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Brazil

General

 Brazil is the largest country in South America and extends from the Atlantic Ocean to the Caribbean to the depths of the Amazon basin. The climate varies throughout the country but generally it experiences a humid

tropical climate.

Safety & Security

The level of crime in many of the main urban centres is certainly rising and tourists need to be aware of the risks involved in travelling particularly in the evening hours. It is wise to use an official taxi for any journeys after dark. It is sensible not to flaunt any personal wealth and to use the hotel safety boxes for any valuables and your travel documents. The amount of crime against tourists tends to be greater in areas surrounding hotels, discotheques, bars, nightclubs and other similar establishments that cater to visitors, especially at dusk and during the evening hours. There are frequent reports of theft on city buses and such transportation should be avoided. A number of the main cities have established specialised tourist police units to patrol areas frequented by tourists. Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Brasilia all continue to experience a high incidence of crime.

Road Safety

Throughout this huge country the state of the roads varies greatly. In many regions the roads are dirt tracks and assistance would be hard to obtain for those travelling off from the main tourists routes. Bag snatching from traffic lights occurs in the main cities. If considering hiring a car make certain that your travel insurance is sufficient.

Jet Lag

After your flight you will experience a degree of jet lag. Travelling from Europe this will be less than when you travel home but nevertheless it will still cause your body to complain for 24 to 48 hours. Try to have a more relaxing time for the first few days (and also after returning home if possible!). Be careful not to fall asleep by the pool and then awaken with sunburn which could ruin your time abroad.

Medical Facilities

In any country of this size the level of medical care will vary greatly. This is particular true out side the main tourist resorts. English speaking doctors should be available but the level of hospital care can be worrisome. Make certain you carry sufficient supplies of any medication you may require for your entire holiday. Essential drugs (asthma, diabetes, epilepsy etc) should be divided for security.

Sun Exposure and Dehydration

The hot humid tropical climate often leads to quite significant problems for the Irish traveller. Make sure you cover your head when out in the sunlight and drink plenty of fluids to replenish that lost through perspiration. Replace the salt you loose by eating crisps etc orby putting salt on your meal (providing there is no contraindication).

Visiting the Iguassu Falls

These huge waterfalls border Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. There is only minimal risk of malaria and so malaria prophylaxis is not generally recommended. Also, Yellow fever is not transmitted in this area but mosquitoes can abound. Sensible insect bite precautions should be followed at all times.

Food & Water

Many tourists who visit Brazil stay in the main resorts along the southern coast. The food and water preparation in the hotels is normally excellent but eating food from street vendors is generally unwise. Shell fish (bivalve oysters, mussels, clams etc) are unwise even in a five star hotel. Check the water from the cold water tap in your room. If you can’t easily smell chlorine (swimming pool style) don’t use it even for brushing your teeth. If travelling around the country (Caribbean coast or into the Amazon regions) take significantly more care.

Rabies 

This viral disease occurs throughout Brazil and it is usually transmitted through the bite from an infected warm-blooded animal (eg dogs, cats & monkeys). Any contact should be avoided but if it occurs treat it very seriously and seek competent medical attention immediately after you wash out the area and apply an antiseptic.

Malaria

The risk of malaria is significant all year throughout the Amazon regions. There is insignificant risk for those staying along the coast up as far as Fortaleza and for those remaining in this region prophylaxis is not usually recommended. The risk in the region of Brasilia is also thought to be minimal though this is an area which has unusually experience an outbreak of Yellow Fever recently, and so the situation will require review.

Mosquito Borne Diseases  Apart from malaria the other two main diseases transmitted by mosquitoes which cause problems in Brazil are Dengue Fever (mainly along Caribbean Coast but has been reported much further south) and Yellow Fever (mainly in the Amazon Basin but thought to be spreading to other regions). Avoidance techniques are important at all times throughout the day. Swimming **************************************** Most of the main tourist swimming pools will be well maintained and the smell of chlorine will be evident. If sea swimming is on your agenda make sure you go where there are plenty of others and never swim alone. Look for warning signs and pay attention to local advice. Be very careful of local currents which can be dangerous. Vaccinations **************************************** The Brazilian Embassy is advising all travellers to Brazil to have vaccination cover against Yellow Fever. Also for your personal protection it is wise to consider some further vaccines. Generally we would recommend the following vaccination cover; * Yellow Fever (mosquito borne) * Tetanus (childhood booster) * Typhoid (food & water borne) * Hepatitis A (food & water borne) For those travelling more extensively or staying in the country for longer periods we would usually suggest that further vaccines are considered including Hepatitis B, Meningitis and Rabies. Summary **************************************** Many travellers to Brazil will remain perfectly healthy and well providing they follow some sensible precautions. Further information is available from either of our centres regarding any recent disease outbreaks.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri 9 Aug 2019
Source: Folha de S. Paulo [trans. Kiratiana Freelon; abridged, edited]

A mutated measles virus is responsible for the recent outbreak of the virus that has led to 1000 cases in the the Sao Paulo area, according to Edison Luiz Durigon, a professor at USP's Institute of Biomedical Sciences and one of the country's most respected virologists.

The previous outbreak of the disease, which was considered eradicated in Brazil in the past decade, occurred in 1999. The current version of the virus, however, is another.

Still, the vaccine protects against this type of measles virus, the D-8. But the amount of antibodies in the body of an immunized person (made with the type A virus) drops after 15 years of application. Therefore, anyone who has never been immunized or injected for a long time should be vaccinated. WHO estimates that from 2000-2017, 21 million measles deaths were prevented by the vaccine.

With the amount of antibodies generated by someone who recently took the vaccine, the body can neutralize viruses of various types (8 in all, from A to H) and subtypes (24, distributed between types).

D-8 viruses circulated generally in Europe and began to pop up about a year ago in Venezuela and the northern part of the country. "Because there were a few cases, we thought the disease was spreading among unvaccinated people."  [Byline: Gabriel Alves]
Date: Thu 25 Jul 2019
Source: Teresina Prefecture [in Portuguese, trans. ProMED Mod.TY, edited]

PI [Piaui state] has been following with attention and care the developments regarding the 3rd confirmed case of West Nile fever in Piaui. Since 2013, all suspected cases admitted to the municipal public network have been subjected to an investigation protocol implemented by the FMS [Fundacao Municipal de Saude de Teresina; Teresina Municipal Health Foundation] that includes West Nile virus, among several others of important relevance.

The patient in question, a victim of encephalitis, coming from Piripiri in Piaui, received all possible assistance in the intensive care unit of the Teresina Emergency Hospital, but suffered several clinical complications that, due to her advanced age and the presence of comorbidities, led to her death.

The coast and the interior of the state of Piaui are located on migratory bird routes, identified as important links in the spread of the disease [virus], according to the National Center for Research for the Conservation of Wild Birds (CEMAVE / ICMBIO). The virus was also detected in the state of Espirito Santo in 2018 and in the state of Ceara in 2019.

From 2014 to 2019, the FMS investigated 399 suspected human cases of severe West Nile fever disease from various cities in Piaui and neighbouring states: 319 were discarded, 35 had "undetermined" results, and 42 remain under investigation. All hospitals in the municipality are trained to investigate and treat any new suspicious cases.  [Byline: Amariles de Souza Borba]
=======================
[West Nile virus transmission has been active in several spots in Brazil this year [2019]. There have been recent equine cases in Ceara and Espirito Santo states, so it is not surprising that a human case has occurred in Piaui state as well. As ProMED Mod.CRD noted in a previous ProMED-mail post (West Nile virus (19): Americas (Brazil) horse, OIE; archive no. http://promedmail.org/post/20190725.6586397), "West Nile fever is a mosquito-borne viral disease that can affect birds, humans, and horses causing inapparent infection, mild febrile illness, meningitis, encephalitis, or death. West Nile virus (WNV) is a member of the genus _Flavivirus_ in the family Flaviviridae. The arbovirus is maintained in nature by cycling through birds and mosquitoes; numerous avian and mosquito species support virus replication" (see  Source:<http://www.oie.int/fileadmin/Home/eng/Health_standards/tahm/3.01.24_WEST_NILE.pdf>).

Hosts are birds, some of which may succumb to fatal systemic illness. Among mammals, clinical disease is primarily exhibited in horses and humans, but they are dead-end hosts and cannot infect mosquitoes. There is a vaccine available for equine animals but not for humans. The best preventive measure is to avoid mosquito bites. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Mon 1 Jul 2019
Source: EurekAlert!, American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) [edited]

The origin of the virus responsible for the ongoing yellow fever epidemic in Brazil, the worst for 40 years, has just been identified by scientists affiliated with 2 Brazilian institutions: Adolfo Lutz Institute (IAL) and the University of Sao Paulo (USP).

By means of a molecular study of yellow fever viruses found in dead monkeys and in mosquitoes, the group discovered that the strain behind the current epidemic originated in Para state in North Brazil in 1980.

The virus infected monkeys in Para and spread from there throughout the Amazon region until it reached Venezuela and Suriname. From 2000 on, always via infection of monkeys, the disease migrated to the Center-West and Southeast of Brazil, finally reaching Sao Paulo state in 2013. The 1st deaths of humans in Sao Paulo occurred in 2016.

Findings of the study, which was supported by Sao Paulo Research Foundation - FAPESP, are published in Scientific Reports [see reference below].

The investigation was led by Mariana Sequetin Cunha, a researcher in IAL's Vector-Borne Disease Group. Scientists at the University of Sao Paulo's Tropical Medicine Institute (IMT-USP), the Federal University of Para (UFPA) and the Federal University of Sao Paulo (UNIFESP) also took part. The project was also funded by Brazil's National Council for Scientific and Technological Development (CNPq).

Since mid-2016, when the ongoing yellow fever epidemic began, 2245 cases of the disease have been confirmed, with 764 deaths, according to the Health Ministry. The largest number of cases since 1980, when the government made notification mandatory, had previously been reported in 2000. In that year, 40 people died from yellow fever.

Another face of the problem is the infection of monkeys by the same mosquitoes that transmit the virus to humans. Since 2016, public health authorities responsible for epidemiological surveillance in the Center-West, Southeast, and South, where the epidemic is concentrated, have collected the carcasses of more than 10 000 monkeys found in forests and parks, mainly howler monkeys (_Alouatta_ spp.), marmosets (_Callithrix_ spp.) and capuchins (_Sapajus_ spp). Yellow fever virus was detected in 3403, according to the Health Ministry (Boletim Epidemiologico de Febre Amarela/Yellow Fever Epidemiological Bulletin).  "More than 90% of the dead monkeys are believed to be _Alouatta guariba_ [brown howler monkey]. The species is extremely susceptible to yellow fever," said Ester Sabino, Director of IMT-USP.  "Troops of more than 80 monkeys were entirely destroyed," Cunha said, referring to the deaths of howler monkeys from yellow fever in Horto Florestal, a nature reserve in the north of Sao Paulo city in late 2017.

Yellow fever is an acute disease caused by a virus transmitted to monkeys and humans through the bites of infected mosquitos. The symptoms include jaundice, a yellowish or greenish pigmentation of the skin and whites of the eyes due to high bilirubin levels, reflecting liver damage.

In the sylvatic (wild) transmission cycle, the yellow fever virus circulates between mosquitoes of the genera _Haemagogus_ and _Sabethes_ and monkeys. Humans are considered incidental hosts in the sense that people are infected only if they happen to live or work in tropical forests or travel on land through such areas. In the urban transmission cycle, the virus is transmitted to humans (the main host in this case) by the mosquito _Aedes aegypti_.

Yellow fever was endemic in the South and Southeast of Brazil in the early 20th century. Urban transmission has been eradicated thanks to vaccination and action against _Ae. aegypti_ breeding sites.

In the last 2 decades, transmission to humans has occurred outside the Amazon region, where yellow fever is still endemic. Cases have been reported in humans and monkeys in Bahia, Goias, Minas Gerais, Sao Paulo, Parana, and Rio Grande do Sul [states].

Since late 2016, the disease has spread faster and farther, reaching the Atlantic Rainforest biome, with all its extraordinary biodiversity, which includes many species of monkey. Yellow fever had not occurred in these areas for decades.

In search of the yellow fever virus, Cunha and her group investigated samples of brain, liver, and spleen tissue from dead monkeys found by state public health workers and compulsorily sent for analysis to IAL, the state reference laboratory. Samples from 430 dead monkeys were tested between July 2016 and March 2017. Most were _Alouatta_, _Callithrix_, and _Sapajus_, but there were some specimens of black-fronted titi (_Callicebus nigrifrons_) and golden lion tamarin (_Leontopithecus rosalia_), an endangered species.

Investigation in search of the yellow fever virus was carried out in each one of the species. The published study contributes to a better understanding of the biotic pathways involved in the virus's spread from the Amazon to the Southeast. "The study describes the evolution of the virus in different species. The disease is milder in capuchins than in howler monkeys and marmosets," Sabino said.

Not all the dead monkeys sent to IAL died from yellow fever. "Some had been run over and others electrocuted, for example," Cunha said. "The protocol requires analysis by the reference lab of tissue samples from all dead monkeys found, whatever the circumstances."

The presence of the virus was ruled out in most cases, and even in the minority in which it was confirmed, it was not always possible to be sure that death was due to yellow fever. The disease is practically a death sentence for howler monkeys. Marmosets are susceptible but do not always die. Capuchins are considered resistant.

By mid-2017, the epidemic that began in the north of Sao Paulo state in 2016 had spread to the Campinas region, not far from the state capital. "Yellow fever virus hadn't circulated in Campinas since the early 20th century," Cunha said.

The 1st infected monkey was confirmed by IAL in July 2016. It was a capuchin from the Ribeirao Preto region. The species is resistant, so the cause of death was not reported as having been caused by yellow fever, although the virus was found in its tissue.  "The animal came into contact with the pathogen via a mosquito bite but died from other causes. We wanted to find out if capuchins were acting as natural reservoirs of the virus precisely because they're resistant," Cunha said.

Yellow fever virus was found in 67 out of the 430 samples analyzed by Cunha and colleagues at IMT-USP; 30 were from howler monkeys, 9 from marmosets, and 7 from capuchins. The rest were from monkeys of unidentified genera.  "In these 21 cases, the material didn't indicate the genus, but we suspect they were _Alouatta_ owing to the high viral loads in the tissues analyzed," Cunha said.

40-year-old strain
------------------
The researchers isolated the virus from each of the 67 confirmed samples, sequenced the genomes, and compared the genomes with those (available online) of viruses from the outbreaks of yellow fever that occurred between 1980 and 2015 in Brazil and neighboring countries.

They discovered that the strain responsible for the current epidemic originated in Venezuela and in Roraima state and Para State in Brazil. This is in line with prior research suggesting that the 2016-17 epidemic began in the North region and spread to the Southeast by means of a long and continuous sylvatic cycle involving mosquitoes and monkeys.

The results of the study reveal an evolutionary journey of sizable proportions in both time and space. In 1980, yellow fever virus was endemic in Para. In 2000, it reached Mato Grosso do Sul, Goias, and Minas Gerais in the Center-West. By 2004, it had crossed into Venezuela, and by 2009, it had reached Trinidad and Tobago in the Caribbean. In 2010, it was present in Roraima in the [Brazilian] far North, while one strain was found in Rio Grande do Sul in the far South. The virus arrived in Sao Paulo state in 2013.

The molecular analyses performed by Cunha and colleagues showed that the virus was fully disseminated in most Brazilian states and in Suriname by 2017.

Other researchers at IAL and IMT-USP are now conducting similar studies involving the dead monkeys collected in Sao Paulo State during the 2nd wave of the epidemic, in July 2017-June 2018, and during the 3rd wave, which began in July 2018 and will fizzle out this year [2019] with the end of the rainy season and the advent of winter, when the mosquitoes practically stop reproducing.

Depending on the results of these forthcoming studies, it may be possible to determine whether the current epidemic in Sao Paulo state is on the wane. Alternatively, despite mass vaccination the virus could still be spreading through the monkey population and fresh outbreaks may be in the offing.
========================
[Reference
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Cunha MS, da Costa AC, de Azevedo Fernandes NCC, et al. Epizootics due to yellow fever virus in Sao Paulo state, Brazil: viral dissemination to new areas (2016-2017). Sci Rep. 2019; 9(1): 5474. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-41950-3;  <https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-019-41950-3>

The report above provides a fascinating account of the recent yellow fever (YF) outbreaks and traces the movement of the virus in Brazil over time. Fortunately, in none of the widely dispersed outbreaks were there any reports of urban (people-_Aedes aegypti_-people) transmission of YF virus.

The Brazil Ministry of Health has embarked on an ambitious effort to vaccinate everyone, starting with areas of highest risk. Although that should eliminate human cases, it will not affect the sylvan (forest) cycle involving non-human primates. Meanwhile, human YF cases continue to occur in several states in Brazil this year (2019) (See Yellow fever - Americas (09): Brazil, official summary http://promedmail.org/post/20190627.6541056). An official 8 Jun 2019 report stated that confirmed human yellow fever cases were registered in the states of Sao Paulo (68 cases), Parana (13), and Santa Catarina (1) this year (2019). Most of the cases were rural workers or those exposed in forested areas. The 1st case of yellow fever was confirmed in Santa Catarina state. Cases in non-human primates continue to be reported also. Confirmed epizootics in non-human primates were registered in Sao Paulo (13 cases), Rio de Janeiro (1), Parana (32), Para (1), and Santa Catarina (1). Most of the confirmed epizootics were registered in the southern region (69%; 33/48) with the majority of the epizootics occurring in Parana state.

Continued YF surveillance will be essential to track YF movement in nature over time. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Brazil:
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2019 18:27:56 +0200
By Rosa SULLEIRO

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

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

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

Economy minister Paulo Guedes, who is spearheading the government's reform agenda, has threatened to resign if the bill is not passed or is watered down significantly.   It caps a tumultuous six months for Bolsonaro, who has seen his popularity nosedive as he struggles to push his signature reform through a hostile Congress and keep Latin America's biggest economy from sliding back into recession.   More than 13 million people are unemployed, the latest data shows, with a record number giving up looking for a job.     Fighting between military and far-right factions of Bolsonaro's government has fueled chaos in his administration where his sons and right-wing writer and polemicist Olavo de Carvalho wield enormous influence.   Bolsonaro sacked his third minister on Thursday -- retired general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who had been the government secretary and seen as a moderate voice.   That came on the same day Bolsonaro broke his silence to defend Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who has been accused of wrongdoing while serving as a judge in the sprawling Car Wash anticorruption investigation.
Date: Mon 3 Jun 2019
Source: Fit for Travel [edited]

According to the Brazilian Ministry of Health, there have been 81 cases of yellow fever, including 14 deaths, in the country between 1 Jan and 14 May 2019. Most cases have been confirmed in Sao Paulo (68), with Parana (12) and Santa Catarina (1) also reporting cases.

Nearly all of Brazil is at risk of yellow fever transmission.

Advice to travellers:
- There is a widespread risk of yellow fever in Brazil.

- The World Health Organisation recommends the yellow fever vaccine for travellers to areas at risk of yellow fever (including all of Sao Paulo state and Sao Paulo city) unless contraindicated. Vaccination is advised for all of Parana, Santa Catarina, and Rio Grande do Sul.

- The most recent yellow fever risk map of Brazil is shown here:

- A traveller's risk of yellow fever is determined by their general risk assessment (e.g., country visited, length of stay, city or rural, activities, etc.).

- Mosquito-bite-avoidance rules should be adhered to at all times; the mosquito that spreads yellow fever bites predominantly during the day.
====================
[As has been noted frequently in previous ProMED-mail posts, yellow fever virus is endemic in Brazil and several other South American countries that have tropical forests where the sylvan (forest) transmission cycle is maintained. So far, in Brazil, the sylvan cycle has not spilled over to urban and suburban areas where _Aedes aegypti_ populations are abundant. Currently, vaccination is the best preventive measure available. The risk of adverse effects due to the vaccine is small, approximately one in 1 million. Yellow fever is a serious disease with a case fatality rate of approximately 30% and a potential for rapid spread in an urban situation with a population with low vaccination coverage and abundant mosquito vectors. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Brazil:
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 05:21:07 +0200 (METDST)

Bangkok, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - At least 13 Chinese tourists were killed and dozens injured when their bus skidded off the road and plunged 30 metres into a ravine in Laos, a police officer said Tuesday.   The bus was carrying more than 40 Chinese nationals heading towards the tourist town of Luang Prabang when the accident occurred late on Monday.   "At this moment, 13 bodies have been recovered... while two are still missing," police officer Xaiyaphon Chitavong told AFP, blaming brake failure for the accident.   He added that 31 people were receiving medical treatment.    Chinese state media showed photos of rescuers wading through ankle-deep floodwaters.

Traffic accidents in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar are common, with safety regulations often flouted and law enforcement low.    The monsoon season from June to October also drenches rural roads with heavy rains creating slippery conditions.   Tourism to communist-run Laos has grown in recent years, and visitors from China increased by 13 percent in the first half of 2019 compared to the year before, according to the state-backed Vientiane Times.
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:57:15 +0200 (METDST)

Bukavu, DR Congo, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - A child has died from Ebola in DR Congo's South Kivu, health authorities said Monday, the second person to succumb to the virus since the epidemic spread to the eastern province.   The announcement last week of the first confirmed cases in South Kivu revived concerns that the highly contagious disease could cross the porous borders of the central African country, where it has claimed more than 1,900 lives since August last year.   "A seven-year-old child died yesterday (Sunday) of Ebola" in South Kivu's Mwenga region, said Claude Bahizire, communication officer of South Kivu's provincial health division.

The first death in South Kivu was a woman in her twenties who evaded movement controls to travel from the North Kivu town of Beni, the epicentre of the outbreak, to South Kivu's capital Bukavu and then Mwenga.    She died on Wednesday, and her seven-month-old son has been diagnosed with the virus and is receiving treatment.   Bahizire said that "two other suspected cases, two women, have been detected and admitted to Bukavu's transit centre".   The two women "were in contact with the woman who died last week while she was staying in Bukavu on the way to Mwenga," he added.

The outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus began in North Kivu on August 1, 2018 and spread to Ituri province.   The health ministry also announced that "a new health zone had been assigned in North Kivu".   A confirmed case of Ebola has been recorded in North Kivu's Pinga region, in Walikale territory, a source said without providing further details.   According to the latest numbers published on Sunday, 1,934 people have since died, while 862 have been cured.

The latest outbreak is the second-deadliest on record after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016.   Also on Monday, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on the nine countries that share a border with DR Congo to show solidarity to stop the spread of Ebola.   "We now have an Ebola vaccine that is more than 97 percent effective and treatments that are more than 90 per cent effective if used early enough," he said in Republic of Congo capital Brazzaville.
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 19:48:07 +0200 (METDST)
By Alain JEAN-ROBERT

Paris, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - French construction workers wearing protective masks returned to the site of stricken Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday after a three-week pause due to the risk of lead contamination.   Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud was given a tour of the scorched monumet wearing a white protective suit while workers could again be seen surveying the structure which was left damaged and weakened in a massive fire in April.

Restoration of the cathedral has yet to begin with efforts focused entirely on securing the building. The culture ministry has warned it is still at risk of collapse.   Efforts to remove lead from the area around Notre-Dame began last week after alarm grew over the presence of the toxic metal.   Hundreds of tonnes of lead in the roof and steeple melted during the April 15 blaze that nearly destroyed the gothic masterpiece, with winds spreading the particles well beyond the church grounds.

Residents have accused the Paris authorities of underplaying the risk from the lead although the culture ministry insists safety is the top priority.   But prefect Michel Cadot, the government's top official for the Paris region, approved the resumption of the works after visiting the site.   "I saw that the different recommendations of the labour inspectors had been implemented," he said, adding the decontamination work would help keep contractors safe.   Securing the structure is required before the restoration work can start.    The culture ministry said that stones had fallen from the nave vault during a heatwave in July.   "It is only the urgency linked to the persistent risk of a collapse that justifies the rhythm of work undertaken" since the fire, it said in a statement Wednesday.

President Emmanuel Macron has set an ambitious target of five years for the restoration to be finished. But the ministry said the work would not even begin until next year.   Paris prosecutors said in June that a poorly stubbed-out cigarette or an electrical fault could have started the fire and opened an investigation into criminal negligence, without targeting any individual.

French investigative news site Mediapart published a report this week accusing the ministry of repeatedly ignoring warnings by labour inspectors about the dangers posed by the lead until work was finally suspended on July 25.   Critics have accused the city of failing to notify the public about the test results, while an environmental group has filed a lawsuit alleging that officials failed to sufficiently contain the contamination.   The ministry rejected Mediapart's allegations it had failed to pay attention to the risks encountered by workers on the site.
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:26:06 +0200 (METDST)

Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - Scores of people including children were wounded Monday after a series of explosions shook the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.

As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province, authorities said, and casualty numbers rose as the day wore on.   "The explosions were caused by IEDs in different parts of the city and as groups of people were celebrating independence day," the Nangarhar governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said, referring to improvised explosive devices.   Jalalabad is the scene of frequent bomb attacks, and the surrounding terrain is home to both Taliban fighters and the Islamic State group's local affiliate.

At least 52 people were wounded, Khogyani said. Zaher Adel, a spokesman for a local hospital, said 66 wounded people had been brought in. An AFP correspondent saw children among the victims.   This year's August 19 celebrations mark 100 years of Afghan independence from British influence.   The day was supposed to be one of national pride and unity, but was overshadowed by an IS suicide attack Saturday on a crowded Kabul wedding hall that killed at least 63 people.

In Kabul, locals took to the streets to wave the black-red-and-green Afghan flag, but several public events to commemorate the date were scrapped as Kabul mourns and due to fears of a fresh attack.    "We postponed the celebrations to honour the victims, but we will definitely take revenge for our people," Afghan President Ahraf Ghani said.   "We will avenge the blood of our people, every drop of it."

Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day, even though the US and the Taliban are in final negotiations for a deal that would see US troops begin to quit Afghanistan and could potentially lead to a reduction in violence.
Date: Wed 14 Aug 2019
Source: Universitat Hohenheim [in German, trans. Britta Lassmann, edited]

The University of Hohenheim and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology [IMB] have detected spotted fever in a hyalomma tick, the 1st time such a tick is suspected to have caused disease in a human in Germany.

This tick feeds on humans and can transmit a form of spotted fever in Germany. What were still unanswered questions about the tropical giant tick hyalomma is now certainty. At the beginning of August [2019], it was suspected that for the 1st time, a human in Germany had contracted a disease with the typical symptoms of rickettsiosis from the bite of a hyalomma tick. Experts from the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and the IMB in Munich were able to detect the pathogen _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ in the tick. The number of hyalomma ticks in Germany increased significantly in 2019 compared to the previous year [2018]. In nearly half of the hyalomma ticks, _R. aeschlimannii_ can be detected. The tick researchers continue to ask the population to send them suspicious ticks.

It was probably no coincidence that this 1st case was in a horse owner. Tropical ticks of the genus _Hyalomma_ feed on large mammals. For several years, these ticks have been on the rise in Germany. Now tick researchers report the 1st suspected case of spotted fever transmitted in Germany. "Not only do we now know for sure that the hyalomma tick is also targeting humans," says Prof Dr Med Ute Mackenstedt, a parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim, "but also that there is the urgent suspicion that the transmission of spotted fever by these ticks is actually possible here in Germany."

The case: At the end of July [2019], the horse owner from near Siegen was bitten by a hyalomma tick. He sent the tick to the tick researcher in Hohenheim. He then presented to the hospital only a few days later with severe symptoms. Spotted fever caused by the bacterium _R. aeschlimannii_ was suspected. The tick was sent by courier service to the IMB in Munich, where the pathogen was detected in the tick. Thereafter, the patient received targeted antibiotic therapy, and his symptoms rapidly improved.

"We are talking about a suspected case, because direct detection of the pathogen from the patient was not possible," explains PD Dr Med Gerhard Dobler, medical doctor at the IMB. "The treatment of the patient came 1st. But the preceding tick bite, the typical symptoms
and, above all, the proof of the pathogen in the tick suggest that the case was spotted fever. The fact that the patient responded to targeted antibiotic therapy further supports this."

_R. aeschlimannii_ causes a feverish infection with headache and muscle pain, extreme joint pain, and a burning sensation. Typical for the disease, however, is the rash that gave the disease its name. This classic sign shows mainly on the extremities. The incubation period is about one week.

"If spotted fever is suspected after a hyalomma bite, a swab should be taken from the bite site and sent for examination," advises PD Dobler. "If there are questions, you are welcome to contact us. Ideally, we would also like to examine the tick."

About half of the hyalomma ticks, the researchers say, are infected with rickettsia. Transmission takes place exclusively via tick bite. "The number of hyalomma ticks in Germany is significantly higher this year [2019] than in the previous year [2018]," reports Prof Dr Med Mackenstedt, referencing the publication in which the situation was presented in 2018. The Hohenheim parasitologist not only cooperates closely with the IMB in Munich, but also with the working group of Prof Dr Med Christina Strube at the Veterinary University (TiHo) Hannover. "Together they already have found 50 such ticks in Germany in 2019. Last year [2018] there were a total of 35." Last year, these ticks had survived the winter in Germany for the 1st time.

"Rickettsia are the only pathogens that we have been able to detect so far," explains PD Dr. Dobler. "We have not found the virus that causes the dangerous Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever, nor the pathogens _Theileria equi_ and _Babesia caballi_, both of which can be transmitted from ticks to horses."

The research team continues to ask the population for support to further explore the spread and potential dangers. In case of a tick bite, it's best to remove the tick with a tick remover, TickCard, or tweezers. Then send the animal in a small, tightly closed container to:
University of Hohenheim
Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt
Department of Parasitology
Emil-Wolff-Strasse 34
70599 Stuttgart

Background: Tick genus _Hyalomma_
_Hyalomma marginatum_ and _Hyalomma rufipes_ are native to the dry and semi-arid areas of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. Until recently, they did not occur in central and northern Europe. Their striped legs are striking, and they are much larger than the native ixodes ticks.

The adult ticks feed on large animals. They are active hunters and move quickly towards their host. They cover a distance of up to 100 m [328 ft]. Humans can serve as hosts. In contrast, tick larvae and nymphs mainly infest birds and small mammals and can stay up to 28 days with their hosts. Migratory birds can introduce larvae and nymphs to Germany.

In Eurasia, both _Hyalomma_ species are considered transmitters of the Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and the Arabic hemorrhagic fever virus (Alkhumra virus). They also transmit the bacterium _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_, which causes a form of spotted fever.

Reference:
Chitimia-Dobler L, et al. Imported _Hyalomma_ ticks in Germany in 2018. Parasites & Vectors. 2019; 12 (134).

More information:
Picture and video material [in German]
Press release: Tropical ticks in Germany: University of Hohenheim asks to send conspicuous tick finds [in German]
Press release: Tropical ticks: New immigrant species winters in Germany for the 1st time [in German]
-----------------------------------
communicated by:
Roland Hubner
Superior Health Council
Brussels
Belgium
====================
[Given that the ticks were found last year (2018) and that they overwintered and were found again this year (2019), it is likely that this genus of tick is becoming established in Germany. Although the species of _Hyalomma_ that infected the man with _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ was not determined, there is a clear association of this rickettsia with the 2 species of _Hyalomma_ that were tested. The published report cited above states, "35 ticks with an unusual appearance or behaviour were reported to us during summer-autumn 2018. For 17 of them, the description or photos implied that they belong to the hard tick genus _Hyalomma_. The remaining 18 ticks were sent to us and were identified as adult _Hyalomma marginatum_ (10 specimens) or adult _Hyalomma rufipes_ (8 specimens). All ticks tested negative for CCHF virus, _Coxiella burnetii_, _Coxiella_-like organisms, _Babesia_ spp. and _Theileria_ spp. The screening for rickettsiae gave positive results in 9 specimens. The _Rickettsia_ species in all cases was identified as _R. aeschlimannii_." Given that these ticks can be transported by birds migrating from Africa, continued surveillance in Germany for the rickettsia and the other pathogens that were not found currently is prudent. - ProMED Mod.TY]

The first human case of _R. aeschlimannii_ infection was identified in a patient who had fever, rash, and an eschar similar to _R. conori_ infection (Mediaterrian spotted fever) after travel in Morocco (1). _R. aeschlimannii_ infections in humans have been previously confirmed in South Africa, in Algeria, and in Tunisia (2). To our knowledge, the first human case of _R. aeschlimannii_ infection reported in Europe occurred in Greece and was reported in 2013 (3).

1. Raoult D, Fournier PE, Abboud P, Caron F. First documented human Rickettsia aeschlimannii infection. Emerg Infect Dis. 2002; 8: 748-9. doi: 10.3201/eid0807.010480
2. Demoncheaux JP, Socolovschi C, Davoust B, Haddad S, Raoult D, Parola P. First detection of _Rickettsia aeschlimanii_ in _Hyalomma dromedarii_ ticks in Tunisia. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2012; 3: 398-402.
3. Germanakis A, Chochlakis D, Angelakis E, Tselentis Y, Psaroulaki A. _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ infection in a man, Greece. Emerg Infect Dis. 2013; 19: 1176-7.  - ProMED Mod. LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Germany:
Date: Wed 19 Aug 2019, 12:48 PM
Source: Kazakh Telegraph Agency [edited]

A total of 4 anthrax cases have been confirmed in the Akmola region, reports the health care department. "Up to [now] 5 [suspected cases of] anthrax have been recorded; lab tests have confirmed 4. The cause of contamination was cow butchering without a veterinary certificate in a private yard," said the interlocutor.

"Epidemiological situation in the Akmola region and Nur-Sultan is stable," said the department. "The situation is being constantly monitored by the committee," said Ludmila Burabekova, chairfigure of the committee of quality control and goods safety. "Anti-epidemic and anti-epizootic arrangements have been organized in the area," she added.
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Date: Wed 19 Aug 2019, 12:04 PM GMT
Source: Radio Free Europe [edited]

A village near the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, is under quarantine after lab tests confirmed anthrax infections in several people.

The Health Ministry said on [19 Aug 2019] that 5 residents of the village of Olginka, 100 km [about 62 mi] east of Nur-Sultan, have been hospitalized in recent days with anthrax symptoms, 4 of whom tested positive for _Bacillus anthracis_ -- the bacterium that causes the infectious disease. According to the statement, the situation in the village in the Aqmola region is under the control of the authorities and all necessary measures are being taken to prevent the possible spread of the disease.

In 2016, in nearby Qaraghandy Oblast, 2 people died as a result of anthrax infections.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic and wild animals -- such as cattle, sheep, goats, antelope, and deer -- can become infected by inhaling or ingesting spores in contaminated soil, plants, or water. CDC says all types of anthrax infections can cause death if they are not treated with antibiotics.
========================
[Olginka is in north-central Kazajhstan; see:

There is a measure of rural poverty in northern half of Kazakhstan, with the result that sick and moribund animals get butchered and eaten. Fortunately, as this village is within 100 Km [about 62 mi] of the Kazakh capital the affected have had the advantage of hospital care and proper laboratory confirmation. The coincident 5th person may have just shown a fever when the medical authorities were looking for clinical cases or it may be a false negative.

Folk have a habit of self-treating with antibiotics and this would have reduced the number of circulating vegetative cells available to testing. My friend Benyamin Cherkasskyi, the Soviet anthrax expert, used to tell me that only some 30%-40% of cutaneous cases would test positive. You have to know to insert your needle in under the lesion to draw out the fluid there which will contain cells, blood, and toxins. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 03:45:54 +0200 (METDST)

Lomo del Pino, Spain, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - A raging wildfire on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria forced the evacuation of some 5,000 people, authorities said Sunday, warning it could take days for the blaze to be brought under control.   The fire, which has spread to the mountainous Cruz de Tejeda region popular with tourists for its breathtaking views, is "extremely fierce" and "unstable", said Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres in a statement.   No fatalities have been reported.

More than 600 firefighters and 14 aircraft battled to contain the flames, hampered by strong winds and high temperatures.   With the temperature set to rise Monday, authorities estimate it could take days before the blaze is brought under control.   "The next few hours will be very important because the weather forecast for the night is not good," Torres said.   The fire broke out days after another wildfire in the same region forced the evacuation of hundreds.

Gran Canaria is the second most populous of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa.   The Canary Islands received 13.7 million foreign visitors last year, over half of them from Britain and Germany.   Spain is frequently plagued by huge forest fires because of its arid summer climate.
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2019 23:01:00 +0200 (METDST)

Lisbon, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Portuguese fuel tanker drivers whose strike has caused fuel shortages at the summer holiday season on Sunday ended their industrial action.   Drivers have been staging a strike since Monday to demand further wage increases in 2021 and 2022, prompting the government to declare an energy crisis.   "Since all the conditions are now in place to negotiate, we decided to end the strike," Pedro Pardal Henriques, spokesman for the National Union of Dangerous Goods Carriers (SNMMP), told reporters.

A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, the union President Francisco Sao Bento said, adding that the union did not "rule out new strikes being called if Antram (the employers association) adopts an uncompromising attitude".   Police had launched an operation to escort fuel tankers with extra supplies and Portugal also mobilised about 500 members of the security forces to replace the strikers and drive the trucks.   Despite the shortages, Energy Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes said about two-thirds of the country's 3,000 or so petrol stations had not run dry.
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:47:26 +0200 (METDST)
By By Emal Haidary and Mushtaq Mojaddidi

Kabul, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Joy and celebration turned into horror and carnage when a suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall, killing at least 63 people in the deadliest attack to rock Kabul in months, officials and witnesses said Sunday.   The massive blast, which took place late Saturday in west Kabul, came as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan and hopefully build a roadmap to a ceasefire.   The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later.

The attack "changed my happiness to sorrow", the young man, who gave his name as Mirwais, told local TV station Tolo News.   "My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting," he said.   "I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again."   Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said at least 63 people had been killed and 182 injured.   "Among the wounded are women and children," Rahimi said. Earlier he stated a suicide bomber carried out the attack.

Afghan weddings are epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating for hours inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children.   "The wedding guests were dancing and celebrating the party when the blast happened," recounted Munir Ahmad, 23, who was seriously injured and whose cousin was among the dead.   "Following the explosion, there was total chaos. Everyone was screaming and crying for their loved ones," he told AFP from his bed in a local hospital, where he is being treated for shrapnel wounds.

Images from inside the hall showed blood-stained bodies on the ground along with pieces of flesh and torn clothes, hats, sandals and bottles of mineral water. The huge blast ripped parts of the ceiling off.   The wedding was believed to be a Shia gathering. Shia Muslims are frequently targeted in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, particularly by the so-called Islamic State group, which is also active in Kabul but did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility.

Wedding guest Hameed Quresh told AFP the young couple were saying their vows when the bomb went off.    "We fainted following the blast, and we don't know who brought us to the hospital," sobbed Quresh, who lost one brother and was himself wounded.   Another guest told Tolo that some 1,200 people had been invited. With low security, weddings are seen as easy targets.   The attack sent a wave of grief through a city grimly accustomed to atrocities. President Ashraf Ghani called it "barbaric", while Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah described it as a "crime against humanity".

- Withdrawal deal expected -
The attack underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face. While the police and army claim they prevent most bombings from ever happening, the fact remains that insurgents pull off horrific attacks with chilling regularity.   On July 28, at least 20 people were killed when attackers targeted Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh as he campaigned in presidential elections.    The incident showed how even amid tight security and known threats, insurgents can conduct brazen attacks.   The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban that would see Washington begin to withdraw its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan.

The deal relies on the Taliban providing guarantees they will stop jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Saturday's attack suggests any such promise would be tough to keep.   The "Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists," Ghani said.   Few believe such a deal will bring quick peace.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban could return, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war.   Meanwhile, in the northern province of Balkh, 11 members of the same family were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb, officials said. The provincial governor blamed the Taliban for planting the device.
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2019 05:28:47 +0200 (METDST)
By Amélie BOTTOLLIER-DEPOIS

Paris, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Seafood lovers who prize the mussel for its earthy taste and succulent flesh may be unaware of its growing potential in the fight against water pollution.   The mussel is the hoover of the sea, taking in phytoplankton for nourishment along with microplastics, pesticides and other pollutants -- which makes it an excellent gauge.

One day, it may also be pressed into service to cleanse water.   "It's a super-filter in the marine world, filtering up to 25 litres of water a day," says marine biologist Leila Meistertzheim.   "It's a real model of bioaccumulation of pollutants generally speaking."   As they pump and filter the water through their gills in order to feed and breathe, mussels store almost everything else that passes through -- which is why strict health rules apply for those destined for human consumption.

Like canaries in a coal mine, mussels have long been used as "bio-indicators" of the health of the seas, lakes and rivers they inhabit.   Little-known pollutants can turn up to join the usual suspects, with increasing attention paid to microplastics containing bisphenol A and phthalates, both thought to be endocrine disruptors.

Meistertzheim heads a study for France's Tara Ocean Foundation using mussels to gauge the health of the estuaries of the Thames, Elba and Seine rivers.   The mussels, placed in fish traps, are submerged in the waters for a month before researchers dissect them to determine what chemical substances lurk in their tissues.   The idea of deploying mussels across the oceans to absorb ubiquitous microplastics is just a dream for now, but for other pollutants, the bivalves are already at work.   "In some places, mussels are used, as well as oysters, to cleanse the sea of pesticides, for example," Meistertzheim notes.

- E. coli busters -
Richard Luthy, an environmental engineer from California's Stanford University, says that, in most cases, mussels harvested from contaminated waters should not be eaten.   But if the contaminant is E. coli, mussels can be thanked for the "removal and inactivation" of the faecal material, he says, calling the service a "public health benefit".   The mussels are edible because they "excrete the bacteria as faeces or mucus," he says.   Mussels living in waterways affected by eutrophication -- often marked by abundant algae -- are also fit for human consumption, researchers say.   The phenomenon is often the result of waste dumped into the waterway containing phosphates and nitrites, such as detergents, fertilisers and sewage.   The nutrients in these substances encourage the proliferation of algae, which in turn starves the water of oxygen, upsetting the ecosystem.

Mussels "recycle" these nutrients by feeding on the algae, says Eve Galimany, a researcher of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Milford Laboratory who has experimented with mussels in the Bronx River in New York.   The recycling principle is already at work in a pilot project titled Baltic Blue Growth in Sweden, Denmark and the Baltic countries which grows mussels to be fed to animals such as poultry, fish and pigs.   "Eutrophication... is the biggest problem of the Baltic Sea, the most urgent one," says project head Lena Tasse. Mussels "could be part of a solution".   Why feed them to animals if they are safe for humans? Because Baltic mussels are too small to be of interest to seafood lovers, says Tasse, adding: "Swedes like big mussels."

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on the effects of microplastics on human health.   A recent report by WWF said that humans ingest an average of five grammes of microplastics a week -- about the weight of a credit card.   A 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, based on samples from British coastlines and supermarkets, estimated that every 100 grammes (3.5 ounces) of mussels contained 70 tiny pieces of plastic.   Should we be worried? Meistertzheim thinks not.   "I eat them," she says. "A dish of mussels is not necessarily worse than organic hamburger meat wrapped in plastic."