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Greece

Background
Greece offers a great variety of attractions for the international traveller. A beautiful climate linked with great beaches, a vibrant nightlife and historical monuments to rival any other location throughout the world. All of this located
within western Europe and a short flight away from many of the cooler northern destinations - like Ireland. Travellers from these regions descent on Greece in very significant numbers each year and for the vast majority of them they will have a splendid and healthy time. However for some this may not be the case and serious illness and accidents are regularly reported. Following some commonsense rules would go a long way to avoiding disaster and ensuring that this trip is truly one to be remembered for all the right reasons.
Climate
Situated in southern Europe the country enjoys mild winters but very hot summers. There may be occasional cool breezes (meltemia) but these can serve only to fool the traveller into thinking that they are unlikely to burn. Rain is very uncommon during the height of summer (July and August) and all travellers should be advised to use very adequate sun-block lotion at all times.
Slip, Slop, Slap
Following the Australian mantra of Slip, Slop and Slap makes perfect sense. Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen and slap on a hat when out and about during the day and this should help protect against the intense suns rays. Nevertheless, despite all their best intentions, travellers get burnt. This is particularly a problem in the first few days after their arrival when they do not realise the intensity of the suns rays and how easily they can be exposed. Falling asleep beside the hotel's swimming pool or on the beach is a very common problem and must be avoided against. The tips of the ears, shoulders (especially along the bra-strap line, ankles and behind the knees are commonly exposed and forgotten areas.
After Sun care
To treat significant sunburn it is important to increase fluid intake but also to take extra salt on your food (unless medically contraindicated for some specific condition like high blood pressure etc). Soothing water soluble lotions (especially ones containing a mild anaesthetic and/or steroid cream) are probably best but certainly avoid any of the ones which paste the skin with a thick layer - which is almost impossible to remove without causing serious pain! The more severe sunburn cases may need medical care and even hospitalisation which really ruins a holiday.
Food & Water
As a European destination Greece has a good level of food and water hygiene. Unfortunately this can vary - especially as you move away from the main tourist destinations and also as the summer temperatures rise and food goes 'off' more quickly. Eating hot food, avoiding cold foods (side-salads, lettuce etc) and never eating undercooked bivalve shellfish (mussels, oysters, clams etc) makes perfect sense. Eating food or taking fruit juice drinks from street vendors is a risk just not worth taking.
Insect bites
There may be both mosquitoes and sandflys about so having good repellents (DEET based ones) is worthwhile. The biggest problem will be early in the morning and towards the end of the daylight hours. However sitting in the shade while having lunch may be nice and cool but it is also often a place where these insects tend to hover looking for their next meal. Just don't allow that meal to be the blood in your unguarded ankle!
Seeing the Monuments
As mentioned previously Greece is covered with ancient monuments and these attract many thousands of tourists each year. The ruins are often not the most hospitable places for sun-sensitive tourists so taking care against the suns rays is essential - especially while standing carefully listening to the tour guide explain some complicated piece of history while the back of your legs get roasted! The other issue, for those trekking through the ruins, is the distinct possibility of a nasty twisted ankle.
Laser Night shows
Many of the ancient sites have beautiful night shows which depict something of the past splendour and are definitely worth seeing. However it is wise to wear good shoes as stumbling across loose stones is a particular problem at night and also bring a small torch, if possible, to guide your way. Getting separated from your travelling companions, or not being able to find your return bus, can lead to some understandable panic so listen carefully to any instructions and look out for some land marks before you get too far away into the night time crowd.
Animal bites
Some tourists may forget that rabies is a problem in many countries throughout the world and, even though Greece is regarded as rabies-free', there is always a problem if someone should get bitten. The possibility that this animal could have been recently smuggled into the country cannot be out ruled and so many would advise full post exposure treatment should this contact occur. Children may be at particular risk due to their inquisitive nature.
Swimming
Sunburn and swimming go hand in hand but drowning can also occur all too frequently within this region. Strong currents, swimming after meals (or alcohol) and the ever popular romantic midnight swim are all serious risk factors. Also children running around the deep end of the pool may lose their footing and topple in without warning. Unfortunately a very small child sinks instantly with very little sign of the emergency to those close by. Parents need to keep aware of this risk at all times.
The summer working holiday
Many of our students head towards Greece for 2 to 3 months during the summer to work. The attractions are obvious but commonsense and sensible life-style choices are needed throughout their stay to lessen the risk of illness or them returning home with an infection they had not bargained for. Unfortunately many return home with life-long illnesses which have been contracted from a single unprotected sexual contact.
Vaccinations for Greece
As a general rule the usual travel vaccines are not recommended for most short-term travellers to this region. However for the student planning to spend a more prolonged period it would be sensible to consider cover against both Hepatitis A and Hepatitis B and also to check that their Tetanus cover is up-to-date.
Summary
This is still one of the most popular destinations for northern European travellers and, in the vast majority of cases, they will have a fantastic time with only good memories. Unfortunately some less prepared folks will end up with serious sunburn and other illnesses or diseases which perhaps are frequently associated with their own lack of care and protection rather than anything specific to this beautiful country.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 13 Aug 2019 11:40:19 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, Aug 13, 2019 (AFP) - Dozens of firefighters Tuesday battled a major wildfire that forced the evacuation of a monastery on the Greek island of Evia as smoke from the blaze reached as far as Athens, authorities said.   Authorities also placed on alert two villages threatened by the blaze on the island, Greece's second largest after Crete and located northeast of Athens.   The fire started at about 3 am (0000 GMT) at the side of a road and was quickly spread by strong winds through the dry and dense vegetation in the centre of the island, the semi-official news agency ANA said.

The monastery of Panagia Makrymallis was evacuated as a precaution and residents of the villages of Kontodespoti and Stavros were told to be ready to leave also, TV SKAI said.   "Everything is ready in case it is necessary to evacuate the villages. The evacuation can be done in a few minutes. We are totally prepared," Fani Spanos, the governor of central Greece who was coordinating the operations, told SKAI.   He warned the fire was not yet under control and was spreading in an area that was inaccessible overland.

Around 80 firefighters were fighting the blaze backed by some 40 fire trucks and two water-bombing helicopters and a plane.   The strong winds blew the smoke from the blazing pine forest north toward the Magnesia region and south to the Attica peninsula and Athens.   ANA said the pine forests on Evia are part of the "Natura 2000" European network of protected areas and habitats.   Greece has been hit by a spate of wildfires since the weekend amid gale-force winds and temperatures of 40 degrees Celsius (104 F).

On Monday, a major forest fire threatening homes in Peania, an eastern suburb of Athens, was brought under control. At least two houses were burned but there were no reports of injuries.   On Sunday, a fire on the small island of Elafonissos, in the Peloponnese region, was brought under control after a two-day battle.   Two more fires were doused on Saturday in Marathon, close to Mati, the coastal resort where last year 102 people died in Greece's worst fire disaster.
Date: Sun, 11 Aug 2019 14:32:21 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, Aug 11, 2019 (AFP) - A French man was charged in Greece on Sunday over a boat accident that left two dead and another person seriously injured, state TV ERT reported.   The 44-year-old was charged with negligent manslaughter by a prosecutor and given 24 hours to prepare his defence, ERT said.  The man's lawyer Nikos Emmanouilidis had earlier told reporters that his client "will assist in every way any request by the Greek authorities."

The suspect has admitted to driving a 10-metre (32-foot) speedboat which struck a smaller wooden fishing boat on Friday evening near the Peloponnese resort of Porto Heli, 170 kilometres (105 miles) southwest of Athens.   The collision killed two elderly Greek men on board. A 60-year-old Greek woman, reportedly their sister, was seriously injured and taken to Athens for treatment.

The suspect could not be located for several hours after the incident before turning himself in on Saturday.   He has denied trying to evade arrest, and claims he was also injured in the incident and had sought first aid.   The suspect has said he did not see the fishing boat, which may have had insufficient lighting, state news agency ANA reported.   He has taken a blood alcohol test, with the results to be available on Monday.   "The first indications point to excessive speed by the powerboat driver," Merchant Marine Minister Yiannis Plakiotakis told ERT on Saturday.

Ten other French nationals who were also on the speedboat -- two men, three women and five children aged three to 14 -- were initially taken to Porto Heli for questioning after helping to bring the injured woman and one of the bodies to shore, the coastguard said.   They were all released on Saturday.   Speedboat accidents involving swimmers or other boats are common in Greece during the busy summer holiday season.

Another speedboat on Friday injured a 32-year-old swimmer at the Athens coastal suburb of Glyfada. The driver was arrested.   In 2016, four people including a four-year-old girl were killed when a speedboat sliced into their wooden tourist vessel near the island of Aegina.   Nobody was sanctioned as the prime suspect, an elderly Greek man, died a year after the accident.
Date: Sat, 10 Aug 2019 19:32:52 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, Aug 10, 2019 (AFP) - Greece on Saturday battled over 50 wildfires nationwide, including a major blaze near Athens, in a dangerous mix of high temperatures and strong winds unseen in nearly a decade.   The fire department said it had mobilised more than 450 firemen and 23 aircraft nationwide to tackle the fires, including one on the island of Elafonissos and two around Marathon, near Athens.   A camping site and a hotel on Elafonissos and a children's summer camp near Marathon were evacuated as a precaution, state news agency ANA reported.

Marathon is a short distance from Mati, the coastal resort where last year 102 people died in Greece's worst fire disaster.   Temperatures in some areas are expected to hit 40 degrees Celius (104 degrees Fahrenheit) on Sunday, accompanied by gale force winds.   On Friday, civil protection chief Nikos Hardalias said it was the first time since 2012 that the country had faced such a mix of high temperatures, strong winds and low humidity.   "We are called upon to manage extreme weather conditions over the next three days... we must all be careful," Hardalias told reporters as he placed emergency services on high alert.
Date: Fri 2 Aug 2019
Source: French.Cnina.org.cn [in French, trans. Corr.SB, edited]

Two people over 80 were the 1st victims of West Nile virus in Greece this year [2019], according to the weekly epidemiological surveillance report published by the National Public Health Organization (EODY).

From the beginning of epidemiological surveillance until today [2 Aug 2019], 25 cases of West Nile virus infection have been diagnosed and studied in Greece. In 17 of the patients reported, the central nervous system (CNS) was affected (encephalitis and/or meningitis/acute flaccid paralysis), while 8 had mild symptoms, such as fever.

The median age of patients with CNS symptoms is 77 years old. Of the 25 patients, 10 are hospitalized.

The areas where virus cases have been recorded in the country are Pieria, Katerini, Pella, Xanthi, Kavala, Larissa, Karditsa as well as East Attica and Mesogia.

West Nile virus is spread mainly through the bites of infected mosquitoes, experts say.

The implementation of mosquito control and personal protection programs is most appropriate for controlling the disease, the EODY noted.
====================
[Greece has had both human and equine cases of West Nile virus in recent years. Mosquito control can be difficult and expensive, especially over such a broad geographic area. For humans, the best preventive measure is avoidance of mosquito bites. There is a vaccine for equine animals, but not for humans. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Sat, 3 Aug 2019 14:22:20 +0200 (METDST)

Athens, Aug 3, 2019 (AFP) - Another earthquake shook Greece on Saturday, this time off the Aegean island of Karpathos, the Greek Geodynamic Institute said, although there were no immediate reports of damage or injuries.    The epicentre of the 4.8-magnitude quake, which occurred at 0951 GMT, was 71 kilometres (44 miles) off the coast of Karpathos at a depth of around 10 kilometres, the institute said.    It came just three days after a 5.2-magnitude quake on the island of Crete and just under a week after a 4.2-magnitude tremor some 20 kilometres northwest of Athens.

Greece lies on major fault lines and is regularly hit by earthquakes, but they rarely cause casualties.   In 2017, a 6.7-magnitude earthquake killed two people on the island of Kos in the Aegean sea, causing significant damage.   In 1999, a 5.9-magnitude quake left 143 people dead in Athens and the region northwest of the capital.
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Indonesia

*****
Information for Bali
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General
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Bali is one of the main tourist destinations for many Irish travellers to Indonesia. The island is well developed for the tourist industry and genera
ly the climate is tropical and humid throughout the year. Many Irish travellers will use the island as a stopover. If this is for only 24 to 28 hours the extent of your jetlag may leave you little time to enjoy the country and its people.
Safety & Security
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Throughout Indonesia there are many regions where it is unsafe to travel. The Parliament in Indonesia may impeach the President in the near future. Civil disturbance with student demonstrations in the capital Jakarta, earthquakes in the island of Sumatra, unrest regarding the independence of Timor and profound warring fractions on the island of Borneo has the potential to spill over into Bali. Nevertheless during the past years Bali has remained stable and there have been few reports of serious disturbances that have affected tourists or business travellers. Lombok is an island close to Bali often visited by tourists. It is regarded as more unstable and recently (Dec 2000) four explosions during fighting between two villages (Bongor & Parampuan). The main tourist region around Senggigi has remained quiet.

Local Customs
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The laws against illegal drugs are severe and travellers should ensure that they carry sufficient well-marked medication that they may require for their time in Indonesia. Travellers are required to show identification at any time and so carrying photocopies of your passport is a wise precaution. Keep all valuable documents in a safe place and do not flaunt personal wealth while travelling around the island.
Night Activities
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The nightlife in Bali is one of the main attractions for many tourists but sensible precautions are required. Travelling alone is unwise. Take care to ensure that your drink could not be spiked at any stage and do not walk at night, use an authorised taxi where possible. The level of HIV infection among the bar workers is high and close personal contact is very unwise.
Medical Facilities
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The level of available health facilities varies greatly through Bali and other parts of Indonesia. In general most of the main hotels will have English speaking doctors but care would be required if your illness requires hospitalisation.
Food and Water
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It is wise to maintain a high level of care with regard to your food and water while in Indonesia. This includes even those in high quality hotels but also particularly for those eating from street vendors. Bivalve shellfish (e.g. oysters, mussels, clams etc) should be avoided at all times due to inadequate cooking. Bottled water should be purchased from your hotel or good quality shops to ensure that it is pure.
Mosquitoes and Insect Bites
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Malaria transmission occurs throughout Indonesia all year but the risk in Bali is so low that prophylaxis is not generally recommended for most tourists. Nevertheless for those visiting Lombok (overnight visits) the risk exists and prophylaxis should be considered. Other mosquito borne diseases also occur throughout Indonesia and care must be taken to avoid insect bites. In Jakarta and other main cities there is a particular problem with a viral disease called Dengue Fever. The mosquito, which transmits this disease, typically bites during the day and in main urban centres.
Sun Exposure
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The strength of the sun in Bali is considerable higher than that experienced in Ireland at any time of the year. Sufficient head covering should be worm when exposed and travellers should ensure that their fluid intake is sufficient. Salt depletion also needs to be replaced in times of significant perspiration.
Swimming
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If swimming in pools, make sure that sufficient chlorination has been used. Take care with small children when close to the deep end of the pool. If sea swimming make sure that there are always others around and that you heed any local advice and warning signs. Never swim soon after alcohol or for an hour after mealtime.
Jet Lag
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The extent of jet lag, which you will experience, depends on the duration of your flight and the amount of rest you were able to get before arrival. Try to rest for the first 24 hours to allow your body to acclimatise and make sure you do not fall asleep beside the swimming pool during this initial period.
Vaccinations for Bali
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There are no essential vaccines or entry to Bali from Western Europe. However for your personal protection travellers are recommended to consider vaccination cover against;
*
Poliomyelitis (childhood booster)
*
Tetanus (childhood booster)
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Typhoid (food & water disease)
*
Hepatitis A (food & water disease)
Other travellers planning a more rural or extensive trip may need to consider other vaccine cover against diseases like Hepatitis B, Japanese B Encephalitis, Rabies.
Summary
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The majority of those visiting Bali will enjoy the many tourist attractions on the island. However commonsense and care is required to ensure that you do not expose yourself to unnecessary risk. The staff of the Tropical Medical Bureau can be contacted at either of the numbers below if you require further information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat, 3 Aug 2019 22:33:09 +0200 (METDST)

Jakarta, Aug 3, 2019 (AFP) - Five people died and several were injured after a powerful undersea earthquake rocked Indonesia's heavily populated Java island, triggering a brief tsunami warning, the national disaster agency said Saturday.   The 6.9 magnitude quake on Friday evening sent residents fleeing to higher ground, while many in the capital Jakarta ran into the streets.

An official from Indonesia's national disaster agency warned the quake could generate a tsunami as high as three metres (10 feet), but the alert was lifted several hours later.   Three people died of heart attacks as the strong quake rocked the region, agency spokesman Agus Wibowo said on Saturday.   Another person fell to his death while trying to flee his house when the jolt happened, he said, while a fifth victim died from a panic attack.   Four more people were injured and more than 200 buildings were damaged, with about 13 houses destroyed, he added.

More than 1,000 people, who had earlier fled to temporary shelters, returned home after authorities convinced them it was safe to do so, Wibowo said.   "There was thundering noise -- it sounded like a plane overhead -- and I was just so scared that I ran," said 69-year-old Isah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, at an evacuation shelter in Pandeglang at the southwest end of Java.   In December, the area was hit by a volcano-sparked tsunami that killed more than 400 people.

Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide.   Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.   On December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.
Date: Sun, 14 Jul 2019 12:47:38 +0200

Labuha, Indonesia, July 14, 2019 (AFP) - A major 7.3-magnitude earthquake hit the remote Maluku islands in eastern Indonesia Sunday, sending panicked residents running into the streets, but no tsunami warning was issued.   The shallow quake struck about 165 kilometres (100 miles) south-southwest of the town of Ternate in North Maluku province at 6:28 pm (0928 GMT), according to the US Geological Survey.
 
"The earthquake was quite strong, sending residents to flee outside. They are panicking and many are now waiting on the roadside," said local disaster mitigation official Mansur, who like many Indonesians goes by one name.   Officials were assessing the situation but there were no immediate reports of casualties, he told AFP.

In the town of Labuha, one of the closest to the epicentre, panicked residents took to motorcycles in a bid to flee to higher ground, according to an AFP photographer in town when the earthquake hit.   Local disaster official Ihsan Subur told Metro TV that no damage or casualties had been reported there so far, but residents took to the streets and many evacuated to higher ground.   "Electricity went of during the earthquake, but now it's back to normal," ubur said, adding that at least seven big aftershocks were felt after the initial quake.

The province was also hit by a 6.9-magnitude tremor last week.   Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide.   Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 people, with another thousand declared missing.   On December 26, 2004, a devastating 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck off the coast of Sumatra and triggered a tsunami that killed 220,000 across the Indian Ocean region, including around 170,000 in Indonesia.
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2019 05:38:33 +0200

Jakarta, June 24, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful magnitude 7.3 quake struck eastern Indonesia on Monday, US seismologists said, but no tsunami warning was issued and there were no immediate reports of major damage or casualties.   The quake hit at a depth of 208 kilometres (129 miles) south of Ambon island in the Banda Sea at 11:53 local time, the US Geological Survey said.

The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said there was no threat of a tsunami as the quake was too deep.   The strong temblor came hours after a 6.1-magnitude earthquake hit Papua, also in the eastern part of the Southeast Asian archipelago.   That quake hit about 240 kilometres (150 miles) west of the town of Abepura in Papua province, at a relatively shallow depth of 21 kilometres, according to the USGS.

There were also no immediate reports of casualties after the earthquake.   A shallower 6.3-magnitude hit the area last week, but the damage was not extensive.   Indonesia experiences frequent seismic and volcanic activity due to its position on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide.   Last year, a 7.5-magnitude quake and a subsequent tsunami in Palu on Sulawesi island killed more than 2,200 with a thousand more declared missing.   On December 26, 2004, a 9.1-magnitude earthquake struck Aceh province, causing a tsunami and killing more than 170,000.
31st May 2019

A volcano on the Indonesian island of Bali erupted Friday, spewing a plume of ash and smoke more than 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky. Mount Agung, about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta, has been erupting periodically since it rumbled back to life in 2017, sometimes grounding flights and forcing residents to flee their homes.
Mount Agung is about 70 kilometres from the tourist hub of Kuta

The latest shortly before noon on Friday shot a cloud of volcanic ash high into the sky, but caused no disruption to flights, Indonesia's geological agency said.  Agung remained at the second highest danger warning level, and there is a four-kilometre no-go zone around the crater.

Last summer, dozens of flights were cancelled after Agung erupted, while tens of thousands of locals fled to evacuation centres after an eruption in 2017.

The last major eruption of Agung in 1963 killed around 1,600 people.

Indonesia is situated on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.

Date: Sat 11 May 2019
Source: The Jakarta Post [edited]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Sulawesi, Indonesia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/535>]
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Nigeria

Nigeria US Consular Information Sheet
June 02, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Nigeria is a developing country in western Africa that has experienced periods of political instability. It has the largest population on the continent, estimated at
44 million people, and its infrastructure is not fully functional or well maintained. Read the Department of State’s Background Notes on Nigeria for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required. The visa must be obtained in advance from a Nigerian Embassy or Consulate. Visas cannot be obtained on arrival at the airport. Promises of entry into Nigeria without a visa are credible indicators of fraudulent commercial schemes in which the perpetrators seek to exploit the foreign traveler's illegal presence in Nigeria through threats of extortion or bodily harm. U.S. citizens cannot legally depart Nigeria unless they can prove, by presenting their entry visas, that they entered Nigeria legally. Entry information may be obtained at the Embassy of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 3519 International Court NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 822-1500, or at the Nigerian Consulate General in New York, telephone (212) 808-0301. Overseas, inquiries may be made at the nearest Nigerian embassy or consulate.

Visit the Embassy of Nigeria web site at http://www.nigeriaembassyusa.org/ for the most current visa information.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
The Department of State continues to caution U.S. citizens about the possible dangers of travel to some parts of Nigeria. [Please also see the Crime Section below.] In light of the risk of kidnapping, crime, militant activity, or armed attacks, the U.S. Mission restricts the travel of U.S. government personnel to the following states to official travel only: Delta, Bayelsa, Rivers and Akwa Ibom in the Niger Delta, and Edo and Imo in the south. Only essential travel by non-official Americans is recommended to these areas. In addition, the military's Joint Task Force patrols the creeks in the Niger Delta because of ongoing militant and piracy incidents, especially against oil-related facilities or infrastructure, so individuals may be questioned, detained or arrested when traveling in these sensitive areas without evidence of permission from the Nigerian government or for carrying electronic equipment such as cameras, recorders, etc. Periodically, travel by U.S. mission personnel is restricted in certain parts of Nigeria based on changing security conditions, often due to crime, general strikes, or student/political demonstrations or disturbances. See the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Nigeria for more information.

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 current Travel Warnings, Travel Alerts, and the Worldwide Caution can be found.

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

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

CRIME: Violent crime committed by individual criminals and gangs, as well as by some persons wearing police and military uniforms, is a problem, especially in Lagos, Abuja and other large cities, although it can occur anywhere. Some visitors and resident Americans have experienced armed muggings, assaults, burglary, carjacking, kidnappings and extortion, often involving violence. Home invasions are on the rise in Lagos, with armed robbers accessing even guarded compounds by following, or tailgating, residents or visitors arriving by car into the compound, subduing guards and gaining entry into homes or apartments. Armed robbers in Lagos also access waterfront compounds by boat. U.S. citizens, as well as Nigerians and other expatriates, have been victims of armed robbery on roads to airports during both daylight and evening hours. Law enforcement authorities usually respond to crimes slowly or not at all, and provide little or no investigative support to victims. U.S. citizens and other expatriates have experienced harassment and shakedowns at checkpoints and during encounters with Nigerian officials.

Nigerian-operated fraud scams, known as 419s, are noted for their cleverness and ingenuity. These scams target foreigners worldwide, posing risks of both financial loss and personal danger to their victims. Scams are often initiated through internet postings or from internet cafes, by unsolicited emails, faxes, and letters, or can involve credit card use. As anywhere else, no one should provide personal or financial information to unknown parties or via Nigerian telephone lines. The expansion of bilateral law enforcement cooperation, which has resulted in numerous raids on commercial fraud premises, has reduced the overall level of overt fraud activity, but new types of sophisticated scams are introduced daily.

American citizens are very frequently the victims of Nigerian confidence artists offering companionship through internet dating websites. These confidence artists almost always pose as American citizens visiting or living in Nigeria who unexpectedly experience a medical, legal, financial or other type of “emergency” that requires the immediate financial assistance of the American citizen in the United States. In these cases, we strongly urge the American citizen in the United States to be very cautious about sending money to any unknown person purportedly acting on their behalf, or traveling to Nigeria to meet someone with whom their sole communications have been via the internet. Other common scams involve a promise of an inheritance windfall, work contracts in Nigeria, or an overpayment for goods purchased on-line. For additional information on these types of scams, see the Department of State's publication, International Financial Scams.

Commercial scams or stings that targets foreigners, including many U.S. citizens, continue to be a problem. One needs to be alert to scams that may involve U.S. citizens in illegal activity, resulting in arrest, extortion or bodily harm. These scams generally involve phony offers of either outright money transfers or lucrative sales or contracts with promises of large commissions or up-front payments, or improperly invoke the authority of one or more ministries or offices of the Nigerian government and may cite, by name, the involvement of a Nigerian government official. In some scams, government stationery and seals are also improperly used to advance the scam. The ability of U.S. consular officers to extricate U.S. citizens from unlawful business deals or scams and their subsequent consequences is extremely limited. U.S. citizens have been arrested by police officials and held for varying periods on charges of involvement in illegal business activity or scams. Nigerian police or other law enforcement officials do not always inform the U.S. Embassy or Consulate immediately of the arrest or detention of a U.S. citizen. The U.S. Department of Commerce has advisories to the U.S. business community on a variety of issues that should be seriously reviewed with respect to doing business in Nigeria. To check on a business’s legitimacy while in the United States, contact the Nigeria Desk Officer at the International Trade Administration, Room 3317, Dept. of Commerce, Washington, D.C. 20230, telephone 1-800-USA-TRADE or (202) 482-5149, fax (202) 482-5198. If you are abroad, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

The Department of State encourages all travelers abroad to register their travel. The most convenient way to do so would be through the online travel registration page. Travelers may also register in person at the U.S. Embassy in Abuja or the U.S. Consulate General in Lagos. See the section on Registration / Embassy Location below.

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, for example, can provide you with a list for appropriate medical care, or contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred to you to cover unexpected costs. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

See the Department of State’s information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: While Nigeria has many well-trained doctors, medical facilities in Nigeria are in poor condition, with inadequately trained nursing staff. Diagnostic and treatment equipment is most often poorly maintained, and many medicines are unavailable. Caution should be taken as counterfeit pharmaceuticals are a common problem and may be difficult to distinguish from genuine medications. This is particularly true of generics purchased at local pharmacies or street markets. Hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services.

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 health insurance policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation from a foreign country to the United States or another location. Please see the our brochure 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 Nigeria is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Roads in many areas are generally in poor condition, causing damage to vehicles and contributing to hazardous traffic conditions. There are few working traffic lights or stop signs. The rainy season from May to October is especially dangerous because of flooded roads and water-concealed potholes.

Excessive speed, unpredictable driving habits, and the lack of basic maintenance and safety equipment on many vehicles are additional hazards. Motorists seldom yield the right-of-way and give little consideration to pedestrians and cyclists. Gridlock is common in urban areas. Chronic fuel shortages have led to long lines at service stations, which disrupt or block traffic for extended periods.

Public transportation vehicles are unsafe due to poor maintenance, high speeds and overcrowding. Motorbikes, known in Nigeria as "okadas," are a common form of public transportation in many cities and pose particular danger to motorists, their own passengers and pedestrians. Motorbike drivers frequently weave in and out of traffic at high speeds and observe no traffic rules. Motorbikes are banned within Abuja's city limits. Passengers in local taxis have been driven to secluded locations where they were attacked and robbed. Several of the victims required hospitalization. The U.S. Mission advises that public transportation throughout Nigeria be avoided.

It is recommended that short-term visitors not drive in Nigeria. A Nigerian driver's license can take months to obtain, and to date an international driving permit is not recognized. Major hotels offer reliable car-hire services complete with drivers. Reliable car-hire services can also be obtained at the customer service centers at the airports in Lagos, Abuja, and Kano. Inter-city travelers must also consider that roadside assistance is extremely scarce, and as noted above medical facilities and emergency care are poor, meaning that being involved in a traffic incident might result in a lack of available medical facilities to treat either minor or life-threatening injuries.

All drivers and passengers are reminded to wear seat belts, lock doors, and raise windows. It is important to secure appropriate automobile insurance. It is also important to be aware that drivers and passengers of vehicles involved in accidents resulting in injury or death have experienced extra-judicial actions, i.e., mob attacks, official consequences such as fines and incarceration or involvement with the victim's family. Night driving should be done with extreme caution, but it is recommended to avoid driving between 6:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m. as bandits and police roadblocks are more numerous at night. Streets are very poorly lit, and many vehicles are missing one or both headlights, tail lights, and reflectors.

The Government of Nigeria charges the Federal Road Safety Commission with providing maps and public information on specific road conditions. The Federal Road Safety Commission may be contacted by mail at: Ojodu-Isherri Road, PMB 21510, Ikeja, Lagos; telephone [243] (1) 802-850-5961 or [234] (1) 805-684-6911.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

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

The Port Harcourt International Airport, which was closed in mid-2006 for rehabilitation, resumed operations in December 2007 for domestic daylight flights. Installations and improvements needed for international flights and night operations are expected to be completed in 2008.

For additional information on aviation safety concerns, see the Department of State’s Travel Warning for Nigeria.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Permission is required to take photographs or videotape any government buildings, airports, bridges, and in areas where the military is operating throughout the country. These sites include, but are not limited to, Federal buildings in the Three Arms Zone (Presidential palace area, National Assembly, Supreme Court/Judiciary) of the capital of Abuja, other government buildings around the country and foreign Embassies and Consulates. Many restricted sites are not clearly marked, and application of these restrictions is subject to interpretation by the Nigerian security services and can result in detention. Permission may be obtained from Nigeria's State Security Services, but even permission may not prevent the imposition of penalties or detention. Penalties for unauthorized photography or videography may include confiscation of the still or video camera, exposure of the film or deletion of film footage, a demand for payment of a fine or bribe, and/or detention, arrest, or physical assault. For these reasons, visitors to Nigeria should avoid taking still photos or videotaping in and around areas that are potentially restricted sites, including any government sites.

The Nigerian currency, the naira, is non-convertible. U.S. dollars are widely accepted. Nigeria is a cash economy, and it is usually necessary to carry sufficient currency to cover the expenses of a planned visit, which makes travelers an attractive target for criminals. Credit cards are rarely accepted beyond a few upscale hotels. Due to credit card fraud in Nigeria and by cohorts in the United States, credit card use should be considered carefully. While Citibank cashes some traveler’s checks, most other banks do not. American Express does not have offices in Nigeria; however, Thomas Cook does. Inter-bank transfers are often difficult to accomplish, though money transfer services such as Western Union are available. For further information, visitors may contact the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.

Please see the Department of State’s information on Customs Information.

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

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Nigeria are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Nigeria and other general information.Americans withoutInternet 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 1075 Diplomatic Drive, Central Area, Abuja. American citizens can call [234] (9) 461-4176 during office hours (Monday through Thursday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.; Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.). For after-hours emergencies, call [234] (9) 461-4000. The email address for the Consular Section in Abuja is ConsularAbuja@state.gov.

The U.S. Consulate General is located at 2 Walter Carrington Crescent, Victoria Island, Lagos. American citizens can call [234] (1) 261-1215 during office hours (7:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.). For after-hours emergencies, call [234] (1) 261-1414, 261-0050, 261-0078, 261-0139, or 261-6477. The e-mail address for the Consular Section in Lagos is Lagoscons2@state.gov.

The Embassy and Consulate website is http://nigeria.usembassy.gov/.
* * *
This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated April 16, 2007, to update sections on Country Description, Safety and Security, Crime, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Aviation Safety Oversight, Special Circumstances and Registration / Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sat 10 Aug 2019
Source: Nigeria CDC [edited]

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is aware of a suspected outbreak of yellow fever in Ebonyi state and has had a rapid response team supporting Ebonyi state's response since [Tue 30 Jul 2019], in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Following a report of cases and deaths from fever of unknown origin in Izzi local government area (LGA) in Ebonyi state, the state public health team commenced an investigation. As at [Wed 31 Jul 2019], 3 cases had tested positive for yellow fever at NCDC's national reference laboratory, which triggered an immediate response.

The Ebonyi State Epidemiology Team is leading the response with support from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the course of investigation, it was discovered that between 1 May-7 Aug 2019, there had been cases that fit into the case definition for yellow fever and 20 deaths in Izzi LGA, Ebonyi state, indicating that the outbreak may have been going on for a few months, undetected by local health authorities. It was too late to collect samples for confirmation from these cases.

Immediately [after] it was notified, NCDC deployed a rapid response team to support Ebonyi state with contact tracing, case finding, risk communications, and the management of cases. Detailed analysis and plans are in advanced stages to apply to the international vaccine stockpile to enable a reactive vaccination campaign in Ebonyi state, in response to the cluster of cases.

Yellow fever virus is spread through bites of an infected mosquito. There is no human-to-human transmission of the virus. Yellow fever is a completely vaccine-preventable disease, and a single shot provides immunity for a lifetime. The yellow fever vaccine is available for free in primary health care centres in Nigeria as part of the routine immunisation schedule. Every child is protected for life if vaccinated. We encourage every family to ensure that children receive all their childhood vaccines.

In addition to the vaccine, the public is advised to keep their environments clean and free of stagnant water to discourage the breeding of mosquitoes and to use insecticide-treated mosquito nets as well as screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito bites. It is important to avoid self-medication. Visit a health facility immediately if you feel ill.

Since September 2017, Nigeria has recorded suspected cases of yellow fever in all states in the country. As at [Wed 31 Jul 2019], 78 cases have been laboratory confirmed in Nigeria in 2019 alone. A multi-agency yellow fever technical working group coordinated by NCDC has been leading the investigation and response to yellow fever cases. The National Primary Health Care [Development] Agency is leading efforts to provide an additional opportunity of vaccination through preventive vaccination campaigns across the country.

Healthcare workers are reminded that the symptoms of yellow fever include yellowness of the eyes, sudden fever, headache, and body pain. If you have these symptoms or notice someone in your community displaying them, please contact your nearest health centre.
=====================
[The yellow fever [YF] virus is endemic in Nigeria, and cases occur there sporadically. This has been an active year (2019) for YF in Nigeria. The previous ProMED-mail post indicated that 930 suspected cases have been reported this year from 1 Jan-30 Apr 2019. There are 332 suspected cases during the April 2019 reporting period, up from 254 suspected cases on 19 Feb 2019. There are 3 new presumptive and 3 new confirmed yellow fever cases during the April 2019 reporting period.

The current focus of transmission is in Ebonyi state. The above report indicates that YF vaccine is available without cost in primary healthcare centers but does not mention if an organized vaccination campaign is underway or being planned, nor the proportion of the Ebonyi state population that is unvaccinated and, hence, at risk for YF. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Ebonyi state, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/1306>]
Date: Tue 30 Jul 2019, 10:21 AM
Source: The Guardian [edited]

Gombe State recorded 5 confirmed cases of Lassa fever, with one death, from January [2019] to date, an official of the state Ministry of Health said on [Mon 29 Jul 2019].

Dr. Nuhu Ville, State Epidemiologist, Ministry of Health told News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that the cases were discovered from 39 samples subjected to laboratory test during the period under review. He said that upon discovery of the 5 cases and the death of one of them, the remaining 4 were subjected to thorough treatment and monitored, leading to their recovery and discharge from the hospital.

According to him the person who died among the confirmed cases came to the hospital in a critical condition. He said the hospital management had taken over his burial from his relations to avoid contamination of other people.

Ville said Lassa Fever was most contagious during burial, hence the need for professionals to handle it to ensure that no secondary infection from man-to-man occurred. "We have never had a case of secondary infection in Gombe and we will do everything possible to avert it," he said.

He called on the public to always report any case of fever which persisted 2 days after treatment commenced. "Report any case of fever which persists 2 days after commencement of treatment. If you report on time the infected person has 80% chance of survival," he said.
========================
[The above report indicates that Gombe state has had 5 confirmed cases with 1 death. The Nigeria CDC does list Gombe state among the states with cases but does not give the case numbers not does it indicate that there has been 1 death in Gombe. Perhaps the death occurred after the 18 Jul 2019 Nigeria CDC was issued. - ProMED Mod.TY]
Date: Mon 8 Jul 2019
Source: Government of Nigeria [edited]

Adamawa State situation report of cholera outbreak no. 11: 8 Jul 2019
----------------------------------------------------------------------
Highlights
- 10 new cases reported from 5 to 8 Jul 2019 from the 3 affected LGAs, bringing total case count to 213.
- No new deaths reported within the reporting period.
- One new ward affected. Total number of wards that reported at least one suspected case stands at 16.

Epidemiological summary
The total number of cases reported as of 8 Jul 2019 stands at 223, with 3 deaths (case fatality rate [CFR] = 1.35%). Yola North has 119 cases with 2 deaths (CFR = 1.68%); Girei has 95 cases with 1 death (CFR = 1.05%) and Yola South has 9 cases with 0 deaths (CFR = 0%). So far, 71 samples yielded growth typical of _Vibrio cholera_ on culture, and results of 7 isolates from the reference laboratory revealed 01 serotype.
Date: Thu 13 Jun 2019 (submitted 16 Jun 2019 03:32 AM)
Source: Nigerian Tribune [edited]

The Lagos State Ministry of Health, World Health Organisation (WHO), United States Children Fund (UNICEF), Belinda and Bill Gates Foundation, and Rotary International, among other organizations, have swung into action to interrupt a new poliovirus outbreak in Lagos state, Nigeria. This is as the state embarks on a house-to-house aggressive vaccination exercise across 20 local government areas of the state on Friday [14 Jun 2019].

The permanent secretary, Lagos State Ministry of Health, Dr. Titilayo Goncalves, confirmed the outbreak of poliovirus in the state during an emergency press briefing in Lagos on Thursday [13 Jun 2019]. She disclosed that the virus was detected on water samples taken from 3 canals in Makoko, Itire, and Maracana areas of the state during a routine surveillance exercise carried out on all the water bodies in the state.

The outbreak represents the 1st poliovirus incident after 12 years of no report in the state and 32 months of non-occurrence in Nigeria. According to Dr. Usman Adamu, the incident manager, National Emergency Operation Centre (NEOC) of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), Nigeria was on the verge of being declared a poliovirus-free nation by the WHO before the current incident.

"This is why we will be here on the field in the next few days to support the supervision of the outbreak response in Lagos," Dr. Fiona Braka, the WHO representative and immunization team lead, said while addressing stakeholders and newsmen during the emergency meeting. "It is our mandate to see a world free of polio and a Nigeria free of polio."

"Nigeria has made remarkable progress in the fight against polio, having recorded 32 months without a wide polio outbreak. However, this outbreak is a different strain, and we are responding differently and appropriately to it. The vaccination exercise is aimed at administering 2 drops of polio vaccines to children who are below 5 years of age across 20 local government areas of the state using a house-to-house approach. However, we can only achieve this if everyone works collectively to bring out children under the age of 5 to get 2 drops of polio vaccines over the next 4 days."

Speaking about the vaccination exercise, Braka stressed that "All children regardless of their previous vaccination status must receive this vaccine. High coverage with the vaccine is needed to break the transmission and build immunity against the virus. The vaccine we are going to provide is not the routine vaccine given through the health facilities. So we do not want any child to miss this opportunity, because we have a specific period in which to provide this vaccine." She maintained that the vaccine was safe, effective, and free of charge and should not be denied of any child in Lagos.

Speaking against complacency at this stage in Nigeria's battle against polio eradication, the Rotary International representative and vice chairman, Southwest Rotary (NNPPC), and past district governor, Abayomi Adewunmi, enjoined all stakeholders to rally round to ensure that this current outbreak is interrupted. "We are 99.9% towards eradicating polio in Nigeria. You know when the race is about to finish, that is when people usually start getting tired and complacent. We do not want complacency to kick in; we want to completely kick polio out in Nigeria. We are asking all hands to be on deck. Now that the outbreak is here, we must work together to interrupt it."

According to the Adewunmi, the Rotary International has been on the forefront in the fight against the eradication of polio, spending over USD 9 billion with a record of over 2.7 billion children successfully immunized since 1985.

The C4D polio specialist, UNICEF, Nigeria, Hayon Nam, in her speech enjoined on the media to support the campaign to end poliovirus spread by creating awareness for parents to bring out their children for the vaccination exercise.

Nigeria is among the 3 countries with poliovirus prevalence in the world. The 2 other countries are Pakistan and Afghanistan. In 2019 alone, 2 countries have recorded about 29 cases, while Nigeria was on the last lap of being declared poliovirus free.  [Byline: Newton-Ray Ukwuoma]
------------------------------------------
Communicated by:
Anjorin, A. AbdulAzeez
Department of Microbiology
Lagos State University
Ojo, Nigeria
Date: Wed 22 May 2019
Source: PM News Nigeria [edited]

The Lagos state government says it has uncovered a plot by a non-governmental organisation (NGO) to disrupt the ongoing polio vaccination in the state by administering harmful vaccines to children. Dr Jide Lawal, permanent secretary, Primary Healthcare Board, made this known on Tuesday night [21 May 2019] in Lagos.

Lawal said that the organisation, which he did not name, was going around schools in the state to administer vaccines believed to be harmful to children. He said that the state Ministry of Health had commenced an investigation into the allegation.

According to Lawal, the ministry suspected that the sabotage was intended to disrupt the ongoing polio immunisation campaign.

"The move by the NGO is intended to thwart other efforts of the state government in maintaining 100% immunisation coverage of eligible children as well as maintain the "polio-free status" attained since 2009.

"For the purpose of clarity, it is important to mention that the safety of lives and the wellbeing of citizens are of utmost importance to the state government, and all efforts are geared toward protecting the citizenry. Hence, we wish to emphasise that the oral polio vaccine is free, safe, and effective in protecting children against polio.

"We will also like to assure you that the administration of this vaccine is not hazardous or dangerous to humans as being erroneously propagated. In fact, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommends that all children below the age of 5 years get this vaccine for protection against polio, " Lawal said.

He added that the benefits of receiving the polio vaccination and other scheduled immunisations were numerous.

"Good health and survival of children have been associated with immunisation, because it reduces disability, morbidity, and mortality. It also contributes to lowering the incidence of diseases and results in less frequent visits to health facilities.

"Immunisation remains the most cost-effective and efficient child survival strategy for children who are the future of the nation. Also, this informs our unrelenting efforts in protecting our children from the vaccine-preventable killer diseases," he said.

Lawal urged stakeholders, including parents, political and religious leaders, civil society organisations, and mass media to ensure that children under 5 years were immunised free of charge.

He said, "This is to ensure that we reduce the risk of death and disability from vaccine-preventable diseases such as polio."

He said the current vaccination campaign against polio was being conducted by the National Primary Healthcare Development Agency, state Ministry of Health, and Lagos state Primary Healthcare Board.

According to Lawal, this is in partnership with health development partners such as World Health Organisation (WHO) United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) CDC-AFENET and Rotary.

"While the state collaborates with NGOs, the administration of vaccines is the sole responsibility of health workers trained to conduct the exercise. The public are, therefore, enjoined to be vigilant and authenticate the identity of immunisation officers," Lawal said. "They should report any suspicion about the implementation of any of the state or national immunisation campaigns to the nearest local government, the Ministry of Education, or the Ministry of Health, or call 08023020581," he added.
======================
[I'm posting these media reports as examples of the politics of health. When the incident occurred in Pakistan in April [2019], the media reports had not covered the politics behind the scare tactics. A very sorry state of affairs that politicians are using children and their health to manipulate voters in their areas. One can't help but wonder how much of the global anti-vaccine movement (significantly contributing to the global increase in measles) has a political basis behind it as well.

The change in approach to the campaign activities might well help win over many of the vaccine refusers in Pakistan. One hopes that will be the case.

With respect to WPV [wild poliovirus] in Nigeria, it is important to mention that with respect to the WPV1 [wild poliovirus type 1] isolated in Nigeria in 2016, "It is the 1st WPV1 detected in Nigeria since July 2014. Genetic sequencing of the isolated viruses suggest they are most closely linked to WPV1 last detected in Borno in 2011, indicating the strain has been circulating without detection since that time" (see Poliomyelitis update (11): Nigeria (BO) http://promedmail.org/post/20160811.4410331). Hence caution is needed in interpreting the observation that the absence of new cases since 2016 suggests Nigeria can be safely declared as having interrupted transmission of the WPV. And given the highly political nature of polio in Pakistan, one can't help but wonder if 3 years without a case is a fail-safe time to declare interruption of transmission there as well.

As for this current situation, the media report is unclear whether rumors have been circulating re: administration of harmful vaccines or if the NGO is administering vaccines claiming the government is administering bad vaccine. Notwithstanding the potential impact of this is an increase in vaccine refusal in Lagos as well as in neighboring areas when they learn of this. Another example of the politics of health impacting on the lives of children in a country.

HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps can be found at
Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/62>.  - ProMED Mod.MPP]
More ...

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.
*****************************
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."