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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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Hungary

Hungary US Consular Information Sheet
April 07, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Hungary is a stable democracy with a market economy. Tourist facilities outside Budapest are widely available, if not as developed as those found in Western Europe.
isitors considering a trip are encouraged to read the Embassy’s consular web site at http://budapest.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html.
Please read the Department of State Background Notes on Hungary.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required. A visa is not required for tourist stays of up to ninety (90) days as of May 1, 2004. American citizen tourists may remain in Hungary for up to ninety days during any six-month period from the date of first entry. If you plan to reside or study in Hungary for a period of more than ninety days, a visa must be obtained from the Embassy of the Republic of Hungary at 3910 Shoemaker Street NW, Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 362-6730. More information can be found on the Hungarian Embassy’s web site, http://www.huembwas.org, or at the nearest Hungarian Consulate in Los Angeles or New York.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations in Hungary and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passersby. Nonetheless, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety. This has been the case several times since 2006, as large demonstrations continue to occur in protest of various domestic political issues. While demonstrations have occurred throughout the country, demonstrations often occurred at Budapest’s Kossuth Lajos ter, outside the Hungarian Parliament Building and very close to the U.S. Embassy. On several occasions the demonstrations turned violent, resulting in local law enforcement response that included the use of water canons and tear gas. Domestic politics also appears to be the impetus behind a recent rash of Molotov cocktail and “white powder” incidents across the country. While Americans and U.S. interests are not specifically targeted by these incidents, many take place in areas popular with tourists. As a result, U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas in which public demonstrations are taking place.

While Hungary does not appear to be experiencing the wave of race or ethnic-based violence associated with other countries in East and Central Europe, there has been an increase in the profile of a number of small groups espousing religious, ethnic and social intolerance. One such group, calling itself the Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard), gained prominence in 2007 due to its radical nationalist message of intolerance and its efforts to intimidate opponents by adoption of imagery reminiscent of Hungary’s fascist regime of the 1940’s. Although such groups are not avowedly anti-American, their targeting of people based on their ethnicity, race or sexual orientation should be noted by Americans traveling in Hungary, and steps should be taken to avoid confrontations with the group and its members.

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

Up to date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S., 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:
Hungary has a low rate of violent crime. However, street crime occasionally involving violence has been reported, especially near major hotels and restaurants and on public transportation. Theft of passports, currency, and credit cards is a frequent problem, especially in train stations and on public transportation.

The U.S. Embassy’s Consular Section offers an informational brochure for tourists in Hungary, including a section on crimes and scams that have been encountered by other tourists. To consult the advisory, please visit the Embassy’s consular web site at http://budapest.usembassy.gov/tourist_advisory.html.

Drivers should be cautious when stopping at gas stations and highway parking lots, or fixing flat tires or other mechanical problems, especially at night. There have been reports of scams perpetrated on unsuspecting victims while traveling the highways. One reported scam involves someone who attracts the driver’s attention by saying that there is something wrong with his/her car (e.g. a smoking hood or flat tire) in order to encourage the driver to pull over to the side of the road. Once pulled over, the people participating in the scam will remove purses, passports, etc., from the car and drive away. Luggage and valuables should not be left unattended inside any vehicle.

A common scam involves young women asking foreign men to buy them drinks. When the bill arrives the drinks cost hundreds of dollars each. Americans should avoid bars and restaurants promoted by cab drivers or people on the street. Every bar and restaurant should provide a menu with prices before ordering.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.

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 or Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.
Tourists who become victims of a crime in Hungary are strongly encouraged to call a 24-hour multilingual crime reporting telephone number. The number from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. is 01-438-8080; from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m., the number is 06-8066-0044. There is also a 24-hour police Tourist Information office that provides service in English and German and is located in one of downtown Budapest’s busiest tourist area: 1051 Budapest.

For more information, see Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical treatment in Hungary is adequate, but hospital facilities and nursing support are not comparable to those in the United States. Physicians are generally well trained, but there is a lack of adequate emergency services. Some doctors, particularly in Budapest, speak English. Doctors and hospitals usually 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 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 Hungary is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

In Hungary, fatal traffic accidents number approximately 1,200 per year, with about 7,000 traffic accidents per year resulting in serious injuries. While this may seem low compared to the United States, Hungary has a much higher rate of accidents per mile driven. Americans should drive with caution and always be alert for other vehicles that may be violating traffic laws. Road travel is more dangerous during the Christmas season, summer months, and at night. Roadside assistance, including medical and other services, is generally available. English is usually spoken at the emergency numbers listed below. In case English is not spoken, dial 112.

Ambulance: 104 or 350-0388
Police: 107
Fire: 105
24-hour English speaker: 112

Bus, train and taxi services are readily available for inter-city travel.
Hungarian motorways and highways are generally in good condition.
Urban roads and road maintenance are also good although areas under construction are not always adequately marked or blockaded. In Budapest, many roads are often under construction. In rural areas, however, roads are often narrow, badly lit, and can be in a state of poor repair in some areas. Pedestrians, agricultural machinery, and farm animals often use these small rural roads. This requires increased caution on the part of drivers. Additional information on road conditions is available from “Utinform” at phone number (38) (1) 336-2400.

Hungary has a policy of zero tolerance for driving under the influence of alcohol. Police often conduct routine roadside checks where breath-analyzer tests are administered. Persons found to be driving while intoxicated face jail and/or fines. Possible penalties for a car accident involving injury or death are one to five years in prison. Police have instituted a widespread practice of stopping vehicles, particularly in Budapest, to check driver identity documents in a search for illegal aliens and residents in Hungary, and to check vehicle registration and fitness documentation. It is against the law to use a hand-held cell phone while driving anywhere in Hungary.

Hungary recognizes international driver’s permits (IDP) issued by the American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance when presented in conjunction with a state driver’s license. American driver’s licenses will be accepted in Hungary for one year after arrival provided that a certified Hungarian translation has been attached to the license. Those with IDPs do not need to have the license translated, but must present both IDP and state driver’s license together. After one year in Hungary, U.S. citizens must obtain a Hungarian driver’s license. For further information on this procedure visit the embassy’s consular web site at http://budapest.usembassy.gov/information_for_travelers.html.

The speed limit for cars and motorcycles on the motorway is 130 km per hour (approximately 80 mph); on highways, the limit is 110 km per hour (approximately 65 mph);
and in town and village areas, the speed limit is 50 km per hour (approximately 30 mph). Many drivers, however, do not observe the speed limits, and extra care should be taken on two-way roads.
Special seats are required for infants. Children under age 12 may not sit in the front seat of an automobile. Seats belts are mandatory for everyone in the car. Unless another instruction sign is displayed, yielding the right of way to cars approaching from the right is the general rule. Turning right on a red light is prohibited. The police write up tickets for traffic violations and levy any applicable fine(s) on the spot. The police will give the offender a postal check (money order) on which the amount of the fine to be paid is written, and this postal check may be presented and paid at any Hungarian post office. Sometimes in disputes about fines or the offense, the police will confiscate the person’s passport and issue a receipt for the passport with an “invitation letter” to appear at the police station the ext day or day after to resolve the dispute. The passport is returned after resolution and/or the payment of the fine.

For specific information about Hungarian driver’s permits, vehicle inspection, road taxes and mandatory insurance, visit the Hungarian National Tourist Organization Office in New York web site at http://www.gotohungary.com.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Hungary’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Hungary’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The acceptance of traveler’s checks is not universal in Hungary. The presence of ATMs is increasing in Budapest and other major cities.

Hungary’s custom authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Hungary of items such as firearms, antiquities, and prescription medications. It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Hungary in Washington or one of Hungary’s consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.

Please see our 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 Hungarian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Hungary are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.

Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY AND CONSULATE LOCATIONS:
Americans living in Hungary are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy of Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site, https://travelregistration.state.gov, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Hungary.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy in Budapest is located at 1054 Budapest 12; telephone (36) (1) 475-4703 or (36) (1) 475-4929. The Consular Section’s fax is (36) (1) 475-4188 or (36) (1) 475-4113, and the Consular Section’s web site is located at http://hungary.usembassy.gov/.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated August 23, 2007 with updated information on Safety and Security.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 30 May 2019 08:06:11 +0200

Budapest, May 30, 2019 (AFP) - Seven South Korean tourists died and 21 others were missing after a sightseeing boat capsized and sank on the Danube in Budapest, Hungarian and South Korean officials said Thursday.   The accident happened near the parliament building in the heart of the Hungarian capital after a collision with a larger river cruise boat during torrential rain around 09:15 pm (1915 GMT) on Wednesday, according to officials.   A total of 33 South Koreans were on board, Seoul's foreign ministry said, confirming the seven dead were Korean.   The youngest was a six-year-old girl, travel agency officials said.

The 26-metre tourist boat, called the "Mermaid," was also carrying two Hungarian crew members.   "Our services have recorded the death of seven people," Pal Gyorfi, a spokesman for Hungarian emergency services, said early Thursday morning.   "Seven people have been taken to hospital in a stable condition with hypothermia and shock symptoms," Gyorfi added.   "A further 21 people are missing," a Hungarian police spokesman Kristof Gal told AFP.   "Police are searching the river throughout the entire length of the Danube in Hungary south of where the incident took place," he said.

- All night search -
Local media reported that one of the bodies was found several kilometres south of the collision location, although Gal declined to confirm.   The temperature of the river water is between 10 and 15 degrees, according to local media.   The search for the missing with the help of divers and police shining lights continued through the night, said an AFP photographer at the scene.   A film crew working from a bridge south of the accident site also used reflector lights to help light up the water through the gloom and pouring rain, reported local media.   Heavy rainfall since the beginning of May has led to high water levels and a fast-moving river current, complicating rescue efforts.

The accident happened on a popular part of the Danube river for pleasure trips, from where passengers can view the city and parliament building illuminated at night.   The boat was regularly serviced and had no apparent technical faults, Mihaly Toth, a spokesman for Panorama Deck that owned the vessel, told the Hungarian news agency MTI.     "It was a routine sightseeing trip," said Toth.   "We know nothing about how it happened, the authorities are investigating, all we know is that it sank quickly," he said. 

- Hit by bigger cruise boat -
An eye-witness told the Index.hu news-site that the Mermaid, which could hold 60 people on board, had been hit from behind by a large cruise boat.   Web camera footage from a hotel rooftop posted on local news-sites appeared to show the bigger boat colliding with the Mermaid.     The wreckage of the Mermaid was found on the riverbed after several hours of searching near the Margaret Bridge, one of the main bridges connecting the two parts of the Hungarian capital, local media said.   Access to the river has been blocked by the authorities, according to public television.

South Korea's President Moon Jae-in instructed the government to "deploy all available resources" for the rescue, the presidential office said.   Seoul planned to send a team of 18 officials to assist the authorities in Budapest, South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported.   The foreign ministry said minister Kang Kyung-wha would leave for Budapest later Thursday as head of a government taskforce.   Embassy staff have also been assisting the emergency services in the identification of victims.   The Hungarian interior and health ministers visited the scene and expressed condolences to the families of the victims.
Date: Thu, 30 Aug 2018 05:07:31 +0200
By Géza MOLNAR

Siófok, Hungary, Aug 30, 2018 (AFP) - With its inviting turquoise waters, white sandy banks, picturesque mountainous landscapes and resort towns, Hungary's Lake Balaton has plenty for tourists to write home about.   But a labour shortage exacerbated by low salaries and Hungary's
anti-immigration policies is making life difficult for the lake's tourism industry.   Already popular under communism, visitors still flock in increasing numbers to central Europe's largest lake to soak up its warm summer climate and enjoy the beaches, bars and eateries, as well as locally produced wines.

But that's proving a headache for restaurant and hotel owners, who struggle to find workers, as unemployment in Hungary is historically low at 3.6 percent, while nationalist firebrand Prime Minister Viktor Orban is strongly against immigration.   "It's impossible to find a gardener, or a waitress or a cook," said Balazs Banlaki, the owner of Kali-Kapocs, a restaurant nestled in the hills of Mindszentkalla on the northern shore of the lake, which lies about 80 kilometres (50 miles) southwest of the capital, Budapest.   Banlaki usually needs about 10 employees to run his restaurant, which he only opens during the summer months, but he has to do more and more himself.   "Before each new season, we repaint the restaurant, but even for that kind of work, it's me who takes up the brush now," he told AFP.

- 'Young people don't stay' -
With a national average salary of less than 530 euros ($610) per month and half a million people having left the country to work in western Europe over the past decade, Hungary lacks workers.   Despite having one of the lowest fertility rates in the OECD (Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development) and a population currently of less than 10 million, its government has not heeded appeals from businesses to open its borders to qualified workers.

Banlaki recalled how last year he could only offer drinks, coffee and sandwiches because he could not find a cook.    After raising salaries, he is glad to have at least a handful of workers this year.   "But even when we find someone, there is a high chance that he or she will quit again quickly. With festivals, holiday plans with friends and other occasions, young people don't stay. I don't dare to criticise our workers for fear they will just leave," he said.   On the other side of the lake -- known also for its big beach parties and discotheques -- the high-end Plazs Siofok beach complex that can hold close to 10,000 people faces similar challenges.   "We advertise (job openings) everywhere and all the time... The lack of qualified workers is a constant problem," manager Erzsebet Mazula said.

- Online check-in? -
Due to its trendy image -- with numerous restaurants, an outdoor gym, beach bars and a concert stage drawing Hungary's best DJs and singers -- Plazs Siofok can attract student workers, Mazula said.   "They are certainly not professionals, but we train them before the season starts. Being involved and friendly and smiling is more important than knowing how to make complicated cocktails," she told AFP.   "But even with this system, you can see there are not enough waiters and waitresses to serve our clients."   At Siofok, mother-of-two Petra Lisztes, 39, said they spent several weeks at the lake every year and she had noticed that many of the small food and drinks stands had remained shut this time and that service in restaurants was slower.   The problem extends far beyond Lake Balaton.

Seen as a relatively cheap holiday destination, the number of tourists to Hungary has climbed seven percent this year so far, according to official data released by the KSH Hungarian Central Statistical Office, after already reaching a record 29.5 million hotel overnight stays last year.   To compensate for a lack of workers, several Budapest hotels have started to simplify reception services inspired by airline companies' online check-in systems.   But the problem is hard to solve for jobs that require expertise, such as cooks, head waiters and waitresses or managers.   Seeking to offer a solution, the government is trying to convince pensioners to return to work by exempting them from having to pay social contributions and capping taxes at 15 percent.    Since last year, Budapest has permitted workers from neighbouring non-EU countries Ukraine and Serbia to work in Hungary for up to 90 days without a work permit.   But, so far, the measures have failed to solve the shortage.
Date: Tue 3 Jul 2018
Source: Food Poison Journal [edited]

Frozen corn and possibly other frozen vegetables are the likely source of an outbreak of _Listeria monocytogenes_ that has been affecting Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom since 2015.

Experts used whole genome sequencing to identify the food source, which initially was thought to be limited to frozen corn. As of 8 Jun 2018, 47 cases including 9 deaths had been reported.

The same strains of _L. monocytogenes_ have been detected in frozen vegetables produced by the same Hungarian company in 2016, 2017, and 2018. This suggests that the strains have persisted in the processing plant despite the cleaning and disinfection procedures that were carried out.

The available information confirms the contamination at the Hungarian plant. However, further investigations, including thorough sampling and testing, are needed to identify the exact points of environmental contamination at the Hungarian plant. The same recommendation applies to other companies belonging to the same commercial group if environmental contamination is detected.

On 29 Jun 2018, the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Office banned the marketing of all frozen vegetable and frozen mixed vegetable products produced by the affected plant between August 2016 and June 2018, and ordered their immediate withdrawal and recall. This last measure is likely to significantly reduce the risk of human infections and contain the outbreak. All freezing activity at the plant has been stopped.

New cases could still emerge due to the long incubation period of listeriosis (up to 70 days); the long shelf-life of frozen corn products; and the consumption of frozen corn bought before the recalls and eaten without being cooked properly.

To reduce the risk of infection, consumers should thoroughly cook non ready-to-eat frozen vegetables, even though these products are commonly consumed without cooking (such as in salads and smoothies). This applies especially to consumers at highest risk of contracting listeriosis -- such as the elderly, pregnant women, newborns and adults with weakened immune systems.  [Byline: Josh Fensterbush]
======================
[When last reported by ProMED-mail in March 2018 (Listeriosis - EU: fatal, ST6, frozen corn, 2015-18, recall http://promedmail.org/post/20180325.5708506), there was a total of 32 confirmed listeriosis cases, including 6 deaths, between December 2015 and 8 Mar 2018, in a multi-country outbreak in 5 EU member states (Austria, Denmark, Finland, Sweden, and the United Kingdom) linked by whole genome sequencing (genotyping) of clinical isolates of _Listeria monocytogenes_ to frozen corn that was packed in Poland and processed/produced in Hungary. As of 8 Jun 2018, there are now 47 reported cases, including 9 deaths.

Possibly other frozen vegetables produced by the Hungarian facility are also being implicated and on 29 June 2018, the Hungarian Food Chain Safety Office ordered recall and banned further the marketing of all frozen vegetable and frozen mixed vegetable products produced by the affected facility between August 2016 and June 2018. All freezing activity at the plant has been stopped.

_Listeria monocytogenes_ is widely distributed in the environment where it can form biofilms, which enables them to attach to solid surfaces and become extremely difficult to remove, especially in parts of equipment that are difficult to access. In a prior ProMED-mail report of a listeriosis outbreak in Canada, the design of a commercial meat slicer responsible for contamination of deli meat made its regular cleaning difficult and costly for the food processor (Listeriosis - South Africa (04): comment http://promedmail.org/post/20180126.5586393). The contamination occurred in parts of the machinery "well beyond the [manufacturer's] recommended sanitation process" and was "found only after the devices were completely disassembled" (<https://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/maple-leaf-eyes-meat-slicers-in-outbreak/article1060898/>).  Perhaps a similar situation is responsible for this prolonged multicountry EU outbreak.

Serotyping of _L. monocytogenes_ strains, based on variations in the somatic (O) and flagellar (H) antigens, has determined that only 3 (1/2a, 1/2b, and 4b) of the 12 serotypes of _L. monocytogenes_ cause 95 per cent of human cases; serotype 4b is most commonly associated with outbreaks (<https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/pdf/listeriainitiativeoverview_508.pdf>). The serotype of the strain of _L. monocytogenes_ responsible for this multi-country European outbreak is 4b, multi-locus sequence type 6 (ST6). Whole genome sequence (WGS) analysis of _L. monocytogenes_ isolates from 2 different samples of mixed frozen vegetables and an isolate from a surface where various vegetables could have been processed closely matched that of the clinical isolates (ProMED-mail post Listeriosis - EU: fatal, ST6, frozen corn, 2015-18, recall http://promedmail.org/post/20180325.5708506).

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Europe:
Date: Tue, 19 Dec 2017 04:32:51 +0100
By Peter MURPHY

Budapest, Dec 19, 2017 (AFP) - Bigger than Prague and some say more beautiful, Budapest's belle epoque boulevards, cafes and locals playing chess in steaming outdoor thermal spas have long attracted tourists.    But for some locals the city's tourism sector is booming too literally.   "My walls shake from music at night, it's impossible to sleep," says Dora Garai, a weary resident of the Hungarian capital's inner seventh district, these days called the "party quarter".

"In the morning I often have to clean vomit off my car," she says, the flat where she has lived all her life a beer can's throw away from a raucous 2,000-capacity all-night bar complex.   The 32-year-old now fronts a residents' group that has held marches in protest at the situation, mirroring unease in other European cities from Barcelona to Amsterdam.   The main attraction for the revellers is that Budapest gives more bang for your buck, Melanie Kay Smith, a Budapest-based academic at the Corvinus University, told AFP.

Hundreds of visitors interviewed for an upcoming report by Smith's students said they chose Budapest, within easy reach on dozens of budget flights daily, for the "cheap alcohol" and "the party".    "We get so much here for so little," a group of young Danes told AFP, beaming, on a recent night out.   Beer rarely costs more than 1.50 euros ($2.50), while a glut of Airbnb flats are on offer for under 30 euros a night.   Hedonistic thermal bath parties, and all-night opening hours add to the lure for thirsty youth, mostly hailing from expensive northern Europe, and often Brits on stag nights.   Offers on the pissup.com website, for example, include the "Killer Attila Warrior Weekend", or steaks and beers followed by a "sensational lesbian show".

- Moving out -
Annual arrivals have almost doubled since 2009 to 3.5 million last year, with Athens the only large city forecast to grow faster in 2017, according to Euromonitor.  Even in winter the neighbourhood is choked with taxis and rickshaws transporting revellers. The Corvinus study counted 800 bars and restaurants, double the number just five years ago.   "Are you ready to party?!" roared a young Hungarian through a megaphone at his foreign student pub-crawl group.    "People can always move out if it bothers them," he shrugged.   Some of the estimated 15,000 residents of the area's compact grid of 19th-century streets, traditionally called the Jewish district after its many synagogues, have done just that.

No official data exist yet but one in five people of some 300 residents told Corvinus that they were "considering moving out" due to noise, litter and public urination.    "People used to live here," reads an ominous bronze plaque put up near a party hostel in the heart of the zone.   Despite soaring property prices driven by investor demand for rental apartments many live in council accommodation and cannot sell, said Dora Garai, or, like her, refuse to budge.   "Why should I move out just because people come here for a few days to behave how they like," she said.

- Midnight closing? -
Garai's group, set up in April, now has over 1,000 members who share experiences on Facebook.    "Last night a drunk Englishman looking for his Airbnb apartment rang every doorbell in our building," one said.   Bars should shut by midnight, not the current 6:00 am, the group demands, while City Hall should create a party zone outside the downtown.

But midnight closing would put him out of business, said Abel Zsendovits, manager of the popular Szimpla Kert (a grungy "ruin bar" in a formerly derelict building), dubbed one of the world's best pubs by Lonely Planet in 2014.   "Yes, the situation outside is unsustainable now," he admitted. "So bring in fines for anti-social behaviour, more police, street cleaning and public toilets". 

At weekends his colleagues don green jackets and try to calm down street noise, part of a "Night Mayor" idea launched by an association of bars.   The residents though are unconvinced that such a business-led initiative will end their woes.    Nor would a proposed local referendum on midnight closing that would likely see low turnout given the outer part of the district is unaffected by the problems.   Ultimately, Budapest needs to upgrade from low-budget "laissez-faire" tourism, says Smith. "Prices will have to go up somehow".
Date: Wed, 19 Jul 2017 16:02:04 +0200

Budapest, July 19, 2017 (AFP) - Hungarian police on Wednesday inspected all international trains entering the country after receiving an anonymous bomb threat, sparking major travel delays.   "An unidentified male called to say that he had placed a bomb on an international train travelling through Hungary," police said in a statement.

As many as 20,000 Hungarian and international travellers were affected by the delays lasting up to three hours, according to the national railway station company (MAV).   By Wednesday afternoon, more than 18 trains had already been searched before being allowed to continue their journeys, with no explosives found so far.   The checks will be carried out until midnight, MAV said.
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.