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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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Congo, Republic of the

Republic of Congo US Consular Information Sheet
August 29, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Republic of the Congo (Congo-Brazzaville) is a developing nation in central Africa. The official language is French. The largest cities are the capita
, Brazzaville, on the Congo River, and Pointe Noire on the coast. Civil conflict in 1997 and again in 1998-99 damaged parts of the capital and large areas in the south of the country. The last rebel group still engaged in armed struggled signed a cease-fire accord with the government in March 2003. Facilities for tourism are very limited. Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Republic of the Congo (Brazzaville) for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport, visa and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Additional information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of the Congo, 4891 Colorado Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20011, telephone (202) 726-5500, or from the Permanent Mission of the Republic of the Congo to the United Nations, 14 E. 65th St., New York, NY, 10021, telephone (212) 744-7840. Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate.
Information about dual nationality or the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information sheet.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
As a result of past conflicts, there is extensive damage to the infrastructure in Brazzaville and in the southern part of the country, and the government is working to reconstruct roads and buildings. Fighting broke out in March and June of 2002 when rebel groups launched attacks first in the Pool region, and later, at the Brazzaville airport. The fighting in Brazzaville was quickly contained and the rebels were repulsed. In March 2003, the rebels and the government signed a cease-fire accord, which remains in effect, although there was some violence in Brazzaville in December 2003.

Occasionally, political unrest in neighboring Kinshasa can affect Brazzaville on the other side of the Congo River. For example, in 2007, stray small arms fire originating in Kinshasa landed in Brazzaville.

Continued security awareness remains a key consideration for all visitors. Night travel outside of cities should be avoided. U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.
In the event of a fire, call the fire brigade at 81-53-87.
The Department of State suspended operations at the U.S. Embassy in Brazzaville in 1997. The Brazzaville U.S. Embassy interim offices are located in the B.D.E.A.C (Central African Development Bank) building in Brazzaville. A new embassy compound is under construction and slated to open in 2009. While Brazzaville is still not fully open for normal operations, Embassy personnel are present in Brazzaville to provide information and guidance to American citizens. Staff can be contacted through the Embassy’s interim offices (see Registration/Embassy Location section below). The reduced staff in Brazzaville has limited ability to provide emergency services and non-emergency services generally take a few days to coordinate through Embassy Kinshasa.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site at http://travel.state.gov, where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for 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 pamphletA Safe Trip Abroad.

CRIME: In the Congo, petty street crime targeting foreigners is rare. Incidents of mugging and pick pocketing happen frequently near the ports in Pointe Noire and Brazzaville, and sometimes in the Congolese neighborhoods surrounding Brazzaville's city center.

Criminal elements are known to target middle-class and affluent residences without 24-hour guards for burglary. Roadblocks and robberies by armed groups targeting travelers occur in the Pool region south of Brazzaville. Travel to the Pool region is discouraged due to these elements.

Travelers should note that in the case of theft and robbery, legal recourse is limited and therefore, they may wish to leave all valuable items at home.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

While there is no local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Republic of the Congo, the Rapid Response Police Team can be reached at 665-4804. However, police resources are limited and response to emergency calls is often slow (15 minutes or longer).

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities are extremely limited. Some medicines are in short supply, particularly outside the larger cities. Travelers should carry their own supply of properly labeled medications.
Malaria is a serious and sometimes fatal disease. Plasmodium falciparum malaria, the type that predominates in the Congo, is resistant to the antimalarial drug chloroquine. Because travelers to the Republic of the Congo are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam™), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™). Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking. For additional information on malaria, including protective measures, see the CDC Travelers’ Health web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-Malaria.aspx/.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the DRC.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en. Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning the Republic of the Congo is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Road conditions are generally poor and deteriorate significantly during the rainy season, November-May. Maintenance of the few paved roads is limited. Overland travel off the main roads requires a four-wheel drive vehicle. Poorly marked checkpoints, sometimes manned by undisciplined soldiers, exist in many areas of the countryside.

Taxis are considered an acceptable mode of transport due to availability and low cost. Registered public transportation vehicles are painted green with white roofs and striping. Security is not generally an issue with taxis but buses are often overcrowded and thus less secure. Mechanical reliability of both vehicle types remains in question.
Traffic safety in general is hazardous due to high speeds, aggressive driving, poorly maintained vehicles and general apathy for pedestrians and cyclists.

Roads are narrow, dangerously potholed, frequently wash out during rainy season and are often full of debris, and pedestrians.
Emergency services are limited. Please refer to the medical section above.
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 the Republic of the Congo, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the Republic of the Congo’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Ferry service between Brazzaville and Kinshasa normally operates from 8 A.M. to 4 P.M. Monday through Saturday and 8 A.M. to 12 P.M. Sunday, but it may close completely with minimal notice. A special exit permit from the Republic of the Congo’s Immigration Service and a visa from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s embassy/consulate are required to cross the Congo River from Brazzaville to Kinshasa. Passenger travel on the railroad is discouraged, as there are frequent reports of extortion by undisciplined security forces and robberies by criminal elements along the route.
The Congo is primarily a cash economy and uses the Central African Franc (CFA), a common currency with Gabon, Chad, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, and Equatorial Guinea. U.S. dollars may be exchanged for local currency. Traveler’s checks can be cashed for a fee at some hotels. Two hotels in Brazzaville, and several in Pointe Noire, accept major credit cards, but prefer payment in cash. Prices are usually quoted in CFA or Euros. Other businesses do not normally accept credit cards. Personal checks drawn on foreign accounts are not accepted. Western Union has offices in Brazzaville and Pointe Noire, and one bank in Brazzaville has an ATM.
Airport police and customs officials routinely inspect incoming and outgoing luggage, even for internal travel. For a complete list of prohibited items, please contact the nearest Congolese embassy or consulate. Please see our Customs Information.
Local security forces in areas outside Brazzaville and Pointe Noire may detain foreigners to solicit bribes. Detention of U.S. citizens, particularly in remote areas, may not always be promptly reported to the U.S. Government by Congolese authorities. U.S. citizens are encouraged to carry a copy of their passports with them at all times so that, if questioned by local officials, proof of identity and U.S. citizenship is readily available. If detained or arrested, U.S. citizens should always ask to be allowed to contact the U.S. Embassy. Please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below.
In general there are no restrictions on photography; however photographs of government buildings or military installations, port facilities or the airport should not be taken. When photographing human beings in remote areas where populations adhere to traditional beliefs, it is best to request permission first. If permission is refused, the photo should not be taken.
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 Republic of the Congo’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Republic of the Congo are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Republic of the Congo are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Republic of the Congo. 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 in Brazzaville has interim offices located in the B.D.E.A.C Building, 4th Floor, Place du Gouvernement, Plateau de Centre Ville, Brazzaville. The web site is http://brazzaville.usembassy.gov. The telephone number during regular business hours (7:30 am until 4:30 pm, Monday through Friday) is 242-81-14-81; email is Consular.Brazzaville@state.gov. For after-hours emergencies, call the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa (see below).

The U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is located at 310 Avenue des Aviateurs, Gombe; tel. 243-(0)81-225-5872 (do not dial the zero when calling from abroad into the DRC). Entrance to the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Kinshasa is on Avenue Dumi, opposite Ste. Anne residence. The Consular Section of the Embassy in Kinshasa may be reached at cellular tel. 243-(0)81-884-4609, 243-(0)81-884-6859 or 243-(0)81-225-5872; fax 243-(0)81-301-0560. For after-hours emergencies, use 243-81-225-5872. (Cellular phones are the norm, as other telephone service is often unreliable).
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Republic of the Congo dated August 20, 2008 to update the section on Safety and Security.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 26 Sep 2018
Source: WHO Relief Web [edited]

The Republic of Congo, in collaboration with the World Health Organization (WHO) and partners, started today [26 Sep 2018] a vaccination campaign to control the spread of yellow fever in the port city of Pointe Noire and surrounding areas. More than one million people from 9 months of age are expected to be vaccinated in this 6-day campaign.

The vaccination campaign uses doses from the global emergency yellow fever vaccine stockpile managed by the International Coordination Group on Vaccine Provision (ICG) and funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance. The ICG coordinates the timely and equitable provision of vaccines during outbreaks and maintains an emergency stockpile of 6 million doses of yellow fever vaccine, which is continually replenished. Gavi will also cover operational costs for this campaign.

The immunization drive is a response to a laboratory-confirmed yellow fever case, which tested positive on 21 Aug 2018, after the person visited a rural area. Since then, no other case has been confirmed in the country, but more than 200 suspected cases have been reported since the beginning of the year [2018], with most of these notified by the health authority in Pointe Noire. It is possible that there are also undetected cases, as a large proportion of the Pointe Noire population seeks care in the private system; therefore, the national surveillance system may not be receiving notification.

Yellow fever is an acute viral haemorrhagic disease transmitted by infected mosquitoes that can be deadly but is prevented by an extremely effective vaccine. Urban outbreaks are of particular concern, and Pointe Noire is the country's economic capital, with a population of more than one million people. After declining for many years, yellow fever outbreaks are on the rise globally. The ease and speed of population movements, rapid urbanization and a resurgence of mosquitoes because of global warming have significantly increased the risk of urban outbreaks with international spread.

"Yellow fever has re-emerged as a public health threat in recent years in the African region," said Dr. Ibrahima Soce Fall, WHO's Emergencies Director for Africa. "However, the vaccine is safe and provides life-long immunity. This reactive vaccination campaign is focusing on people who are most at risk and will set up a firewall which will prevent the virus from spreading further."

The neighbouring Democratic Republic of the Congo has shown solidarity with the Republic of Congo by lending more than 700 000 syringes for the vaccination campaign while Pointe Noire health authorities wait for syringes to arrive from the international stockpile next month [October 2018].

The response to this outbreak is part of a comprehensive strategy to eliminate yellow fever epidemics (EYE) globally by 2026. WHO, UNICEF, Gavi, and more than 50 partners are supporting the Government of Congo and 39 other high-risk countries to assess epidemic risk, roll out vaccination campaigns, engage with communities and deliver other response activities, including surveillance and laboratory diagnosis.

Nationwide preventive actions are also needed to ensure the protection of the entire population at risk. Rapid outbreak detection and response and long-term prevention are integral to a sustained control of yellow fever. As part of the EYE Strategy, more than 4 million additional people are expected to be vaccinated in preventive mass campaigns in the Republic of Congo over the few next years.
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[It is encouraging to see that components of a large yellow fever (YF) vaccination campaign have come together to start the effort 2 days ago [26 Sep 2018]. Although there is only one confirmed YF case, considering the 200 suspected cases and the risk of rapid YF virus spread in Pointe Noir, a city with a dense and susceptible human population and abundant mosquito vectors, the vaccination campaign is prudent. A recent report indicated that entomological surveys in the affected area have revealed high densities of mosquito vectors (_Aedes aegypti_) responsible for urban YF transmission, signaling the potential for human-to-human transmission via _Aedes aegypti_ and rapid amplification. Larval sites have been found around the homes of suspected cases, and this situation could worsen with the arrival of the rainy season. WHO is supporting the Ministry of Health and Population in implementing targeted vector control activities for adult mosquitoes and larvae within a 200-metre [660-foot] perimeter of areas where the confirmed case-patient lives and works. YF outbreaks under conditions like these can spread rapidly and get out of control, as occurred in Angola with spillover into the Democratic Republic of the Congo. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Republic of Congo: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/166>]
Date: Tue 25 Sep 2018
Source: Africa News [edited]
<http://www.africanews.com/2018/09/25/congo-to-launch-immunization-against-yellow-fever-outbreak-the-morning-call/>

On Thursday [27 Sep 2018], the government of the Republic of Congo will begin what it calls a robust and coordinated response against the yellow fever outbreak recorded in some parts of the country. The planned response follows the health ministry's warning last month [August 2018] of "an emerging event of epidemic proportions." According to the head of the government's epidemics unit, Lambert Kitembo, 186 suspected cases of yellow fever have been detected this year [2018], many of which were reported in the western commercial hub of Pointe Noire. [Byline: Jerry Bambi]
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[The numbers of reported yellow fever cases in the Republic of the Congo (RC) is growing, especially in the Pointe-Noire area. Pointe-Noire is a port city and oil industry hub with an international airport and links to other large cities. A previous report indicated that a retrospective search in 16 health centre registers in Pointe-Noire found 69 additional suspected cases during 2018 that meet the clinical case definition for yellow fever; 56 of the suspected cases were already recorded in the national surveillance system. Of these, 2 of the suspected cases reported staying in Angola.

The above report indicates that there are now 186 suspected cases. A recent WHO risk assessment reported that the overall public health risk at the national level is high due to the confirmation of a yellow fever case in the densely populated urban city of Pointe Noire (‎1.2 million inhabitants), with suboptimal immunization coverage in the affected community and the potential risk of spread within the Congo, especially to the capital city of Brazzaville.

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) declared a yellow fever outbreak in Pointe Noire on 22 Aug 2018, and the national committee for outbreak management was promptly activated. WHO was notified on 23 Aug 2018, in line with the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005). A recent report indicated that entomological surveys in the affected area have revealed high densities of mosquito vectors (_Aedes aegypti_) responsible for urban yellow fever transmission, signalling the potential for human-to-human transmission and rapid amplification. Larval sites have been found around the homes of suspected cases, and this situation could worsen with the arrival of the rainy season.

WHO is supporting the MoHP in implementing targeted vector control activities for adult mosquitoes and larvae within a 200-metre [660 foot] perimeter of areas where the confirmed case-patient lives and works. It is difficult to assess the risk of an ongoing outbreak without knowing the proportion of the unvaccinated population in the areas where the cases occurred. One hopes that the planned vigorous vaccination campaign will be initiated as planned this week. Yellow fever outbreaks can quickly get out of hand, as occurred in Angola and the DRC in 2016-2017.

Frequent movement of individuals across borders of neighbouring countries and beyond underscores the need for prompt action to prevent spread. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Republic of Congo: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/166>]
Disease outbreak news
7 September 2018

Event Description
On 5 July 2018, a 20-year-old male living in Bissongo, Republic of the Congo, visited Bissongo health centre in the Loandjili District of Pointe-Noire City, with a fever he had developed the previous day. On 9 July, due to the onset of jaundice and persistent fever, he returned to the same health facility. The patient did not have a history of yellow fever vaccination or haemorrhagic symptoms. The patient had previously travelled to Ngoyo and Tchiamba Nzassi districts two weeks prior to symptom onset; Tchiamba Nzassi is a rural district in Pointe-Noire located along the border with Angola.

He was admitted to the health facility and received antimalarial and antibiotic treatments. As yellow fever was also suspected as a differential diagnosis, a blood sample was collected on 10 July and sent to Institut National de Recherche Biomédicale (INRB) in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo, for testing; on 26 July, the sample tested positive for yellow fever by serology. On 30 July, INRB sent a sample to Institut Pasteur de Dakar for confirmation; on 21 August, the sample tested positive for yellow fever by seroneutralization with a high titre.

Following the confirmation of yellow fever, an investigation was conducted in the affected area. A retrospective search in 16 health centre registers in Pointe-Noire found 69 additional suspected cases during 2018 which meet the clinical case definition for yellow fever; 56 of the suspected cases were already recorded in the national surveillance system. Two of the suspected cases reported staying in Angola. Samples were collected from 43 of these cases and sent to INRB; all samples tested negative for yellow fever. Entomological surveys in the affected area have revealed high densities of mosquito vectors (Aedes aegypti) responsible for urban yellow fever transmission, signalling the potential for human-to-human transmission and rapid amplification. Larval sites have been found around the homes of suspected cases, and this situation could worsen with the arrival of the rainy season.

Public health response

The Ministry of Health and Population (MoHP) declared a yellow fever outbreak in Pointe-Noire on 22 August 2018 and the national committee for outbreak management was promptly activated. WHO was notified on 23 August 2018 in line with the International Health Regulations (IHR 2005).

WHO is supporting the country in the preparation of an emergency response plan and an International Coordinating Group (ICG) request for supplies for a reactive mass vaccination campaign targeting the Pointe-Noire area, which has a population of approximately one million people. WHO is also supporting resource mobilization activities, as the country is not eligible for Gavi support.

WHO is supporting the MoHP in implementing targeted vector control activities for adult mosquitoes and larvae within a 200-metre perimeter of areas where the confirmed case-patient lives and works. WHO is also providing technical support to strengthen surveillance at points of entry, case management, and public awareness, as well as recommending the use of mosquito nets during the day time.

WHO risk assessment

The overall public health risk at the national level is high due to the confirmation of a yellow fever case in a densely populated urban city of Pointe-Noire (‎1.2 million inhabitants), with suboptimal immunization coverage in the affected community and the potential risk of spread within the Congo, especially to the capital city of Brazzaville. Entomological surveys in the affected area revealed high densities of Aedes aegypti, responsible for urban transmission of yellow fever, signalling the potential for rapid amplification. The approaching rainy season may potentially increase this risk. Thus, the risk of an urban epidemic needs to be mitigated urgently, although there is no indication of active urban transmission according to the information available.

The risk at the regional level is considered to be moderate due to the lack of information to describe the scope and the dynamics of the outbreak, as well as because of cross-border movements, particularly between to and from Gabon and Cabinda in Angola. Pointe-Noire is a port city and oil industry hub with an international airport and links to other large cities. Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo have recently conducted mass preventive and reactive yellow fever vaccination campaigns, respectively. However, population immunity levels in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are low in the zones not targeted by the 2016 reactive campaigns, such as the areas neighbouring Pointe-Noire. No other yellow fever cases related to the outbreak in Pointe-Noire have been reported outside the country at this stage.

The risk at the global level is considered low. Risks need to be closely monitored and regularly reassessed.

WHO Recommendations

Vaccination is the primary means for prevention and control of yellow fever. In urban centres, targeted vector control measures are also helpful to interrupt transmission. WHO and partners will continue to support local authorities to implement these interventions to control the current outbreak.

WHO recommends vaccination against yellow fever for all international travellers above nine months of age going to the Republic of the Congo, as there is evidence of yellow fever virus transmission. The Republic of the Congo also requires a yellow fever vaccination certificate for all travellers aged 9 months or older . Yellow fever vaccination is safe, highly effective and provides life-long protection. In accordance with the IHR (2005), the validity of the international certificate of vaccination against yellow fever extends to the life of the person vaccinated. A booster dose of yellow fever vaccine cannot be required of international travellers as a condition of entry.

WHO encourages its Member States to take all actions necessary to keep travellers well informed of risks and preventive measures including vaccination. Travellers should also be made aware of yellow fever symptoms and signs and instructed to rapidly seek medical advice when presenting with these. Viraemic returning travellers may pose a risk for the establishment of local cycles of yellow fever transmission in areas where the competent vector is present.

WHO advises against the application of any restrictions on travel or trade to the Republic of the Congo in relation to this outbreak, based on the information currently available.
Date: Fri 31 Aug 2018
Source: Business Insider [edited]

Congo Republic will launch a country-wide vaccination campaign to control an outbreak of yellow fever near the border with the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, the health ministry said on Friday [31 Aug 2018].

Earlier this week, the authorities said over 180 suspected cases and one confirmed case of the sometimes deadly mosquito-borne virus had been identified this year [2018], many in the western commercial hub of Pointe Noire.

"Congo (Republic) declared a yellow fever epidemic at Pointe Noire on 24 Aug [2018]," the ministry said in a statement.

In response, it said: "The Health and Population Ministry will organize, in collaboration with partners, a national vaccination campaign." It did not specify when the campaign would begin. The vaccinations will be free of charge. Only children under 9 months, pregnant women and mothers breastfeeding infants under 6 months will not be vaccinated, the statement added.

No deaths have yet been reported in the outbreak.

The disease causes fever, body aches and nausea and can quickly spread in areas with large unvaccinated populations.

A major outbreak in 2016 in Angola and Democratic Republic of Congo killed more than 400 people and was believed to have infected thousands more before it was brought under control through an extensive vaccination campaign.  [Byline: Alessandra Prentice]
======================
[The case numbers and locations are essentially the same as reported in the earlier ProMED-mail post, with no increase in the numbers of suspected cases. A country-wide vaccination campaign is planned in response to these cases. As noted in previous posts, this outbreak is fairly widely distributed geographically across 5 health districts. The dates on which these suspected cases were diagnosed are not given, so we do not have a picture of the timeframe of this outbreak. None of these cases resulted in deaths.

It is difficult to assess the risk of an ongoing outbreak without knowing the proportion of the unvaccinated population in the areas where the cases occurred. One hopes that the planned vigorous vaccination campaign will be initiated as soon as possible. Yellow fever outbreaks can quickly get out of hand, as occurred in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2016-2017. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Republic of Congo: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/166>]
Date: Tue 28 Aug 2018
Source: Reuters [edited]

Congo Republic has confirmed a case of yellow fever near the border with an Angolan enclave, the health ministry said on Tuesday [28 Aug 2018], and has warned of "an emerging event of epidemic proportions."

In all, 186 suspected cases have been detected this year [2018], many of which were in the western commercial hub of Pointe Noire, the head of the government's epidemics unit, Lambert Kitembo told Reuters.

He said 8 blood samples were sent to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) for testing last month [July 2018], one of which came back positive. It was then officially confirmed last week at a laboratory in Senegal.

The sometimes deadly mosquito-borne virus causes fever, body aches and nausea and can quickly spread in areas with large unvaccinated populations.

A major outbreak in 2016 in Angola and the DRC killed more than 400 people and was believed to have infected thousands more before it was brought under control through an extensive vaccination campaign.

The confirmed victim in the case of yellow fever in Congo Republic had traveled in Tchiamba Nzassi district, which lies along the border with the Angolan enclave of Cabinda, 2 weeks prior to the onset of his symptoms, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in a weekly report.

No deaths have been reported, but the situation is being taken seriously by health officials, Kitembo said. He did not say whether authorities had plans to test other blood samples.

"Congo, in general, and the departments of Pointe Noire and Koulou in particular are experiencing since the start of 2018 an emerging event of epidemic proportions," the health ministry said in a statement dated last week.

The WHO said that the confirmed case was detected early last month [July 2018] at a health centre in Pointe Noire, where the patient with fever and jaundice was admitted for treatment.
======================
[The number of suspected cases has gone up from 70 yesterday [27 Aug 2018] to 186 mentioned above. There is now one laboratory confirmation. As noted in the previous post, this outbreak is fairly widely distributed geographically across 5 health districts. The dates on which these suspected cases were diagnosed are not given, so we do not have a picture of the time frame of this outbreak. None of these cases resulted in deaths.

It is difficult to assess the risk of an ongoing outbreak without knowing the proportion of the unvaccinated population in the areas where the cases occurred. One hopes that a vigorous vaccination campaign will be initiated as soon as possible. Yellow fever outbreaks can quickly get out of hand, as occurred in Angola and the Democratic Republic of the Congo in 2016-2017. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Republic of Congo: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/166>]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

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."
Date: Sat, 17 Aug 2019 20:51:48 +0200 (METDST)
By Ricky Ombeni and Marthe Bosuandole

Kinshasa, DR Congo, Aug 17, 2019 (AFP) - Measles has killed 2,758 people in the DR Congo since January, more than the Ebola epidemic in a year, medical NGO Doctors Without Borders said, and called Saturday for a "massive mobilisation of funds."   The disease, preventable with a vaccine, has infected over 145,000 people in the Democratic Republic of Congo between January and early August, it said in a statement.   "Since July, the epidemic has worsened, with a rise in new cases reported in several provinces," said the NGO that goes by its French acronym MSF.   "Only $2.5 million has been raised out of the $8.9 million required for the Health Cluster response plan  -- in stark contrast with the Ebola epidemic in the east of the country, which attracts multiple organisations and hundreds of millions of dollars in funding," it added.

MSF tweeted that without a "massive mobilisation of funds and response organisations, the current measles outbreak in #DRCongo could get even worse."   The NGO said it has vaccinated 474,860 children between the ages of six months and five years since the beginning of the year, and provided care to more than 27,000 measles patients.   In the country's east, Ebola has claimed more than 1,900 lives since erupting last August.

Measles is a highly-contagious diseased caused by a virus that attacks mainly children. The most serious complications include blindness, brain swelling, diarrhoea, and severe respiratory infections.   Last year, cases more than doubled to almost 350,000 from 2017, according to the World Health Organization, amid a rise in "anti-vaxxer" sentiment in some countries that can afford the vaccine, and lagging resources for the preventative measure in poor nations.   The DR Congo declared a measles epidemic in June.
Date: Sat, 17 Aug 2019 12:12:19 +0200 (METDST)

Toulouse, France, Aug 17, 2019 (AFP) - Nine people were injured during a fireworks display in a popular resort in southern France when one rocket misfired close to onlookers on the beach, firefighters said Saturday.   Three of those hurt in the incident in on Friday night in Collioure were taken to hospital after the device "exploded very low" and rained down sparks on some of the 80,000 crowd, firefighters and the local prefecture said.

One person remained in hospital after surgery for a shoulder fracture.   The misfiring rocket was part of a show on a barge just off the port of Collioure, a small picturesque seaside town near the Spanish border whose 3,000 population mushrooms around 30-fold with summer tourists.   Three doctors on site swiftly intervened to treat those injured, the local prefecture said, adding local police have opened an investigation into the incident.
Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2019 21:37:39 +0200 (METDST)
By Ricky Ombeni and Marthe Bosuandole

Bukavu, DR Congo, Aug 16, 2019 (AFP) - A woman has died of Ebola and her infant son was diagnosed with the virus in the first confirmed cases in DR Congo's South Kivu province, reviving fears Friday the highly contagious disease could spread through the region.

The Democratic Republic of Congo's Ebola epidemic has claimed more than 1,900 lives since erupting last August.   "Two cases which tested positive for Ebola were confirmed overnight in South Kivu, in Lwindi district in the Mwenga region," the provincial government said in a statement.   A woman in her twenties died while her seven-month-old child tested positive for the virus and is receiving treatment, the vast central African nation's pointman on Ebola, Jean-Jacques Muyembe, said in a statement.

The woman had been staying with a family in the North Kivu town of Beni, the epicentre of the outbreak, and was identified as a "high-risk contact" of one of the family members infected with Ebola, the statement said.   She then "escaped" movement controls in the area, changing identities four times and travelling from Beni through the North Kivu cities of Butembo and Goma to South Kivu's Bukavu and Mwenga, the statement added.    She died on Wednesday.   "We reassure neighbouring countries that all steps are being taken to strengthen surveillance at points of entry as well as sanitary control," the statement said.    South Kivu shares borders with Rwanda, Burundi and Tanzania.

World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus tweeted that the outbreak in South Kivu "has sparked a rapid response... to provide treatment, identify all contacts, raise community awareness & begin vaccinating".   The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said it was "rapidly deploying an expert team" to the area.   And South Kivu Governor Theo Ngwabidje told reporters: "Teams from the national anti-Ebola coordination campaign arrived yesterday to provide support."

- Risk of crossing border 'enormous' -
The outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus began in neighbouring North Kivu province on August 1, 2018 and spread to Ituri province.   The WHO declared the epidemic a "public health emergency of international concern" last month after cases were confirmed in the densely-populated North Kivu capital Goma.   The city's proximity to Rwanda and many transport links sparked fears of cross-border spread.    "Beni, Butembo and Goma are still containable," a Congolese professor and epidemiologist said of the three North Kivu cities.   "But with the disease in South Kivu, the risks of it spreading to (the eastern DR Congo town) of Kalemie, Tanzania and Burundi are enormous."

Residents in South Kivu's capital Bukavu said they were worried.   "At this time of year, we rarely have running water -- how are we going to avoid this disease if we have to frequently wash our hands?" asked mother-of-five Martine Mushagalusa.   Anselme Kangeta, 35, said: "Given the crowded way we live, movement is uncontrolled, people go from one place to another without taking precautions. The authorities must get involved otherwise we will all die."   South Kivu experienced an Ebola scare on July 31 when doctors briefly quarantined 15 people in the town of Birava over fears they were infected, but tests came back negative.

- Drug breakthrough -
Ebola is named after a river in northern DR Congo, formerly named Zaire, where the virus was first identified in 1976.   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.   The pathogen causes fever, vomiting and severe diarrhoea, often followed by kidney and liver failure, and internal and external bleeding.   The disease is spread by contact with infected bodily fluids and is fought with the time-honoured but laborious techniques of tracing contacts and quarantining them.

The cases in South Kivu come on the heels of researchers announcing a possible breakthrough in the quest for drug to treat Ebola. Two prototype drugs, REGN-EB3 and mA114, slashed mortality rates among Ebola patients in a
trial in eastern DR Congo.   The authorities have also deployed a US-made vaccine called rVSV-ZEBOV, which is unlicensed but has been widely tested for safety.    Muyembe, appointed by President Felix Tshisekedi to coordinate the campaign against Ebola, predicted Thursday that with the new drugs and vaccine "we can manage to completely control the epidemic in three to four months".    Nearly 200,000 people have been vaccinated to date.   Burundi said Wednesday it had begun vaccinating frontline workers at its border with DR Congo.
Date: Fri 16 Aug 2019
Source: CBS Boston [edited]

The Massachusetts Department of Public Health has confirmed a 2nd human case of eastern equine encephalitis [EEE] in the state on Friday [16 Aug 2019]. Officials also raised the risk level for EEE to "critical" in 10 more towns in central and eastern Massachusetts.

The department said the new EEE case is in a man between the ages of 19-30 in Grafton. As a result, Grafton, Hopkinton, Northbridge, Shrewsbury, Southboro, Upton, and Westboro are all at "critical risk" for EEE.  The wife of the Grafton man diagnosed with EEE says he is in his late 20s and lives near a farm. The couple asked not to be identified but told WBZ he was diagnosed after having a seizure.  A goat in Bristol County has also tested positive for EEE, leading officials to put Easton, Norton and Raynham at critical risk as well. A total of 19 communities across the state are at critical risk now, and 18 are at high risk.

The department said it is working with local boards of health and mosquito control experts to work on "appropriate public health response activities."  "The most intense level of EEE activity is still being seen in Bristol and Plymouth Counties," said Public Health Commissioner Monica Bharel in a statement. "However, in active EEE years, the virus may move outside of southeastern Massachusetts. This is evidence of that movement, and residents in the area of increased risk should use mosquito repellent and avoid outdoor activities at night."  Less than a week ago, the department confirmed the 1st human case of EEE in Massachusetts since 2013. The infected man is over 60 and lives in southern Plymouth County.

So far, EEE has been found in 288 mosquito samples.  "[The] history here in Massachusetts [is that] the mosquitos test positive, but the people don't, so this is a little bit unusual," said Dr. Michael Hirsh of the Worcester Division of Public Health.  He said weather may be to blame. "Whenever there is a winter that doesn't have a really hard frost, if it's much more mild, the mosquitoes don't really ever knock off from last year."  Residents should make efforts to avoid mosquito bites, which can spread EEE, including using insect repellent, being aware of peak mosquito hours (dusk to dawn), wearing long sleeve shirts and pants when outside, draining standing water from around your home, replacing window screens, and protecting your animals from mosquitos.

EEE symptoms can range from a stiff neck, headache and lack of energy to dangerous complications like inflammation and swelling of the brain.  The risk of EEE will remain until the 1st killing frost.
========================
[There was a recent human eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) case in Massachusetts, the 1st human case that ProMED-mail has posted this year (2019), and now a 2nd case in that state and the 3rd in the eastern USA.

So far this year (2019), all of the EEE cases other than in humans posted on ProMED-mail have been in horses, indicating that this has been an active EEE virus transmission season. The case above again reminds us that human cases occur as well. As usual, the equine cases have occurred in the eastern states and a midwestern state in the USA. There is a vaccine available for equine animals, and their owners are wise to have them vaccinated. There is no commercially available vaccine for humans, so avoidance of mosquito bites is the best preventive measure.

Additional information on EEE is available on the CDC website at
<https://www.cdc.gov/EasternEquineEncephalitis/>. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Massachusetts, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/224>]
Date: Sun 18 Aug 2019
Source: Taipei Times [abridged, edited]

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday [17 Aug 2019] confirmed 5 new measles cases associated with a cluster outbreak in Taipei, saying that 1981 people who had come into direct contact with the patients would be monitored for symptoms until 6 Sep 2019.

The cases are likely associated with a man in his 30s living in northern Taiwan who was infected with measles in Viet Nam, returned home on 29 Jul 2019, transmitted the disease to his flat-mate, and was confirmed to have measles on Wed 31 Jul 2019, the centres said.

One of the 5 cases confirmed yesterday [17 Aug 2019] is a man in his 30s who was on the same flight with the index case on 29 Jul 2019 and was in Viet Nam from 5 Aug to Wed 14 Aug 2019, so he might have been infected by the index case or by other people in Viet Nam, it added.

The other 4 patients are nurses who work at Cathay General Hospital's emergency room who had come into contact with the index case, the CDC said.

The nurses started experiencing symptoms between Friday last week [9 Aug 2019?] and Thursday this week [15 Aug 2019?], CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said, adding that one of them was vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in 2013, and 2 were vaccinated last year [2018], but the other has not been vaccinated.

The hospital held an emergency response meeting to discuss prevention measures and asked the medical practitioners who have had direct contact with the index case to have their measles antibody levels measured and receive an MMR vaccine if no antibodies are found, hospital deputy superintendent Lee Chia-long said. The hospital also asked medical practitioners with higher antibody levels to help screen patients with a fever, control the personnel who are allowed to enter the emergency room, take disinfection measures, and put up posters to warn people about clustered measles cases, he said.

One 119 measles cases have been confirmed this year [2019] -- 72 domestic cases, among whom 51 had come into contact with confirmed cases, and 47 imported -- the CDC said.  [Byline: Lee I-chia]
Date: Fri 16 Aug 2019
Source: 1 News Now [abridged, edited]

A spike in measles cases this week is the worst since the outbreak started, Auckland Regional Public Health Service said.

In the past week, there have been 81 new cases.

As of midday [16 Aug 2019], the total number of cases in Auckland this year [2019] was 456.