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Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue 19 Mar 2019
Source: Daily Post [edited]

The Department of Public Health and Social Services is monitoring an outbreak of shigellosis on Guam. Shigellosis is an infectious disease caused by a group of bacteria called _Shigella_. Most who are infected with _Shigella_ develop diarrhoea, fever, and stomach cramps starting a day or 2 after they are exposed to the bacteria.

So far in 2019, a total of 10 cases have been reported, 9 have been confirmed. In 2018, a total of 29 cases of shigellosis were reported; 23 were confirmed.

Shigellosis usually resolves in 5 to 7 days. However some people who are infected may have no symptoms at all, but may still pass the _Shigella_ bacterium to others. The spread of shigellosis can be stopped by frequent and careful hand washing with soap and taking other hygiene measures.
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[_Shigella_ was discovered more than 100 years ago by the Japanese microbiologist Kiyoshi Shiga, for whom the genus is named. There are 4 species: _S. boydii_, _S. dysenteriae_, _S. flexneri_, and _S. sonnei_. _Shigella_ organisms can survive transit through the stomach because they are less susceptible to acid than other bacteria; for this reason, as few as 10 to 100 organisms can cause disease. Ingested bacteria pass into the small intestine where they multiply; large numbers of bacteria then pass into the colon, where they enter the colonic cells. Given its relatively low infectious dose, transmission can occur via contaminated food and water or via direct person-to-person spread, including sexual practices more common in MSM (men who have sex with men). Humans are the only natural reservoir for the disease.

The bacterium is the classical cause of bacterial dysentery (formerly known as flux or the bloody flux) is an inflammatory disorder of the colon, which results in severe diarrhoea containing mucus and/or blood in the faeces with fever, abdominal pain, and rectal tenesmus (pain while passing the diarrhoea).

Guam (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guam>) is an unincorporated and organized territory of the United States in Micronesia in the western Pacific Ocean. It is the easternmost point and territory of the USA, along with the Northern Mariana Islands. The inhabitants of Guam are called Guamanians, and they are American citizens by birth. Indigenous Guamanians are the Chamorros, who are related to other Austronesian natives of Eastern Indonesia and Philippines and Taiwan.  - ProMED Mod. LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2017 10:40:35 +0200

Tokyo, Aug 23, 2017 (AFP) - Guam's number two politican Wednesday rolled out the welcome mat to tourists, promising his sun-kissed tropical island is safe -- despite North Korea's threat to launch missiles toward the Pacific US territory.   Lieutenant Governor Raymond Tenorio made the comments in Tokyo where he was joined by Guam's tourism boss Jon Nathan Denight, amid fears that Pyongyang's sabre-rattling will hammer the key tourism industry.

Last year, Japanese tourists made up about half of the 1.5 million visitors to the island, which is about a four-hour flight from Tokyo.   "We're one of the most protected and safe islands you'll find in the world," Tenorio told reporters at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Japan.   He added there was a big US military presence on Guam, a strategic outpost in the Pacific with its own missile defence system.

Added Denight: "Guam's brand image was built as a very safe and family-friendly destination. I want to reassure people of Japan that there has been no change and Guam is safe for travel."   The unusual appeal to tourists comes several weeks after Pyongyang said it was considering firing a salvo of missiles toward the island -- prompting an angry reaction from US President Donald Trump.

Unlike Trump, however, Guam's 162,000-odd residents seem to be taking it all in stride, including Tenorio.   "By and large, 99 percent of our population just go about their lives every single day. Things are normal on Guam," he said.   "I have to admit sometimes it's really hard to do my job in my office. If you look outside...(from) where I'm sitting at my desk many times you'll see dolphins chasing the fish."
Date: Fri, 11 Aug 2017 12:10:33 +0200

Hagatna, Guam, Aug 11, 2017 (AFP) - Tourism-dependent Guam is looking to cash in on its new-found fame as a North Korean missile target, tapping an unlikely promotional opportunity to attract visitors to the idyllic island and prove that all publicity is good publicity.   Pyongyang's threats to launch four missile strikes near the US territory has stirred global curiosity in the remote Pacific destination, with it trending heavily on search engines as social media users wondered, "what is Guam?"

Although Guam hosts two US military installations and 6,000 US soldiers, making it the target of North Korea's wrath, tourism authorities are keen to dispel any impression of danger to the tranquil island and its secluded beaches.   "The circumstances are unfortunate but this is a good opportunity for us to educate the world about Guam and our culture, about where we are, and who we are," said Josh Tyquiengco, marketing director at Guam Visitors Bureau, the official agency for the island.

"Guam is more than a military base. We are a safe family destination. We reassure potential visitors that we continue to be a safe... place to visit," Tyquiengco told AFP.   Despite North Korea's threats to prepare plans within days that would surround Guam with "enveloping fire", fears of a potential attack have not deterred tourists from visiting Guam, he said.   "We heard about a few booking cancellations from South Korea, but it's too minimal to affect the industry," he said. 

Governor Eddie Calvo, in a briefing late Friday, said any attack on Guam "would be met with overwhelming force", pointing out that the biggest threat facing the island was the looming typhoon season.   "With that, everybody should conduct their lives like business as usual. It's the weekend. Go out, have a good time, enjoy the beaches tomorrow and live your lives.   "At this point, there are thousands of tourists coming in on a daily basis... from Japan, (South) Korea, Taiwan and China and other areas. It is our belief that they should enjoy themselves here."

As aircraft after aircraft -- packed with tourists -- landed Friday at Guam's international airport, the latest visitors to the island appeared untroubled by the prospect of missile strikes.   Sun Doojin, who arrived with her husband and two-year-old daughter on a flight from Seoul, responded with an emphatic "no" when asked if she was concerned about an attack during her visit.

- 'A hidden gem' -
The Guam Daily Post, in an editorial, said the spotlight on the territory offered an opportunity to show the world why an island of 162,000 people draws more than 1.5 million tourists a year.    "The beach waters are crystal clear, beaches aren't overrun, and nature hiking trails are very accessible.   "The different cultures that are showcased on the island through food make Guam a hidden gem, a tropical vacation getaway but with the amenities and comforts of some of the small cities stateside."

Guam's history of earthquakes and typhoons mean its infrastructure is built to robust standards and authorities insist that the island is prepared for any emergency, including a North Korean strike.   Homeland Security spokeswoman Jenna Gaminde told the Guam Daily News that in the event of an attack, residents would be immediately notified by sirens from the All-Hazards Alert Warning System located throughout the island.   "If you hear the sirens, tune into local media -- radio, print, television -- for further instructions," she said. 

Pyongyang has said it would take less than 18 minutes for a missile to cross the 3,400-kilometre (2,100-mile) distance to the US territory.   In addition to the US military bases, Guam is also equipped with the sophisticated THAAD weapons system which is capable of destroying intermediate-range missiles in the final phase of flight.

Officials, however, have sought to brush off fears and say there has been no change in the threat level for now.   "I don't think there's anything to worry about. No missile is going to land on Guam," said Carl Peterson, who serves on the Guam Chamber of Commerce's armed forces committee.   "We've got defense mechanisms in place... they have the ability to seek out the missiles with kinetic energy and destroy it."
Date: Thu, 8 Jun 2017 21:02:05 +0200

Miami, June 8, 2017 (AFP) - Five percent of women in the US territories who were infected with the Zika virus while pregnant had fetus or babies with defects, including microcephaly, government health data said Thursday.   The report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention covered the US territories of Guam, American Samoa, the US Virgin Islands, Micronesia, the Republic of Marshall Islands and Puerto Rico.   The report is the first based on data from the US territories and the largest study of its kind to date.

CDC experts said the findings are consistent with previous findings about Zika cases in the mainland United States.   "Women in the US territories and elsewhere who have continued exposure to mosquitoes carrying Zika are at risk of infection," said CDC acting director Anne Schuchat.    "We must remain vigilant and committed to preventing new Zika infections."   The rate of birth defects was slightly higher -- eight percent, or one in 12 -- in women whose infections were confirmed early in the pregnancy, during the first trimester, said the report.

The findings were based on the cases of 2,549 women with possible Zika virus infection who completed their pregnancies.   Among these women, 1,508 had confirmed Zika virus infection from January 1, 2016 to April 25, 2017.   Over 120 pregnancies resulted in Zika-associated birth defects, including infants born with unusually small heads, an irreversible condition known as microcephaly.   Other complications in babies included seizures and problems with movement, coordination, eating and near constant crying.

Zika can be spread by the bite of infected mosquito or via sexual contact.  Pregnant women are urged to avoid areas where Zika is spreading.   Since Zika erupted on a large scale in mid-2015, more than 1.5 million people have been infected, mostly in Brazil and other countries in South America.    Some 70 countries have been impacted.   Zika may lead to an itchy rash and although it is dangerous for pregnant women and their fetuses, it often causes no symptoms in adults.   In November 2016, the World Health Organization announced that the Zika virus outbreak no longer poses a world public health emergency, though it warned the epidemic remains a challenge.
Date: Fri 27 Mar 2015
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]

Health authorities on the Pacific Island of Guam say the pertussis, or whooping cough outbreak has reached 11 cases to date. This comes after the Department of Public Health and Social Services (DPHSS) received 3 additional laboratory confirmed cases of the vaccine-preventable disease in a 9 month old child, 3 year old child, and 41 year old adult. Investigation into the newest cases show no epidemiological linkage with each other or previous reported cases.  [Byline: Robert Herriman]
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[Guam is an organized, unincorporated territory of the United States in the western Pacific Ocean. A map of the island can be found at <http://www.lib.utexas.edu/maps/islands_oceans_poles/guam.gif>.

There are likely a number of reasons for the upswing of pertussis in the USA and elsewhere, which include the well-recognized normal swings in incidence, the increase in the number of unvaccinated individuals whose parents chose not to vaccinate them, and waning immunity which has caused public health officials to advise boosters for all adults and especially pregnant women. However, research by both Dr Frits R Mooi from the Netherlands (Pertussis - Australia (04): newly emerging clones, discussion 20120322.1078115) and Dr Lyn Gilbert from Australia (Pertussis - Australia (03): newly emerging clones 20120321.1076103) have been previously highlighted in ProMED-mail, reflecting antigenic changes in circulating clones of _Bordetella pertussis_ which may be causing the increased number of pertussis cases throughout the world. These changes may result in a need for modifications of the currently used acellular pertussis vaccines. - ProMED Mod.LL]
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Philippines

Philippines US Consular Information Sheet
June 17, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Philippines is an emerging economy with a democratic system of government, located in Southeast Asia.
The archipelago consists of more than 7,000 islands
of which over 800 are inhabited.
The major island groupings are Luzon in the north, the Visayas in the center and Mindanao in the south.
Tourist facilities are available within population centers and the main tourist areas.
English is widely spoken in the Philippines, and most signs are in English.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on the Philippines for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
U.S. citizens may enter the Philippines without a visa upon presentation of their U.S. passport, valid for at least six months after the date of entry into the Philippines, and a return ticket to the United States or an onward ticket to another country.
Upon arrival immigration authorities will annotate your passport with an entry visa valid for 21 days.
If you plan to stay longer than 21 days you must apply for an extension at the Philippine Bureau of Immigration and Deportation's main office at Magallanes Drive; Intramuros, Manila, Philippines or at any of its provincial offices at http://www.immigration.gov.ph.

Persons who overstay their visas are subject to fines and detention by Philippine immigration authorities.
American citizens are urged to remain aware of their visa status while in the Philippines and to strictly follow immigration laws and regulations.
Travelers departing the country from international airports must pay a Passenger Service Charge in Philippine Pesos.
Visit the Embassy of the Philippines web site at http://www.philippineembassy-usa.org for the most current visa information.

Special requirements exist for the entry of unaccompanied minors.
In an effort to prevent international child abduction, the Philippine government requires that a waiver of exclusion be obtained from a Philippine Embassy or Consulate or from the Bureau of Immigration and Detention in Manila for a child under 15 years of age who plans to enter the Philippines unaccompanied by either a parent or legal guardian prior to the child's entry into the Philippines.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
U.S. citizens contemplating travel to the Philippines should carefully consider the risks to their safety and security while there, including those due to terrorism.
While travelers may encounter such threats anywhere in the Philippines, the southern island of Mindanao and the Sulu Archipelago are of particular concern.
Travelers should exercise extreme caution in both central and western Mindanao as well as in the Sulu Archipelago.

Kidnap for ransom gangs operate in the Philippines.
In October 2007, one such gang abducted a visiting U.S. citizen whose whereabouts are unknown at this time.
Several other foreigners were also kidnapped for ransom in 2007.
The New People’s Army (NPA), a terrorist organization, operates in many rural areas of the Philippines, including in the northern island of Luzon.
While it has not targeted foreigners in several years, the NPA could threaten U.S. citizens engaged in business or property management activities, and it often demands “revolutionary taxes.”

Terrorist groups, such as the Abu Sayyaf Group, the Jema’ah Islamiyah and groups that have broken away from the more mainstream Moro Islamic Liberation Front or Moro National Liberation Front, have carried out bombings resulting in deaths, injuries and property damage.
In November 2007, a bombing outside the House of Representatives in Metro Manila resulted in a number of deaths and injuries to bystanders.
On January 3, 2008, a bomb exploded at a Cotabato City disco pub, killing one and injuring eight.
The central and western areas of Mindanao have also experienced bombings targeting bus terminals and public buildings.
While those responsible do not appear to have targeted foreigners, travelers should remain vigilant and avoid congregating in public areas; U.S. Government employees must seek special permission for travel to Mindanao or the Sulu Archipelago.
When traveling in Mindanao, U.S. official travelers attempt to lower their profile, limit their length of stay and exercise extreme caution.
Some foreigners who reside in or visit western and central Mindanao hire their own private security personnel.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Travel Warnings and Travel Alerts, including the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, 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:
As in many of the major metropolitan areas in the United States, crime is a significant concern in Metro Manila.
As a rule of thumb, Americans should exercise good judgment and remain aware of their surroundings.
Reports of confidence games, pick pocketing, internet scams and credit card fraud are common.
Be wary of unknown individuals who attempt to befriend you, especially just after you arrive in country.
A number of robberies and assaults involving the “date rape drug” (known locally as Ativan) have occurred; the drug is generally administered to unwitting male or female victims via food or drink.
It is best not to accept food, drink, or rides in private vehicles from strangers, even if they appear legitimate.
While Americans are not typically targeted for kidnapping, kidnappings and violent assaults do occur in the Metro Manila area.

Taxis are the recommended form of public transportation.
However, the following safeguards are important: do not enter a taxi if it has already accepted another passenger; and request that the meter be used.
If the driver is unwilling to comply with your requests, it is best to wait for another cab.
It is also a good idea to make a mental note of the license plate number should there be a problem.
When driving in the city, make certain that the doors are locked and the windows rolled up.
All other forms of public transportation, such as the light rail system, buses and “jeepneys” should be avoided for both safety and security reasons.

Visitors should also be vigilant when using credit cards.
One common form of credit card fraud involves the illicit use of an electronic device to retrieve and record information, including the PIN, from the card's magnetic strip.
The information is then used to make unauthorized purchases.
To limit your vulnerability to this scam, never let your card out of your sight.

A continuing problem is the commercial scam or sting that attempts to sell or to seek negotiation of fraudulent U.S. securities.
Visitors and residents should be wary when presented with supposed Federal Reserve Notes or U.S. securities for sale or negotiation.
For further information, consult the Federal Reserve System's web site at http://www.federalreserve.gov/.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.

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, 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.
The Philippines has a victim compensation program to provide financial compensation to victims of violent or personal crime and of unjust imprisonment.
Information may be obtained from the Philippine Department of Justice at 011-632-536-0447 or via the Internet at http://www.doj.gov.ph/.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Philippines is: 117.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Adequate medical care is available in major cities in the Philippines, but even the best hospitals may not meet the standards of medical care, sanitation, and facilities provided by hospitals and doctors in the United States.
Medical care is limited in rural and more remote areas.

Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost several or even tens of thousands of dollars.
Most hospitals will require a down payment of estimated fees in cash at the time of admission.
In some cases, public and private hospitals have withheld lifesaving medicines and treatments for non-payment of bills.
Hospitals also frequently refuse to discharge patients or release important medical documents until the bill has been paid in full.
A list of doctors and medical facilities in the Philippines is available on the web page of the U.S. Embassy in Manila at http://manila.usembassy.gov/.

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

MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and 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 the Philippines is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Travel within the Philippine archipelago is possible by boat, plane, bus or car.
Few tourists rent cars to drive, as the road system is crowded and drivers are undisciplined.
Driving off the national highways and paved roads is particularly dangerous, especially at night, and should be avoided.
To avoid overcrowded or unsafe transport, exercise caution in planning travel by older, inter-island ferryboats, or other public conveyances.

For specific information concerning Philippine driver's permits, vehicle inspection, road tax and mandatory insurance, please contact the Philippine Embassy in Washington, D.C. at tel. (202) 467-9300 or one of the Philippine consulates in the United State (Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York, and San Francisco) or via the Internet at http://www.philippineembassy-usa.org/home.htm.
Please see also related information from the Philippine Department of Tourism at http://www.tourism.gov.ph and http://www.dotpcvc.gov.ph.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of the country’s national tourist office and national authority responsible for road safety at http://www.lto.gov.ph/.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Philippines’ Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of the Philippines’ air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Marriage in the Philippines:
The Philippine Government requires foreigners who wish to marry in the Philippines to obtain from the U.S. Embassy a “Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” before filing an application for a marriage license.
Because there is no national register of marriages in the United States, the U.S. Embassy cannot provide such a certification.
As a result, the Philippine Government will accept an “Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage” in its place.
Americans may execute this affidavit at the U.S. Embassy in Manila Monday-Friday, between 8:00 a.m. and 10:00 a.m., except for Philippine or American holidays.
The American must present his/her U.S. passport.
There is a fee of $30.00 or its peso equivalent for the affidavit.
Philippine authorities will not accept any substitute document issued in the United States.
Before traveling to the Philippines to be married, U.S. military personnel should contact their personnel office regarding Department of Defense joint service regulations.

Execution of the affidavit by a U.S. consular officer is a notarial act, and the consular officer is authorized by U.S. law to refuse to perform the service if the document will be used for a purpose patently unlawful, improper, or inimical to the best interests of the United States (see 22 C.F.R. section 92.9b).
Entering into a marriage contract for the principal purpose of facilitating immigration to the United States for an alien is an unlawful act, and the U.S. Code provides penalties for individuals who commit perjury in an affidavit taken by a consular officer.
Relationship fraud is a persistent problem in the Philippines, and it is not uncommon for Filipinos to enter into marriages with Americans solely for immigration purposes.
Relationships developed via correspondence, particularly those begun on the Internet, are particularly susceptible to manipulation.

The Marriage Application Process:
Once an American citizen has obtained from the U.S. Embassy an “Affidavit in Lieu of a Certificate of Legal Capacity to Contract Marriage,” he/she may file an application for a marriage license at the office of the Philippine Civil Registrar in the town or city where one of the parties is a resident.
The U.S. citizen applicant must present: (a) the affidavit; (b) divorce decree(s) or death certificate(s), if applicable (required to verify civil status and legal capacity to contract marriage); (c) his/her U.S. passport; and (d) documentation regarding parental consent or advice, if applicable.
(Persons aged 18 to 21 must have written parental consent to marry in the Philippines; those aged 22 to 24 must have received parental advice.
Philippine law prohibits marriage for persons under the age of 18.)
A judge, a minister, or other person authorized by the Philippine Government can perform the marriage.

Marriage to a U.S. citizen confers neither citizenship nor an automatic eligibility for entry to the United States.
A foreign spouse requires an immigrant visa to live in the United States.
Questions about filing a petition to bring a foreign spouse to the United States may be directed to the nearest U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service office, to the U.S. Department of State’s Visa Office (telephone: (202) 663-1225) or, while in the Philippines, to the U.S. Embassy’s Immigrant Visa Unit at http://manila.usembassy.gov/.

Disaster Preparedness:
The Philippines is a volcano-, typhoon- and earthquake-prone country.
>From May to December, typhoons and flash floods often occur.
Flooding can cause road delays and cut off bridges.
Typhoons in the vicinity of the Philippines can interrupt air and sea links within the country.
Updated information on typhoons is available at http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph. Volcanic activity is frequent, and periodically the Philippine Government announces alerts for specific volcanoes.
Updated information on volcanoes in the Philippines is available at http://volcanoes.usgs.gov.
Earthquakes can also occur throughout the country.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available via the Internet from the Philippines National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) at http://ndcc.gov.ph/home/ and from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov.

Customs: Philippine customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from the Philippines of items such as firearms and currency.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of the Philippines in Washington, DC or one of the Philippine consulates in the United States (Chicago, Honolulu, Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco) for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available in the Philippines; transactions involving such products are illegal and bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.

Please see our Customs Information.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law.
Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating the Philippines’ laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Philippines 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 see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in the Philippines are encouraged to register with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within the Philippines.
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: 1201 Roxas Boulevard, Manila, Philippines, tel. (63) (2) 301-2000.
The American Citizen Services (ACS) section's fax number is (63) (2) 301-2017 and the ACS web page is at http://manila.usembassy.gov/.
*

*

*
This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Philippines dated January 17, 2008 to update sections on “Country Description,” “Safety and Security,” “Crime” and “Medical Facilities and Health Information.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 5 Feb 2020
Source: 7News [abridged, edited]

Two new measles cases have been diagnosed, and warnings have been issued for Melbourne Airport. On Wednesday [5 Feb 2020], Victoria's chief health officer, Dr Brett Sutton, confirmed a baby boy and a man in his 20s were recently diagnosed. Those diagnosed had travelled to Melbourne Airport from Nepal and the Philippines. The cases are unrelated, and both patients are recovering at home.

Research has found that having measles can have long-term effects on people's immune systems, putting them more at risk after they recover.  [byline: Lucy Mae Beers]
Date: Tue, 14 Jan 2020 09:00:02 +0100 (MET)
By Ron Lopez with Mikhail Flores in Manila

Tanauan, Philippines, Jan 14, 2020 (AFP) - Taal volcano in the Philippines could spew lava and ash for weeks, authorities warned Tuesday, leaving tens of thousands in limbo after they fled their homes fearing a massive eruption.   The crater of the volcano exploded to life with towering clouds of ash and jets of red-hot lava on Sunday, forcing those living around the mountain south of Manila to rush to safety.

Many people abandoned livestock and pets as well as homes full of belongings after authorities sounded an alert warning that an "explosive eruption" could come imminently.   "We left everything apart from what we're wearing," said Robert Cadiz, a 47-year-old fisherman among some 30,000 who took refuge in shelters. "We were terrified."

Gerald Aseoche, 30, who left with his four young children and a few possessions, has missed work to stay with them as the volcano belches out lava and earthquakes tied to the eruption rattle the region.   "I am hoping this won't go on too long because I will lose my job if I can't report to work immediately," Aseoche, a house painter, told AFP at an evacuation centre.   "I can't leave them... family first," he said as he cradled one of his children.

Taal is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation hit periodically by eruptions and earthquakes due to its location on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" -- a zone of intense seismic activity.   The Taal eruption has been putting on a stunning and terrifying display, with lightning crackling through its ash cloud in a poorly understood phenomenon that has been attributed to static electricity.

- Eruptions have lasted months -
Renato Solidum, head of the Philippines' seismological agency, said Taal's previous eruptions have lasted months so it was impossible to predict an end to the current activity.   However, he said the alert warning of a potentially catastrophic "explosive eruption" may remain in place for weeks, depending on developments.   "We have a protocol of waiting for several days, sometimes two weeks, to make sure that indeed... volcano activity has essentially stopped," he told AFP.

The volcano dramatically burst with activity on Sunday, shooting a massive column of ash 15 kilometres (nine miles) into the sky that then rained down on the region.   Falling ash pushed aviation officials to temporarily shut down Manila's main international airport, forcing the cancellation of hundreds of flights and stranding tens of thousands of travellers.

Ninoy Aquino International Airport resumed reduced operations on Monday and was gradually recovering on Tuesday, but a backlog of cancelled flights resulted in ongoing pain for travellers.    Taal's last eruption was in 1977, but it has a long history of activity. In 1965 the volcano, which is a popular tourist attraction set in a picturesque lake, killed some 200 people.   The country's most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometres northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.
Date: Mon, 13 Jan 2020 07:40:19 +0100 (MET)
By Ron Lopez with Mikhail Flores in Manila

Talisay City, Philippines, Jan 13, 2020 (AFP) - Lava and broad columns of ash illuminated by lightning spewed from a volcano south of the Philippine capital on Monday, grounding hundreds of flights as authorities warned of a possible "explosive eruption".

Fine grit coated homes and streets across the region surrounding the Taal volcano, which burst to life on Sunday accompanied by a series of earthquakes, forcing at least 10,000 people to seek refuge in evacuation centres.   "You could not sleep anymore, because every time you closed your eyes the house would shake," restaurant owner Lia Monteverde told AFP, saying the quakes came minutes apart.   "All of us didn't sleep at all. We just prepared to leave."    Taal sits in a picturesque lake and is one of the most active volcanoes in a nation where earthquakes and eruptions are a frightening and destructive part of life.

The Philippines sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", where tectonic plates collide deep below the Earth's surface.   Schools in the region around Taal, some government offices in Manila and the Philippine Stock Exchange were closed as a precaution on Monday.   Dust masks sold out in stores as authorities warned locals that the ash could cause respiratory problems especially in the very young and those with pre-existing lung conditions.
 
Limited flight operations resumed mid-Monday at Manila's main international airport, nearly a day after authorities halted them due to the safety risk volcanic ash poses to planes.   However, travellers booked on over 240 cancelled flights still faced delays at Ninoy Aquino International Airport.    "I'm disappointed because this (delay) means additional expense for me and it's tiring to wait," said stranded traveller Joan Diocaras, a 28-year-old Filipino who works in Taiwan.   "But there's nothing we can do."

- Alert level raised -
The eruption began with an explosion of superheated steam and rock, but by early Monday "fountains" of lava had been spotted on Taal, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said.   Stunning lightning shows have periodically played out above the volcano in a little-understood phenomenon that is attributed to static electricity.      Authorities raised the volcano alert level to its second-highest on Sunday, saying an "explosive eruption" could happen in "hours to days".

Phivolcs chief Renato Solidum told AFP the lava was evidence of fresh movement in the volcano, but said it was unclear if Taal would "sustain its activity".   Government seismologists recorded magma moving towards the crater of Taal, which is located 65 kilometres (40 miles) south of Manila.   Apart from the ash, some particles up to 6.4 centimetres (2.5 inches) in diameter, larger than a golf ball, had reportedly fallen in areas around the lake, Phivolcs said.

Taal's last eruption was in 1977, Solidum said.   Two years ago, Mount Mayon displaced tens of thousands of people after spewing millions of tonnes of ash, rocks and lava in the central Bicol region.   The most powerful explosion in recent years was the 1991 eruption of Mount Pinatubo, about 100 kilometres northwest of Manila, which killed more than 800 people.
Date: Thu, 26 Dec 2019 10:24:36 +0100 (MET)

Manila, Dec 26, 2019 (AFP) - A typhoon that swept across remote villages and popular tourist areas of the central Philippines on Christmas day claimed at least 16 lives, authorities said on Thursday.   Typhoon Phanfone, with gusts reaching 200 kilometres (125 miles) an hour, tore roofs off houses and toppled electric posts as it ripped through the central Philippines on Wednesday.   Videos from the typhoon's path showed fallen trees and strong winds pummelling flimsy houses. Local disaster officials cut felled trees to clear blocked roads.   At least 16 people were killed in villages and towns in the Visayas, the central third of the Philippines, according to disaster agency officials.   Phanfone also hit Boracay, Coron and other holiday destinations that are famed for their white-sand beaches and popular with foreign tourists.

Mobile phone and internet access on Boracay was cut during the storm and the networks remained down on Thursday, making assessment of the damage there difficult.   "Still, communication lines are down. Electricity is still down," Jonathan Pablito, police chief of Malay town in Alkan province, which is on an island neighbouring Boracay, told AFP.   Pablito said ferry services between Boracay and Aklan -- the main way to travel to and from the holiday island -- were still not operating on Thursday, even though the storm had passed.   "We have no news from coast guard if ships were allowed to sail. Since the 24th... all those going to the island and coming from the island weren't able to cross."

The airport at Kalibo town in Aklan, which services Boracay, was badly damaged, according to a Korean tourist who was stranded there and provided images to AFP.   "Roads remain blocked, but some efforts have been made to clear away the damage. It's pretty bad," Jung Byung-joon said via Instagram messenger.   "Everything within 100 meters of the airport looks broken. There are a lot of frustrated people at the airport as flights have been cancelled.   "Taxis are still running but it's windy and still raining so no one wants to leave the airport, including me."   Another Korean tourist stuck at the damaged airport said she had been unable to make contact with her friend on Borocay on Thursday.   "I tried to call my friend in Boracay today and wasn't able to get through. Maybe something isn't working," Dahae Gong told AFP via Instagram.
   "I don't know when I will be able to go home."

- Memories of monster storm -
Still, there was no indication of any major damage or otherwise on Boracay.   Though much weaker, Phanfone tracked a similar path as Super Typhoon Haiyan -- the country's deadliest storm on record which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing in 2013.   "It's like the younger sibling of Haiyan. It's less destructive, but it followed a similar path," Cindy Ferrer, an information officer at the Western Visayas region's disaster bureau, told AFP.   In San Jose town in Occidental Mindoro, a video uploaded by the local government showed overturned fishing vessels and ruined shanties on the coast due to the storm.

Tens of thousands of people in the mostly Catholic nation were forced to evacuate their homes on Wednesday, ruining Christmas celebrations.   Many others were not able to return to their families, with ferries and plane services suspended.   Among those killed was a police officer electrocuted by a toppled post while patrolling.   The Philippines is the first major landmass facing the Pacific typhoon belt, and is hit by an average of about 20 major storms a year.   Many of the storms are deadly, and they typically wipe out harvests, homes and infrastructure, keeping millions of people perennially poor.
Date: Sun 22 Dec 2019
Source: CNN Philippines [edited]

At least 9 people are confirmed dead Sunday [22 Dec 2019] from suspected poisoning after reportedly consuming lambanog, or palm wine. Eight of the victims were from Rizal, Laguna.

According to Rizal mayor Vener Munoz, the victims were drinking a generic brand of lambanog. Munoz added it was unclear when the victims drank the beverage. He also said over 100 other people complained of pain after drinking lambanog but were not critical. They are currently being treated at the Philippine General Hospital in Manila.

In a post on Facebook, Laguna governor Ramil Hernandez said he has banned the sale of lambanog in the province so authorities can investigate the cases of poisoning in Rizal.

Meanwhile, another person from Quezon died from alleged poisoning, also after drinking lambanog.

A report from police in Candelaria said several people were drinking the beverage, which they bought from a store in barangay Santa Catalina Sur on Saturday [21 Dec 2019]. At around 11 a.m. the following day [Sun 22 Dec 2019], police said they received a call from barangay chairwoman Myla Escamilla saying the victims were brought to the hospital for alleged poisoning.

The police report said 2 were comatose, while 4 others were discharged after being treated.

Authorities in Candelaria are now investigating the case.
=================
[Lambanog (Philippines coconut wine) is wine made from coconut. It is well known for its strength, ordinarily carrying 80-90-proof alternatives. It is mostly produced in the Quezon province, Philippines; the process has been passed down through generations of coconut plantation farmers. The procedure includes collecting the sap from the coconut flower, comparable to rubber-tree tapping. The sap is then prepared and fermented to turn into tuba, a popular coconut toddy. The tuba is then distilled to make lambanog.

The method for making lambanog is cost effective, and coconut trees are plentiful in the Philippines. As such, the beverage has been coined a "poor man's beverage." Aside from economics, the process of making lambanog is an artistic expression distinct to the Filipino culture. It has been a part of Filipino tradition for centuries.

In Quezon, consuming lambanog wine is normally a public thing. Men relax in a circle and "tagayan" will ensue. The men take turns drinking shots from a cup put in the middle of the group. Normally, there is also a person singing and playing the guitar as part of the festivities; he takes his turn at drinking, too, so the music and songs get even more interesting as the consuming goes on. Lambanog wine was made an export product in 2001 and has definitely brought in foreign markets. To attract the youth and expand its advertising possibilities, lambanog is now industried and sold in different flavors such as cherry, jack fruit, apple, orange, four periods [?], strawberry, bubble gum, mint, etc. <http://lambanog.org/>

While there are no details regarding the signs and symptoms of the individuals affected, one has to wonder if methanol was either used in the process or added as an adulterant to produce an extra intoxicating effect.

From <http://lambanog.org/>, arrack, additionally spelled arak, is a distilled alcoholic drink typically generated in South and Southeast Asia and made from either the fermented sap of coconut flowers, sugarcane, grain (e.g., red rice), or fruit from the country of origin. The clear distillate may be blended, grown old [aged] in wooden barrels, or repeatedly distilled and filtered, depending upon the taste and color objectives of the supplier. Arrack is not to be [confused with] having arak, an anise-flavored alcoholic beverage traditionally consumed in Eastern Mediterranean and North African nations.

It is possible someone added methanol to the lambanog in an attempt to produce a bigger buzz or kick from the alcohol without realizing its toxicities.

Methanol is a toxic alcohol that is used industrially as a solvent, pesticide, and alternative fuel source. It also occurs naturally in humans, animals, and plants. Foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables, fruit juices, fermented beverages, and diet soft drinks containing aspartame are the primary sources of methanol in the human body. Most methanol poisonings occur as a result of drinking beverages contaminated with methanol or from drinking methanol-containing products. In the industrial setting, inhalation of high concentrations of methanol vapor and absorption of methanol through the skin are as effective as the oral route in producing toxic effects. The characteristic pungent (alcohol) odor of methanol does not provide sufficient warning of low levels of exposure.  <https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/emergencyresponsecard_29750029.html>

Also known as wood alcohol, methanol is a commonly used organic solvent that, because of its toxicity, can cause metabolic acidosis, neurologic sequelae, and even death when ingested. It is a constituent of many commercially available industrial solvents and of poorly adulterated alcoholic beverages. Methanol toxicity remains a common problem in many parts of the developing world, especially among members of lower socioeconomic classes. <https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/ershdb/emergencyresponsecard_29750029.html>

Methanol poisoning (MP) results from accidental or voluntary ingestion of methyl alcohol, a compound used in the chemical industry and as fuel. Methanol is in no case suitable for consumption.

Methanol causes inebriation similar to ethanol, and patients may merely appear drunk, lose their inhibitions, and become ataxic. At the same time, gastrointestinal symptoms manifest. MP patients typically suffer from nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. If examined that early, tachypnea, tachycardia, and hypertension, results of metabolic acidosis, may already be detected. In severe cases, fatal respiratory or cardiac failure may occur.

The stage described above is usually followed by a latency period of several hours, generally 12-24 hours. Only then can neurological symptoms be observed. The greater the amount of methanol ingested, the earlier the additional symptoms set in. Simultaneous consumption of ethanol delays onset of further deficits since both alcohols are competitive substrates for alcohol dehydrogenase.

Progressive vision loss is characteristic for MP, and patients may claim blurred vision, scotomas, scintillations, visual field restriction, and, eventually, complete blindness. Seizures may be registered. Patients show increasingly reduced levels of awareness and may fall into a coma.  <https://www.symptoma.com/en/info/methanol-poisoning>

More information from knowledgeable sources on this situation would be appreciated; please inform ProMED-mail at <promed@promedmail.org>. - ProMED Mod.TG]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail maps:
Laguna province, Calabarzon, Philippines:
Quezon, Philippines: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/20269>]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 13:58:41 +0100 (MET)
By Suy SE

Sihanoukville, Cambodia, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - A US cruise ship blocked from several Asian ports over concerns that a passenger could have been infected with the new coronavirus docked at a Cambodian pier Thursday, as frustrated holidaymakers expressed hope their ordeal may soon be over.   The Westerdam was supposed to be taking its 1,455 passengers on a dream 14-day cruise around east Asia, beginning in Hong Kong on February 1 and disembarking on Saturday in Yokohama, Japan.   But the ship was turned away from Japan, Guam, the Philippines, Taiwan and Thailand over fears of the novel coronavirus epidemic that has killed more than 1,300 people in China.

Cruise operator Holland America has insisted there are no cases of the SARS-like virus on board and Cambodia announced Wednesday that the boat would be able to dock in Sihanoukville, on its southern coast.   By evening, the ship moved into the beach town's port, moving past the small fishing vessels that usually ply the waters.   As it slowly approached the pier, people onshore snapped selfies of themselves with the massive vessel.   The mood was equally buoyant on the boat.   "Thank you Cambodia! You believed in us when no one would!" tweeted passenger Lydia Miller around 7 pm (1200 GMT). "We promise to spend lots of money in your country."

Fellow cruiser Christina Kerby -- who has been posting light-hearted updates from the Westerdam -- tweeted she was "feeling rebellious tonight so I'm wearing sneakers in the dining room".   But all passengers would have to remain onboard until flights have been arranged, said provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun.    "The arrangement of the planes to take them from (Sihanoukville) airport to Phnom Penh airport is underway," he said, explaining that three flights were scheduled Friday morning.    Buses were lined up by the pier ready to transfer passengers to Sihanoukville's airport. Holland America has said they would foot the bill to return all guests.

- 'Disease of fear' -
Before the ship docked, doctors conducted health checks for the passengers.    The samples of 20 on board who were sick were sent to the Pasteur Institute in Phnom Penh to test for the virus, said transport minister Sun Chanthol.    Cambodian premier Hun Sen is a staunch Chinese ally and has been vocal in his support of Beijing's handling of the epidemic, even going so far as to visit China last week in a show of solidarity.   "The permission to dock is to stop the disease of fear that is happenin
around the world," he told state-affiliated media website Fresh News on Wednesday.    "We must help them when they asked us for help," he added.   Neighbouring Thailand, which blocked the Westerdam from docking in its eastern seaboard port, on Thursday received two cruise liners in holiday resort town Phuket. 

Both Seabourne Ovation and Quantum of the Seas were allowed to dock, and passengers to alight for roughly 10 hours as part of the scheduled stop.    "They were all checked by their doctors on the ship, and we also examined them when they disembarked," Phuket governor Pakapong Tawipat told AFP.    He added that the passengers and the crew members "were not Chinese", and that Phuket was part of their regular routes, unlike the Westerdam.    Japan's premier Shinzo Abe expressed worries last week over a possible infection on the Westerdam, and said measures will be taken to "reject entries" for foreigners into the country.    Cambodia, which has one confirmed case of the virus, is the recipient of billions of dollars in soft loans, infrastructure, and investment from China.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 11:14:36 +0100 (MET)

Jakarta, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Indonesia's Mount Merapi, one of the world's most active volcanoes, erupted Thursday as fiery red molten lava streamed down from the crater and it belched clouds of grey ash 2,000 metres (6,500 feet) into the sky.   Authorities did not raise the rumbling volcano's alert status after the early-morning eruption, but they advised commercial planes to take caution in the area.   But any activity at Merapi raises concern and local residents were ordered to stay outside a three-kilometre no-go zone around the rumbling crater near Indonesia's cultural capital Yogyakarta.    Volcanic ash rained down on a 10-square kilometre area, according to the Volcanology and Geological Hazard Mitigation Centre.

Mount Merapi's last major eruption in 2010 killed more than 300 people and forced the evacuation of some 280,000 residents.   It was Merapi's most powerful eruption since 1930, which killed around 1,300 people, while another explosion in 1994 took about 60 lives.   The Southeast Asian archipelago has more than 17,000 islands and islets -- and nearly 130 active volcanoes.   It sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire", a vast zone of geological instability where the collision of tectonic plates causes frequent quakes and major volcanic activity.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 08:13:16 +0100 (MET)

Sydney, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Australia on Thursday announced a ban on travellers from China would extend for at least a week beyond Saturday's planned deadline, as the death toll from the coronavirus soared.    Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the government would maintain "entry restriction on foreign nationals who have recently been in mainland China" for further week "to protect Australians from the risk of coronavirus".   A decision to extend the ban further will be taken week-to-week, he said.   The decision is a blow to Australian tourism operators who have seen business from Chinese visitors dry up, as well as for tens of thousands of Chinese students hoping to return to Australia for the new academic year.

China's official death toll and infection numbers from a new coronavirus spiked dramatically on Thursday after authorities changed their counting methods, fuelling concern the epidemic is far worse than being reported.   The virus has now officially killed more than 1,350 people in China and the World Health Organisation has warned the disease has not yet peaked.   "I just want to assure all Australians, that we are doing everything we can to keep Australians safe at this time, and to ensure that we are mitigating everything that is possible to address any of the threats," Morrison said.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 06:46:12 +0100 (MET)

Sydney, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Dams near Sydney overflowed Thursday after days of torrential rain, as Australia braced for more storms expected to bring dangerous flash flooding to the country's east.   Recent downpours have brought relief to areas ravaged by bushfires and drought -- as well as chaos and destruction to towns and cities along the eastern seaboard.   On Thursday, Nepean Dam south of Sydney was at full capacity and spilling over, with video footage showing excess water cascading over the dam wall and downstream.   Two other dams in New South Wales, Tallowa and Brogo, were also overflowing and more dams could reach capacity in the coming days, a WaterNSW spokesman told AFP.

Sydney's dams have seen water levels spike dramatically -- the Nepean was just a third full less than a week ago -- though many inland areas are facing severe water shortages missed out on the flows.   A devastating months-long bushfire crisis that killed 33 people has effectively been ended by the downpours, with just one blaze yet to be brought under control in New South Wales.   Hundreds of people have been rescued from floodwaters in recent days.   Police said a man's body was discovered in a flooded river on Queensland's Sunshine Coast on Thursday, though the cause of his death was not immediately clear.

Wild weather is set to ramp up again from Friday, with the Bureau of Meteorology forecasting ex-Tropical Cyclone Uesi would bring "damaging to destructive winds" and heavy rainfall to remote tourist destination Lord Howe Island.   Senior meteorologist Grace Legge said storms were also expected for Queensland and New South Wales -- with areas still recovering from bushfires likely to be hit again.   "Any showers and thunderstorms that do develop are falling on already saturated catchments, so there is a risk with severe thunderstorms of flash flooding," she said.   Emergency services have warned residents in affected areas to be cautious in the dangerous conditions.
Date: Thu, 13 Feb 2020 06:24:23 +0100 (MET)

Vinh Phuc, Vietnam, Feb 13, 2020 (AFP) - Vietnam announced Thursday that a commune of 10,000 people will be placed under quarantine due to fears over the spread of the new coronavirus.    "As of February 13, 2020, we will urgently implement the task of isolation and quarantine of the epidemic area in Son Loi commune," said a health ministry statement.    "The timeline... is for 20 days".    There are 15 confirmed cases of the COVID-19 virus in Vietnam, five of them in Son Loi commune.
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2020 21:09:17 +0100 (MET)

Geneva, Feb 12, 2020 (AFP) - The UN health agency on Wednesday said it was extending its global emergency designation for the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo but said the sharp decline in cases was "extremely positive".   The recent outbreak was first identified in August 2018 and has since killed more than 2,300 people in eastern DR Congo -- an area where several militia groups are operating.   "As long as there is a single case of Ebola in an area as insecure and unstable as eastern DRC, the potential remains for a much larger epidemic," WHO chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters in Geneva.

The WHO, however, said it was downgrading the national and regional risk of the disease from very high to high, while it kept the global risk at low.    Tedros also voiced hope that the emergency could be lifted within the next three months on the advice of the WHO's Emergency Committee of international experts.   The World Health Organization last July declared it a "public health emergency of international concern" -- a designation that gives the WHO greater powers to restrict travel and boost funding.   Tedros, who will be travelling to DRC on Thursday to meet President Felix Tshisekedi, on Tuesday said only three cases had been reported in the past week.

But for the epidemic to be declared over, there have to be no new cases reported for 42 days -- double the incubation period.   The health emergency designation last year came a few days after a patient was diagnosed with the virus in the provincial capital Goma -- the first case in a major urban hub.   More than a month before that, the WHO reported that the virus had spread to Uganda for the first time.   The Ebola virus is passed on by contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected or recently deceased person.   The death rate is typically high, ranging up to 90 percent in some outbreaks, according to the WHO.

This is the second worst outbreak of the disease since 2014 when it killed about 11,000 people -- mostly in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.   Efforts to contain the current outbreak have been hindered by attacks on health workers and conflicts in the east.   The WHO said in November it had moved 49 staff out of the Beni region in eastern DRC because of the insecurity.   The Beni region, straddling the North Kivu and Ituri provinces, has been repeatedly attacked by the Allied Democratic Forces (ADF) rebel group, which activists say has massacred more than 300 people since October.
Date: Wed, 12 Feb 2020 11:48:53 +0100 (MET)

Tomohon, Indonesia, Feb 12, 2020 (AFP) - Bats, rats and snakes are still being sold at an Indonesian market known for its wildlife offerings, despite a government request to take them off the menu over fears of a link to the deadly coronavirus.   Vendors at the Tomohon Extreme Meat market on Sulawesi island say business is booming and curious tourists keep arriving to check out exotic fare that enrages animal rights activists.   But scientists are debating how the new virus, which has killed more than 1,100 people in China and spread to dozens of countries around the world, was transmitted to humans.

A wildlife market in Wuhan, the epicentre of the virus, is thought to be ground zero and there is suspicion it could have originated in bats.    The possible link wasn't on many radar screens at the Indonesian market, however.   Its grubby stalls feature a dizzying array of animals including giant snakes, rats impaled on sticks and charred dogs with their hair seared off by blowtorches -- a gory scene described by some critics as "like walking through hell".

Bat seller Stenly Timbuleng says he's still moving his fare for as much as 60,000 rupiah ($4.40) a kilogram to buyers in the area, where bats are a speciality in local cuisine.   "I'm selling between 40 and 60 kilograms every day," the 45-year-old told AFP.   "The virus hasn't affected sales. My customers still keep coming."   Restaurateur Lince Rengkuan -- who serves bats including their heads and wings stewed in coconut milk and spices -- says the secret is preparation.   "If you don't cook the bat well then of course it can be dangerous," she said.   "We cook it thoroughly and so far the number of customers hasn't gone down at all."

This despite a request from the local government and the health agency to take bats and other wildlife out of circulation -- a call that has been all but ignored.   "We're also urging people not to consume meat from animals suspected to be carriers of a fatal disease," said Ruddy Lengkong, head of the area's government trade and industry agency.   Indonesia has not yet reported a confirmed case of the virus.   In the capital Jakarta, vendors selling skinned snakes and cobra blood on a recent Saturday night didn't have any trouble finding takers.   "It's good for you, sir," said one vendor of his slithering fare.   "Cures and prevents all diseases."
Date: Mon, 10 Feb 2020 17:59:57 +0100 (MET)

Malé, Maldives, Feb 10, 2020 (AFP) - The Maldives' speaker of parliament on Monday apologised to a British tourist after footage of her arrest by several policemen triggered a social media storm.   Tourism is a major earner for the Maldives, a tropical island paradise in the Indian Ocean popular with honeymooners and celebrities.   Police said the bikini-clad woman, who was walking on a main road, was "inappropriately" dressed and allegedly unruly and drunk when she was detained after refusing to comply with requests to cover up on Thursday.   The Maldives previously confined tourists to resort islets separate from the local Muslim population, but in recent years has allowed foreigners to stay on inhabited islands.

Tourists can wear swimwear such as bikinis in the resorts but are subject to local dress codes elsewhere.   Videos shared on social media showed three men trying to detain the traveller, while a fourth person tried to cover her with a towel.   The woman was heard shouting "you're sexually assaulting me" during the incident.   The speaker, Mohamed Nasheed, told parliament he was extending an apology to the woman over the incident, which saw her detained by police for two hours before they released her.

The tourist has since left the nation of 340,000 Sunni Muslims, but Nasheed said he hoped tourism authorities would invite her to return to the luxury vacation spot.   Maldives Police Service Commissioner Mohamed Hameed said on Twitter after the footage was shared online that the incident "seems to be badly handled".   "I apologise to the tourist & the public for this. The challenge I have taken up is to professionalise the police service & we are working on that. This matter is being investigated."   A police statement on Friday called on tourists to respect "cultural sensitivities and local regulations".

The video of the incident also sparked anger among Maldivians. Some took to social media to criticise the tourist's behaviour after other videos showed her grabbing the sunglasses of a police officer.   Former foreign minister Dunya Maumoon criticised both the tourist and the police.   "She should have respected the religious and cultural norms of the country in terms of modest attire in a residential area," Maumoon said on Twitter.   "Condemn the man-handling by the Maldivian police. It could have been handled better and more professionally."
Date: Fri 7 Feb 2020
Source: Food Safety News [edited]

Almost 250 new infections have been recorded in a multi-country outbreak of salmonellosis linked to eggs from Poland. The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reported that as of January 2020, 18 countries have reported 656 confirmed and 202 probable cases since February 2017. There are 385 historically confirmed and 413 historical probable cases going as far back as 2012, making it the largest European _Salmonella_ Enteritidis outbreak ever recorded. However, ECDC officials said the true extent of the outbreak was likely underestimated. Since the last update in November 2018, 248 new cases have been reported, of which 124 were confirmed, 36 probable, 42 historical-confirmed and 46 historical-probable infections.

Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Slovenia, Sweden and the UK have recorded 1656 infections since 2012. The UK has the most with 688 confirmed and probable cases, Netherlands has 280, Belgium has 202 and Czech Republic has 111. Information on hospitalization is available for 427 patients in 12 countries, and 136 needed hospital treatment among the confirmed and historical-confirmed cases. Two historical-confirmed deaths, a child and an elderly patient, were also reported.

In each year from 2016 to 2018, outbreak cases peaked in September, with large waves reported between late spring and early autumn. Such a large seasonal increase was not seen in 2019. Epidemiological, microbiological and food tracing investigations have linked cases before 2018 to eggs from laying hen farms of a Polish consortium. Despite control measures in 2016 and 2017, farms of the Polish consortium were positive in 2018 and 2019 with outbreak strains, suggesting persistent contamination, according to officials. Investigations on the laying hen production and feed supply chains did not find the possible origin of contamination.

One of the outbreak strains was found from 2017 to 2019 in primary production in Germany. This outbreak strain represents two-thirds of confirmed cases.

In September 2018, a cluster of 9 confirmed cases was associated with the consumption of an RTE raw liquid egg-white drink distributed by Dr. Zak's. _Salmonella_-positive samples of RTE liquid egg whites from 2 batches matched those from this outbreak cluster. Both batches were produced by a French company. One was produced with raw materials such as pasteurized white egg from a Spanish company. The other used raw materials from 13 German laying hen farms and 11 Dutch laying hen farms. An investigation of this outbreak showed positive batches were produced with eggs from Spain, the Netherlands and Germany, who all supplied _Salmonella_-free eggs to the French company.

On the same day as production of one of the contaminated batches, a different batch of liquid eggs was produced at the French company with eggs supplied by a Polish packing center from a Polish laying farm belonging to the Polish consortium. However, the possibility of cross-contamination was ruled out due to the different production line used with different equipment (tanks, filling machine) and because of heat treatment on packaged products.

Investigations in the UK identified 14 cases potentially part of the outbreak travelling to Cyprus and staying in the same place between end of May and end of June 2018. This site received eggs from a Polish laying farm through the Polish packing center and a Dutch wholesaler.

Measures taken in 2016 and 2017, including depopulation of positive flocks, were not enough to eliminate contamination in the Polish consortium. So, the laying hen farms of this group were still positive for outbreak strains in 2018 and 2019. Between August 2018 and December 2019, 7 of 13 sampled Polish laying hen farms belonging to the Polish consortium tested positive for _Salmonella_ Enteritidis. >From November 2019 to January 2020, all flocks belonging to the Polish group were tested in accordance with Regulation 2160/2003, but _Salmonella_ was not detected.

Polish authorities reported that all _Salmonella_ Enteritidis positive flocks belonging to the Polish consortium were depopulated, including flocks found positive in May 2019. From 2015 to 2019, 16 laying hen farms, 13 of which belonged to the Polish consortium, were positive for at least one of the 4 SNP addresses causing human infections. Four rearing farms belonging to the Polish company were positive for _Salmonella_ Enteritidis between January 2017 and July 2019.

ECDC officials said the outbreak was still ongoing, and more infections were expected. "Since no evidence has been provided that the source of contamination has been eliminated, it is expected that further infections will occur and that new cases will be reported in the coming months. Additional investigations are necessary to identify the source of contamination."  [Byline: Joe Whitworth]
==================
[Salmonellosis is often thought to be associated with cracked eggs or eggs dirty with fecal matter, a problem controlled by cleaning procedures implemented in the egg industry. It is clearly the case, however, that most of the salmonellosis outbreaks linked to eggs were associated with uncracked, disinfected grade A eggs, or foods containing such eggs. The undamaged eggs become contaminated during ovulation and thus were contaminated with the bacteria before the egg shell was formed. To avoid this, uncooked eggs should be used only as an ingredient, if pasteurized.

The continuing outbreak was summarized in this 2019 report: Pijnacker R, Dallman TJ, Tijsma ASL, et al. An international outbreak of _Salmonella enterica_ serotype Enteritidis linked to eggs from Poland: a microbiological and epidemiological study. Lancet Infect Dis. 2019;19(7):778-786.

Abstract
--------
Background: _Salmonella_ spp. are a major cause of food-borne outbreaks in Europe. We investigated a large multi-country outbreak of _Salmonella enterica_ serotype Enteritidis in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).

Methods: A confirmed case was defined as a laboratory-confirmed infection with the outbreak strains of _S._ Enteritidis based on whole-genome sequencing (WGS), occurring between 1 May 2015 and 31 Oct 2018. A probable case was defined as laboratory-confirmed infection with _S._ Enteritidis with the multiple-locus variable-number tandem repeat analysis outbreak profile. Multi-country epidemiological, trace-back, trace-forward, and environmental investigations were done. We did a case-control study including confirmed and probable cases and controls randomly sampled from the population registry (frequency matched by age, sex, and postal code). Odds ratios (ORs) for exposure rates between cases and controls were calculated with unmatched univariable and multivariable logistic regression.

Findings: A total of 18 EU and EEA countries reported 838 confirmed and 371 probable cases; 509 (42%) cases were reported in 2016, after which the number of cases steadily increased. The case-control study results showed that cases more often ate in food establishments than did controls (OR, 3.4 [95% CI, 1.6-7.3]), but no specific food item was identified. Recipe-based food trace-back investigations among cases who ate in food establishments identified eggs from Poland as the vehicle of infection in October 2016. Phylogenetic analysis identified 2 strains of _S._ Enteritidis in human cases that were subsequently identified in _Salmonella_-positive eggs and primary production premises in Poland, confirming the source of the outbreak. After control measures were implemented, the number of cases decreased but increased again in March 2017, and the increase continued into 2018.

Interpretation: This outbreak highlights the public health value of multi-country sharing of epidemiological, trace-back, and microbiological data. The re-emergence of cases suggests that outbreak strains have continued to enter the food chain, although changes in strain population dynamics and fewer cases indicate that control measures had some effect. Routine use of WGS in _Salmonella_ surveillance and outbreak response promises to identify and stop outbreaks in the future. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: Sun 9 Feb 2020
Source: San Francisco (CA) Chronicle [subscription required, edited]

Several cases of hepatitis A were confirmed in customers who ate in the same California restaurant, health officials said. The Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services announced [Fri 31 Jan 2020], that the patients ate at 555 East American Steakhouse on or around [24 Dec 2019], KABC-TV reports.

The department did not disclose how many cases were diagnosed. The source of the illness is still under investigation, officials said.

Hepatitis A can be transmitted through consumption of contaminated food or water. Symptoms can include fatigue, low appetite, stomach pain, dark urine, nausea, and jaundice. Most patients eventually recover completely, but some may require hospitalization or develop severe illness, health officials said.

The restaurant's management and staff are cooperating with health officials and there is no continuing risk to the public, officials said.

"We are notifying the public of the exposure so that people can immediately seek medical care if they begin to develop symptoms," Long Beach health officer Dr. Anissa Davis said in a statement. "Individuals who have been vaccinated for hepatitis A or have had the disease are protected," Davis said. "Those who are not immune to hepatitis A should consult their medical provider if they develop symptoms, and let their provider know they may have been exposed to hepatitis A."
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[This cluster (the number of cases is not stated) may be related to an HAV-contaminated food (such as shellfish) or an infected food service worker. If the former were the case, one might expect to see cases related to other restaurants. It would be interesting to know if the HAV strain is that from the still on-going multistate outbreak. This outbreak has been controlled in California and involved primarily homeless and substance abusing individuals and is related to poor sanitation rather than food/water vehicles. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
California, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/204>]