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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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Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

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Japan

General
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Japan is a highly developed country with excellent tourist facilities. The country covers a number of islands and the population is estimated at over 125 million. English is widely spoken in the main tourist a
d urbanised centres.
Weather Profile
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Due to the strong influence from the sea, Japan tends to have a high rainfall but milder winters than the adjacent mainland of China. This is similar to the climate experienced in Ireland by comparison to the rest of Europe. Spring and Autumn are usually the most pleasant months but during the Summer the climate can be significantly humid and tiring. During this time it will be essential that fluid intake is increased and that salt (lost through perspiration) is replaced - usually by increasing the amount eaten on your food providing this is not contraindicated by any personal medical condition such as blood pressure etc.
Alcohol Consumption
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The Japanese authorities have limited patience with those arrested while under the influence of alcohol. For some travellers visiting the country this may mean a prolonged stay in the local jail and the subsequent missing of important appointments.
Natural Disasters
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Japan is situated in a region of the world which regularly experiences earthquakes and other climatic changes including typhoons. A number of relatively small earthquakes are reported each year but, to date, this has seldom affected any tourist itinerary. However, further information is available at http://www.tokyoacs.com
Safety and Security
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The risk to personal security for tourists while travelling throughout Japan is small though commonsense care of personal belongings is always essential. Where available, use the hotel safety boxes to store valuables and your passport, return air tickets. During the mid 1990’s a number of terrorist incidents occurred but no recent serious problems are being reported.
Airport Taxes
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Many countries now include the cost of their ‘departure tax’ within the ticket. In Japan this will depend on which airport you leave from. The fee is collected in Yen at Kansai - Osaka International Airport but usually included in the ticket cost if flying via Narita - Tokyo International Airport.
Cost of living
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Japan is not a cheap country for tourists. The cost of living is one of the highest throughout the world. Credit cards may be used in main cities but the ATM’s machines may not be available at all hours. Before taking a taxi from the airport it would be wise to check the costs and then assess whether or not it might be more prudent to use the local bus transport!
Medical Care
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The level of medical care throughout most tourist regions in Japan is excellent. However, there may be limited English-speaking doctors in some more rural areas and even where this facility is available in the main cities the cost of healthcare can be very expensive. It is wise to carefully check your travel health insurance premium before you leave home.
Local Medications
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Some commonly used European over-the-counter medications
may not be available in Japan. Also, there are strict laws governing the importation of certain medications which can be strictly enforced. Certain inhalers, sinus preparations etc may be confiscated on arrival. If you are taking any personal medications it may be wise to check before you leave. Obviously never carry packages for anybody else while travelling unless you are certain of the contents.
Avoiding Prickly Heat
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The term prickly heat is used in a variety of ways but the cause is generally the same. In a hot climate the body perspires to maintain the internal temperature at a correct level. In the perspiration there will be fluid and your personal salts. The fluid evaporates but the salt dries against the skin. It is your individual reaction to this salt that leads to the ‘prickly heat rash’. The reaction to these salts can be minimised by removing the salts from the skin surface as soon as possible. Change your clothes regularly, use plenty of talcum powder to absorb the perspiration and dry off well after showering.
Food & Water Care in Japan
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Any international traveller should recognise the risks of a ruined trip from unwise indulgence in local food and beverages. In Japan the level of food hygiene is high but the consumption of Sushi (uncooked raw fish) is unwise. Bivalve shellfish also carry a significant risk due to the limited level of sterilisation during the cooking process.
Malaria & Mosquitoes
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No malaria transmission occurs throughout Japan although avoiding mosquito bites during the humid months is wise.
Airborne Disease
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In any situation where you will be crowded together with many others the risk of a variety of airborne diseases will be higher. This will include serious diseases such as Meningococcal Meningitis but also others such as Influenza and the common cold. The risk of Meningococcal Meningitis in Japan is regarded as small and vaccine is not routinely recommended. However, having the Flu vaccine may be a wise precaution. It is also sensible to carry a small supply of lozenges to treat the inevitable sore throat which may occur.
Driving in Japan
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The road system throughout Japan is excellent but unfortunately the road signs may prove too much of a hurdle for those unfamiliar with the language! The congestion within the cities tends to be high and tolls on some of the major roads may be quite expensive. The traffic moves on the left side of the road but for many tourists it will be wiser to consider using local transportation rather than risking a ruined holiday.
English Help Lines
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Tourists can obtain important information and assistance in English while visiting Japan through the following numbers;
In Tokyo - 03-3968 4099
Rest of Japan - 0120-461 997
Vaccines for Japan
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For the majority of short-term travellers visiting Japan no particular vaccines will be recommended. Those planning to live for longer periods within the country will need to discuss this through in greater detail.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 20:21:28 +0200 (METDST)

Tokyo, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful tropical storm lashed Japan on Thursday, bringing strong winds and torrential rain that claimed at least one life, prompted warnings of landslides and flooding, and sparked evacuation advisories and travel chaos at a peak holiday period.   Severe Tropical Storm Krosa -- one notch below a typhoon -- slammed into the southern Hiroshima region, packing wind gusts of up to 126 kilometres (78 miles) per hour.   Dramatic television footage showed violent winds uprooting trees, snapping lampposts and spinning pods on a Ferris wheel.

Meanwhile, high waves smashed into a breakwater, engulfing a 10-metre lighthouse, while swollen rivers broke their banks and swamped nearby roads.  Authorities issued a voluntary evacuation advisory to around 430,000 people in the storm's path, although few appeared to have heeded the warning.

A 82-year-old man was confirmed dead after he fell in the sea in Hiroshima while trying to moor his boat, a local government spokesman said.    Japanese news agency Kyodo reported that a total of 49 people were injured from Wednesday to Thursday.   "We still have intermittent downpours," said Takayoshi Sugimoto, a disaster management official in the southwestern province of Tokushima.   "We will remain vigilant," he told AFP.

The national disaster management agency said a party of 18 people, including children, were stranded during a barbeque in a valley when a river rose rapidly on Wednesday. They were rescued Thursday morning.   Krosa also sparked travel chaos as people battled to return to major cities following the Obon holiday.   More than 800 domestic flights were cancelled to and from cities in western Japan, and bullet train services were either scrapped or sharply reduced.   Ferries connecting the southern Shikoku island and other parts of Japan were also cancelled as high waves lashed the coast.

The storm brought strong winds and downpours to the capital Tokyo.   Several ceremonies commemorating the end of World War II were cancelled in western Japan due to bad weather.    Krosa weakened significantly from earlier in the week as it stalled in the Pacific Ocean but it boasts an unusually large eye, meaning it is likely to dump rain over a wide area.   It was moving north at 35 kilometres (22 miles) per hour and the rain was expected to last for an extended period.   The storm crossed Japan's mainland and hit the Sea of Japan late Thursday.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 09:43:43 +0200 (METDST)

Tokyo, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful tropical storm lashed Japan on Thursday, bringing strong winds and torrential rain that claimed at least one life, prompted warnings of landslides and flooding, and sparked evacuation advisories and travel chaos at a peak holiday period.   Severe Tropical Storm Krosa -- one notch below a typhoon -- slammed into the southern Hiroshima region, packing wind gusts of up to 126 kilometres (89 miles) per hour.   Dramatic television footage showed violent winds uprooting trees, snapping lampposts and spinning pods on a ferris wheel.

Meanwhile, high waves smashed into a breakwater, engulfing a 10-metre lighthouse, while swollen rivers broke their banks and swamped nearby roads.    Authorities issued a voluntary evacuation advisory to around 430,000 people in the storm's path although few appeared to have heeded the warning.   A 82-year-old man was confirmed dead after he fell in the sea in Hiroshima trying to moor his boat, a local government spokesman said.

Public broadcaster NHK and local authorities said at least 21 people sustained injuries, including a man in his 50s, who broke his leg.   "We still have intermittent downpours," said Takayoshi Sugimoto, a disaster management official in the southwestern province of Tokushima.   "We will remain vigilant as more rain is expected in the afternoon," he told AFP.   The national disaster management agency said a party of 18 people including children got stranded during a barbeque in a valley when the river rose rapidly on Wednesday. They were rescued Thursday morning.   Krosa also sparked travel chaos as people battled to return to major cities following the Obon holiday.   At least 761 domestic flights were cancelled to and from cities in western Japan and bullet train services were either scrapped or sharply reduced.

Ferries connecting the southern Shikoku island and other parts of Japan were also cancelled as high waves lashed the coast.   Krosa weakened significantly from earlier in the week as it stalled in the Pacific Ocean but it boasts an unusually large eye, meaning it is likely to dump rain over a wide area.   It was moving north at 30 kilometres per hour and the rain is expected to last for an extended period.   The storm is forecast to cross Japan's mainland and hit the Sea of Japan by Thursday night, reducing its strength.
Date: Wed, 14 Aug 2019 05:14:26 +0200 (METDST)

Tokyo, Aug 14, 2019 (AFP) - Japan was bracing Wednesday for a severe tropical storm expected to bring heavy rain and strong winds during the peak holiday period, with dozens of flights and bullet train services cancelled.   The storm, named Krosa, is expected to churn slowly over western parts of the country, potentially affecting millions of people returning to major cities from their hometowns after the traditional "Obon" summer holidays.    Japan Airlines scrapped 62 domestic flights to and from airports in southern Japan for Wednesday.   "All the flights from and to Miyazaki and Tanegashima airports have been cancelled and partially for Amami airport," a spokesman told AFP.

All Nippon Airways meanwhile cancelled 34 flights for Miyazaki airport. Both airlines said they would decide later how many flights they will cancel for Thursday, when the storm is forecast to make landfall.   Meanwhile, West Japan Railway announced the cancellation of Thursday's shinkansen bullet train service between Osaka and southwestern Japan.   Krosa, which is packing maximum gusts of 144 kilometres (90 miles) per hour, was expected to hit the southwestern Shikoku island on Thursday before moving across western Japan, the Japanese Meteorological Agency said.   The agency warned of the risk of landslides and flooding due to heavy rain.
Date: Sat 10 Aug 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [abridged, edited]

This week, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reviewed a travel notice last updated in March 2019 concerning travel to Japan and the rubella outbreak.

Travelers to Japan should make sure they are vaccinated against rubella with the MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccine before travel, the federal health agency notes.

According to the National Institute of Infectious Diseases in Tokyo, 2039 rubella cases have been reported through the end of July 2019, with most cases continuing to be reported in the Kanto region (Tokyo, Kanagawa, Chiba, and Saitama).

Rubella is a contagious disease caused by a virus. Most people who get rubella usually have a mild illness, with symptoms that can include a low-grade fever, sore throat, and a rash that starts on the face and spreads to the rest of the body.

Rubella can cause a miscarriage or serious birth defects in a developing baby if a woman is infected while she is pregnant. The best protection against rubella is MMR (measles-mumps-rubella) vaccine.
=======================
[During 2018, Japan reported a total of 2917 rubella cases. The initial CDC Travel Alert for Japan regarding this rubella outbreak was issued on 22 Oct 2018.

The Japan rubella epidemic is mainly affecting men from their late 30s to early 50s. This is because, between August 1977 and March 1995, the rubella vaccine was only given to girls.

With a change in vaccination policy, Japanese boys began receiving rubella vaccinations during April 1995.

Rubella on its own is not a high-risk infection, but rubella infection during early pregnancy can pose serious risks to the foetus, as in 90% of the cases, the virus is transmitted to the foetus. This can result in miscarriage, stillbirth, or congenital rubella syndrome (CRS) in infants. CRS can cause deafness, disabilities, heart impairment, autism, and other birth defects. Around 40 000 children are born with birth defects due to CRS every year in India, according to WHO. - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Thu, 8 Aug 2019 05:04:41 +0200 (METDST)

Tokyo, Aug 8, 2019 (AFP) - A volcano near Tokyo has erupted for the first time in four years, throwing ash and smoke nearly two kilometres into the sky and sparking warnings not to approach the mountain.   Mount Asama, some 140 kilometres (90 miles) northwest of the Japanese capital, exploded overnight and prompted the national meteorological agency to raise its alert level to three out of five, meaning people should avoid the crater.

The agency warned that large rocks and fast-moving flows of hot gas could affect a radius of four kilometres from the crater and that nearby towns could be hit by smaller rocks and ash depending on prevailing winds.   An agency official told AFP on Thursday that gas was still being thrown into the air but at a "normal" level. "We don't see activity picking up," he said.   Mount Asama last erupted in June 2015. There were no injuries in the small eruption.
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Wed, 21 Aug 2019 18:28:15 +0200 (METDST)

Abuja, Aug 21, 2019 (AFP) - Nigeria on Wednesday announced that three years had elapsed since it last recorded a case of polio, a key step towards eradicating the notorious disease in Africa.    "Three years without a case of wild polio virus is a historic milestone for Nigeria and the global community," said Faisal Shuaib, director of the National Primary Health Care Development Agency.   Nigeria, Africa's most populous nation, was the last country on the continent to suffer from outbreaks of the wild polio virus, but has recorded none since August 2016. 

The West African giant will submit data on its polio cases to the World Health Organization (WHO) in March 2020, a move that could pave the way for the whole of the continent to be declared free of the virus.   "If the data confirms zero cases, the entire African region could be polio-free by middle of next year," the WHO representative in Nigeria, Clement Peter, said.    The poliovirus infects the brain and spinal cord, potentially causing lasting muscle pain, weakness or paralysis.    The virus only infects humans, with young children highly vulnerable.   It is transmitted through contact with the faeces of infected individuals, such as through unsanitary water or food.   It has no cure but can be prevented through immunisation.

Only Pakistan and Afghanistan are still battling incidents of the disease around the world.   The fight against the virus in Nigeria was slowed by the Boko Haram insurgency that has torn apart the northeast of the country over the past decade.    The insecurity, which has displaced more than two million people, hampered vaccinations in the region and prevented access to people in remote areas.    While fighting jihadists, Nigeria and neighbouring countries in the Lake Chad Basin have held polio vaccination campaigns to prevent the spread of the virus.

Once a worldwide scourge, the number of cases around the globe have fallen by more than 99 per cent since 1988, according to the WHO.   In 2012, Nigeria had 122 polio sufferers, more than half of the 223 victims worldwide.   Despite the progress, aid organisations warned there could be no letup.   "The battle is not over yet," Pernille Ironside, Unicef's deputy representative for Nigeria, said.    "We have to maintain our effort and intensify them to make sure the historic gains are sustained."
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 23:46:29 +0200 (METDST)

Los Angeles, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - The jam-band Phish announced Tuesday that plague-infected -- yes, that plague -- prairie dog colonies had forced the cancellation of overnight camping and vending for its annual concert series near Denver.   The band will still play over the Labor Day holiday weekend but said in a statement that health officials overseeing Colorado's Rocky Mountain Arsenal National Wildlife Refuge urged precautionary measures like restricting parking and camping to prevent potential spread of the disease.   "We recognize the tremendous inconvenience this may cause for those who had planned on camping," said Phish, a rock band known for its improvisation and hardcore fan base.   Officials had closed parts of the 15,000-acre refuge starting in July, a statement from the US Fish & Wildlife Service said. Some were re-opened in recent days but several trails remain closed.   Today the plague can be treated with antibiotics but is best known for killing 60 percent of Europe's population during the Black Death of the Middle Ages.

The last epidemic in the United States was in the 1920s in Los Angeles.   Humans can contract the easily spreadable plague from fleas that transmit it from infected rodents, as well as from coming into contact with infected bodily fluids or by inhaling coughed-up bacteria.  

Many dedicated Phish fans had decried the lack of information concerning the August 30-September 1 concerts in the lead-up to Tuesday's announcement: "People are already changing their plans. People are mad," fan Keegan Lauer told a local CNN affiliate of the confusion.   "People are Phish fans and Phish fans that are mad are really mad."
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 23:40:37 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - Unions representing Ryanair cabin crew in Spain warned on Tuesday of a 10-day strike in September to protest against the anticipated closing of some airport bases for the low-cast Irish airline.   After meeting with Ryanair representatives for more than seven hours, "which ended without an accord," the unions USO and Sitcpla issued a warning of a strike at 13 Ryanair bases in Spain, the USO said in a statement.   It said the protest was over the possible closing of Ryanair bases at airports on the popular tourist Canary islands of Tenerife and Gran Canaria and also the "future uncertainty" for Girona in northeast Spain.   More meetings between unions and Ryanair management could be held next week, USO said.   Cabin crew are set to observe the strike mainly on Fridays and Sundays in September.

Ryanair had announced last month that it would close some bases because of problems with Boeing's crisis-hit 737 MAX jet, which has been grounded after two fatal accidents.   The Irish no-frills airline said it expected to take delivery of just 30 Boeing 737 MAX 200 jets by the end of May 2020, instead of the 58 that it originally expected, and shortfall would mean it would have to close some bases.   Ryanair also announced in July that it intends to eliminate 900 jobs in its 13,000-strong workforce, and it has faced several protests by employees in Europe.   Pilots in the UK and Ireland warned of strikes in August and September to protest against their working conditions and salaries.
Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 15:45:49 +0200 (METDST)

Madrid, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - A 90-year-old woman has died and 53 people are in hospital in Spain, including several pregnant women, after eating contaminated meatloaf, officials said Tuesday.   Listeria is a commonly found bacteria and most people who consume foods that contain it do not become ill.  But for elderly people, pregnant women or those with serious conditions like diabetes or cancer, it poses a serious threat.   The outbreak of listeria is affecting mainly the southwestern region of Andalusia where 114 cases have been confirmed, according to the regional health department.

Outside Andalusia, only one case has so far been confirmed in the neighbouring region of Extremadura, Spain's Health Minister Maria Luisa Carcedo told Cadena Ser radio.   A 90-year-old patient affected by the outbreak died overnight at a hospital in Seville, the capital of Andalusia, the regional government said in a statement.   It said another 53 people are in hospital including 18 pregnant women and two new-borns.

Spanish consumer group Facua said two pregnant women who ate meatloaf, suspected of being contaminated with listeria, "lost their babies" in Seville.   An investigation has been opened because there appears to be a link to the outbreak of listeria, the health ministry said.   The regional government of Andalusia warned last Thursday that meatloaf sold under the commercial name "la Mecha" made by Seville-based company Magrudis was the source of a listeria outbreak.   The factory was closed and all of its meatloaves were recalled from shops, the health ministry said.   Listeriosis begins with flu-like symptoms including chills, fever and muscle aches. It can take up to six weeks after consuming contaminated foods for symptoms to occur.
Date: Tue 20 Aug 2019
Source: WTOP [edited]

Health authorities in Spain are on high alert after a 90 year old woman died amid a listeria outbreak in the southern region of Andalusia that has affected more than 110 people.

Jose Miguel Cisneros, director of the infectious disease department at Seville's Virgen del Rocio Hospital, on Tuesday [20 Aug 2019] announced the 1st casualty since the outbreak was declared on 15 Aug [2019]. Authorities have closed the pork meat supplier's plant and recalled all of its products. Cisneros said roughly half of the 114 people affected by the bacteria remain hospitalized.

Health minister Maria Luisa Carcedo said an investigation is looking into how the meat evaded what she called "strict food safety controls".

Listeria is a bacteria that usually causes mild illness in healthy people but can be dangerous to pregnant women and those with weakened immune systems.
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[The listeriosis outbreak, which was previously reported to have affected 44 people mainly in the cities of Huelva and Seville (ProMED-mail post Listeriosis - Europe (06): (Spain) meat, recall, alert http://promedmail.org/post/20190817.6627473), is now said to involve 114 people.

Huelva, with a population of 144,258 residents, is a city located along the Gulf of Cadiz coast in south western Spain in the autonomous community of Andalusia (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huelva>). Seville, with a metropolitan population of about 1.5 million, is the capital and largest city of the autonomous community of Andalusia, located about 80 km (50 mi) inland from the Gulf of Cadiz coast (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seville>).

A map showing the location of Huelva and Seville can be found at

We still have not been told the characteristics of the meat product involved in this listeriosis outbreak. Adequate cooking of the meat before eating should have markedly reduced the risk for listeriosis. However, refrigerated ready-to-eat cold cut meats are well-recognized sources for listeriosis. Even if initial contamination added only a few listeria organisms to the food, the contamination can be significant for refrigerated foods because _Listeria monocytogenes_ can subsequently multiply at refrigerator temperatures to sufficient number to cause disease. Refrigerated ready-to-eat meat products should not be served to people who are likely to be at increased risk for listeriosis, such as pregnant women, adults aged 65 years or older, and people with weakened immune systems.

The meat ("La Mecha" made by the Magrudis company, based in Seville) suspected to be the source has been recalled, but because it can take up to 70 days after exposure to listeria for symptoms of listeriosis to develop, more cases can be expected.

In the USA and Europe, clusters of related cases are identified based on clinical isolates of _L. monocytogenes_ that have similar genotypes. Food is confirmed to be the source if listeria isolated from it has a genotype that matches the genotype of the clinical outbreak strain. We await further developments in the investigation of this outbreak. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Spain:
Date: Mon 19 Aug 2019
Source: ARY News [edited]

One more case of Congo virus [has been] reported in Karachi as a young boy was diagnosed with the disease after being admitted at a hospital in Nazimabad area, ARY News reported on Sunday [18 Aug 2019]. Doctors confirmed that the 17 year old boy, named as [QS] who is [a] resident of Sohrab Goth and worked at a dairy farm, was diagnosed with Congo virus during the initial medical examination tests.

It is pertinent to mention here that the 1st case of Congo virus was reported on [11 Feb 2019] in the metropolis as a woman, [TF], [who] had been brought to Jinnah Hospital in critical condition.

In 2018, at least 16 deaths were reported in Karachi from the life-threatening virus, and 41 patients -- mainly from Quetta, Balochistan -- were diagnosed with it.

Earlier on [25 Jul 2019], a Congo virus alert had been issued for the metropolis, stipulating precautionary instructions for all those people who visit cattle farms. The alert was issued by Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to hospitals, directing the management to adopt special precautions for a Congo-affected patient. The letter of the KMC further asked hospitals to establish special wards for Congo patients, and run awareness campaigns about the virus through banners and posters.

The disease is caused when a tick attaches itself to the skin of cattle, and when that infected tick or animal comes in contact with people, the highly contagious virus is transmitted into the human body and the person falls ill. This disease has a 40% to 50% mortality rate. The initial symptoms of Congo fever include headache, high fever, rashes, back pain, joint pain, stomach pain and vomiting.

Precautions: people should wear light-coloured and airy clothes while going to cattle farms. Use of mask and gloves is also recommended while touching animals.
Date: Wed 21 Aug 2019
Source: The Canberra Times [edited]

Australian Capital Territory (ACT) health officials are investigating a cluster of hepatitis A cases in Canberra's South Korean community. There have been 8 cases of the virus in the ACT and Sydney since June 2019. The cluster of cases comes as South Korea experiences a large outbreak of the virus, with more than 11,000 cases reported in the country in 2019.

ACT Health said it was working with its counterparts in New South Wales to investigate the cause of the outbreak. An ACT Health spokesman said most of the people affected by hepatitis A in recent weeks in Canberra had not reported travelling overseas recently. "Australia has a low incidence of hepatitis A, and when outbreaks occur, they are linked to consumption of contaminated food products or person-to-person spread," the spokesperson said. "However, at this stage of the investigation, no specific food has been connected to the outbreak."

Symptoms of the virus may include nausea, vomiting, fever and yellowing of the skin, dark urine and pale stools.

"The ACT Health directorate is reminding the South Korean community in Canberra and anyone travelling to South Korea, of the importance of vaccination prior to travel and practicing good hand hygiene to reduce the risk of spread," the spokesman said. Health officials have recommended at least one dose of a hepatitis A vaccination before travel. Two doses prevent an infection.

Handwashing in soap and water for at least 15 seconds has also been recommended by health officials to help prevent the spread of the virus.
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[Since no travel was involved, it is not clear if the cases were from imported food, food contaminated by an infected food handler or from transmission from an asymptomatic person. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Australia:
Date: Tue 20 Aug 2019, 4:29 PM
Source: Arka News Agency [edited]

Anthrax cases have been reported in Geghhovit community of Armenia's Gegharkunik province, the press office of Armenia's health ministry reported on [Tue 20 Aug 2019]. According to the ministry's press release, 2 residents of the community came to a medical centre in Martuni with sores on their fingers. The patients told doctors that they had taken part in butchering a cow of a fellow villager.

The health ministry has dispatched its experts to the community. As a result of joint efforts with local medical centres' workers, 6 other infected people have been found. All the patients are being treated now, and the community is under medical control now. The Armenian Food Safety Agency has been informed.
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[Gegharkunik province is on the eastern border of Armenia and pokes into Azerbaijan; see:
<http://legacy.lib.utexas.edu/maps/commonwealth/armenia_pol_2002.jpg>

Geghhovit is south of Sevana Lich (lake); see:

When the dust settled there were 2 initial cutaneous cases subsequent to them butchering a neighbour's cow, which would have been sick or dead. The first report suggests that they might have butchered a number of "cattle" carcasses, though the 2nd report has a single cow. And in due course another 6 villagers came down with cutaneous anthrax as they were sent to the local hospital merely for diagnostic confirmation.

Anthrax is sporadic in Armenia and thus the risks of butchering sick and dead animals are only realised after the onset of human anthrax lesions. And the number of human cases can exceed the indirectly reported livestock cases. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Mon 19 Aug 2019
Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) [edited]

Viral hepatitis, outbreaks, hepatitis A outbreaks
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Since March 2017, CDC's Division of Viral Hepatitis (DVH) has been assisting multiple state and local health departments with hepatitis A outbreaks, spread through person-to-person contact.

The hepatitis A vaccine is the best way to prevent HAV infection.

The following groups are at highest risk for acquiring HAV infection or developing serious complications from HAV infection in these outbreaks and should be offered the hepatitis A vaccine in order to prevent or control an outbreak:
- people who use drugs (injection or non-injection);
- people experiencing unstable housing or homelessness;
- men who have sex with men (MSM);
- people who are currently or were recently incarcerated; and
- people with chronic liver disease, including cirrhosis, hepatitis B, or hepatitis C.

One dose of single-antigen hepatitis A vaccine has been shown to control outbreaks of hepatitis A and provides up to 95% seroprotection in healthy individuals for up to 11 years.

Pre-vaccination serologic testing is not required to administer hepatitis A vaccine. Vaccinations should not be postponed if vaccination history cannot be obtained or records are unavailable.
[further information available at URL above]
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[Overall, the top 4 states for HAV cases remain Kentucky, Ohio, Florida and West Virginia.

As the numbers of cases continue to raise in a number of states, and news of smaller (so far) outbreaks occur in others, the question at the end of ProMED-mail post http://promedmail.org/post/20190104.6241686 by a Kentucky official -- "This is a disease of developing countries. One has to ask: Why are we seeing it in the USA?" -- is more and more relevant. We are seeing these outbreaks because of the inability to deal with marginalized populations among our midst. The dramatic cutbacks in public health infrastructure in some of these states clearly feed the fire of these outbreaks. They must be addressed by bolstering public health resources and education and directly addressing the needs of these marginalized populations. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Fri 16 Aug 2019
Source: Fox News [edited]

A 7 year old girl from Mt Vernon, Ohio has been infected with a rare mosquito borne virus that, in severe cases, can cause encephalitis, or an inflammation of the brain. The girl, who was not identified, has been confirmed to have La Crosse virus (LACV), local news outlet Knox Pages reported, citing the Knox County Health Department. It wasn't immediately clear where or when the girl was infected.

La Crosse virus is typically caused by a bite from an infected eastern tree-hole mosquito [_Aedes triseriatus_], which "lays its eggs in tree holes and man-made containers" and "typically bites during the day", according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A rare disease -- there is an average of 70 cases in the United States each year, according to the federal health agency -- LACV can make a person feel ill with fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and fatigue. Most people begin to notice symptoms 5 to 15 days after they are bitten. In severe cases, however, LACV can lead to encephalitis -- though this is commoner in children under 16 "and is often accompanied by seizures," says CDC. "Coma and paralysis occur in some cases," it added.

The disease is diagnosed through blood and spinal fluid tests. There's no specific treatment for the mosquitoborne ailment. "Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and no effective anti-viral drugs have been discovered. Severe illnesses are treated by supportive therapy which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections," CDC added, noting that most people infected make a full recovery.

People are most at risk for LACV if they live in wooded areas. Most cases in the US have occurred in upper Midwestern, mid-Atlantic and southwestern [sic. southeastern] states. Ohio, specifically, sees about 20 cases of the disease each year, according to the Knox Pages.

The best way to prevent LACV and other mosquitoborne ailments is by draining standing water -- like in birdbaths, buckets or on pool covers -- which can serve as a breeding ground for these insects. Other preventative measures include covering skin with long-sleeved pants and shirts while outside and using insect repellent containing DEET or another EPA-recognized ingredient.  [byline: Madeline Farber]
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[The previous case of La Crosse virus encephalitis in Ohio was in a boy, also 7 years old. Severe neurological cases of La Crosse virus encephalitis mainly occur in pre-school age children. They are seldom fatal, but prolonged hospitalization and sequelae including personality changes, may occur.

As noted earlier, La Crosse encephalitis virus (LACV) is a member of the California serogroup of arboviruses. A map of the distribution of California virus serogroup neuroinvasive disease cases (mainly LACV cases) shows 3 major focal geographic areas: (1) in the unglaciated areas of south eastern Minnesota/south western Wisconsin/north western Illinois, (2) Ohio, where this case occurred, and (3) the central Appalachian Mountain areas of Virginia/West Virginia and North Carolina/Tennessee, (see the CDC map at <http://www.cdc.gov/lac/tech/epi.html>).

Cases may occur earlier in the summer season than other arthropod-borne viruses because the virus can be transovarially transmitted by the infected female to her eggs, so that emerging adults may already be infected and ready to transmit the virus without the need to take an infectious blood meal from an infected forest mammal. It is wise to eliminate fresh water catchments, which are breeding sites of _Aedes triseriatus_, the La Crosse virus vector mosquito. The Asian tiger mosquito _Aedes albopictus_ can also transmit the virus.

The CDC has a good summary of LACV, its epidemiology, geographic distribution, and clinical characteristics at

An image of _Aedes triseriatus_ can be seen at

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Ohio, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/237>]