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Sri Lanka

General Information
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Tourists are now beginning to return to Sri Lanka after years of trouble throughout the country. Since 1983 the civil war between the Tamil Tigers and Government has occasionally
affected tourists. Nevertheless, those who have visited the country usually return home with glowing reports about the beauty of the country and the welcoming pleasant nature of the local population. The recent moves toward developing the peace processes throughout the country are extremely encouraging but it will be important that tourists and business travellers recognise that it is still early days and that care should continue to be exercised at all times.
Climate
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Sri Lanka is situated like a tear drop off the southeastern tip of India close to the equator. The climate is fairly steady throughout the year with temperatures generally above 20c and a moderately high humidity throughout the year - especially along the coastal resorts. Most rainfall tends to fall during April, May and June and again during October and November. It will be important to ensure that the correct clothing is brought to cope with the climatic conditions.
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 also 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. Sometimes it may be worth considering antihistamines to lessen the irritation.
Safety and Security
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Travellers will seldom visit the main insecure regions of Sri Lanka which are situated in the north and east of the country. The tourist resorts along the beaches in the southwest of the country are generally safe. However, like many other countries it is important to recognise that petty crime remains the most common problem for many tourists. Never flaunt personal wealth and always use the safety boxes in your hotel if they are available. Wandering about the streets at night is unwise. Unfortunately, in a country with such a long history of armed conflict, there are many gangs with guns willing to hold up unwary tourists. Always check with your tour representative on arrival and be sensible enough to avoid obviously risky situations. Having a form of identity with you and the business card from your hotel may be a wise precaution. Don’t easily befriend strangers and single women visitors in particular should take care.
Local Customs
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The Sri Lankan authorities treat any drug offences very seriously. Make sure any medications are clearly marked and never carry any items for another person unless you are certain of the contents. If visiting Buddhist temples remove any head covering and make sure your arms and legs are covered. Don’t take pictures of police, military or any government buildings. Taking pictures of individuals standing next to a statue of Buddha can cause offence.
Road Travel in Sri Lanka
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The traffic in Sri Lanka moves on the left side of the road but the streets are very congested. The maintenance of vehicles may be very substandard and accidents may occur due to faulty breaks, wandering animals or energetically ridden bicycles and mopeds etc. Hiring a car and driving by yourself throughout even the south eastern parts of the country is probably unwise due to the security situation. Hiring a car with a driver from a reputable firm will be a safer option.
Touring the country
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Many tourists want to visit other regions of the country and will aim for places like the Cultural Triangle of Kandy, Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa. These are in the low risk region for malaria and so prophylaxis is not recommended. However, road transport can be hazardous and you should ensure that you are travelling with a reputable guide. There have been a number of incidents involving tourists at the Yala National Park.
Medical Care
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The level of medical care varies greatly throughout the country. It is important to carry any required medications for your trip - though make sure they are clearly marked showing they for your own personal use.
Sun Exposure
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The climatic conditions are such that many tourists will develop significant sun burn if they are not careful. This is particularly true for the first few days as you acclimatise. Use high sunblock creams and take particular care to ensure that the children are well protected while swimming.
Rabies in Sri Lanka
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The transmission of Rabies by warm blooded animals in Sri Lanka is known and so it is essential that all travellers know that any contact with dogs, cats etc should be avoided at all times.
Swimming
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Take care while sea swimming to follow any local advice. There can be dangerous currents and strong rip tides. Watch any children at all times and make sure they don’t get burnt or dehydrated. If possible, eating salted crisps and peanuts may help.
Mosquitoes and Bites
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Fortunately malaria does not occur in the main regions of the country visited by tourists in the southwestern part of the country. However, Dengue Fever (a viral disease transmitted by day-time biting mosquitoes) is a constant problem throughout the country.
Vaccines for Sri Lanka
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Coming from Western Europe there are no vaccines which are compulsory for entry or exit. However, tourists are strongly advised to consider vaccination cover against the following;
*
Tetanus & Polio (childhood booster)
*
Typhoid (food & water borne)
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Hepatitis A (food & water borne)
Those travelling for longer periods or to more remote regions may need to consider other vaccines including protection against Rabies, Hepatitis B and Japanese B Encephalitis. Malaria prophylaxis may also be required for these particular travellers.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Sun 10 Jun 2018
Source: Outbreak News Today [summ., edited]

Sri Lanka health officials have reported an increase in the number cases of the bacterial disease, leptospirosis during the 1st 5 months of 2018. From January-May 2017, authorities reported 1022 cases; however, for the same period in 2018, 1525 cases were reported. The districts seeing the most leptospirosis cases year-to-date include Kalutara [Western province], Ratnapura [Sabaragamuwa province], Monaragala [Uva province], and Gampaha [Western province]. For Colombo district in the 1st 5 months of 2017, 47 cases were reported. This has been nearly doubled in 2018 with 91 cases.

The ColomboPage reports the Health Promotion Bureau (HPB) Director and Epidemiologist Dr Paba Palihawadana has warned the public to take precautions to protect themselves leptospirosis due to the current rainy weather. Persons at greatest risk of contracting leptospirosis are farmers and agricultural workers, sanitation workers and sewer workers. However, anyone exposed to rat contaminated water and soil is also at risk of contracting the disease.  [Byline: Robert Herriman]
======================
[Leptospirosis occurs worldwide and is endemic in Sri Lanka. Leptospirosis frequently occurs after flooding during 2 monsoon seasons in Sri Lanka, which bring rain to the west and southwest coasts from May to September; and the east coast and northern region between October and February (<https://www.selectiveasia.com/sri-lanka-holidays/weather>). The news report above says that districts seeing the most leptospirosis cases year-to-date include Kalutara, Ratnapura, Moneragala, and Gampaha, as well as the city of Colombo.

The city of Colombo, the commercial capital and largest city of Sri Lanka, is located on the west coast of the island nation. Colombo, Kalutara, and Gampaha are districts within the Western province. Monaragala district is located in Uva province and Ratnapura district is located in Sabaragamuwa Province. A map of Sri Lanka provinces can be found at <https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Provinces_of_Sri_Lanka>.

Leptospirosis has also occurred in Sri Lanka during periods of severe drought, when it has been attributed to exposure to _Leptospira_-contaminated water in a network of thousands of man-made reservoirs, known locally as 'tanks,' that are used for preserving the rainfall primarily for agriculture and drinking water, but also for sacred bathing (see ProMED-mail Leptospirosis, fatal - Sri Lanka (02): (NW) http://promedmail.org/post/20110913.2785).

How the diagnosis of leptospirosis was made is not mentioned in the news release. Because of the relatively nonspecific nature of the clinical presentation of the disease, the diagnosis of leptospirosis cannot be made confidently without laboratory confirmation. Consequently, leptospirosis is probably under-diagnosed.

Reported rates of leptospirosis have increased dramatically since 2006 in Sri Lanka, where 20.3 percent of cattle and 17.5 percent of rodents are infected. People at greatest risk for acquiring the disease in Sri Lanka are reported to be paddy farmers and sugar cane plantation workers (see ProMED-mail Leptospirosis, fatal - Sri Lanka (03): (NW) background http://promedmail.org/post/20110913.2794.) - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Sri Lanka: <http://healthmap.org/r/1eC1>. - ProMED Mod.ML]
Sri Lanka (national). 2 Jun 2018

Sri Lanka health officials have reported 20443 suspected dengue cases during the 1st 5 months of 2018. In 2017, the country saw a massive number of dengue cases with 186 101 suspected cases, including 320 deaths. The highest numbers of dengue cases were reported during the 29th week of 2017 [week of 17 Jul 2017]. All 4 virus types of dengue have been seen in Sri Lanka. The outbreak was predominantly due to dengue fever virus type 2 (DEN-2), which was not the usual type circulating in Sri Lanka. According to WHO, this is 4.3-fold higher than the average number of cases for the same period between 2010 and 2016.

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Sri Lanka:
- National. 22 May 2018.

For 2017, 186,101 and in the month of [May 2018], 19,321 suspected dengue cases were reported to the Epidemiology Unit from all over the island.

Approximately 30.1 percent of dengue cases were reported from the Western province. The highest numbers of dengue cases were reported during the 29th week [week ending 22 Jul 2017] of 2017. The outbreak situation in 2017 warranted extensive and regular removal of possible mosquito breeding sites from the environment, along with strengthened patient education on management of fever which resulted in a relatively low mortality.

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map
Date: Fri, 20 Apr 2018 11:16:40 +0200

Colombo, April 20, 2018 (AFP) - Sri Lanka announced Friday it would establish new police posts and step up patrols at popular resorts after a spate of sexual attacks and violence targeting foreign tourists.   Police chief Pujith Jayasundara said 20 new stations would be established at holiday hotspots to protect visitors from touts and criminals, despite concerns his force was already overstretched.   "I wish we had more men and resources for this job, but we are making adjustments to our deployments to ensure better productivity," Jayasundara said.   He added the measures were decided after a Dutch tourist was sexually harassed and several other tourists were assaulted by a gang at a hotel in the southern resort town of Mirissa last week.

Five Israeli tourists were beaten up in the same area this week and 14 men have been arrested over the two incidents, police said.   Local media reports have catalogued several sexual harassment complaints by
foreign tourists, with many reluctant to make official complaints for fear of drawn-out court proceedings.   Tourism Minister John Amaratunga appealed to victims to come forward and promised to cover the expenses of those who return to the island to help identify perpetrators.   The US State Department warned last year that sexual crimes against women were on the rise in Sri Lanka.

While most reported incidents involved non-physical acts such as cat calls and verbal harassment, there were several serious incidents of sexual threats, groping and rape.   "Incidents have also occurred at tourist beaches and smaller hotels in the Southern province," the travel advisory noted.   In 2014, a Sri Lankan court sentenced a local politician and three of his supporters to 20 years in jail for the 2011 murder of British tourist Khuram Shaikh on Christmas Eve and gang rape of his Russian partner.   Shaikh, a 32-year-old Red Cross worker, had tried to stop a brawl at a southern beach resort when a gang attacked and killed him.   His girlfriend, who was knocked unconscious in the brutal assault, returned to Sri Lanka in 2014 to give evidence and identified one of her attackers in court.
Date: Tue 13 Mar 2018
Source: Times Online [edited]

All faculties of the Uva-Wellassa University [in Badulla, Sri Lanka] have been closed until further notice due to an outbreak of chickenpox among the student population.

Dozens of students staying at the university's hostels have already become infected with the highly contagious disease.

As such, a university official stated that a decision has been taken by the university administration to close down the university as a precaution in order to prevent the spread of the viral infection.
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[Temporarily closing the University and vaccinating all unvaccinated students is probably the most effective approach to stopping spread of the virus. Chickenpox is a very contagious disease caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV). It causes a blister-like rash, itching, tiredness, and fever. The rash appears first on the stomach, back, and face and can spread over the entire body causing between 250 and 500 itchy blisters. Chickenpox can be serious, especially in babies, adults, and people with weakened immune systems.

The virus spreads mainly by touching or breathing in the virus particles that come from chickenpox blisters, and possibly through tiny droplets from infected people that get into the air after they breathe or talk, for example.

The best way to prevent chickenpox is to get the chickenpox vaccine. Children, adolescents, and adults should get 2 doses of chickenpox vaccine. Chickenpox vaccine is very safe and effective at preventing the disease. Most people who get the vaccine will not get chickenpox. If a vaccinated person does get chickenpox, it is usually mild -- with fewer red spots or blisters and mild or no fever. The chickenpox vaccine prevents almost all cases of severe disease. (Excerpted from <https://www.cdc.gov/chickenpox/about/index.html>). - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map
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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."
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[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.
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[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>]