killed in Afghanistan in 2018, with another 7,000 wounded. It was the deadliest year to date for civilians in Afghanistan's conflict.