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Finland

Finland - US Consular Information Sheet
January 13, 2009
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Finland is a highly developed democracy with a modern economy.
It is a member of the European Union.
Tourist facilities are widely available.
Read
the Department of State Background Notes on Finland for additional information.
ENTRY REQUIREMENTS:
Finland is a party to the Schengen agreement.
As such, U.S. citizens may enter Finland for up to 90 days for tourist or business purposes without a visa.
The passport should be valid for at least three months beyond the period of stay.
For further details about travel into and within Schengen countries, please see our Schengen fact sheet.

Travelers can contact the Embassy of Finland at 3301 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W., Washington, DC 20008, tel: (202) 298-5800, or the Finnish Consulates General in Los Angeles or New York.
Additional information is available via the Internet at http://www.finland.org.
The U.S. Embassy in Helsinki is not able to assist private U.S. citizens in obtaining any necessary visas for neighboring countries, including Russia and other countries of the former Soviet Union.

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:
Finland remains largely free of terrorist incidents.
However, like other countries in the Schengen area, Finland’s open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.
Elements of organized crime groups operating in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe are present in Finland, but these do not represent a specific danger to U.S. citizen residents or tourists.
Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up to date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

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

CRIME:
Although the crime rate in Finland is low compared to the U.S. and most European countries, it has increased in recent years; however, Finland remains a relatively safe environment.
Americans visiting Finland are seldom victims of crime, but visitors should not be complacent regarding personal safety or the protection of valuables.
The same precautions employed in the U.S. should be followed in Finland.
Finnish police services are excellent. Travelers should be aware that some police officers speak little English.
Due to the low crime rate, Finland has one of the lowest numbers of police officers of any European nation.
Outside of key sites in major urban centers, they rarely project a visible presence; consequently, response times to crisis situations may be unpredictable.
All forms of public transportation are considered safe.
Street crimes, such as muggings and pick-pocketing, remain uncommon, but do occur.

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, to 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.

Finland has a program to provide financial compensation to victims who suffer serious criminal injuries.
According to existing regulations, the victim must report the incident to the police and file an application for compensation within 10 years of the date of the crime.
Finnish police routinely inform victims of serious crime of their right to seek compensation.
The relevant forms and further information can be obtained from http://www.treasuryfinland.fi.
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Finland is 112.
Please see our additional information for Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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 Finland’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Finland are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit 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
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Commercial and financial transactions in Finland are increasingly automated and on-line.
Cash is almost always acceptable (the currency is the euro), but most major credit cards are widely recognized.
Automatic Teller Machines are very common and many U.S.-issued bankcards are compatible with them.

MEDICAL FACILITIES and Health information:
In Finland, medical facilities and their staff are generally excellent and are widely available for emergency services.
English is commonly spoken by Finnish medical personnel.
Helsinki is a frequent medical evacuation point for emergency cases from the countries of the former Soviet Union.
The public hospital system and many private hospitals honor foreign credit cards.
Most pharmacies (“apteekki” in Finnish) are open during normal shopping hours and major cities have at least one 24-hour service pharmacy.
If you are a tourist or temporary visitor to Finland and you require immediate emergency medical assistance, you may visit a local medical center or clinic, called “ensiapuasema” (first-aid station) in Finnish.
Usually these stations are located at hospitals and provide a full range of services.
The emergency telephone number, 112, can be used throughout Finland to contact emergency medical services.
For more detailed information on medicines and medical issues, please visit the website of the Finnish Embassy in Washington, DC at http://www.finland.org.
Travelers with special medical needs should consult with their personal physicians and take appropriate precautions, including bringing adequate supplies of necessary medication.
Medicines may be brought into the country as long as they are intended for the traveler’s personal use, however, there are special requirements concerning the quantity.
Medications categorized as narcotics may only be brought into the country to cover the traveler’s personal use for a maximum of 14 days and must be accompanied by a medical certificate stating why the traveler needs them.
For more detailed information, please contact the Finnish Embassy in Washington, DC at http://www.finland.org
In addition, stringent Finnish customs regulations prohibit travelers from receiving drugs from abroad after having arrived in the country.
Travelers may also find local physicians reluctant to prescribe equivalent quantities of dosages.

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

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Finland is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Finnish roads are comparable to those in the U.S., though secondary roads may be less heavily traveled due to Finland’s sparse population outside the major urban areas.
These secondary routes often narrow to two lanes with a wider shoulder.
Slower vehicles are expected to move onto the shoulder to allow faster moving vehicles to pass.
Finland has an extensive network of highways throughout the country, as well as excellent public transportation services.
A valid U.S. driver’s license may be used while visiting Finland, but drivers must be at least 18 years of age.
Driving in Finland is on the right.
Traffic approaching from the right usually has priority, even if entering a primary roadway from a secondary one.
Road signs use standard international symbols and Finnish text.
Many urban streets have traffic lanes reserved for public transportation only.
Unless otherwise noted on traffic signs, the speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on open roads, and 120 km/h on expressways during summer (reduced to 100 km/h during winter).
Vehicles must use headlights at all times.
Use of seatbelts is mandatory for drivers and all passengers.
Minor children must be seated in approved child or booster seats.

Public transport in Finland is of good quality and is the recommended method of travel.
Passenger trains, intercity buses, and air flights provide regular service over longer distances.
Public transportation in urban centers includes buses, subways, trams, suburban trains, and taxis.
Taxis are more expensive than in major U.S. cities.
Most local residents use public transport in Helsinki as parking can be hard to find and expensive.
The bus, train, and subway systems are relatively safe.
Travelers should be aware that drunk-driving laws are strict and acceptable blood alcohol levels are much lower in Finland than in the U.S.
Police strictly enforce all traffic laws and institute random roadside breath analyzer tests.
Drivers who register .05 or above alcohol content are subject to immediate arrest.
Drivers should be aware that regulations and traffic signs differ significantly from those in the U.S.
Visitors should be familiar with both prior to operating a vehicle in Finland.
Driving in Finland during the winter months can be hazardous.
Daylight hours are very short and one should be comfortable with driving in darkness.
Icy road conditions are common.
If driving in Finland, the vehicle must be winterized with studded snow tires and engine heaters are strongly recommended.
When driving at night, drivers must be alert to moose wandering onto major roadways.
There have been incidents of moose being struck by vehicles, causing severe damage to the vehicle and injury, sometimes fatal, to the occupants.
For real-time updates on road conditions throughout Finland, see the Finnish Road Administration’s travel and traffic information web site at http://www.finnra.fi
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.mek.fi
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Finland’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Finland’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
Please see our information on customs regulations.

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

REGISTRATION AND EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Finland are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website, https://travelregistration.state.gov, so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Finland.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Itainen Puistotie 14B.
The telephone number for the American Citizens Services unit is 358-9-616-25-701, 0830 to 1700 Monday to Friday (after hours, 358-9-616-25-0); the fax number is 358-9-616-25-800; e-mail:
HelsinkiACS@state.gov.
The address of the Embassy’s Internet home page is http://www.usembassy.fi
*

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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated May 23, 2008 to update the sections on Information for Victims of Crime and Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri 14 Dec 2018
Source: UUTISET [edited]

An unvaccinated individual, who caught the contagious disease in Poland, attended a large church service in Tampere and infected at least 2 other people. Three adults have been diagnosed with measles in Tampere after attending a Catholic parish church event in late November along with more than 100 people, according to the Pirkanmaa Hospital District.

Two of the adults diagnosed have been vaccinated, so they are not contagious. The source of the outbreak is an unvaccinated person, who caught the measles in Poland. But according to the Pirkanmaa Hospital District, further cases may still arise.

In 1975 Finland began to administer a single dose of the measles vaccine to all one-year-olds and by 1982 Finland began administering the vaccine in 2 doses between the ages of 1 and 6. However some people born in the 1970s are among those who received only one jab. MMR is a triple-dose vaccine that provides protection against measles, mumps and rubella.

Measles spread at religious event
---------------------------------
The event in question was Tampere's Pyhan Ristin (Sacred Cross) Catholic Parish church mass on 25 Nov 2018. It was attended by more than 100 people, including children. Pirkanmaa Hospital District doctor Kirsi Valve, a specialist in infectious diseases, confirmed that the infected individual who caught the measles in Poland was at the church event. The cases came to light when 2 vaccinated individuals contracted high fevers and came down with skin rashes. The unvaccinated person, who infected the others, has had more severe symptoms than the vaccinated individuals.

"The individuals quickly got in touch with healthcare services owing to high fevers, and skin rashes that rapidly spread all over their bodies," says Valve. "It was confirmed that on 25 Nov 2018 the unvaccinated individual who caught the measles in Poland and brought it back to Finland was at the parish event and is the source of the outbreak."

As the source of the outbreak is known, healthcare officials are also looking into whether the person could have possibly exposed others.

Measles in the news
-------------------
Measles has been on the agenda this winter after an unvaccinated child in Ostrobothnia took ill with measles. Meanwhile, it also came to light that many adults in Finland may not have been vaccinated against measles during the early 1970s.

Measles is a rare disease. The previous outbreak was 2 summers ago when 4 vaccinated children caught measles in Italy and started showing symptoms after returning to Finland. The Pirkanmaa Hospital District recommends that anyone who attended the Catholic parish event in late November 2018 and exhibits symptoms that suggest measles or anyone who hasn't been vaccinated with the MMR vaccine contact their healthcare centre.

If those who attended the parish event are healthy, but have not been vaccinated, the Pirkanmaa Hospital District recommends that they contact their healthcare centre to be vaccinated. The measles vaccine is free and administered as part of the MMR shot, which also provides protection against rubella and the mumps.
Date: Fri 2 Nov 2018
Source: UUTISET [edited]

Around 1/3 of the ticks in Finland -- mostly found in the south -- carry at least one pathogen, and 2 percent of the persistent arachnids carry several disease-causing agents, researchers at Turku University said.

About 30 percent of common ticks and 24 percent of taiga tick populations have been found to carry one disease pathogen. Common ticks more commonly carry several disease-causing pathogens than taiga ticks, according to the researchers.

The most common pathogen found in the ticks was _Borrelia burgdorferi_, the bacterial species that causes Lyme disease in humans, an illness referred to locally as borreliosis. The pathogen was found in 17 percent of the ticks at the university's growing tick database bank.

Lyme disease cases are treated with aggressive antibiotics without necessarily determining which specific bacterium is responsible for the infection.

Thanks to a growing tick database at the University of Turku, researchers have new insights into the disease pathogens that the tiny, blood-sucking arachnids carry.

New research has revealed that ticks on the south coast carry the most pathogens, but the region is almost exclusively home to the most common ticks: _Ixodes ricinus_, or castor bean ticks).

Both castor bean ticks and taiga ticks [_Ixodes persulcatus_] are now commonly found in areas across central Finland, the researchers said. Even further north, the tick populations are quite similar to ones in central areas, but the taiga has become more common in the north.

About 3 years ago, researchers at the university asked members of the public to send in ticks they had found, and now the institution has received more than 20 000 ticks. The researchers say that they want to take advantage of the significant amount of information they can learn from the specimens.

Examination of those thousands of tiny arachnids have uncovered many types of disease-causing bacteria, and researchers have new insights into the arachnids themselves and the potential illnesses they carry.

The researchers said they hope to learn more about ticks, saying that their research has only begun, and that their study of the ticks will continue for several years. Ultimately, their goal is to find how tick-borne illnesses are transmitted, they said.
======================
[This is an interesting example of how a large group of people, many undoubtedly non-scientists, can contribute to an effort that requires many hours of collection effort. Although _Borrelia burgdorferi_ is endemic in Finland, finding it and possibly other bacterial pathogens in about 1/3 of the 20 000 ticks collected is of public health significance. _Ixodes ricinus_ is also the tick vector of European tick-borne encephalitis virus, but no mention is made of it in the above report. Perhaps it was not tested for. Images of both ticks can be found in the above report. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Thu, 1 Nov 2018 16:46:12 +0100
From: topic@afp.com

Helsinki, Nov 1, 2018 (AFP) - Santa Claus has already begun his preparations in Lapland -- by protecting himself from winter viruses and making sure he hires enough elves.   On Thursday nurse Tiia Kahkonen administered an anti-influenza vaccine to Santa, at his village in the Arctic Circle town of Rovaniemi, northern Finland. 

The jab is likely to be a sensible precaution, as the flu season coincides with the busiest time of the year by far in Lapland.    In December last year 390,000 foreign visitors spent a night in Finnish Lapland, an increase of almost ten percent on the previous Christmas.    By far the largest group of Christmas holidaymakers were Brits, followed by Russian, French and German tourists, according to official statistics.

Meanwhile a recruitment agency in Finnish Lapland, inside the Arctic circle, has put out a call for Christmas elves to look after the hordes of tourists who come to visit Santa in his natural habitat during the winter months.   Prior experience is not essential as the advert, posted by the firm Lapland Staff, promises that training will be provided in "the required elfing and communication skills."   Successful applicants will also be given tips on how to deal with the cold in northern Finland where temeratures rarely rise above zero degrees Celsius, and can drop as low as minus 40.

Although handling Santa's reindeer is not listed among the job's duties, elves will need to herd groups of visitors on and off buses, as well as keep tourists entertained. "Looking after the fireplace and pouring hot juice" are also required, as is supervising the toboggan hill.   Tourism to Lapland has reached an all-time high in recent years, with visitors spending 3.5 million nights in Lapland across the whole year, up from 2.6 million a decade earlier, according to Statistics Finland.    Much of the recent growth has been driven by tourism from Asia.
Date: Sun, 17 Dec 2017 04:43:36 +0100
By Camille BAS-WOHLERT

Rovaniemi, Finland, Dec 17, 2017 (AFP) - In the run up to Christmas tourists from around the world flock to the Santa Claus Village, an amusement park in Finnish Lapland, where temperatures can hit nearly -15 degrees Celsius (5 Fahrenheit).    They buy soft toys and souvenirs from pricey gift shops while a bearded Santa receives hundreds of admirers a day throughout December before embarking on his world tour from the valleys of Finland to the skyscrapers of New York and beyond to deliver gifts.

Holding their winter beanie hats in their hands, visitors wait patiently in line for a brief encounter with "Joulupukki" -- the Finnish word for Santa Claus -- and a photo opportunity in exchange for hard currency.    "We've seen other Santas but that wasn't the real one. But we're told that is the real one," said Mary Gleadall, an eight-year-old tourist from Southampton in the UK, visiting the amusement park with her parents, brother and sister.    According to Christmas lore, Santa lives in a secret place in the middle of the snowy pines of the North Pole. But the question is where?     Since 2010, Rovaniemi, the capital of Finnish Lapland, has marketed itself as Santa's "official home".    Situated a few miles from the city, the Santa Claus Village is located in front of a huge gas station. 

Tourists rush to cross the Arctic Circle, marked by a white line, to meet Santa Claus in his wooden home with a pointed roof.    But entering his private cottage is out of the question as Mother Claus is reportedly protective of their privacy.    In a large room, the white-bearded old man sits in an armchair next to a chest full of letters.    Each year, he receives more than 300,000 visitors, a deluge he embraces with humility.    "I'm very happy. I'm not exhausted but, of course, I get tired once in a while" he says.    And how does Santa Claus regain his energy?    "I love to take nap every once and then. Fifteen minutes sleeping and then all is very good." he says.

- Exalted tourists -
Shizuka Kawahara and Saki Itoi, Japanese tourists in their thirties, flew for more than 24 hours to hug Santa for a few seconds in a precious moment immortalised with a photograph taken by an elf.    The price for one shot starts at 30 euros ($35). Photographing with one's own camera is forbidden as it would ruin the magic of the moment, says the staff of the house.     Four-year-old Harry Gleadall, Mary's brother, approaches Santa without fear.    He quickly states his list of what he wants for Christmas: Transformers and some more Transformers before he skeptically shakes Santa's hand.    "But what if it wasn't the real Santa Claus?" Harry asks with concern.    Eager to set the record straight -- and justify the long trip -- his mother quickly assures him that the chubby red-clothed man is indeed the real deal.    After a tour around the shop which sells hand-made "Lapland" emblems and tons of souvenirs, the family is back in the village square, surrounded by wooden homes, Christmas carols piped out of nearby speakers.

- Polar safari -
In this winter wonderland, tourists have the opportunity to go on a reindeer sleigh ride.    A snow "safari" of 400 metres costs 14 euros per child and 18 euros per adult, an exotic experience for many foreigners who seek to discover the arctic landscapes steeped in pink light.    The -13 degrees Celsius does not discourage the plucky visitors bundled up in their ski suits.    "Everything that have been told to me during childhood, it's come true," said Perpetua, a tourist from Dubai, describing the break from the year round desert climate as "heaven".   "We expected magic and this is what we found," added Max, an Italian tourist. "Everything seems to be magic, the lights, the place, everything here".   But Miriana, a 24-year-old Italian on a university exchange programme in southern Finland, was less convinced.   "The place is really nice. But I think nevertheless that it's a bit commercial," she said.
Date: Tue 18 Oct 2016
From: Tiina Nokireki <tiina.nokireki@evira.fi> [edited]

The Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira) received a bat (Daubenton's bat, _Myotis daubentonii_) for laboratory analyses. The bat was found by a private person. The bat had neurological signs and then died.

Laboratory analyses conducted during the 13 and 14 Oct 2016, confirmed the presence of rabies by FAT. The virus was then identified as European Bat Lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) by RT-PCR and partial sequencing of the gene for the nucleoprotein. Also cell culture is positive.

The bat originated from Inkoo in the province of Southern Finland and is part of the Uusimaa region. This is the 2nd case of EBLV-2 in a bat in Finland.
-----------------------------------------
Tiina Nokireki
Head of Section, DVM, Specialist in Veterinary Medicine, Infectious
Diseases
Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira
Research Department, Veterinary Virology
Mustialankatu 3,
FI-00790 Helsinki,
Finland
=========================
[Special thanks to Dr. Nokireki for this important contribution. Infections by European Bat Lyssavirus type 2 (EBLV-2) have been previously reported in Northern Europe, not only in bats, but also in humans. EBLV-1 appears to be more prevalent, accounting for the vast majority of all EBLV-infected bats. Reports of EBLV-2 correspond to Daubenton's bats (_Myotis daubentonii_), indicating that this bat species is the reservoir of this _Lyssavirus_ strain.

For a picture of a Daubenton's bat go to

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
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World Travel News Headlines

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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