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Comoros

Comoros US Consular Information Sheet
May 21, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Union of the Comoros is a developing nation located in the Indian Ocean off the east coast of Africa.
Comoros consists of three islands, Ngazidja (also known
s Grand Comore), Moheli, and Anjouan, that cover about 900 square miles.
A fourth island, Mayotte, is claimed by Comoros but remains a territory of France.
Ngazidja is home to the capital city, Moroni, and is the most developed of the three islands.
Facilities for tourism are limited and telecommunication links are unreliable.
French, Arabic, Swahili, and Comorian Creole are spoken.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Union of Comoros for additional information.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport and onward/return ticket are required.
Visas are available from the Comoran Mission to the United Nations in New York; American citizens visiting Comoros can obtain a free, 24-hour transit visa upon entry.
The following day, visitors are required to go to the immigration office in Moroni to change their visa status.
A fee is charged, depending on length of stay.
Travelers should obtain the latest details from the Mission of the Union of Comoros, 420 East 50th Street, New York, NY 10022; telephone number (212) 972-8010, fax (212) 983-4712.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Comoros has experienced frequent strikes and civil unrest, resulting in violent clashes between police and demonstrators.
The most recent unrest involved the de facto separation of Anjouan from the Union government.
In March 2008, Union forces re-took Anjouan and are preparing the island for elections.
The former leader of Anjouan, Mohamed Bacar, has applied for asylum with France and is being held on the French Island of Reunion while his asylum claims is adjudicated.
As the government completes the transition to constitutional federalism and as Bacar’s asylum claim is pending, periodic strikes and protests will likely continue to occur.
U.S. citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations as even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence.
American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations.
Conditions are subject to rapid change on each of the three islands of the Comoros due to weak political institutions and a lack of economic development.
In a rare, apparently religious-based attack, a clinic run by a foreign Christian organization was firebombed on the island of Grande Comore in August 2007.
Religious intolerance and religious-based violence remain very unusual in Comoros.

Although foreign residents and visitors have not been targeted, the potential for further outbreaks of civil disorder remains high, and Americans should exercise caution and good judgment, keep a low profile, and remain vigilant with regard to their personal security.
U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar, if visiting or residing in Comoros.
Embassy contact information is provided below.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s web site, where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
U.S. travelers are advised to be vigilant against pick-pocketing and other forms of petty crime when visiting crowded market areas, parks, and at the beaches.
Violent crime is uncommon.
The most commonly reported crime is breaking into homes.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, help you 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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in Comoros are poorly equipped.
Travelers should bring their own supplies of prescription drugs and preventive medicines. Malaria is prevalent in Comoros.
Travelers to Comoros should take malaria prophylaxis.
The serious and sometimes fatal strain of malaria, P. falciparum, is resistant to the anti-malarial drug chloroquine.
Because travelers to Comoros are at high risk for contracting malaria, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) advises that travelers should take one of the following antimalarial drugs: mefloquine (Lariam™), doxycycline, or atovaquone/proguanil (Malarone™).
The CDC has determined that a traveler who is on an appropriate antimalarial drug has a greatly reduced chance of contracting the disease.
In addition, other personal protective measures, such as the use of insect repellents, help to reduce malaria risk.
Travelers who become ill with a fever or flu-like illness while traveling in a malaria-risk area and up to one year after returning home should seek prompt medical attention and tell the physician their travel history and what antimalarials they have been taking.
For additional information on malaria, protection from insect bites, and anitmalarial drugs, please visit the CDC Travelers' Health web pages.
The East African Indian Ocean islands have seen a rise in the cases of chikungunya, a viral dengue-like ailment, and dengue itself.
As with malaria, chikungunya and dengue are transmitted by mosquitoes.
Every effort should be made to use repellants, proper clothing and barriers that discourage/prevent mosquito bites.
The CDC web site contains further information on chikungunya at http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/dvbid/chikungunya/ and dengue at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/yellowBookCh4-DengueFever.aspx.
There have been occurrences of measles in Comoros, with outbreaks of greater severity on the islands of Anjouan and Moheli.
Travelers are advised to ensure that their measles vaccinations are up to date.
Further, 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 if 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 Comoros is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
In Comoros, one drives on the right side of the street.
Roads are ill-maintained, congested, very narrow and poorly lit at night.
Travelers should exercise extreme caution when driving after dark.
Most urban roads are paved, but many rural roads are not.
Many roads are full of potholes and dangerous curves.
Most roads have no posted speed limits, but road conditions limit speeds to below 30 miles an hour.
Drivers and front seat passengers are required to wear seat belts.
There are no laws regarding child safety seats.
There are no organizations in Comoros that provide emergency or roadside assistance.
Individuals involved in accidents rely on passersby for assistance.
Taxis or a rental car with driver are preferable to public transportation.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in Comoros, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Comoros’ Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: While religions other than Islam are permitted in Comoros, evangelization is illegal.
Violators of this law can be fined or imprisoned.
Few establishments accept credit cards in the Comoros and most prefer Comoran Francs or Euros to dollars.
Please see our 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 the laws of Comoros, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in Comoros are strict, with convicted offenders receiving a mandatory minimum five-year jail sentence and heavy fines.
Engaging in sex with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.
REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
The United States has no Embassy in Comoros.
Americans living or traveling in Comoros are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo, Madagascar through the State Department's travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Comoros.
Americans without Internet access may register in person at the U.S. Embassy in Antananarivo.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at 14-16 Rue Rainitovo, Antsahavola, Antananarivo.
The mailing address is B.P. 620, Antsahavola, Antananarivo, Madagascar; telephone [261] (20) 22-212-57; fax [261] (20) 22-345-39.
The Embassy web site is http://www.usmission.mg/.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information dated October 26, 2007 to update the section on Safety and Security.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu 23 Nov 2017
Source: Al-watwan [in French, machine trans., edited]
<https://alwatwan.net/sante/une-maladie-non-identifiée-sévit-dans-le-pays.html#.WhZoSDSfJ-U.twitter>

The health centres are packed with people, children and adults alike. The reception rooms and hospital rooms are packed. Children (mostly), women and men. Nobody is spared. The symptoms are the same for everyone: high fever, flu, cough, headache, vomiting, fatigue, pain in the joints. It has been almost 3 weeks since the citizens started living this situation, but nobody seems to know what it is.

Some call it an epidemic. While some doctors think it is seasonal flu, others refuse to give it a name and refute the idea that it would be an epidemic. As for the treatment, it is ... symptomatic. Yesterday [22 Nov 2017], at around 10 am, the reception room of the Caritas Comoros Sister Colette health centre, was crowded.

All the hospital rooms were full. Dr Habraji Mohamady says he and his colleagues have been working hard for 3 weeks. The cause? "The disease" that rages. But no one can give it a name. Is it "seasonal flu"?, he asks. However, according to him, the Caritas Comoros health centre in partnership with the health authorities have taken samples that are sent to the Pasteur Institute of Madagascar and the results of the assessment are still expected.

According to him, the symptoms are the same, fever of 40 deg C [104 deg F], influenza symptoms, cough, headache and pain in the joints." Also according to the doctor, the number of consultations has doubled in this period. "We do 50 to 60 consultations a day, apart from emergency consultations. And the capacity is less than 40 beds. Patients are hospitalized for 3 days." The doctor said the treatment is symptomatic while waiting for the results of the analyses.

The doctor advises to take hot drinks, to cover oneself against the dust and the wind, and to take vitamin C. For his part, the director of the Caritas health centre, Said Abdillah, said his service is "saturated" with 12 to 13 hospitalizations on average per day. "We have a capacity of 38 beds that are all occupied daily. Sometimes we send patients away for lack of space. To others, we prescribe treatment and ask them to go home and return the next day." He adds that the majority of patients are children from 7 months to 8 years old. "The treatment remains symptomatic and the patient is strengthened with vitamin C," he says.

[A patient] from Sidjuwu is on his 3rd day in hospital. He has pain, headache, and a sore hip. For his part, the national head of epidemiological surveillance, Dr Saindou Ben Ali Mbae, said that samples will be taken and sent to Madagascar next [Mon 27 Nov 2017] for analysis. According to him, the disease that plagues the region of the Indian Ocean and from communications he has had with colleagues from the sister island Mayotte, where it is also prevalent, is an influenza type A/H1N1. He calls on the population to strengthen hygiene measures.
===========================
[The news report above describes an undiagnosed outbreak in Comoros. The main symptoms are fever (40 deg C/104 deg F), headache, cough, vomiting, fatigue, and joint pains. Although all age groups are affected, the patients are mainly 7 months to 8 years of age. More information on this outbreak would be appreciated from knowledgeable sources.

The Union of Comoros, with a population of 795 601 residents, is a nation comprised of 3 islands in the Indian Ocean located at the northern end of the Mozambique Channel off the eastern coast of Africa between northeastern Mozambique and northwestern Madagascar; its capital is Moroni, on Grande Comoros (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comoros>).

Caritas Comoros runs one health centre and 12 first aid posts on the 3 islands of the Union of Comoros (<https://www.caritas.org/where-caritas-work/africa/comoros/>). Maps of Comoros can be found at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geography_of_the_Comoros#/media/File:Cn-map.png> and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/175>. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[A diagnosis of influenza A is a likely diagnosis here, although the focus on joint pains makes one wonder about other possible explanations, such as chikungunya. Of note, there was a major outbreak of chikungunya in the Comoros Islands in 2005 -- approximately 12 years ago (see ProMED-mail Chikungunya - Comoros (Ngazidja) http://promedmail.org/post/20050405.0986 for details).

The mention that the most affected population in this current undiagnosed outbreak is the 7-months to 8-year-old population may well be a reflection of building up a susceptible population for another significant outbreak of chikungunya. It will be interesting to hear the results of the tests on the etiology of this outbreak. - ProMED Mod.MPP]

[The clinical presentation of high fever with respiratory symptoms is highly suggestive of a viral illness such as influenza, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), or adenoviruses infections (<https://www.cdc.gov/adenovirus/about/symptoms.html>). However joint pain is not a common feature but it is reported in arboviral infections (such as chikungunya, as mentioned by ProMED Mod.MPP above), involving the small joints of the hands and feet, wrists, elbows, ankles, and knees.

According to the latest WHO influenza update, "In Eastern, Middle and Western Africa, influenza detections continued to be reported, with all seasonal influenza subtypes present in the regions" (<http://www.who.int/influenza/surveillance_monitoring/updates/latest_update_GIP_surveillance/en/>). Laboratory diagnostic results can help confirm whether influenza is indeed the underlying cause or if further investigation is required. - ProMED Mod.UBA ]
Date: Thu, 29 Dec 2016 12:44:03 +0100

Mamoutzou, Dec 29, 2016 (AFP) - The Indian Ocean island of Mayotte has been forced to impose severe water restrictions on tens of thousands of people due to the late arrival of seasonal rains.   Around a third of the 200,000 residents on the island, which is administered by France, have seen their access to piped water at home cut to one day in three.    Hotels, an important part of the local economy, have been told not to fill up their swimming pools and many are having to hand out bottled water to customers.

Local officials met on Wednesday and decided to extend the measures until the end of January when rains are forecast to arrive and replenish the island's two dwindling reservoirs.   "This is a crisis situation," local official Florence Ghilbert-Bezard told AFP, adding that the restrictions were necessary "to maintain our resources at any cost until the start of the rainy season."

The drought has exacerbated Mayotte's water problems. The island's resources were already under pressure from a rising local population which saw water consumption jump by 9.7 percent in 2016.   Low-lying island nations have lobbied hard for global efforts to combat climate change, arguing that they are the most vulnerable to extreme weather events such as drought, as well as rising sea levels.
Date: Tue, 22 Nov 2016 04:06:05 +0100
By Aboubacar MCHANGAMA

Moroni, Comoros, Nov 22, 2016 (Agence France-Presse) - Though victory is yet to be officially declared, Comoros health authorities believe the three islands of the Indian Ocean archipelago are on the cusp of being malaria-free.   "With eight cases in 2015 in Anjouan and three in Moheli, we can say we have reached the phase of total elimination of the epidemic, although sporadic cases are still recorded on the Grande Comore," said Mbae Toyb, a doctor with the Comorian Association for Family Welfare.

After a 10-year anti-malaria campaign, health workers in the capital Moroni say the parasite is no more than a bad memory.    "We can go for one or two months now without a single case," said a caregiver at El-Maarouf hospital.    This has changed life for businessman Hassane Assoumane, who suffered recurrent attacks of the mosquito-borne disease that can be fatal if not diagnosed and treated early.   "I was (like) a malaria subscriber," said Assoumane. "For me it was (like) my monthly period."   "But for the last four years, nothing."

The eradication of malaria from the impoverished islands off the coast of Mozambique is a huge accomplishment for their 800,000 inhabitants.   It means fewer maternal and infant deaths, less absenteeism from work and school, and substantial financial savings.   "Treatment for a child with malaria costs 15,000 francs ($33)," Assoumane says, and "if you add a brother, father, mother ..."

Some 214 million cases of malaria were reported worldwide last year, killing 438,000 people, mainly in Africa, according to the World Health Organization.    There is currently no vaccine against malaria, which is caused by parasites transmitted to people bitten by infected female mosquitoes.     "Until 2004, the Comoros was ranked among countries with intense and perennial malaria transmission," affecting 40 percent of the population, especially children, said Toyb.

- Awaiting certification -
But in less than five years the number of deaths from malaria has fallen drastically to almost zero, he said.   The Comoros launched its first five-year anti-malaria drive in 2005 with initial funding of $2.4 million from the Global Fund against malaria, tuberculosis and AIDS. 

The targets of the drive were early treatment, prevention among pregnant women and the wide use of treated mosquito nets.   But the key to its success was probably more attributable to a treatment blitz of Artequick, a combination drug therapy derived from a Chinese plant, artemisinin, and an antimalarial called piperaquine.

Artemisinin, a derivative of a plant called sweet wormwood, has in recent years become the frontline anti-malarial drug, after chloroquine and sulphadoxine-pyrimethanine lost their parasite-killing powers.   Its use has reduced the numbers of death to one in 10 in severe cases, according to experts.

The therapy was first rolled out in Moheli, the smallest of the three islands which has a population of 40,000 people.    In 2012, government extended the treatment to Anjouan island before taking it to the Grand Comore in 2013.   The second five-year campaign valued at $11 million started in 2010.   "The number of cases went from 54,078 in 2004 to 1,052 in 2015, a drop of more than 98 percent," said Toyb.

Since 2014, the numbers of deaths from malaria have dropped to nearly zero at hospitals, said Toyb.   What remains now is to ensure the gains achieved are sustained and to await WHO certification.   "This is the most delicate phase," warns Toyb, adding that while some people still suffer from the disease, there have been no new infections.   A new anti-malaria campaign to run until 2018 has already been launched with the backing of a team of Chinese practitioners.
Date: Fri, 6 Mar 2015 15:38:29 +0100 (MET)

Moroni, Comoros, March 6, 2015 (AFP) - The main hospital of the Indian Ocean archipelago of the Comoros has stopped admitting patients over the last five days due to water and electricity shortages, doctors said Friday.   "There is no water, no electricity, toilets are not working," Thayatti Hamidou, an anaesthetist at the El-Maarouf Hospital of Moroni, told AFP.   "We cannot keep patients in wards, carry out (laboratory) tests, deliver babies or carry out surgeries in the dark," said the head of the dermatology department Tadjiri Hamada. "It's a defacto closure of the establishment."

In an economy that has been weakened by political instability, the Comoros' cash-strapped state utility firms are failing to maintain existing infrastructure.   The impoverished archipelago, situated just off the coast of Mozambique, experiences daily power cuts.   The hospital's overworked back-up generators also packed up earlier this week, plunging the health care facility into total darkness, the doctors said.   Since gaining independence from France in 1975, the archipelago of three islands with a combined population of less than 800,000 people, has witnessed more than 20 attempted coups, four of which were successful.
Date: 27 Dec 2012
Source: LINFO.re [in French, trans. ProMed L. Mialot, edited]

Several cases of turtle meat food poisoning were reported in Ndrondroni in the south of Comoros since last Saturday [22 Dec 2012]. The local authorities announced 3 deaths and over 30 hospitalizations.

The turtle meat began to cause serious problems on Sat 22 Dec 2012. These cases of food poisoning are due to the consumption of turtle meat, which is very popular in Mwali.

According to a source related by the newspaper Al Watwan, the cause of the food poisoning was a male turtle that "is not edible." For many years, the Comorian authorities have declared a ban on the consumption of turtle meat and eggs. Three deaths were reported following consumption of this prohibited meat. The 1st victim was an unborn child. The mother ate some turtle meat and was hospitalized.

Al Watwan reports that "the doctors did all they could to deliver the baby and save the mother after they realized the baby could not be saved. Two boys also died after they ate turtle meat."

Over 30 people suffered acute stomach pain, and also vomiting for some of them, and were admitted to a healthcare center in the district of Nyumashiwa and to the hospital on the island of Fomboni, where they received intensive care.
--------------------------------------------
[Chelonitoxism is a form of poisoning from the flesh of turtles, generally from marine turtles. There is no antidote for it, and treatment is symptomatic. Generally, 80-90 percent of consumers are affected, and death is not an uncommon side effect. The causative toxins are currently unidentified. Children appear to be more sensitive to the toxin than adults.

Turtles are reasonably high on the food chain and may consume a number of toxins or potential toxins as they feed and migrate. These toxins are likely to bioaccumulate in the turtle.

Turtles, in their long migratory lives, accumulate in their bodies elevated levels of contaminants present in the marine environment: mercury, cadmium, POPs (persistent organic pollutants), and a cocktail of different pesticides. Inorganic mercury, in contact with water organisms, becomes methyl-mercury, a highly toxic form of mercury. Small fish feed on tiny contaminated organisms; larger fish feed on small fish, accumulating mercury in their bodies, and, unable to expel these heavy metals through digestion, these remain in the organic system, poisoning it. Being high up in the marine food-chain, migratory species such as the largest fish (tuna, swordfish, marlin, sharks, king mackerel, etc.), dolphins, whales, and turtles end up carrying very high concentrations of methyl-mercury in their flesh, blood, organs and eggs.

Ongoing studies show that sea turtles and eggs carry bacteria: mycobacteria (which may cause TB), salmonella, vibrio (which may cause cholera), _E. coli_, chlamydia (causing a pneumonia-like disease), leptospira, as well as arsenic, and potentially lethal  toxins from ingesting algal blooms (red tides).

Data from 2003-2004 showed that 80 percent of samples from green turtles in Baja California exhibited high antibody levels to leptospira. People with leptospirosis often show no symptoms, but left untreated, it can cause kidney damage, meningitis, liver failure, respiratory distress, or death.

Cooking may kill bacteria and fungi, but cooking does not eliminate the harmful toxins, which once ingested, remain in our bodies. It is important to underline that cooking turtle meat or eggs cannot get rid of heavy metals.

The article does not give us much specific data, such as the type of turtle consumed and the length of time between consumption and onset of signs. We do know that it caused acute vomiting, but that is also present with a number of toxins.

Portions of this comment were extracted from:

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

Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 07:28:56 +0200

Wellington, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - A strong 6.9 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand's remote Kermadec Islands on Wednesday but authorities said there was no tsunami threat.   The quake struck at 4.19pm (0419GMT) at a depth of 111 kilometres (69 miles), with its epicentre 770 kilometres northeast of Auckland, the US Geological Survey said.   "Based on all available data, there is no tsunami threat from this earthquake," the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said.   The uninhabited Kermadecs are New Zealand's northernmost islands.   They are part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, a hotbed of volcanic and earthquake activity at the intersection of several tectonic plates.
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 07:17:20 +0200

Tokyo, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - The death toll from a powerful earthquake that triggered massive landslides in northern Japan rose to 44 on Monday with tens of thousands of police and troops still on the ground to support survivors.   Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said no one was left on a missing list, which suggested the figure could be the final death toll.   Around 40,000 police, fire fighters, troops and maritime safety officials were providing assistance, with more than 2,700 people still forced to stay in shelters after the killer quake struck the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido last week.

The majority of the dead are from the small rural town of Atsuma, where a cluster of dwellings were wrecked when a hillside collapsed from the force of the 6.6-magnitude quake, causing deep brown scars in the landscape.   "The government will strive to get hold of what is needed on the ground and take every possible measure so that people can return to a normal, safe life as soon as possible," Suga told a news conference.   He also warned that islanders should remain on alert as rainfall was forecast in the region, which could trigger fresh landslides.

The quake was the latest in a string of natural disasters to batter the island nation.   Western parts of the country are still recovering from the most powerful typhoon to strike Japan in a quarter of a century, which claimed 11 lives and shut down the main regional airport.   Launching a campaign for another term as head of his ruling party, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe reiterated his government will "do its best" to restore the disasters-hit regions.
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 07:13:22 +0200
By Gregory DANEL, Romain FONSEGRIVES

Paris, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - Seven people including two British tourists were wounded in Paris late Sunday by a knife-wielding man, a terrifying attack that bystanders tried to stop by throwing petanque balls at the assailant.   Four of the victims were in a critical condition, police said, after the man brandishing a large blade and and iron bar went on the rampage next to a canal in the northeast of the capital.   The suspect is believed to be an Afghan national and has been arrested, said a source close to the enquiry, adding he had targeted "strangers" but that "nothing at this stage shows signs of a terrorist nature".

Chaos erupted on the banks of the Bassin de la Villette, an area popular with locals and visitors who frequent the cafes, cinemas and other cultural venues along its banks, just after 11:00pm (2100 GMT).   Eyewitness Youssef Najah, 28, said he was walking beside the canal when he saw a man running and holding a knife about 25-30 cm (10-11 inches) long.   "There were around 20 people chasing him. They started throwing petanque balls at him," Najah said, referring to the sport popular in France also known as boules.   "Around four or five balls hit him in the head, but they weren't able to stop him," he added.

According to the same witness, the attacker then dived into an alleyway, where the man "tried to hide behind two British tourists. We said to them: 'Watch out, he has a knife". But they didn't react".    The pair were then attacked, he said.   A security guard at one of two cinemas on either side of the water said he had seen the attacker running away from two men who were trying to stop him.   "He had an iron bar in his hand which he threw at the men chasing him, then he took out a knife," he told AFP.   The UK foreign office said it was aware of reports of the attack and was "urgently investigating this incident" in cooperation with French authorities, British media reported.

- High alert -
A police investigation has been launched for attempted murder, according to a judicial source.   It is the latest of several knife attacks France has seen in recent months, with terrorism being ruled out in most cases.   On August 23, a man stabbed his mother and sister to death and seriously injured another person in a town near Paris before being shot dead by police.

The motive for the violence remained unclear despite a claim by the Islamic State (IS) group that it was an attack by one of its fighters responding to the terror organisation's propaganda.   Authorities said the 36-year-old had serious mental health problems and had been on a terror watch list since 2016.   That attack came days after an Afghan asylum-seeker was arrested in town of Perigueux for a drunken rampage with a knife in which four people were wounded, one seriously.   Police said investigators had "very quickly" dismissed a terrorist motive after the August 13 incident.

And on June 17, two people were hurt in another southern town when a woman shouting "Allahu akbar" (God is greatest) attacked them in a supermarket with a boxcutter knife.   France has been on high alert following a string of jihadist attacks in recent years, often by people who have become radicalised or claim to have acted in the name of the IS group.   More than 240 people have been killed by Islamist extremists since a massacre at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in Paris in January 2015.
Date: Mon, 10 Sep 2018 06:41:23 +0200

Miami, Sept 10, 2018 (AFP) - Hurricane Florence is expected to become a dangerous "major hurricane" by late Monday as it heads toward the US East Coast, the National Hurricane Center said, as states of emergency were declared in preparation for the storm.   The center of Florence was located about 685 miles (1,100 kilometres) southeast of Bermuda, the NHC in its 0300 GMT Monday advisory.   Florence had maximum sustained winds of 90 miles per hour, making it a Category 1 storm on the five-level Saffir-Simpson hurricane scale.

The NHC warned that Florence "is forecast to rapidly strengthen to a major hurricane by Monday night, and is expected to remain an extremely dangerous major hurricane through Thursday."   The storm is moving towards the west at seven miles per hour, and is forecast to drench a large swath of the US East Coast running from northern Florida to New Jersey.   On its current track Florence is expected to slam the Carolinas and Virginia the hardest -- and all three states have issued emergency declarations to speed preparations.

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam's office described Florence as possibly the state's "most significant hurricane event in decades," warning of "catastrophic inland flooding, high winds and possible widespread power outages."   It added: "The largest threat to life from hurricanes is not the high winds. Flooding is the deadliest result of these storms."   The US navy has ordered ships at its major base in Hampton Roads, Virginia, base to put to sea, saying "the forecasted destructive winds and tidal surge are too great to keep the ships in port."

- Two more hurricanes -
North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper's office said that Florence is already being felt along the state's coast, with large sea swells resulting in life-threatening rip currents and surf.   "Everyone in North Carolina needs to keep a close eye on Florence and take steps now to get ready for impacts later this week," Cooper said.

The storm "is too powerful and its path is too uncertain to take any chances," South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster said in issuing his state's emergency declaration.   Florence was producing large swells expected to reach from the northern Caribbean to the southern coasts of Canada's Maritime provinces.   At this statistical height of the Atlantic hurricane season, Florence was being trailed on east-to-west paths by two hurricanes, Helene and Issac.   Helene -- currently just southeast of the Cabo Verde islands off the African coast -- had winds of 85 miles per hour, and was expected to turn northwest and then north into the open Atlantic by midweek, the NHC said.

Hurricane Isaac -- which late Sunday became the fifth hurricane of the season -- is heading west towards the Caribbean.   At 0300 GMT Issac was about 1,305 miles east of the Windward Islands -- a region still recovering from last year's powerful Hurricane Maria -- with winds of 75 miles per hour.   Issac is expected to gain strength in the next days, but then weaken by the middle of the week when it approaches the Caribbean.   Maria -- which killed at least 3,057 people, most in Puerto Rico -- is elieved to be the third costliest tropical cyclone on record.
Date: 9 Sep 2018
Source: ProMED-mail promed@promedmail.org

[There has been significant chatter on social media from individuals working in Haiti and their colleagues, friends and family, suggesting there is a "new, as yet undiagnosed outbreak," possibly of a mosquito-borne disease, in the expat and local Haitian communities. Some of the content of this social media chatter is excerpted below [edited for clarity/readability - CopyEd.MSP]. - ProMED Mod.MPP]

"...there is some sort of new mosquito-borne virus in Haiti. Do I know for sure that it is a virus caused by a flying insect? No. Do I have a lot of unqualified and under-documented personal research to back up my belief nonetheless? Yes. If you know a guy or gal at the CDC, tell them to come chat with me. Something is going around, and many people are not well. It is eerily similar to chikungunya and malaria."

"Mayaro virus?"

"I have been saying the same thing! Well, when my fever brain has been capable of putting thoughts together this week. 2014 was ChikV; 2016 was Zika, so it does seem time for a new one. This new one is no fun at all."

"My person is negative for everything, Zika, chikV, malaria, dengue. It started with high fever, aches, joint pain, then progressed to stomach ache, headache. Now it's just persistent joint aches and sharp stabbing pain."

"We have this all over Mirebalais as well. Here, it also seems to be often accompanied by severe lower abdominal pain."

"Yes! My son just asked me if there is another mosquito borne illness yesterday!"

"Several of our girls have been sick with these same symptoms! It's awful."

"We all had it too and are seeing a lot of patients at our clinic with it!"

"I was sick for days before the uprising in July [2018] ... totally felt like malaria but tested negative. My BP was 80/40 at best, and it was pa bon [not good]."

"Yes! I've been sick this week as well as a few others I know! Lots of body pain."

"People thought that I was crazy!"

"You're not crazy! Several cases showing up at the Maternity Center here, and I also think there is influenza A going around. Some cases have respiratory stuff (to me that is the flu/influenza A), and several cases have nothing respiratory but have the fever and aches and terrible headache."
======================
[According to Wikipedia (in an unsubstantiated report without references) "Mirebalais is a commune in the Centre department of Haiti, approximately 60 km northeast of Port-au-Prince on National Road 3. The city was established in 1702. During the United Nations occupation of 2005, Nepalese troops were stationed in the city, using the city jail as their headquarters,"  (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mirebalais>).

"Mirebalais is served by the teaching hospital Hopital Universitaire de Mirebalais, the largest solar-operated hospital in the world," a hospital that is run by the US-based Partners in Health,  (<https://www.pih.org/pages/mirebalais>).

>From the sound of the social media chatter, there is an as yet undiagnosed outbreak affecting parts of Haiti. Trying to connect the dots, there is concern that it is malaria-like (fever, chills and headaches), but in those that have been tested for malaria, laboratory results have not supported the diagnosis, and possibly dengue- or chikungunya-like (fever, headache, joint pains) with the addition of complaints of lower abdominal pain (notably described in Mayaro virus disease.

If the symptoms are similar to those of dengue, chikungunya, and Zika virus infections, they need to be ruled out by laboratory testing. There is the possibility that Mayaro virus (MAYV) may be circulating in Haiti. Mayaro virus was isolated from a child with acute febrile illness in rural Haiti. The case report stated that "on 8 Jan 2015, an 8-year-old boy was examined at the school clinic because of fever and abdominal pain. His temperature was 100.4 F [38 C]; lung sounds were clear, and his abdomen was soft and not tender. He had no rash and no conjunctivitis. On the basis of this clinical presentation, the clinic physician empirically diagnosed typhoid and administered co-trimoxazole... MAYV was detected in viral RNA extracted from infected Vero cells.

A question now is: if this is another MAYV infection, is this a continuation of the 2015 transmission or a new introduction into Haiti? Clearly, laboratory follow up is needed to establish the etiology of the current cases of febrile disease to determine an etiology and rule out other pathogens. If MAYV presence is established, surveillance is needed to determine the extent of its distribution, and health care providers and laboratories in Haiti, the Dominican Republic, and other countries in the Caribbean Basin need to be informed to be on the alert and to be prepared to make a diagnosis should any cases occur there.

Of additional curiosity is a recent media report in the Jamaican Star relating a tale of 3 Haitians recently arrived claiming illness, with malaria suspected in one of them. Testing is still pending, but given the social media chatter, one can't help but wonder whether this isn't malaria. Could it be part of the same as of yet undiagnosed outbreak reported in the above chatter? ...

References:
1- Lednicky J, De Rochars V, Elbadry M, Loeb J, Telisma T, Chavannes S, et al. Mayaro Virus in Child with Acute Febrile Illness, Haiti, 2015. Emerg Infect Dis. 2016;22(11):2000-2002.

2- Mavian C, Rife BD, Dollar JJ, Cella E, Ciccozzi M, Prosperi MCF, Lednicky J, Morris JG, Capua I, Salemi M. Emergence of recombinant Mayaro virus strains from the Amazon basin. Sci Rep. 2017 Aug 18;7(1):8718. doi: 10.1038/s41598-017-07152-5.

A HealthMap/ProMED map of Haiti can be found at:

More information from knowledgeable sources would be greatly appreciated, especially results of laboratory testing on individuals presenting with the above-mentioned symptoms, and results of clinical as well as epidemiologic investigations. - ProMED Mods.MPP/TY]
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2018 14:04:57 +0200

Rome, Sept 9, 2018 (AFP) - Authorities have issued health alert after 150 cases of pneumonia were recorded in a week, mainly in towns near the northern Italian city of Brescia.   Suspecting the presence of a pneumonia-causing virus in the water supply, they have taken samples from the distribution network for analysis.   Results are expected in several days.

Autopsies will be conducted on a 69-year-old woman and an 85-year-old man who died this week to determine whether they died from pneumonia, according to local media reports.   Pneumonia is usually caused when bacteria, viruses or fungi infect the lungs.   It can be life-threatening, especially among the elderly and those with serious health conditions.

Provincial health services have called on residents to take precautions, including disinfecting tap filters and shower hoses and to let hot water run for a period of time with the windows open before using it.   Hospital emergencies in several municipalities to the south and east of Brescia identified 121 cases of pneumonia, the health officer in the Lombardy region Giulio Galera said on television.   A survey of general practitioners found at least 30 other people had been affected.
Date: Sun, 9 Sep 2018 10:04:14 +0200

Tokyo, Sept 9, 2018 (AFP) - Japan is suffering its first outbreak of pig cholera in more than 25 years, authorities said Sunday after culling more than 600 animals and suspending pork exports.    A farm in central Japan saw 80 pigs die last week after catching the highly-contagious disease, an agricultural ministry official told AFP.

Early tests showed negative results for classical swine fever, as the illness is officially known.   But follow-up tests came out positive Sunday, prompting the cull of all 610 pigs at the farm, he added.   "We are now processing the livestock there and disinfecting the farm," he said, adding that officials had set up sterilisation points on access roads to the affected farm.

The government has set up a team of specialists to analyse possible infection routes, the agricultural ministry said in a statement.   Tokyo halted pork exports after the outbreak was confirmed. The nation sold roughly $9 million in raw pork meat to foreign markets last year.   Japan saw its last case of classic swine fever, which does not affect humans, in 1992.   The disease continues to rage in many parts of Asia, Europe and Latin America.
Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2018 21:58:47 +0200

Kinshasa, Sept 8, 2018 (AFP) - Health authorities in Kinshasa declared the Ebola virus under control five weeks after the latest outbreak left 89 people dead in eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.   The health ministry announced the outbreak on August 1 in North Kivu province and on Thursday revealed that it had spread to Butembo, a city of a million people.

But Health Minister Dr Oly Ilunga Kalenga said: "Since August 13, there have been practically no more cases, we can say that the situation has been brought under control at the epicentre (of Mabalako)."   The latest outbreak of the virus is 10th to strike DR Congo since 1976, when the disease was first identified and named after a river in the country's north.   "To date, we have 129 cases (31 probable and 98 confirmed), 89 deaths and 33 patients cured," Dr Oly Ilunga said.   Fears that the disease might  spread further had been expressed Thursday after news of two deaths in Butembo, a commercial hub and popular transit point for neighbouring Uganda.

A woman and one of the medical staff who had been treating her died ini the city.   "Even at Butembo, the situation is not critical," the minister told a news conference also attended by Congolese professor and leading Ebola researcher Professor Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who urged people to report any sign of the disease.   "The Ebola virus is circulating here and in Africa in general ... we must be vigilant," Muyembe said.

Complicating the battle against the spread of the disease is the fact it is afflicting an area of Congo wracked by insecurity owing to the presence of armed groups.   Even so, Dr Oly Ilunga said teams treating sufferers had enjoyed army and police backing as well as support from the UN mission Monusco.   The previous outbreak of Ebola, which left 33 people dead in the northwestern province of Equateur, was decreed over on July 24.
Date: Sat, 8 Sep 2018 13:02:52 +0200

Seoul, Sept 8, 2018 (AFP) - South Korea reported its first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) in three years, health officials said on Saturday.   A 61-year-old businessman was diagnosed with the highly contagious viral respiratory illness, according to officials at the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (KCDC).   He returned to South Korea Friday from a business trip in Kuwait where he stayed for three weeks, the KCDC said a statement.

"Authorities have traced and separated 20 people who have come in close contact with the infected person," KCDC head Chung Eun-gyeong told journalists.   They include medical staff, flight attendants and passengers of the plane the man flew back to South Korea on, she said.    He was hospitalised with fever and phlegm and has been quarantined at a university hospital, she added.   It is the first case of MERS diagnosed in South Korea since 2015, when an outbreak killed 38 people and triggered widespread panic.
Date: Wed 5 Sep 2018
Source: El Comercio [in Spanish, machine trans. edited]
<https://elcomercio.pe/mundo/latinoamerica/chile-brote-hepatitis-suma-201-casos-region-antofagasta-noticia-nndc-554166>

Health authorities in the region of Antofagasta in northern Chile are on alert for an outbreak of hepatitis A that adds 201 cases so far in 2018, 2 more than those recorded throughout 2017, they said today, 5 Sep 2018. "Unfortunately, we are having about 5 cases every 2 weeks, which means that we are facing an epidemic," Cooperativa Rossana Díaz, ministerial regional Secretary of Health, told Radio. It is a situation "that is controllable with the help of the community," which, in his opinion, has a fundamental role in the prevention of this disease, which can "be fulminating, create a risk to life, and require organ transplantation." Diaz stressed that hepatitis A can be prevented with simple measures, such as constant hand washing and optimal handling and preparation of food.

The authorities must combat street food sales and control businesses, "but we do not get anything if people continue to consume food on the street or in places that do not have sanitary authorization for that," he said. The profusion of cases, according to the official, corresponds to the increase in the consumption of food in unauthorized places and the lack of vaccinated personnel or strict hygiene regulations in establishments that do have a permit.

The authorities have set up an Outbreak Response Committee in the region and questioned contacts of the confirmed cases and of the suspects in order to find the origin of transmission. The cases registered in Antofagasta range from 2 to 60 years, with an average of 23 years, of which 62% are men and 38% are women, and although the presence of immigrants is large in the region, 98% of the cases are Chileans, the regional authorities reported.

Hepatitis A, according to the Institute of Public Health, can be prevented with a vaccine, and its detection requires a medical diagnosis in addition to laboratory tests or diagnostic imaging studies. It is transmitted through water, contaminated food, or through contact with an infected person. It is considered a disease with worldwide distribution that occurs sporadically or epidemically with a seasonal cycle, which in Chile is an intermediate endemic, with epidemic outbreaks every 4 or 5 years, and there are no chronic carriers.
==============================
[It seems to be the case that the cases are occurring at a low, steady rate rather than from a specific recent exposure.

Antofagasta (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Antofagasta>) is a port city in northern Chile, about 1100 km (700 mile) north of Santiago. It is the capital of Antofagasta province and the Antofagasta region. Formerly part of Bolivia, Antofagasta was captured by Chile in the War of the Pacific (1879-83), and the transfer of sovereignty was finalized in the 1904 Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the 2 countries. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at: Antofagasta, Antofagasta, Chile:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/11048>]