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Faroe Islands

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Faroe_Islands
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The early history of the Faroe Islands is not very clear. According to Færeyinga Saga emigrants who left Norway to escape the tyranny of Harald I of Norway settled in the isla
ds about the beginning of the 9th century. There is also evidence that Irish monks settled the islands, introducing sheep in the process. Early in the 11th century Sigmund, whose family had flourished in the southern islands but had been almost exterminated by invaders from the northern islands, was sent from Norway, from which he had escaped, to take possession of the islands for Olaf Tryggvason, king of Norway. He introduced Christianity and, though he was subsequently murdered, Norwegian supremacy was upheld. Norwegian control of the islands continued until 1380, when Norway entered into a union with Denmark, which gradually evolved into the double monarchy Denmark/Norway. The reformation reached the Faroes in 1538. When Norway was taken away from Denmark at the Treaty of Kiel in 1814, Denmark retained possession of the Faroe Islands.
The monopoly trade over the Faroe Islands was abolished in 1856. Since then, the country developed towards a modern fishery nation with its own fleet. The national awakening since 1888 was first based on a struggle for the Faroese language, and thus more culturally oriented, but after 1906 was more and more politically oriented after the foundation of the political parties of the Faroe Islands.
On April 12, 1940, the Faroes were invaded and occupied by British troops. The move followed the invasion of Denmark by Nazi Germany and had the objective of strengthening British control of the North Atlantic (see Second Battle of the Atlantic). In 1942–43 the British Royal Engineers built the only airport in the Faroes, the Vágar Airport. Control of the islands reverted to Denmark following the war, but in 1948 a home rule regime was implemented granting a high degree of local autonomy. The Faroes declined to join Denmark in entering the European Community (now European Union) in 1973. The islands experienced considerable economic difficulties following the collapse of the fishing industry in the early 1990s, but have since made efforts to diversify the economy. Support for independence has grown and is the objective of the government.
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Denmark, Greenland and the Faeroe Islands US Consular Information Sheet
August 15, 2006
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: Denmark is a highly developed stable democracy with a modern economy. Greenland is a self-governing dependency of Denmark. The Faroe Islands are a self-governing overseas administrative division of Denmark. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Denmark for additional information.

ENTRY REQUIREMENTS: Passport and visa regulations are similar for Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroes. A valid passport is required. U.S. citizen tourist and business travelers do not need visas for visits of up to 90 days. That period begins when entering any of the following countries which are parties to the Schengen agreement: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, The Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden. See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on Denmark and other countries. Contact the Royal Danish Embassy at 3200 Whitehaven Street, N.W. Washington, DC 20008, telephone (202) 234-4300 or visit its website at for the most current visa information.

Note: Although European Union regulations require that non-EU visitors obtain a stamp in their passports upon initial entry to a Schengen country, many borders are not staffed with officers carrying out this function. If an American citizen wishes to ensure that his or her entry is properly documented, it may be necessary to request a stamp at an official point of entry. Under local law, travelers without a stamp in their passports may be questioned and asked to document the length of their stay in Schengen countries at the time of departure or at any other point during their visit, and could face possible fines or other repercussions if unable to do so.

Find more information about Entry and Exit Requirements pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction .
SAFETY AND SECURITY: Denmark remains largely free of terrorist incidents, however the country shares, with the rest of Western Europe, an increased threat of Islamic terrorism. Like other countries in the Schengen area, Denmark's open borders with its Western European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering and exiting the country with anonymity. Americans are reminded to remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and to exercise caution.

Public demonstrations occasionally occur in Copenhagen and other Danish cities and are generally peaceful events. Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations, and police oversight is routinely provided to ensure adequate security for participants and passers-by. Nonetheless, as with any large crowd comprised of diverse groups, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety. U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas where public demonstrations are taking place.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State's web site , where the current Worldwide Caution Public Announcement , Travel Warnings, and Public Announcements can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States, or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1-202-501-4444. These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas. For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State's pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad .
CRIME: Denmark, Greenland, and the Faroes all have very low violent crime rates, however, non-violent crimes of opportunity have slightly increased over the last few years, especially in Copenhagen and other major Danish cities, where tourists can become targets for pickpockets and sophisticated thieves. Criminals frequent airports, train stations, and cruise ship quays to take advantage of weary, luggage-burdened travelers. Thieves also operate at popular tourist attractions, shopping streets, and restaurants. In hotel lobbies and breakfast areas, thieves take advantage of even a brief lapse in attention to snatch jackets, purses, and backpacks. Women's purses placed either on the backs of chairs or on the floor are typical targets for thieves. Car and home break-ins are also on the rise.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME: The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance. The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, to contact family members or friends, and explain how funds could be transferred. Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help you to understand the local criminal justice process and to find an attorney if needed.

Denmark has a program to provide financial compensation to victims who suffer serious criminal injuries. According to existing regulations, the victim must report the incident to the police within 24 hours. Danish police routinely inform victims of serious crime of their rights to seek compensation. The relevant forms can be obtained from the police or the Danish Victims' Compensation Board: Civilstyrelsen, Erstatningsnaevnet, Gyldenløvesgade 11, 1600 Copenhagen V, TEL: (45) 33-92- 3334; FAX: (45) 39-20-45-05; www.erstatningsnaevnet.dk ; Email: erstatningsnaevnet@erstatningsnaevnet.dk . Claim processing time is a minimum of 4 weeks. There is no maximum award limit.

See our information for Victims of Crime .
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Excellent medical facilities are widely available in Denmark. In Greenland and the Faroe Islands, medical facilities are limited and evacuation is required for serious illness or injury. Although emergency medical treatment is free of charge, the patient is charged for follow-up care.

Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC's website at . For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int.en. Further health information for travelers is available at .

MEDICAL INSURANCE: The Department strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation. Please see our information on medical insurance overseas .

TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Denmark is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

A valid U.S. driver's license may be used while visiting Denmark, but the driver must be at least 18 years old. Driving in Denmark is on the right side of the road. Road signs use standard international symbols. Many urban streets have traffic lanes reserved for public transport only. Unless otherwise noted on traffic signs, the speed limit is 50 km/h in urban areas, 80 km/h on open roads, and 130 km/h on expressways.

Use of seat belts is mandatory for drivers and all passengers. Children under three years of age must be secured with approved safety equipment appropriate to the child's age, size, and weight. Children from three to six years of age may use approved child or booster seats instead of seat belts.

Driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs is considered a very serious offense. The rules are stringently enforced, and violations can result in stiff fines and possible jail sentences.

Copenhagen, the capital and largest city in Denmark, has an extensive and efficient public transportation system. Trains and buses connect Copenhagen with other major cities in Denmark and to Norway, Sweden, and Germany. Bicycles are also a common mode of transportation in Denmark. Passengers exiting public or tourist buses, as well as tourists driving rental cars, should watch for bicycles on their designated paths, which are usually located between the pedestrian sidewalks and the traffic lanes.

Danish expressways, highways, and secondary roads are of high quality and connect all areas of the country. It is possible to drive from the northern tip of Denmark to the German border in the south in just four hours. Greenland has no established road system, and domestic travel is performed by foot, boat, or by air. The majority of the Faroe Islands are connected by bridges or serviced by boat. Although the largest islands have roads, most domestic travel is done on foot, horseback, boat, or by air.

The emergency telephone number for police/fire/ambulance in Denmark and the Faroe Islands is 112. In Greenland contact the local police.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information. Visit the website of the country's national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at . See also additional information on driving in Denmark at .

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the government of Denmark's Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Denmark's air carrier operations. This rating applies to Greenland and the Faroe Islands as well. For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's Internet website at www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa .

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: The official unit of currency in Denmark is the Danish krone. ATM machines are widely available throughout Denmark. Please see our information on customs regulations .

For information concerning the importation of pets into Denmark, please visit the following website:
.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protection available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Denmark's laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Denmark are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States. Please see our information on Criminal Penalties .

CHILDREN'S ISSUES: For information on international adoption of children and international parental child abduction, see the Office of Children's Issues website.

REGISTRATION/EMBASSY LOCATION: Americans living or traveling in Denmark are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department's travel registration website , and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Denmark. Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency. The U.S. Embassy is located at Dag Hammarskjolds Alle 24; 2100 Copenhagen, telephone: (45) 33-41-71-00; Embassy fax: (45) 35-43-02-23; Consular Section fax: (45) 35-38-96-16; After-hours emergency telephone: (45) 35-55-92-70. Information is also available via the U.S. Embassy's website at http://www.usembassy.dk. The United States has no consular presence in Greenland or the Faroe Islands.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated February 10, 2006, to update the section on Entry Requirements and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri, 25 Nov 2011 12:19:28 +0100 (MET)

COPENHAGEN, Nov 25, 2011 (AFP) - A hurricane packing winds of almost 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour tore through the Faroe Islands overnight, causing major damage and evacuations but no deaths, police said Friday.  "There was a hurricane... a lot of material damage has been reported but no deaths so far," said Rani Wardum, a police officer in Torshavn, the capital of the North Atlantic archipelago. "Winds reach up to 55 metres per second," or 198 kilometres per hour, in some places, meteorologist Mogens Roenebek of the Danish Meteorological Institute told AFP.

The Faroe Islands, an autonomous Danish province, are home to around 48,000 people. The extent of the damage was not immediately known. "Many roofs were blown off and we had to evacuate a retirement home. The seniors were moved into a hospital," Wardum said.

Some residents were also evacuated from their homes during the night and a number of boats came loose from their moorings and ended up on land, he added. "The winds are still raging, but it was particularly violent last night and overnight," Wardum said, noting that the southern coastal regions of the Faroes Islands were hardest hit. The storm was heading towards the west coast of Norway on Friday, with strong winds and heavy seas, according to Roenebek.
Date: Thu, 6 May 2010 16:55:58 +0200 (METDST)

REYKJAVIK, May 6, 2010 (AFP) - The quantity of ash spewed by Iceland's Eyjafjoell volcano increased overnight and the higher ash cloud could make it to the Faroe Islands Friday, Icelandic authorities said Thursday.   "Ash production did increase last night and the ash plume is going higher now than the last couple of days," Agust Gunnar Gylfason, who monitors the eruption's progress at Iceland's Civil Protection Department, told AFP.

The ash cloud "might reach the Faroe Islands around midnight (GMT Thursday) under 20,000 feet (6,000 meters)" and continue on south towards Ireland on Friday, he added.   "The plume went up to 30,000 feet (9,000 meters) for some time last night, and again this morning, due to an increase in explosive activity, but otherwise it's been around 18,000 and 20,000 feet" high, he said.

At the strongest period of the eruption, Eyjafjoell sent a plume around 30,000 feet into the air, but scientists have stressed that the height of the plume does not necessarily reflect a particular quantity of ash.   On Tuesday, the plume contained about only 10 percent of the ash it held at the beginning of the eruption.   European airspace and airports across the continent were open on Thursday, but intergovernmental air traffic controller Eurocontrol said the ash cloud could mean transatlantic flights might need to be re-routed.

Airspace above Ireland, Northern Ireland and Scotland was partly shut Wednesday for the second time in two days, causing the cancellation of hundreds of flights.   The fresh disruption came after Europe's skies were closed for up to a week last month by the eruption of the Eyjafjoell volcano. It was the biggest aerial shutdown in Europe since World War II, with more than 100,000 flights cancelled and eight million passengers affected.
More ...

Samoa

General:
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Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
the northern parts of the country. Temperatures of between 20C to 35C are fairly standard throughout the year. Generally the winter effects of the American continent only last for short periods.
Safety & Security:
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The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Road Safety:
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Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
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When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.

Currency:
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Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Health Facilities:
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Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
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The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
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Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
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The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
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This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
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There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
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Tetanus (childhood booster)
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Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
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Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Summary:
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Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue 10 Jul 2018
Source: MSN [edited]

Samoa has issued an immediate recall of the vaccine for mumps, measles and rubella (MMR) following the deaths of 2 infants who reportedly passed away just hours after receiving their shots. The 2 children, a boy and a girl, were both aged about 12 months. They were not related, came from different communities and were vaccinated on [Fri 6 Jul 2018] using the same batch of the MMR vaccine.

Australian forensic experts will fly into the country tonight to help investigate the incident, which happened at the Safotu District Hospital on the island of Savai'i.

In a statement, Samoan Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele expressed condolences to the children's families and called for a full inquiry."There are already processes that will determine if negligence is a factor," Mr. Tuilaepa said. "And if so, rest assured those processes will be implemented to the letter to ensure that such a tragedy will not be repeated and those responsible will be made to answer."

Health officials said testing was underway to see if the vaccine was responsible, and it has been recalled nationwide as a precautionary measure. The Government has called on the World Health Organisation (WHO) for assistance. Rasul Baghirov, the WHO's Samoa Representative, told the ABC's Pacific Beat program the situation was serious, but it was too early to determine exactly what caused the deaths.

"These deaths are a tragedy and the Government is committed to understanding exactly what happened, for the families of those children, but also to ensure the ongoing safety of the immunisation program," Dr Baghirov said.

He said the investigation would examine the vaccine itself, the injecting equipment and the storage arrangements for the vaccine. The training and conduct of staff would also be looked at, as well as the medical history of the infants' families. An autopsy team from the Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine in Melbourne will arrive in Samoa tonight to assist the investigation.

Severe vaccine reaction 'very, very rare'. Dr Baghirov said there have been no other reported cases of children dying after being vaccinated using the batch supplied to Samoa.

The vaccines were from India, were safety checked by the WHO and supplied by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).

"The MMR immunisation is the best way to reduce a child's risk of getting these highly infectious diseases," Dr Baghirov said. "It has been used around the world for many years, providing more than 2 billion children with protection against these diseases. The severe reaction following the administration of MMR vaccine is very, very rare -- that's why we want to really investigate and find out what caused the deaths here in Samoa."

UNICEF's Pacific Representative Sheldon Yett said it was important for people concerned by the case to remember that vaccines are safe.  "Stopping immunisation would be a disaster for children in the South Pacific and around the world," he said. "It does make sense to pause, and do a complete investigation to know what specifically happened here. "But stopping immunisation of course would be a very wrong approach to pursue here."  [Byline: Catherine Graue & Michael Walsh]
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[The very unfortunate death of these 2 infants should be investigated immediately, but it is a mistake to completely stop vaccination, which would result in more morbidity and possibly mortality. All vaccines carry a minimal risk, which generally is mild and only very rarely severe. It is not clear whether there were underlying conditions such as a weakened immune system or allergies in these 2 infants that led to complications from the MMR vaccine, or even whether the vaccine was truly the cause of death. The enquiry will look into the vaccine itself, equipment, storage of the vaccine and its administration. It is important to monitor the safety of this very commonly used vaccine, as appears to have been done by WHO in this case. Only a strong monitoring program will reassure the public.

According to CNN report (<https://www.cnn.com/2018/07/10/health/samoa-mmr-baby-deaths-intl/index.html>), "Vaccines prevent almost 6 million deaths worldwide every year, according to the World Health Organization. In countries that widely use vaccines, diseases such as measles have been nearly eradicated, with a 99 percent reduction in cases."

Typically given in 2 doses in early childhood, the MMR vaccine protects against 3 diseases: measles, mumps, and rubella.

One dose is about 93 percent effective at preventing measles if the person is exposed to the virus, while 2 doses are about 97 percent effective, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Dr. Sanjay Gupta: Benefits of vaccines are a matter of fact.

"Most children in the world receive this vaccine or similar vaccines to this," Helen Petousis-Harris, a vaccinologist at the University of Auckland, told CNN. "We have safety data on the vaccine, we understand the effects really well. This type of case is exceedingly rare."

Furthermore, she said, child mortality has gone down in many countries that use these vaccines.

"Every country has a vaccine program that has been demonstrated to be very safe," she added. "At the moment we need to understand what's happened so we can work out strategies to ensure it doesn't happen again. There's a lot we don't know about (the deaths)." - ProMED Mod.LK]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2018 03:45:09 +0200

Wellington, July 12, 2018 (AFP) - International health experts launched an investigation Thursday into why two Samoan infants died shortly after receiving childhood vaccination injections in a tragedy that has rocked the close-knit Pacific nation.

The tiny country has suspended its vaccination programme and seized all doses for testing after the deaths at the Safotu District Hospital last Friday.   The health department said two one-year-old babies, a boy and a girl, died soon after being administered a vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR).   A World Health Organisation expert has arrived to investigate and a specialist from UNICEF was also en route, along with a forensic pathologist to carry out autopsies, it added.

"We will investigate the cause and will take the appropriate actions to ensure that the lives of Samoan children will not be compromised in the future," the director-general of health Take Naseri said.   Samoa Prime Minister Tuilaepa Sailele Malielegaoi expressed his condolences at the deaths, which have rattled the nation of 195,000 people.   Malielegaoi, who almost lost his grandson several years ago under similar circumstances, said an inquiry would look at whether negligence was a factor.

Medical experts say the cause of the deaths remains unknown and have warned the tragedy should not be exploited by anti-vaccination activists.   "The message is -- please understand vaccination is very safe, it's very appropriate and everyone should still continue with their appointments as currently planned," Australian Medical Association president Tony Bartone told Sky News.

University of Auckland vaccinologist Helen Petousis-Harris said almost every child in the world received an MMR vaccine or a similar jab and deaths were extremely rare.   "There are two main reasons why something like this might happen," she said.   "Medical error, where the vaccine is prepared for injection incorrectly and the wrong substance is injected, (or) contamination of the vaccine due to leaving it at room temperature for a long period of time."

WHO data shows measles kills about 134,000 children a year and rubella causes some 100,000 children to be born with birth defects such as deafness.   Concerns about the MMR vaccine surfaced in 1998 when a British study, since discredited, linked it with autism.   While the study was found to be a fraud and the autism link debunked, vaccination rates have dropped in some countries as parents prevent children receiving their shots.
Monday 16th April 2018

- Samoa. 9 Apr 2018. Serotype 2 Outbreak in Samoa, 2017/2018. The cumulative total as of 18 Mar 2018 is 3255, with a national attack rate of 16.6 per 1000 population. Dengue fever continues to spread geographically, mostly in the Apia Urban and North West Upolu regions. A majority of those affected are 5-9-year-old children, which make up 31 percent of the total cases. There have not been any dengue related deaths reported, hence the total dengue-related mortality remains at 5.
Date: Mon 15 Dec 2014
Source: Radio New Zealand [edited]

The number of people infected with chikungunya in Samoa has reached more than 3000.

Ministry of Health figures up until the last week of November [2014] show 3135 cases of the mosquitoborne virus. The ministry says 333 people reported to hospitals that week, the most number of people showing symptoms of the disease in one week since the initial outbreak in July [2014].

The latest numbers mean that 1.7 per cent of Samoa's population has contracted "chik", whose symptoms include fever, sore joints, and a rash. The ministry says the largest clusters of chikungunya are within the Faleata and Vaimauga districts and more women than men have been affected.

There have been no deaths from chikungunya in Samoa. In French Polynesia, 5 people have died and more than 35 000 people have been affected by the disease.
=================
[The chikungunya outbreak continues to grow in Samoa, from 269 cases reported on 25 Aug 2014, to 626 cases on 20 Sep 2014, to an estimated 2500 on 24 Nov 2014, and now to 3135 cases, with cases reported throughout Samoa. Vigilance alone will not halt the outbreak. The Ministry of Health and the public will need to cooperate in the elimination of the breeding sites of the vector mosquitoes.

A map showing the location of Samoa in the Pacific Ocean can be accessed at
a HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at
Date: Wed 10 Dec 2014
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

The chikungunya outbreak in the Pacific Islands continue to balloon, particularly in French Polynesia, where health authorities report seeing an estimated 9000 new cases during the past week.

According to numbers released by the Auckland Regional Public Health Service in New Zealand, as of [1 Dec 2014], the following island countries are battling an on-going chikungunya outbreak: French Polynesia: 18,352 cases, American Samoa: 1148 cases, Samoa: more than 2500 suspected cases and Tokelau: 159 suspected cases.

Radio New Zealand reported more up-to-date numbers today [10 Dec 2014] showing the French Polynesia outbreak is actually up to 27,000 cases and 5 deaths.

Chikungunya is a viral disease transmitted by the bite of infected mosquitoes such as _Aedes aegypti_ and _Aedes albopictus_, the same mosquito vector that transmits dengue fever. It can cause high fever, joint and muscle pain, and headache.

Chikungunya does not often result in death, but the joint pain may last for months or years and may become a cause of chronic pain and disability. There is no specific treatment for chikungunya infection, nor any vaccine to prevent it.  [Byline: Robert Herriman]
======================
[Pending the development of a new vaccine, the only effective means of prevention is to protect individuals against mosquito bites.

The chikungunya outbreak in the Pacific islands, especially in French Polynesia, continues with increasing numbers of cases. So far, attempts to halt transmission through mosquito vector control have not prevented the increase in case numbers. There is a dengue outbreak in French Polynesia as well, and those viruses are transmitted by the same mosquito vector. In the absence of available vaccines, mosquito vector control and avoidance of mosquitoes bites are the only preventive measures available. These measures would require active public collaboration through education.

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map showing the location of the islands in French Polynesia can be accessed at <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/31048>; maps showing the location of American Samoa and Samoa can be accessed at <http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/oceania/wsnewz.gif> and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/2>; maps of Tokelau, a New Zealand territory, can be accessed at <http://www.worldatlas.com/webimage/countrys/oceania/tk.htm> and <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/6767>. - ProMED Mod.TY]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

12th September 2019
Communication from a medical colleague based in Kathmandu
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Dear friends,  I would like to alert you to a dengue outbreak in Nepal including in Kathmandu. It started in May 2019 in eastern Nepal but has come to Kathmandu in a big way in the past 2 weeks or so. Government figures (http://www.edcd.com.np/) indicates total of 5095 cases in Nepal including 1170 cases from Kathmandu. The government figures underestimate the problem due to underreporting issues. Kathmandu hospitals seem stretched to capacity due to dengue visits and admissions.

This problem is new to Kathmandu as we have had only sporadic cases of dengue in previous years. The public in Kathmandu has never taken mosquito bites seriously since we have not had major vector borne diseases in the past. We hope that the current dengue outbreak has peaked and will slow down once we get cooler nights from end September - early October.

If you have travellers coming this way, please alert them to this and send them with insect repellents and information on mosquito protection measures. DEET is not readily available and other repellent supplies have been depleted. 

Thank you. 
Prativa
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Dr. Prativa Pandey
Medical Director
CIWEC Hospital I Travel Medicine Center
prativapandey@ciwec-clinic.com
+977
98510-36742 I
http://www.ciwec-clinic.com/
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2019 12:11:43 +0200 (METDST)
By Kyoko HASEGAWA

Tokyo, Sept 9, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful typhoon that battered Tokyo overnight with record winds killed two people, police said Monday, as cancelled trains caused commuter chaos and more than 100 flights were scrapped, leaving thousands stranded at the airport.   Typhoon Faxai, packing winds of up to 207 kilometres (129 miles) per hour, made landfall in Chiba just east of the capital before dawn, after barrelling through Tokyo Bay.   The transport disruptions unleashed by the storm came less than two weeks before the start of the Rugby World Cup, and delayed the arrival of the Australian team -- a reminder that Japan's typhoon season could present challenges for organisers.

Police confirmed two people were killed in the storm -- a woman in her fifties who was found dead in Tokyo and an elderly man in the neighbouring Chiba prefecture.   Security camera footage showed that high winds pushed her across a street and into a wall, while the 87-year-old man was found dead in the woods under a fallen tree.   The storm injured more than 30 people, including a woman who sustained serious injuries after gusts toppled a protective netting structure at a golf driving range onto nearby houses.   Non-compulsory evacuation orders were issued to hundreds of thousands and authorities said more than 2,000 people had taken refuge in shelters at one point.

- Commuters stranded -
The strong winds downed trees and power lines. Nearly 760,000 households were still without electricity in the Tokyo area Monday evening.    Scaffolding was ripped from buildings and protective sheeting hung to keep construction debris off the streets was crumpled and torn by the storm.

While the damage was relatively light given the wind speeds, it was enough to cause chaos in the capital's notoriously busy morning commute.   The overland East Japan Railway train system was largely halted in the early hours of operation while tracks were checked for fallen trees and other debris.   The storm also caused delays and stoppages on subway lines, leading to massive crowds at some stations in the busy metropolitan area that is home to 36 million people.

Bullet train services that were suspended during the storm had largely resumed, though some were operating on a reduced schedule. Some roads were blocked by downed trees.   And trains running to and from Narita International Airport were halted, with buses and taxis the only options left to those arriving or hoping to fly out.   Thousands of people were stranded at the airport Monday evening, with officials preparing to distribute blankets and food.

- Wallabies arrival delayed -
At least 138 domestic flights were cancelled, with the weather even delaying the arrival of the Wallabies in Tokyo on Monday ahead of the World Cup that kicks off on September 20.   The French team managed to sneak in just ahead of the typhoon and reach their training camp near Mount Fuji.

By mid-Monday morning, the storm had moved back offshore and was headed northeast away from Japan, back into the Pacific.   The weather agency warned that landslides were still possible in Chiba as well as the northern Fukushima region as the storm headed away from land.   Japan is used to severe tropical storms and typhoons during late summer and autumn.   Strong typhoon Krosa lashed western Japan in mid-August, bringing strong winds and torrential rain that claimed one life.   And in late August, heavy rains left three people dead when massive floods also hit western Japan.

But this year, the typhoon season coincides with the Rugby World Cup, presenting a possible headache for teams and organisers.   Tournament rules say that if a pool match has to be scrapped due to extreme weather, it is classed as a draw, which could have a major impact on what is set to be a very close competition.   Nicholas van Santen, a spokesman for Rugby World Cup organisers, said they were working closely with the teams to minimise any disruption to their training schedules.   "In the days and hours leading up to the typhoon making landfall, the organising committee monitored the situation closely with the tournament's weather information provider and the relevant authorities," said Van Santen.
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2019 11:49:46 +0200 (METDST)

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 9, 2019 (AFP) - Malaysia prepared to seed clouds after air quality in parts of the country reached unhealthy levels due to smog from forest fires in neighbouring Indonesia, an official said Monday.   Smog regularly blankets parts of Southeast Asia during the dry season when burning is used to clear Indonesian land for palm oil, paper plantations and other crops, sparking ire from regional neighbours.   In the latest outbreak, parts of Malaysia's eastern state of Sarawak on Borneo island have been blanketed over the past few days.

The pollutant index in some places has reached "very unhealthy levels", said Gary Theseira, special functions officer with the environment ministry.   "It is extremely severe in Kuching," Theseira told AFP, referring to a city of half a million people.   He said Malaysia is prepared to carry out cloud seeding to induce rain in an effort to ease the smog.   "The moment the cloud situation is right, the chemicals will be loaded and the aircraft will take off and proceed with the seeding," he said.

Some countries conduct seeding during prolonged dry spells to induce rain and clear the air by releasing certain chemicals into the clouds, although some experts have questioned its efficacy.   Boo Siang Voon, a 47 year-old engineer in Kuching described the skies as "hazy, hot with smoky smell".   "This year the smog is getting worse. Residents are using face masks. We should not pay the price of our health for the open burning. We want a solution," he told AFP.   The Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur and neighbouring Singapore were also experiencing hazy conditions on Monday, with the air laced with the smell of burning foliage, although the pollutant index remained at moderate levels.   Some Kuala Lumpur residents complained about eye and throat irritation.

Malaysia's meteorological department Sunday warned that hot conditions will prevail for another week, and the monsoon season is only expected to arrive at the end of September or early October.   The ministry of science, technology and innovation on Friday said it would lodge a complaint with Indonesia for the haze and called for quick action to be taken to put out the fires.   Indonesian authorities have deployed thousands of extra personnel since last month to prevent a repeat of the 2015 fires, which were the worst for two decades and choked the region in haze for weeks.   Under pressure from neighbours, Indonesian leader Joko Widodo last month warned that officials would be sacked if they failed to stamp out forest fires.
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2019 11:25:29 +0200 (METDST)

Paris, Sept 9, 2019 (AFP) - Some 13,000 passengers, mainly booked on flights to and from Algeria, are still stranded after France's second-largest airline Aigle Azur went into receivership, a senior French official said Monday, adding that several potential buyers had been identified.   The airline, which employs almost 1,200 staff, filed for bankruptcy and suspended flights last week after losses which prompted a shareholder coup that ousted the chief executive.   "Out of 19,000 passengers who found themselves in difficulty at the peak of the crisis, there are still 13,000" who have yet to be repatriated, the secretary of state for transport, Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, told the Le Parisien daily.

He said these included 11,000 passengers booked on flights into and out of Algeria, 600 on Mali flights as well as other destinations ranging from Russia to Lebanon.   Air France chartered two special flights on Saturday and then again on Sunday to help passengers booked on Algeria flights, which flew out one quarter full but were full on the return.   "The hardest moment of the crisis will be over before the end of the week. At least half the passengers (affected) will have been repatriated," Djebbari said.

The airline transported last year some 1.9 million passengers, with destinations in Algeria making up half of its operations that brought in 300 million euros ($329 million) of revenue.   "There needs to be a serious buyer who is capable of offering guarantees for a maximum number of employees. The good news is that many (potential buyers) have expressed interest," said Djebbari.

He said the former chief executive of Air France's subsidiary Hop!, Lionel Guerin, was among interested parties, backed by a team of aviation professionals with financial support.   He added that Air France itself also appeared interested in making an offer.    "This shows there is still an interest in Aigle Azur," he added. Neither party has so far publicly confirmed an interest, with Air France declining to comment on an "evolving" situation.

According to union officials, Air France could be interested in the medium-haul routes to Algeria and the Dubreuil group, the majority shareholder in Air Caraibes, the long haul routes to destinations like Brazil and Mali.   The largest shareholder in Aigle Azur is the Chinese conglomerate HNA Group, which owns Hainan Airlines, with a 49-percent stake.    David Neeleman, an American airline entrepreneur whose companies include JetBlue and TAP Air Portugal, owns 32 percent, and French businessman Gerard Houa owns 19 percent.
Date: Mon, 9 Sep 2019 10:34:22 +0200 (METDST)
By Roland JACKSON

London, Sept 9, 2019 (AFP) - British Airways on Monday cancelled almost all flights departing and arriving into the UK, as the airline's first-ever pilots' strike began, sparking travel chaos for tens of thousands of passengers.   The industrial action over pay on Monday and Tuesday by members of the British Airline Pilots Association (BALPA) trade union follows around nine months of failed talks.   On the first day of the strike, some 145,000 passengers are facing cancelled international and domestic flights mainly at London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

The carrier, owned by London-listed International Airlines Group (IAG) and which operates about 850 flights per day in Britain, said it had no option but to cancel nearly all scheduled flights.   "Unfortunately, with no detail from BALPA on which pilots would strike, we had no way of predicting how many would come to work or which aircraft they are qualified to fly, so we had no option but to cancel nearly 100 percent of our flights," British Airways said in a statement.   The airline stressed that it remained willing to return to talks but the union -- which is seeking a bigger share of company profits -- accuses BA for not wanting to negotiate.

- Customer frustration -
"We understand the frustration and disruption BALPA's strike action has caused our customers," BA added.    "After many months of trying to resolve the pay dispute, we are extremely sorry that it has come to this."    BA and its 4,300 pilots have been locked in a long-running pay dispute that could disrupt the travel plans of nearly 300,000 people in total over the two days.

Pilots are also threatening to strike for one more day on September 27 -- and then possibly again closer to the winter holidays -- should the dispute drag on.   BALPA has rejected a pay increase of 11.5 percent over three years that the airline proposed in July.   BA says the offer would see flight captains receive "world-class" pay and benefits of around £200,000 ($246,000 or 220,000 euros) a year.   The airline pointed out also that two other unions representing 90 percent of the airlines' workers have accepted the 11.5-percent raise.   BALPA counters that co-pilots' salaries average around £70,000 -- and that of junior ones drops down to just £26,000.   This leaves some in heavy debt since they must first undergo training that the BBC estimates costs around £100,000.

- BA 'not budging' -
BALPA boss Brian Strutton also apologised for the travel chaos -- but defended the historic industrial action and blamed the company for failing to negotiate.   "We are very sorry for all the disruption that's been caused by the industrial action," he told BBC Radio 4.   "I think British Airways took the decision some weeks ago that they would close down the airline operation and it's up to them to do things that way.   "They could have made alternative plans. That's caused a lot of disruption for passengers," Strutton added.   The union had sought a profit-sharing scheme that would apply to all BA employees -- but Strutton said BA had "point blank refused" to consider the proposal.   BALPA pointed to a nearly 10-percent jump in pre-tax profits reported by BA-parent IAG last year.   "What the pilots have asked for is to have a share of the success of British Airways," Strutton said.   "We are prepared to negotiate. We are prepared to move on our position, but so far British Airways has said to me: 'We are not going to budge'. And that's the problem."
Date: Sun, 8 Sep 2019 14:18:07 +0200 (METDST)

Seoul, Sept 8, 2019 (AFP) - North Korean state media said Sunday five people had been killed in a powerful typhoon that destroyed farmland and damaged hundreds of buildings.   Typhoon Lingling, called Typhoon-13 in North Korea, hit the reclusive nuclear-armed state on Saturday afternoon, reported the official KCNA news service.

The impoverished and isolated country is vulnerable to natural disasters, especially floods, due in part to deforestation and poor infrastructure.   "According to data available from the State Emergency Disaster Committee, five persons were dead and three persons injured. The injured persons are now under treatment at hospitals," KCNA said.   More than 460 houses and at least a dozen public buildings were "completely or partly destroyed or inundated" by the typhoon, it said.

Crops were wiped out or damaged in 46,000 hectares (110,000 acres) of farmland -- roughly the area of the small European country of Andorra -- the report said, adding that recovery efforts were underway.   It came after South Korea's disaster agency reported three deaths caused by the same typhoon, according to Yonhap news agency.   On Saturday, KCNA reported that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un had berated officials for their "easygoing" attitude to the approaching storm.   According to that dispatch, Kim had convened an emergency meeting on Friday and said "dangerous circumstances" caused by the typhoon were "imminent", but that many in positions of authority were ill-prepared.
Date: Sat, 7 Sep 2019 03:40:09 +0200 (METDST)
By Ashraf KHAN

Karachi, Sept 7, 2019 (AFP) - Swarms of flies are descending on Pakistan's commercial capital in what residents say are record numbers this rainy season, adding to the misery of Karachi's monsoon "hell".   Heavy rains have inundated the sprawling port city of nearly 20 million people for weeks, overwhelming shoddy drainage systems clogged with mountains of uncollected garbage and flooding neighbourhoods with raw sewage.    "I have never seen such a fierce presence of flies in my life," Karachi resident Abdul Aziz, 45, told AFP.    "Clouds of flies keep covering the food at the market. It's repulsive -- they cover the fruit so much that you can't see beneath them."

At a market in Surjani town, meat trader Zahid Ali looked on as flies engulfed the area.    "If the customers come, they impulsively leave after seeing the swarms of flies," said Ali, adding that an increasing number of people working in the market had fallen ill.    Shershah Syed, a health rights activist and prominent surgeon in Karachi, said many illnesses were on the rise because of flies and mosquitoes.   "This time (the flies are) the worst ever as rain water is unable to drain and the garbage heaps are not dealt with," Syed said.    "The number of children entering hospitals for diarrhea or dysentery has jumped several fold this year. The number of children -- who are the most vulnerable to the fly-borne diseases -- has increased by about 10 times."

While Karachi is responsible for 60 percent of Pakistan's economic output, the city has long endured creaky infrastructure, illegal construction and failing municipal services.    This week, the Economist Intelligence Unit ranked Karachi as one of the least liveable cities in the world along with the likes of war-torn Libya's Tripoli and the crisis-hit Venezuelan capital Caracas.    "People in Karachi are numb to the idea of living with medical waste, overflowing gutters, broken down roads, and a complete lack of any kind of respectable public transport system," wrote Saadat Ali Zia on Twitter.    "We live in hell," tweeted Farooq Afridi.
Date: Thu, 5 Sep 2019 13:22:33 +0200 (METDST)

Mumbai, Sept 5, 2019 (AFP) - A six-year-old boy was among four people killed after severe flooding hit India's financial hub Mumbai, resulting in dozens of cancelled or delayed flights, officials said Thursday.   Mumbai -- home to 20 million people -- has been hit by torrential downpours over the past two months amid the annual monsoon deluge.   Non-stop rain over several hours on Wednesday paralysed traffic, halted trains and delayed airport operations at the western city.   "We recovered a six-year-old boy Abubakar's body from the drains after yesterday's flooding," Mumbai police official Shashikant Awghade told AFP on Thursday.   Awghade said the child fell into a drain during the deluge on Wednesday. His parents searched for him through the night, but his body was only found by police early Thursday.

Two municipal officers died after "falling in rainwater" and another man drowned in a river on Wednesday, the city's disaster management cell spokesman Tanaji Kamble told AFP.   Residents spoke of being trapped in traffic for several hours amid chaotic scenes.   "It was a nightmare and the entire city came to a standstill," chartered accountant Kevin Gogri told AFP.    Maharashtra state government minister Ashish Shelar said schools would be closed on Thursday "as a precautionary measure".   Many office workers stayed at home amid warnings of heavy rain from the meteorological department, although conditions eased later in the day.
Date: Fri 6 Aug 2019 3:20 PM IST
Source: News 18 [edited]

A 14-year-old girl from Pangasinan province in the northern Philippines died of the mosquito-borne disease, Japanese encephalitis (JE). It is the 1st such fatality in the province. According to a PhilStar report, the girl was hospitalised for several days for suspected dengue at a Dagupan hospital, before succumbing to it.

Health officials in Pangasinan are working with officials in Tarlac, where the girl studied, to see if other students are infected as well.

Japanese encephalitis is a mosquito-borne viral disease and is the leading cause of viral encephalitis (inflammation of the brain) in Asia. Children are more prone to this vector-borne disease.

According to the Philippines Department of Health, one in in every 250 infected with the JE virus succumb due to severe illness. The onset is characterised by flu-like symptoms (sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, and tiredness). Disease may rapidly progress to severe encephalitis (infection of the brain). At this stage, the patient may experience symptoms such as mental disturbances and progressive decline in consciousness to coma.

More than half of those who are diagnosed with JE show serious residual neurologic, psychosocial, intellectual, and/or physical disabilities such as paralysis, recurrent seizures, or inability to speak. The Japanese encephalitis virus is transmitted by _Culex_ mosquitoes that breed in water pools and flooded rice fields. People who live close to rice fields and pig farms are more prone to fall prey to this vector-borne disease.

The Philippines is endemic for Japanese encephalitis, with a number of cases tested positive in every region in the country. According to the data by the Department of Health (DoH) Epidemiology Bureau, Japanese encephalitis virus is the cause of encephalitis in 15 percent of all cases of acute encephalitis. DoH recorded 122 lab confirmed Japanese encephalitis cases in 2016, while 275 cases were reported in 2017. The year 2018 witnessed 340 confirmed cases of Japanese encephalitis cases, with Region III reporting the highest number of cases (110), followed by Regions I and II.
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[Pangasinan province is on the west side of Luzon Island. Cases of Japanese encephalitis (JE) occur sporadically in various parts of the Philippines, including Luzon Island. This is the 1st report of JE on Luzon this year (2019). The report above does not mention if the localities where the 14 year old student had been were in ecological situations where Japanese encephalitis virus might be transmitted, with abundant populations of _Culex_ vector mosquitoes. Ardeid water bird hosts such as herons and pigs serve as amplifying hosts. Presumably, the girl had not been vaccinated against Japanese encephalitis. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of Philippines: <https://goo.gl/vVg7ht> and
Date: Sat 7 Sep 2019
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

Blastomycosis is a fungal infection usually acquired by breathing in the spores of the fungi, _Blastomyces dermatitidis_ or _Blastomyces gilchristii_.  In Minnesota from 1999-2018, 671 laboratory-confirmed cases of human blastomycosis were reported. Officials note that each year, a median of 34 cases of blastomycosis are reported in Minnesota. Recently these numbers have increased; in 2018, 58 cases were reported, more than any single year during this time frame.

In Minnesota, about 1/3 of cases live and are diagnosed in a different county than where they were exposed to _Blastomyces_. While most people are exposed in northern counties, or those along the Mississippi or St. Croix rivers, people can be exposed to _Blastomyces_ in many counties across the state.  Approximately 10% of cases die of blastomycosis.  _Blastomyces dermatitidis_ can be found throughout the world but is most common in parts of North, Central, and South America. In the United States, the fungus is endemic in the Southeast and the Midwest.

The time between exposure to the spores and when symptoms develop varies widely, ranging from 21-100 days. About 50% of infections are asymptomatic (no symptoms). When symptoms of blastomycosis are present, they may include fever, cough, cough with blood, shortness of breath, muscle aches, bone pain, back pain, chest pain, fatigue, weight loss, chills and/or night sweats, and skin sores.
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[The following is extracted from my moderator comments in ProMED-mail post Blastomycosis - USA: (WI) tubing, RFI

"Blastomycosis is a potentially fatal infection caused by the soil-based dimorphic fungi _Blastomyces dermatitidis_ [or Blastomyces gilchristii_], which exist in the environment at ambient temperature as a mold and in the animal host at body temperature as a yeast. The fungus likely resides in moist soil with decomposing organic debris. It appears that only under quite specific conditions of humidity, temperature, and nutrition can the fungus grow and produce the infecting spores. The spores become airborne when soil in which the fungus is growing is disturbed. Fungal spores may be inhaled and initiate an acute or chronic lung infection, which, if untreated, may disseminate to the skin, bone, joints, urinary tract, prostate, and brain. The incubation period can range from 3 weeks to 3 months, but many infected people remain asymptomatic.

"The diagnosis of blastomycosis is based on isolation of _Blastomyces dermatitidis_ from specimens obtained from sputum, skin, or tissue biopsy (growth of organisms in cultures may take at least 4 weeks), or the demonstration of characteristic broad-based budding yeast cells by direct microscopic examination of wet unstained clinical specimens, cytology preparations, or histopathology slides. PCR-based assays may also be available to detect DNA of _B. dermatitidis_ in cultures or clinical specimens (<http://jcm.asm.org/content/50/5/1783.full>). The drug itraconazole is used to treat mild or moderate disease, and amphotericin B is used for patients with central nervous system involvement, patients who are severely immunocompromised, or patients who do not respond to itraconazole therapy (<https://academic.oup.com/cid/article/46/12/1801/296953>). Blastomycosis more commonly affects people involved with outdoor activities, in proximity to waterways (<http://www.cdc.gov/Mmwr/PDF/wk/mm4528.pdf>), and the symptoms may be more severe in people with a weakened immune system.

"The infection is endemic throughout much of the Midwestern USA, including the area on both the Canadian and US sides of the Great Lakes and the St Lawrence River valley. Most cases are sporadic, but clusters of cases have occurred in a close geographic area within a short period of time."

Although blastomycosis is not nationally notifiable in the US, it is now reportable in 5 US states: Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, and Wisconsin (<https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/fungal-disease-reporting-table.html>). According to the CDC, in states where blastomycosis is reportable, yearly incidence rates are approximately 1-2 cases per 100,000 population, but Wisconsin may have the highest incidence of blastomycosis of any state, with yearly rates ranging from 10-40 cases per 100 000 persons in some northern counties (<https://www.cdc.gov/fungal/diseases/blastomycosis/statistics.html>). Although most cases are sporadic, outbreaks do occur; a large blastomycosis outbreak occurred in 2015 that involved 89 confirmed and suspected cases and was linked to rafting on the Little Wolf River in southeast Marathon County and Waupaca counties of Wisconsin (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Wolf_River>). See the "See Also's" below.

The reasons for the recent increase in cases in Minnesota are not stated in the news report above but could include increased reporting, an increase in high-risk activities, an increase in exposure of certain segments of the population that are more susceptible to blastomycosis, and a change in climate that favors proliferation of this fungus in the environment. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Minnesota, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/354>]