WORLD NEWS

Getting countries ...
Select countries and read reports below or

Saudi Arabia

Travelling to the Hajj
============================
Background
Every devout Muslim seeks to perform the Hajj on at least one occasion during their life. This pilgrimage, which is a central duty of Islam, brings Muslims from all over the wor
d together as they visit the holy cities of Mecca and Medina in Saudi Arabia. Each year over two million gather to celebrate the five 'pillars' of Islam.
Coping with the Climate
The dates for this festival vary from year to year but this year it is in December. In the evenings it can be significantly cold in 'tent city' and so travellers should bear this in mind when packing.
Travel Restrictions
With this massive influx of people travel in and out of Saudi can be difficult and, where possible, plans should be made well in advance.
Care for the pilgrims
The Saudi government seek to provide the highest level of health care possible for those visiting their Kingdom. This has involved the setting up of a series of rules and regulations which need to be observed. Nevertheless every pilgrim should ensure that their own personal health is sufficient before agreeing to travel. This may involve a consultation with their GP - especially if they have any underlying medical conditions.
Food Restrictions
No food is allowed into Saudi during this time and will be confiscated on arrival.
Vaccine Requirements
In order to reduce the risk of certain diseases the Saudi authorities insist on all travellers providing correctly certified evidence of vaccination against some diseases.
Meningitis
All travellers are required to provide evidence of vaccination against Meningococcal Meningitis (ACYW-135). This vaccine has to have been given to every traveller within the previous three years and at least 10 days before arrival into Saudi Arabia. (Other vaccinations against Meningitis C or Meningococcal A&C are not acceptable.)
Compulsory Medications
Some travellers arriving from what are regarded as 'higher risk' countries will also be given prophylactic antibiotics to lessen the possibility of their carrying Meningococcal Meningitis into the country. This is a compulsory requirement - though the medication given varies depending on the age of the individual and whether or not the female traveller is pregnant.
Yellow Fever
It is also essential for some travellers to have evidence of Yellow Fever vaccination certification. Generally this is only required for those arriving from the countries of Africa and South America. This vaccine needs to have been given within the previous 10 years and at least 10 days before arrival.
Other Recommended Vaccines
Even though it is not a requirement of entry to perform the Hajj or visit Saudi Arabia, travellers are strongly advised to consider the following vaccinations;
Influenza / Pneumococci
These are air-borne diseases and the close proximity of so many pilgrims will make the risk of contracting either or both of these highly infectious diseases much higher. Influenza vaccine needs to be given each year where as Pneumococcal vaccine is often only given on one occasion in a lifetime.
Poliomyelitis
This viral disease is disappearing from much of the world and may be eradicated within a few years. However during 2005 a significant number of outbreaks occurred in various African countries and India. The Hajj was linked to outbreaks in Yemen and Saudi Arabia itself. Vaccination is recommended for all unprotected travellers.
Hepatitis A / Typhoid
With such a massive number of people to be catered for it is hardly surprising that the level of food and water borne disease is high. These vaccines are strongly recommended for all travellers. They provide excellent protection but all travellers will still need to exercise extra care to lessen their personal exposure.
Hepatitis B
The main specific risk of contracting Hepatitis B probably relates to the ritual head shaving which is performed as part of the celebrations. Professional barbers are used and long lines of men wait for their turn. In some cases the blade is not changed between shaves and this potentially presents a serious risk of contamination with Hepatitis B infection.
Ritual sacrifice
It should also be noted that during the celebrations a ritual sacrifice of a small animal is performed. Pilgrims are strongly advised not to undertake the actual act of sacrifice themselves - unless they are very experienced - as otherwise they could seriously injury themselves.
Avoiding Accidents and Dehydration
The desire to perform the Hajj is strong and it is an emotional time for any Muslim. Unfortunately the presence of so many other pilgrims in a very confined space at the same time does increase the risk of various diseases and accidents. This includes the risk of being crushed, as has occurred with disastrous consequences in the past. The degree of dehydration can also be high as there is a significant amount of exercise and walking involved. A good pair of comfortable walking shoes is certainly worth the investment. It will also be important to bring some plasters to treat minor injuries and blisters.
Being Separated from Companions
Due to the numbers involved it is very easy to become separated from travelling companions. It is wise to have a plan in place before arriving so that each member of the party knows where to meet.
Overview
It is extremely important that all those undertaking this pilgrimage recognise the necessity to stay constantly alert to the personal health and accident risks which are present and do everything within their power to avoid them. The Tropical Medical Bureau centres throughout Ireland usually carry both the required and the recommended vaccines for travellers to the Hajj. Appointments should be made well in advance of visa application to ensure that these are given in sufficient time.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 19 Jun 2019 [date accessed]
Source: WHO/EMRO Epidemic and pandemic-prone diseases [edited]

MERS situation update, May 2019
--------------------------
- At the end of May 2019, a total of 2442 laboratory-confirmed cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS), including 842 associated deaths (case fatality rate: 34.5%), were reported globally; the majority of these cases were reported from Saudi Arabia (2051 cases, including 765 related deaths with a case fatality rate of 37.3%). During the month of May [2019], a total of 14 laboratory-confirmed cases of MERS were reported globally. All 14 cases were reported from Saudi Arabia with 4 associated deaths.

- This month [May 2019], Saudi Arabia has not reported any new cases related to the Al-Khafji city outbreak. The outbreak has presumed to have stopped due to the effective response measures taken by Saudi Arabia. This month [May 2019], one household cluster was reported from Al-Kharj city, including 2 symptomatic national females aged 22 and 44. One 23-year-old national female healthcare worker was also infected this month [May 2019] in Riyadh. All 4 cases that died this month [May 2019] were symptomatic males with one or more co-morbidities.

- The demographic and epidemiological characteristics of reported cases, when compared during the same corresponding period of 2013 to 2019, do not show any significant difference or change.

Summaries:
- Laboratory-confirmed cases reported since April 2012: 2442
- Deaths reported since April 2012 globally: 843
- Number of countries that have reported cases since April 2012: 27
- Number of countries in the Eastern Mediterranean Region that have reported cases since April 2012: 12
- 13 laboratory-confirmed cases reported linked to an outbreak in Saudi Arabia in April [2019]
- The age group 50-59 years continues to be at highest risk for acquiring infection of primary cases. The age group 30-39 years is most at risk for secondary cases. The number of deaths is higher in the age group 50-59 years for primary cases and 70-79 years for secondary cases.

Date: Fri 31 May 2019 Source: Vaxbeforetravel [edited] <https://www.vaxbeforetravel.com/level-1-travel-vaccine-requirements-updated-pilgrims-attending-hajj>

The Hajj, or annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is scheduled for 9-14 Aug 2019, which enables those planning on attending this worldwide event have ample time to appropriately prepare for the trip. The Hajj is one of the world's largest mass gatherings each year and is associated with unique health risks.

More than 2 million Muslims from over 183 countries make Hajj each year, with approximately 11,000 Hajj pilgrims traveling from the United States.

Before attending the Hajj, both the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the Ministry of Health in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia published vaccine requirements and travel recommendations. The CDC updated its Level 1 Travel Alert on 31 May 2019, saying those participating in the Hajj should be up-to-date on all routine vaccines, especially the measles-mumps-rubella (MMR).

The CDC says the measles virus is extremely contagious, and the crowded conditions during Hajj provide an ideal opportunity for measles transmission. As of 7 May 2019, the European Region reported 34 300 measles cases in 42 countries during 2019. For travellers who do not have evidence of measles immunity or who lack written documentation of measles vaccination, the CDC recommends 2 doses of MMR vaccine separated by at least 28 days, to be completed before travel.

Additionally, the Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that Hajj pilgrims confirm they have been vaccinated against these diseases:

- Yellow fever: all travellers arriving from countries or areas at risk of yellow fever transmission must present a valid yellow fever vaccination certificate, stating vaccinated against the disease before the arrival of the Kingdom no later than 10 days and not more than 10 years. The Stamaril vaccine is available in the USA.

- Meningococcal meningitis: visitors are required to submit a valid vaccination certificate with a tetravalent (ACYW135) meningococcal vaccine administered no less than 10 days prior to arrival to Saudi Arabia.

- Poliomyelitis: travellers arriving from countries with circulating wild or vaccine-derived poliovirus (cVDPV2) and from countries at risk of polio reintroduction, are required to submit a valid polio vaccination certificate. - Seasonal influenza: the Ministry of Health in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia recommends that all pilgrims get vaccinated against the 2018/19 seasonal influenza.

Previously, on [15 Apr 2019], a joint declaration regarding vaccinations was issued at the Afghanistan-Pakistan Eminent Ulama Conference. In his opening address, His Excellency the Deputy of Al Azhar Al Sharif, Dr Saleh Abbas Goma Saleh, called upon parents to vaccinate their children to protect them from harm. "The family bears the responsibility of the proper upbringing of, and caring for children and maintaining their health," he said.

The CDC suggests scheduling a visit with a travel vaccine specialist at least 4 to 6 weeks before departure. Travel vaccine counselling sessions can be scheduled at Vax-Before-Travel [<https://www.vaxbeforetravel.com/vax-before-travel/appointment>].

The CDC Vaccine Price List provides the private sector vaccine prices for general information, and vaccine financial support programs can be found at Vaccine Discounts. And, pack enough prescription and over-the-counter medicines to last your entire trip.

The CDC says if you develop a fever and symptoms of respiratory illness within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula, you should call a healthcare provider and mention your recent international travel.

Americans traveling abroad can enrol with the nearest US embassy or consulate through the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program [<https://travel.state.gov/content/travel/en/international-travel/before-you-go/step.html>] to receive the latest safety updates and assistance in an emergency.  [Byline: Don Ward Hackett]
===========================
[Saudi Arabia issues its requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, which are updated annually.

The Hajj requirements for 2019 can be found at
<https://www.saudiembassy.net/hajj-requirements>. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Saudi Arabia: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/131>]

Date: 26 May 2019
Source: Saudi MOH 23-26 May 2019 [edited]

In the past 4 days since the last update, there have been a total of 3 newly confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection including 2 deaths reported from Saudi Arabia.
Date: Sun 21 Apr 2019 14:40 IST
Source Business-Standard [edited]

Following the ban on the Ghaziabad-based pharmaceutical company Biomed Pvt Ltd, the ministry is now looking for options to arrange the vaccines in time for vaccinating the pilgrims, the sources said. Around 1.27 lakh people are expected to go for the annual Hajj pilgrimage in July this year [2019] for which the ministry will have to arrange for at least 1.47 lakh doses. [A lakh is a unit in the Indian numbering system equal to one hundred thousand (100,000).] Extra vaccines are kept as some are rendered ineffective in the process of delivery to the states.

The Health Ministry is already in talks with 2 firms which import the vaccines, the sources said. Those going to Saudi Arabia for the purpose of Umrah or pilgrimage are required to submit a certificate of vaccination with the quadrivalent (ACYW135) vaccine against meningitis, proving the vaccine was administered no more than 3 years ago and no less than 10 days before arrival in the country.

Biomed Pvt Ltd was a licensed indigenous manufacturer for meningococcal polysaccharide vaccine while 2 firms M/s Sanofi Pasteur India Pvt Lt, Mumbai and M/s GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals Ltd, Mumbai are importers for quadrivalent meningococcal meningitis conjugate vaccine in the country. "Earlier with Biomed Pvt Ltd providing the vaccines, government spent Rs 250 [about USD 3.60] for each vaccine but now if they have to buy from companies which import the vaccines, they may have to shell out around Rs 1500 [about USD 21.50] per dose. The Health Ministry is already in talks with the 2 firms which import the vaccines," the sources said.

Biomed Pvt Ltd was directed to stop the manufacture, sale, and distribution of all human vaccines including the quadrivalent meningococcal meningitis vaccine after type-2 polio virus was found in the sewage and stool samples in Maharashtra, Telangana, and Uttar Pradesh in September [2018]. The polio drops were sent for testing, which confirmed that some of them were contaminated with type-2 virus, a strain believed to have been eradicated in 2016.

The managing director of Biomed Pvt Ltd., which was supplying polio vaccines for only government-run immunisation programmes, was arrested after the central drug regulator filed a complaint and an FIR [first information report] was registered.

The destruction of traces of type-2 polio virus was ordered by the central drug regulator to all manufacturers in 2016.
======================
[The problem with oral polio vaccine manufactured by Biomed Pvt Ltd. being contaminated by poliovirus type 2 was discussed by ProMED-mail moderator MPP in Poliomyelitis update (46): (India, Papua New Guinea) trivalent vaccine, fatal http://promedmail.org/post/20181002.6065964.

Umrah and Hajj are pilgrimages to Mecca, Saudi Arabia, performed by Muslims. Umrah can be undertaken at any time of the year, in contrast to the Hajj. The days of Hajj in 2019 begin in the evening of Fri 9 Aug and end in the evening of Wed 14 Aug. The Hajj is a mandatory religious pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by all adult Muslims who are physically and financially capable of undertaking the journey (<https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hajj>); the Umrah is not compulsory (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Umrah>).

Saudi Arabia issues its requirements for entry into Saudi Arabia for the Hajj, which are updated annually. The Hajj requirements for 2019 can be found at <https://www.saudiembassy.net/hajj-requirements>. With regard to vaccinations, "The applicant must submit proof of vaccination for meningitis and ACYW135. For infants and children up to 15 years of age, a vaccination report is required for polio as well as meningitis and polio.

Children over 15 years of age should present the same vaccinations requested for adults:
============================
a. meningitis and ACYW135;
b. seasonal (or common) flu, which should be taken 2 weeks before applying for the visa;
c. H1N1 flu, if a vaccine is made available before Hajj season, and should be taken 2 weeks before applying for the visa;
d. infants and children up to 15 years of age should provide a vaccination report for meningococcal and polio;
e. children above 15 years of age should present the same vaccinations requested for adults;
f. health experts advise the following groups to postpone their plans for Hajj and Umrah this year for their own safety: The elderly, the terminally ill, pregnant women, and children." "Travelers must carry vaccination certificates with them for inspection by the Saudi Authority at port of entry." - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED map of India: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/142>]
Date: 8 Apr 2019
Source: Saudi MOH 6-8 Apr 2019 [edited]

Since the last update on 5 Apr 2019 [See MERS-CoV (40): Saudi Arabia (SH) http://promedmail.org/post/20190405.6406661], there have been a total of 6 newly confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection reported by Saudi Arabia. In addition, there were 4 outcome reports, one fatality, and 3 recoveries, all previously confirmed cases. [note that information on 7 Apr 2019 events were reported today, 8 Apr 2019].
==========================
[With the addition of these 6 newly confirmed cases, there have been a total of 127 cases of laboratory confirmed MERS-CoV infection reported by Saudi Arabia since 1 Jan 2019. Three of the newly confirmed cases were from Al Khafji, bringing the total number of cases reported from Al Khafji since 29 Mar 2019 to 9, with the 1st case classified as a primary case with a history of contact with camels, and the additional 8 cases classified as unspecified secondary cases.

The remaining 3 cases reported today [8 Apr 2019] include one case each from Makkah, Riyadh and Najran regions.

The HealthMap/ProMED map of Saudi Arabia can be found at

A map showing the regions of Saudi Arabia can be found at
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Fri, 16 Aug 2019 03:38:45 +0200 (METDST)
By Paulina ABRAMOVICH

Santiago, Aug 16, 2019 (AFP) - Once deep in powder this time of year, Chile's ski stations are fighting the ravages of climate change and pollution that have brought less and less snow to the central Andes.   Just a few decades ago, the Andes mountain range could be buried under four meters of snow, forcing the closure of access roads and requiring the use of tractors to get around.

But this year, it's snowed only three times in the Chilean Andes, and never more than 30 centimetres.   It's not just Chile affected, but the whole of the Andes where the area of snow cover in the central zone has diminished by five to 10 percent each decade, according to Raul Cordero, an academic at the University of Santiago.   "But it's not just snow cover that's decreasing, the thickness of the snow cover is also reducing," he said.   "So when we talk about a decrease of the cover of five to 10 percent, this probably signifies a much greater reduction in the volume of available snow over the Andes."

Rising temperatures mean the snow line -- above which snow never melts all year round -- keeps creeping upwards.   The snow melt is even more pronounced in the central zone due to pollution from the Chilean capital, one of the most contaminated urban areas in the region.   A recent study led by Cordero found that soot, or black carbon, from Santiago was settling in the Andes and accelerating the snow melt.   As it's black, it absorbs more solar radiation and heats up quicker.   "When this pollution is over the cities it poisons people and when the wind blows, this pollution goes and is deposited on the mountains and contributes to the snow melt," said Cordero.

- Essential snow cannons -
The upshot is that Chile's ski stations have had a difficult season.    But thanks to the snow cannons, the erection of fences and a tailored piste management policy, the resorts have managed to stay open throughout a winter in which there has been almost no snow.   "All the ski centers in the central zone are without natural snow. However, thanks to the fabrication of snow we've been able to keep open pistes that without this fabrication would not have been able to stay open," Fernando Montenegro, the operations director at Andacor, which operates the El Colorado and Parque Farellones ski stations, told AFP.

El Colorado is 50 kilometers from Santiago and sits at 2,800-meters. It pumps out snow whenever the conditions allow it.   Low temperatures and high humidity is what's needed for the snow cannons to chug into gear and churn out snowflakes from water.   This technology has been around since 1994, but it's never before been in use as much as it is now -- and even then the ski station is only operating at 70 percent capacity.   But even if the situation gets worse, the ski stations will manage, according to Montenegro.   "There's no risk. However, we need to manage the snow and manage the water in the mountain range in a good way."   El Colorado has already invested almost $4 million in buying snow cannons and hopes to increase that to $10 million over the coming years.

- 'Variety so important' -
Last weekend, some 7,000 people descended on El Colorado where ski and snowboard national teams come to train -- although, they're not necessarily happy.   "If there's not enough snow, there's not as many hills. We don't get the variety, we don't get steepness, (or) different slopes: it's so important for us to have that variety," Megan Farrell, a member of the Canadian snowboard team, told AFP.   Amateur skiers also noticed the difference from previous years.   "You can see that the snow is harder. It's not very deep, there are a lot of stones and snow made by the cannons, which makes it feel like you're skiing on a different type of snow," said Chilean Rado Milosevic, 24.
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 15:36:40 +0200 (METDST)

Tripoli, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - Flights at the Libyan capital's sole functioning airport were suspended Thursday after deadly overnight rocket fire, a spokesman for the country's unity government said.   Wednesday night's rocket fire "killed a guard and wounded several security agents tasked with protecting the airport," said Moustafa al-Mejii, spokesman for the Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA).   He blamed the attack on "the militias of (Khalifa) Haftar" whose forces launched an offensive on the Libyan capital in April.   Arrivals and departures at Mitiga airport were suspended as a result, Mejii said.   Located east of Tripoli, Mitiga is a former military airbase that has been used by civilian traffic since Tripoli international airport suffered severe damage during fighting in 2014.

Mitiga is in a zone under the control of forces loyal to the GNA and has often been targeted, leading to repeated suspensions of flights.   United Nations envoy Ghassan Salame, in a report to the UN Security Council last month, urged "authorities in Tripoli to cease using the (Mitiga) airport for military purposes and for the attacking forces to halt immediately their targeting of it."   The GNA protested at what it said were "untruths" in the envoy's report.   Haftar's self-styled Libyan National Army (LNA) has encountered fierce resistance from pro-government forces in the battle for Tripoli.   A stalemate on the ground in the capital's southern outskirts has led to a greater reliance on air strikes by both sides.

The fighting since April has killed 1,093 people and wounded 5,752 others, according to the World Health Organization.   More than 120,000 people have been displaced.   The LNA said Thursday its air force carried out a strike against an airfield in Zuwara, a town west of Tripoli, and destroyed two hangars allegedly used to house Turkish drones.   "The runway and terminals were spared" at the airfield, which is not open to commercial flights, LNA spokesman General Ahmed al-Mesmari wrote on Facebook.   The GNA, however, posted pictures of a huge crater and debris on the tarmac.   Libya has been mired in chaos since a NATO-backed uprising that toppled and killed dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 14:11:31 +0200 (METDST)

Hong Kong, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - Hong Kong's government unveiled HK$19.1 billion (US$2.44 billion) worth of economic relief measures and downgraded its growth forecasts on Thursday as the international hub reels from simmering pro-democracy protests and the US-China trade war.   Last week city leader Carrie Lam warned that 10-weeks of anti-government protests were hitting businesses like a "tsunami".    On Thursday, financial chief Paul Chan predicted the city's economy would grow by a miserly zero to one percent this year, the worst rate since 2009 after the global crash hit.

But as he announced a raft of sweeteners in a surprise "mini-budget", he denied the move was linked to the roiling unrest.   "The measures that we have just announced... trying to tackle the current economic difficulties and the coming economic headwinds, is not related to the political difficulties that we are facing," Chan told reporters.   Instead, he said, the primary headwinds remained ongoing trade tensions between Washington and Beijing -- two major markets for Hong Kong -- and the possible impact of Brexit.    "Based on the latest developments and assessments on the outlook, the Hong Kong economy will continue to face an austere environment for the rest of the year," he said.

Nonetheless, the sweeteners seemed to be aimed at winning over support from moderate Hong Kongers as the city reels from the protests.    The measures included financial breaks for small businesses, more generous student subsidies and goodies for low-income households.  Ten weeks of unprecedented rallies, demonstrations and occupations in Hong Kong have seen millions of people take to the streets in the biggest challenge to China's rule of the semi-autonomous city since its 1997 handover from Britain.   The social and political unrest was triggered by a controversial bill which would have allowed extraditions to mainland China, but has evolved into a call for wider democratic reforms and a halt to sliding freedoms.

The retail and tourism sectors have been especially hit by the drop in arriving visitors to the city, but the property market remains strong.   At a "citizens press conference" on Thursday, one protest group blamed the city's economic woes on the local leaders who they accused of undermining the city's business appeal by kowtowing to Beijing.
Date: Thu, 15 Aug 2019 11:07:44 +0200 (METDST)

Johannesburg, Aug 15, 2019 (AFP) - South Africa on Thursday announced visa waivers for four countries in a bid to boost tourism amid an economic crisis and falling visitor numbers.   Visitors from Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand will no longer require a visa to visit for holiday, conferencing and business purposes, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said.

The unilateral decision comes as official tourism figures released in May reflected a dip in the overall number of visitors to South Africa from Europe and the Middle East in the first financial quarter of the year, normally one of the most popular times to visit.   Foreign traveller arrivals decreased by more than 10 percent between April and May 2019 alone.   Motsoaledi said the South African government was engaging with Qatar, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and New Zealand about a similar relaxation of entry requirements for SA citizens.   He argued the move by his department would boost tourism "and by extension growing the economy and creating jobs".

South Africa's economy has hit trouble, with gross domestic product (GDP) contracting by 3.2 percent in the first three months of 2019 and unemployment at a record high of 29 percent.   The government estimates there is potential to create 2.1 million jobs in the tourism sector by 2028.   South Africa is in talks to extend the visa waiver to Ghana, Cuba and Principe and Sao Tome.    The country has already waived the visa requirement for 82 of the 193 countries who are UN members.
Date: Tue 13 Aug 2019, 18:22 PM
Source: The News Minute (TNM) [edited]

In early July [2019], 2 children from Sathyamangalam in Tamil Nadu's Erode district succumbed to diphtheria. Around this time, several other cases of diphtheria were being reported from the state. The latest information shows that at least 50 people have been admitted to the Coimbatore Medical College and Hospital with diphtheria.

Health officials in the state have begun stepping up measures to ensure that the spread of the disease is contained and that more people are vaccinated. The Directorate of Public Health (DPH) even issued an alert to doctors in Chennai to treat all children presenting with sore throat with an antibiotic used to treat the disease, without waiting for the confirmation of a diagnosis.

Despite several campaigns to raise awareness about the importance of vaccination and ensuring that children are vaccinated according to the immunisation schedule, officials note that discrepancies in immunisation have played a large role in the current outbreak of diphtheria.

Tamil Nadu's Deputy Director of Public Health, Dr. K Kolandaswamy, had earlier told TNM that the current spike in the number of cases had to do with lack of immunisation. While several parents had skipped vaccinating their children at a young age, many others had not ensured that the booster dose was taken at a later age. However, in light of the recent outbreak in which both young people and adults have been affected, preventive measures have been stepped up. Not only are children being given the vaccine and booster doses (as deemed necessary), but so are adults.

Diphtheria is a disease caused by the organism _Corynebacterium diphtheriae_ and is highly contagious. Symptoms of diphtheria are often very similar to that of a common cold or any mild respiratory infection, which makes it difficult to differentiate between diphtheria and a more generic infection.

An infected individual may begin to present with symptoms anywhere from 2 to 10 days after exposure to the bacteria. The infected person usually develops a sore throat, which aggravates and will generally develop other respiratory issues as well, if left untreated. While the treatment for diphtheria consists of antibiotics and supportive measures as necessary (painkillers, fluids, etc), it has been determined that the best course of action is to take preventive measures.

The vaccine against diphtheria is given as a pentavalent vaccine (offers immunisation against 5 diseases: diphtheria, pertussis, tetanus, hepatitis B and Hib-Haemophilus influenza type b). It is given at 1.5, 2.5 and 3.5 months of age. The DPT vaccine (trivalent, covers 3 diseases: diphtheria, pertussis and tetanus) is given between 16 to 24 months of age. When the child is around 6 years old, another booster dose is required. In addition, the Centre has also advised that children be given the Td vaccine (covers tetanus and diphtheria) at age 10 and age 15.  [Byline: Dr Nimeshika Jayachandran]
========================
[Erode, with a population of about 2.25 million residents in 2011, is the largest district in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu, located in the state's westernmost region; its headquarters is the city of Erode (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erode_district>).

A map showing the location of Erode District in south-central India can be found at
<https://www.google.com/maps/place/Erode,+Tamil+Nadu,+India>.

Diphtheria is caused by toxin-producing strains of _Corynebacterium diphtheriae_, an aerobic Gram positive bacillus. _C. diphtheriae_ causes respiratory tract or cutaneous diphtheria. Toxin production occurs only when the bacillus is infected (lysogenized) by a specific bacteriophage that carries the gene encoding the toxin. The most common sites of diphtheria infection are the pharynx and the tonsils, where an adherent pseudomembrane forms, which may result in respiratory obstruction. The toxin is responsible for the major complications, myocarditis (such as cardiac arrhythmias and heart failure) and neuritis (such as paralysis of the soft palate, eye muscles, limbs, and diaphragm). The overall case fatality rate for diphtheria is 5-10% but is higher (up to 20%) among persons younger than 5 and older than 40 years of age.

Close contacts, especially household contacts, should receive a diphtheria booster, appropriate for age, and antibiotics, such as benzathine penicillin G or a 7-10-day course of oral erythromycin. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of India:
Date: Tue 13 Aug 2019 2:21 AM CDT
Source: MPR [Minnesota Public Radio] News [edited]

[Minnesota] state health officials said [Tue 13 Aug 2019], 3 children are sick from _E. coli_ bacteria after swimming in a Minneapolis lake. The children have tested positive for the same strain of _E. coli_ after swimming at Lake Nokomis beaches between [26 Jul and 2 Aug 2019]. 2 beaches of the lake are closed until further notice, the Minnesota Department of Health said. The children, all under the age of 10, were not hospitalized.

Minneapolis Park Board Superintendent Al Bangoura said it's the 1st time someone has fallen ill after swimming in a Minneapolis lake in more than 20 years. "We take this very seriously and are working closely with the Minnesota Department of Health as they conduct their investigation," Bangoura said in a news release.

Symptoms of illness caused by _E. coli_ bacteria include stomach cramps and diarrhea, with mild or no fever. People typically become ill 1 to 8 days after exposure. It's rare, but the infections sometimes lead to a serious complication involving kidney failure. Health officials say children younger than 10 years old, the elderly, and those with weakened immune systems have a higher chance of developing complications from _E. coli_ infections.

"This is also an important reminder that anyone who is experiencing diarrhoea should not go swimming while they are sick," said Trisha Robinson, waterborne disease supervisor at the Health Department.

Officials also want to hear from anyone else who may have become ill after swimming in Lake Nokomis.

"If there are other people who have gone swimming and are concerned about their symptoms of illness, we very much encourage them to contact their health care providers," Robinson said.
===================
[It is important to understand that there are many different kinds of _E coli_. The organism is an important component of the human intestinal tract and can perform important functions helpful to its host. These strains can cause human infections if they "escape" from the usual location into the urinary tract, gall bladder, or abdominal cavity. They are also what are mentioned when a beach is closed for _E. coli_ contamination. In this circumstance, officials are measuring the organism or "coliforms" in the water to reflect human sewage contamination.

Additionally, there are some strains of _E. coli_ that can produce toxins that can produce diarrhea, and much of so-called travellers' diarrhoea is caused by these strains. All of these strains are human bacteria, not zoonotic organisms, that is, not spread from animal hosts. One _E. coli_ group called Shiga toxin producing or enterohemorrhagic _E. coli_ (EHEC) is the organism likely to be involved here, are zoonotic. Spread in a number of ways, including via undercooked ground beef, contaminated vegetables, and direct or direct contact with farm animals including contaminated water, EHEC can cause significant disease and even death.

In the spring of 2000, in Walkerton, a town of 5000 in southern Ontario, an outbreak of _E. coli_ O157:H7 infection claimed 7 lives -- 6 adults and a child -- and over 200 were seen at local area hospitals.

Swimming-associated transmission is illustrated in the following references:

1. Keene WE, McAnulty JM, Hoesly FC, et al. A swimming-associated outbreak of hemorrhagic colitis caused by _Escherichia coli_ O157:H7 and _Shigella sonnei_. N Engl J Med. 1994; 331(9): 579-84; available at <http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199409013310904>.
2. CDC. Lake-associated outbreak of _E. coli_ O157:H7 - Illinois. MMWR 1996; 45(21): 437-9; available at <https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00042070.htm>.
3. Ackman D, Marks S, Mack P, et al. Swimming-associated hemorrhagic colitis due to _Escherichia coli_ O157:H7 infection: evidence of prolonged contamination of a fresh water lake. Epidemiol Infect. 1997;119:1-8; available at <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2808815/>. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Minnesota, United States:
Date: 13 Aug 2019
Source: RFI France [edited]

38 children in France, including babies, living near what was once Europe's largest gold mine have tested positive for arsenic poisoning.

Children in the Orbiel Valley, in the southern department of Aude, were examined when families became concerned that flooding in October last year [2018] had carried arsenic and heavy metals from the nearby Salsigne mine.

After testing 103 children aged under 11 years, the Occitanie Regional Health Agency confirmed on Tue [13 Aug 2019] that 38 of them had returned positive test results for above-average levels of arsenic.

Salsigne, the world's largest arsenic mine, had been operating for almost a century when it closed in 2004. Millions of tons of toxic waste, which local NGOs say have not been properly sealed, are in storage at 5 nearby sites.

In October 2018, 14 people were killed when the Aude was hit by violent floods. Media reports say the Orbiel river and its tributaries have spread pollutants from the old mine.  [Byline: Eric Cabanis]
=========================
[There are a number of ways products can enter the body: inhalation, absorption, ingestion, and injection. Absorption is often thought of as products being absorbed through the GI tract, but it is also most significantly through the skin (such as a bath if arsenic is in the water). The integument (skin) is one of the largest organs of the body.

There are different forms of arsenic. There are 2 forms of inorganic arsenic: the reduced or trivalent arsenic (+3) or arsenite, and the oxidized or pentavalent (+5) form known as arsenate. Both of these forms can be absorbed and accumulated in tissues and body fluids.

There are also organic arsenics, but these are generally regarded as less harmful, by orders of magnitude.

Arsenic is a known carcinogen. The article does not tell us whether the exposure was to organic or inorganic arsenic. The form of arsenic is important with regard to toxicity. We are not told the specific ages of the children or babies. However, children, babies, and even pregnant women metabolize arsenic differently than non-pregnant adults.

Exposure to higher than average levels of arsenic occur mostly in the workplace, near hazardous waste sites, or in areas with high natural levels. At high levels, inorganic arsenic can cause death. Exposure to lower levels for a long time can cause a discoloration of the skin and the appearance of small corns or warts. In the United States, arsenic has been found in at least 1149 of the 1684 National Priority List sites identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Arsenic is a naturally occurring element widely distributed in the earth's crust. In the environment, arsenic is combined with oxygen, chlorine, and sulfur to form inorganic arsenic compounds. Arsenic in animals and plants combines with carbon and hydrogen to form organic arsenic compounds.

Inorganic arsenic compounds are mainly used to preserve wood. Copper chromated arsenate (CCA) is used to make "pressure-treated" lumber. CCA is no longer used in the U.S. for residential uses; it is still used in industrial applications. Organic arsenic compounds are used as pesticides, primarily on cotton fields and orchards.

What happens to arsenic when it enters the environment?
- Arsenic occurs naturally in soil and minerals and may enter the air, water, and land from wind-blown dust and may get into water from runoff and leaching.
- Arsenic cannot be destroyed in the environment. It can only change its form.
- Rain and snow remove arsenic dust particles from the air.
- Many common arsenic compounds can dissolve in water. Most of the arsenic in water will ultimately end up in soil or sediment.
- Fish and shellfish can accumulate arsenic; most of this arsenic is in an organic form called arsenobetaine that is much less harmful.

How might I be exposed to arsenic?
- Ingesting small amounts present in your food and water or breathing air containing arsenic.
- Breathing sawdust or burning smoke from wood treated with arsenic.
- Living in areas with unusually high natural levels of arsenic in rock.
- Working in a job that involves arsenic production or use, such as copper or lead smelting, wood treating, or pesticide application.

How can arsenic affect my health?
Breathing high levels of inorganic arsenic can give you a sore throat or irritated lungs.

Ingesting very high levels of arsenic can result in death. Exposure to lower levels can cause nausea and vomiting, decreased production of red and white blood cells, abnormal heart rhythm, damage to blood vessels, and a sensation of "pins and needles" in hands and feet.

Ingesting or breathing low levels of inorganic arsenic for a long time can cause a darkening of the skin and the appearance of small "corns" or "warts" on the palms, soles, and torso. Skin contact with inorganic arsenic may cause redness and swelling.

Almost nothing is known regarding health effects of organic arsenic compounds in humans. Studies in animals show that some simple organic arsenic compounds are less toxic than inorganic forms. Ingestion of methyl and dimethyl compounds can cause diarrhea and damage to the kidneys.

Several studies have shown that ingestion of inorganic arsenic can increase the risk of skin cancer and cancer in the liver, bladder, and lungs. Inhalation of inorganic arsenic can cause increased risk of lung cancer. The Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) and the EPA have determined that inorganic arsenic is a known human carcinogen. The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC) has determined that inorganic arsenic is carcinogenic to humans.

There is some evidence that long-term exposure to arsenic in children may result in lower IQ scores. There is also some evidence that exposure to arsenic in the womb and early childhood may increase mortality in young adults.

There is some evidence that inhaled or ingested arsenic can injure pregnant women or their unborn babies, although the studies are not definitive. Studies in animals show that large doses of arsenic that cause illness in pregnant females, can also cause low birth weight, fetal malformations, and even fetal death. Arsenic can cross the placenta and has been found in fetal tissues. Arsenic is found at low levels in breast milk.

How can families reduce their risk for exposure to arsenic?
- If you use arsenic-treated wood in home projects, you should wear dust masks, gloves, and protective clothing to decrease exposure to sawdust.
- If you live in an area with high levels of arsenic in water or soil, you should use cleaner sources of water and limit contact with soil. - If you work in a job that may expose you to arsenic, be aware that you may carry arsenic home on your clothing, skin, hair, or tools. Be sure to shower and change clothes before going home.

There are tests available to measure arsenic in your blood, urine, hair, and fingernails. The urine test is the most reliable test for arsenic exposure within the last few days. Tests on hair and fingernails can measure exposure to high levels of arsenic over the past 6-12 months. These tests can determine if you have been exposed to above-average levels of arsenic. They cannot predict whether the arsenic levels in your body will affect your health.

The EPA has set limits on the amount of arsenic that industrial sources can release to the environment and has restricted or cancelled many of the uses of arsenic in pesticides. EPA has set a limit of 0.01 parts per million (ppm) for arsenic in drinking water.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has set a permissible exposure limit (PEL) of 10 micrograms of arsenic per cubic meter of workplace air (10 ug/m3) for 8 hour shifts and 40 hour work weeks.

Reference:
Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR). 2007. Toxicological Profile for Arsenic (Update). Atlanta, GA: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Public Health Service.

Portions extracted from Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry;
<https://www.atsdr.cdc.gov/toxfaqs/tf.asp?id=19&tid=3>. - ProMED Mod.TG]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Sat 10 Aug 2019
Source: Nigeria CDC [edited]

The Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) is aware of a suspected outbreak of yellow fever in Ebonyi state and has had a rapid response team supporting Ebonyi state's response since [Tue 30 Jul 2019], in partnership with the World Health Organization (WHO).

Following a report of cases and deaths from fever of unknown origin in Izzi local government area (LGA) in Ebonyi state, the state public health team commenced an investigation. As at [Wed 31 Jul 2019], 3 cases had tested positive for yellow fever at NCDC's national reference laboratory, which triggered an immediate response.

The Ebonyi State Epidemiology Team is leading the response with support from the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC), the National Primary Health Care Development Agency (NPHCDA), and the World Health Organisation (WHO). In the course of investigation, it was discovered that between 1 May-7 Aug 2019, there had been cases that fit into the case definition for yellow fever and 20 deaths in Izzi LGA, Ebonyi state, indicating that the outbreak may have been going on for a few months, undetected by local health authorities. It was too late to collect samples for confirmation from these cases.

Immediately [after] it was notified, NCDC deployed a rapid response team to support Ebonyi state with contact tracing, case finding, risk communications, and the management of cases. Detailed analysis and plans are in advanced stages to apply to the international vaccine stockpile to enable a reactive vaccination campaign in Ebonyi state, in response to the cluster of cases.

Yellow fever virus is spread through bites of an infected mosquito. There is no human-to-human transmission of the virus. Yellow fever is a completely vaccine-preventable disease, and a single shot provides immunity for a lifetime. The yellow fever vaccine is available for free in primary health care centres in Nigeria as part of the routine immunisation schedule. Every child is protected for life if vaccinated. We encourage every family to ensure that children receive all their childhood vaccines.

In addition to the vaccine, the public is advised to keep their environments clean and free of stagnant water to discourage the breeding of mosquitoes and to use insecticide-treated mosquito nets as well as screens on windows and doors to prevent mosquito bites. It is important to avoid self-medication. Visit a health facility immediately if you feel ill.

Since September 2017, Nigeria has recorded suspected cases of yellow fever in all states in the country. As at [Wed 31 Jul 2019], 78 cases have been laboratory confirmed in Nigeria in 2019 alone. A multi-agency yellow fever technical working group coordinated by NCDC has been leading the investigation and response to yellow fever cases. The National Primary Health Care [Development] Agency is leading efforts to provide an additional opportunity of vaccination through preventive vaccination campaigns across the country.

Healthcare workers are reminded that the symptoms of yellow fever include yellowness of the eyes, sudden fever, headache, and body pain. If you have these symptoms or notice someone in your community displaying them, please contact your nearest health centre.
=====================
[The yellow fever [YF] virus is endemic in Nigeria, and cases occur there sporadically. This has been an active year (2019) for YF in Nigeria. The previous ProMED-mail post indicated that 930 suspected cases have been reported this year from 1 Jan-30 Apr 2019. There are 332 suspected cases during the April 2019 reporting period, up from 254 suspected cases on 19 Feb 2019. There are 3 new presumptive and 3 new confirmed yellow fever cases during the April 2019 reporting period.

The current focus of transmission is in Ebonyi state. The above report indicates that YF vaccine is available without cost in primary healthcare centers but does not mention if an organized vaccination campaign is underway or being planned, nor the proportion of the Ebonyi state population that is unvaccinated and, hence, at risk for YF. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Ebonyi state, Nigeria: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/1306>]
Source: Arutz Sheva 7 [edited]
Date: Tue 13 Aug 2019

A stewardess of Israel's El Al airline died Tuesday [13 Aug 2019], following a months-long battle with measles. The 43-year-old stewardess was infected with the measles virus during a flight from New York to Israel 5 months ago.

After she was infected, the stewardess was hospitalized in serious condition at Meir Medical Center in Kfar Saba in central Israel after she was found unconscious and struggling to breathe. During her hospitalization, the stewardess' condition deteriorated, and she was transferred to the quarantine section of the hospital's intensive care wing.

On Tuesday [13 Aug 2019], doctors at Meir hospital declared her death, following the 5-month struggle.  [Byline: Orly Harari]
===========================
[This is a very sad outcome, and our condolences go out to the family of the flight attendant, who worked for El Al, the Israeli national airline. It is not clear whether she contracted the virus in New York, in Israel, or on a flight between the two locations. The flight attendant received only one dose of the measles vaccine when she was a child. It wasn't discovered until later that one dose is only about 93% effective. More recently -- in the USA, starting in 1989 -- children have been given 2 doses, which is about 97% effective, according to the CDC. See Measles update (27) http://promedmail.org/post/20190418.6429834 for an earlier report on the flight attendant. - ProMED Mod.LK]