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Hong Kong

Hong Kong SAR (China) US Consular Information Sheet
August 26, 2008
DESCRIPTION:
Hong Kong, a Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) since July 1, 1997, has a high degree of autonomy, except in the ar
as of defense and foreign policy, and retains its own currency, laws, and border controls.
It is composed of three geographic areas: the New Territories, Kowloon Peninsula, and Hong Kong Island. Hong Kong SAR is cosmopolitan and highly developed.
Tourist facilities and services are widely available.
The Hong Kong SAR Government web site provides Hong Kong Fact Sheets on a comprehensive range of subjects at http://www.gov.hk/en/about/abouthk/factsheets/index.htm.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Hong Kong for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport with a minimum of one-month validity after the period of intended stay, adequate funds to cover stay without working and evidence of onward/return transportation are required.
Because many neighboring areas require six months validity remaining on the passport, U.S. citizens planning travel beyond Hong Kong should ensure that their passports are valid for at least six months from the date of their proposed entry into such areas.
A visa is not required for tourist visits of up to 90 days by U.S. citizens.
An extension of stay may be granted upon application to the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department.
Visas are required to work or study in Hong Kong.
Visit the Hong Kong SAR Immigration Department at http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/home.htm or the Embassy of the People's Republic of China web site at http://www.china-embassy.org/eng/ for the most current visa information.

U.S. citizens should obtain all required visas prior to departing the U.S.
Specifically, U.S. citizens wishing to travel to the PRC from Hong Kong require a PRC visa and should apply at the PRC Embassy or consulates in the U.S.
Parents whose children hold U.S. passports should be aware that the PRC Visa Office may require certified birth certificates or other U.S. documents for these children.
Persons applying in Hong Kong for PRC visas for U.S.-born children have been unable to obtain PRC visas without the certified U.S. birth certificate.
Parents should consider bringing their children’s certified birth certificates if applying for a PRC visa in Hong Kong.
Further information on travel to and around the PRC is available in our China Country Specific Sheet.

Information about the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our web site.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Although there have been no terrorist incidents in Hong Kong, the Department of State reminds Americans everywhere that U.S. citizens and interests are at a heightened risk of attack by terrorists.
These individuals and groups have proven that they do not distinguish between official and civilian targets. Because security awareness has been elevated within the United States, terrorists may target U.S. interests overseas.
Private Americans should be aware of the potential risks when making travel plans and should remain vigilant with regard to their personal security and exercise caution.
The State Department will continue to develop information about potential threats.

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, as well as the Worldwide Caution, can be found.

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

The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Hong Kong SAR has a low crime rate.
Even so, travelers should exercise caution when in congested areas and pay particular attention to personal belongings while in crowded markets and while traveling on public transportation.
Violent crime, though rare, does occur.

There have been a few reports of robberies involving the drug rohypnol, commonly known as the “date rape drug.”
Most reports have involved bar staff and/or prostitutes from bars and clubs in the popular Wanchai and Tsim Sha Tsui districts.
The drug is administered via food or drink to unwitting victims, who later awake to find all of their valuables missing.
The drug causes the victim to lose consciousness, sometimes for over 24 hours, and often induces short-term amnesia.
Travelers are advised to avoid leaving drinks or food unattended, and should not accept food or drink from strangers or new acquaintances.

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.
Hong Kong has a crime victim compensation program available to U.S. citizens who are legal residents or tourists in Hong Kong.
For more detailed information on the program and its requirements, please see the Hong Kong Social Welfare Department web page at http://www.swd.gov.hk/en/index/site_pubsvc/page_socsecu/sub_criminalan/.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Hong Kong is 999.

See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Good medical facilities are available, and there are many Western-trained physicians in Hong Kong.
Prescription drugs are widely available although may have different names than those in the U.S.
Emergency services response time is good.
Doctors and hospitals require immediate cash payment for health services and generally do not accept credit cards.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Hong Kong.

The H5N1 virus (“avian flu”) has been found in poultry and wild birds in Hong Kong.
While rare, human infection and death from H5N1 infection have been reported.
Most reported cases of human infection with H5N1 viruses have occurred after contact with H5N1-infected poultry or birds, but a small number of cases may have occurred following close and prolonged contact with another person who is visibly ill from H5N1 infection.
Further information about Avian Flu is available from the Centers for Disease Control’s Avian Flu Traveler Information web page at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/contentAvianFluInformation.aspx.
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 Hong Kong is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

About 90 percent of the population in Hong Kong depends on public transport. Taxis, buses, and the mass transit railway (MTR) are readily available, inexpensive, and generally safe. The MTR is an underground railway network and is the most popular mode of public transport, carrying an average of 2.3 million passengers a day.

In Hong Kong, traffic moves on the left. During the daytime, traffic congests Hong Kong's urban areas.
Each year, more than 19,000 drivers, passengers, and pedestrians are injured or killed in traffic accidents in Hong Kong.
Speed limits are 50 kilometers per hour in urban areas, 80 kilometers per hour on highways and 110 kilometers per hour on expressways unless otherwise marked.
The use of seat belts in vehicles, if so equipped, is mandatory both in the front and back seats.
The maximum penalty for dangerous driving causing death can be a fine of $50,000 HK ($6,500 US), imprisonment for five years and disqualification from driving for not less than two years on first conviction.
At the scene of a traffic accident, drivers are required to undergo alcohol level testing.
Any driver found exceeding the prescribed limit of blood alcohol level may face prosecution under Hong Kong law.
The use of hand-held cellular phones while driving in Hong Kong is strictly prohibited.
A breach of this law can lead to a maximum fine of $2,000 HK ($260 US).
However, motorists can use “hands-free devices,” such as headphones and speakerphones.
Hong Kong law requires that all registered vehicles carry valid third-party liability insurance.

A Hong Kong driver’s license may be issued without a test to individuals who hold a valid U.S. driver’s license, provided they have resided in the United States for not less than six months. U.S. citizen visitors who do not plan to stay in Hong Kong for more than twelve months can drive in Hong Kong on their valid U.S. driver’s license.
Visit the website of the Hong Kong Transport Department at http://www.td.gov.hk/home/index.htm for further details.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Hong Kong’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Hong Kong’s 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:
Customs Regulations:
Hong Kong SAR customs authorities enforce strict regulations concerning controlled items carried while transiting Hong Kong (temporary importation or exportation) such as firearms and ammunition, counterfeit goods or illegally produced copies of copyright items, ivory, narcotics, medications, television decoders requiring a subscription, animals and plants, meat and poultry, textiles, and sensitive high technology or military products.
Travelers bringing such goods into Hong Kong without a license may be prosecuted and the goods may be seized. The penalty for trafficking in dangerous drugs can be life imprisonment and a heavy fine.
Among the other items that travelers must declare to customs officials are liquors, tobacco, cigarettes and cigars, methyl alcohol, and merchandise imported for commercial purposes.
There are no currency restrictions for travelers.

Travelers are liable to prosecution and possible detention if they bring into/out of Hong Kong any firearm or ammunition.
Unless otherwise exempted by laws, possession of an "imitation firearm" is also an offense. "Arms" means any firearm, air rifle/air gun/air pistol from which any shot, bullet or missile can be discharged with a muzzle energy greater than two joules, electric stunning device, gun/pistol or other propelling/releasing instrument from or by which a projectile containing any gas or chemical could be discharged, weapon for the discharge of any noxious liquid/gas/powder, and harpoon or spear gun. Paintball guns are included in this category.

Travelers are also liable to prosecution if they bring into/out of Hong Kong any "weapon," which includes Chinese-style throwing dart, gravity knife, gravity-operated steel baton, knuckleduster, Chinese-style fighting iron, spring-loaded steel baton, any knife the blade of which is exposed by a spring or other mechanical/electric device, and any bladed/pointed weapon.
Please note that the fact that such items may be openly for sale in mainland China does not necessarily mean that they may be brought into Hong Kong.

Please visit the website of the Hong Kong Department of Customs and Excise at http://www.customs.gov.hk/eng/content_e.html for specific information regarding Hong Kong customs requirements.

Visitors to Hong Kong should be aware that the importation into the United States of counterfeit, brand-name items, such as watches, compact discs, computer software, and clothing, is prohibited by U.S. law.

U.S. Customs officials encourage the use of an ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet for the temporary admission of professional equipment, commercial samples, and/or goods for exhibitions and fair purposes.
For additional information, please or visit the U.S. Council for International Business web site for details at http://www.uscib.org/index.asp?documentID=718.

Dogs and cats may be brought into Hong Kong only with a special permit issued in advance.
Dogs and cats imported from the United States may be exempted from quarantine when they have valid health and vaccination certificates and the pets have been in the United States for at least six months.
Additional information on importing pets is available on the Hong Kong Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department web site at http://www.afcd.gov.hk/english/quarantine/qua_ie/qua_ie_ipab/qua_ie_ipab.html.

Please see our Customs Information.

Dual Nationality: Under PRC nationality law, persons who are of Chinese descent and who were born in the mainland of China or Hong Kong are PRC citizens.
However, under an agreement between the United States and the PRC, all U.S. citizens entering Hong Kong on their U.S. passports, including such persons as may be considered PRC nationals by the PRC authorities, are considered U.S. citizens by the Hong Kong SAR authorities for purposes of ensuring consular access and protection.

Dual nationals, who are or previously were Hong Kong residents, and who wish to ensure U.S. consular access and protection after the initial 90-day period of admission into Hong Kong, must declare their U.S. nationality by presenting their U.S. passports to the Hong Kong Immigration Department and completing an application for declaration of change of nationality.
This declaration of change of nationality will ensure U.S. consular protection and may also result in loss of one’s Chinese nationality (but not necessarily one’s right of abode).
Although such individuals' failure to declare U.S. nationality may jeopardize U.S. consular protection, such failure will not jeopardize their U.S. citizenship.
Dual national residents of Hong Kong who enter Hong Kong on their Hong Kong identity cards rather than their U.S. passports and who desire to guarantee U.S. consular protection should declare their U.S. nationality to the Hong Kong Immigration Department as soon as possible after entry.

Dual nationals contemplating onward travel to PRC should be especially attentive to use of their U.S. passports, as the PRC authorities may require them to use the same document for entry into the PRC as they used to enter Hong Kong.
The Nationality Law of the PRC does not recognize dual nationality.
U.S. citizens, including such persons as may be considered Chinese nationals by the PRC authorities, who enter and depart the PRC using a U.S. passport and a valid PRC visa retain the right of U.S. consular access and protection under the U.S.-PRC Consular Convention.
The ability of the U.S. Embassy or consulates general in the PRC to provide normal consular services would be extremely limited should a dual national enter the PRC on a non-U.S. passport.
Therefore, travelers should carefully consider whether or not to use a passport or travel document other than their U.S. passport.

For further information on consular protection and dual nationality please refer to our information on dual nationality.
Information on Hong Kong permanent residence may be obtained from the Hong Kong Immigration Department’s right of abode web page at http://www.immd.gov.hk/ehtml/hksarvepid.htm.

Typhoons:
During the storm season (July through September), the Hong Kong Observatory issues typhoon warnings on an average of six times a year and heavy rainstorm alerts more frequently.
The Hong Kong Observatory has a good notification and monitoring system in place.
Please consult the Hong Kong Observatory web site for further information at http://www.hko.gov.hk/contente.htm.
General information about natural disaster preparedness is available at the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) web site at http://www.fema.gov/.
Please be advised that if Typhoon Signal 8 or above or Black Rainstorm Warning is announced by the Hong Kong Government, the Consulate General will be closed.

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 Hong Kong laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession or use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Hong Kong 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 Hong Kong are encouraged to register with the U.S. Consulate through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Hong Kong.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Consulate is located at 26 Garden Road, Central, Hong Kong, 24-hour telephone number (852) 2523-9011.
Direct lines to American Citizen Services are (852) 2841-2211, 2841-2323, 2841-2225, fax (852) 2845-4845, email: acshk@state.gov.
The U.S. mailing address is PSC 461, Box 5, FPO, AP 96521-0006.
Please check the U.S. Consulate General Hong Kong web site for current office hours at http://hongkong.usconsulate.gov/
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*
This replaces the Specific Information for Hong Kong dated December 3, 2007 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances and Registration.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Fri 17 May 2019
Source: The Government of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, press release [abridged, edited]

The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH) said today (17 May 20-19) that no additional case of measles infection had been recorded as at 4pm today and announced that the outbreak of measles infection at Hong Kong International Airport earlier has concluded.

A spokesman for the CHP said, "A total of 73 cases of measles infection were recorded so far this year [2019], among them 29 cases were associated with the outbreak among airport workers.

Regarding measles control measures implemented at the airport, a total of 23 persons had received measles vaccination at the airport vaccination station as at 6pm today [17 May 2019], bringing the cumulative number of vaccinations given to 8501 since 22 Mar 2019. The airport vaccination station will cease operation from [18 May 2019].

As for the blood test service, the DH earlier provided the measles serology test service to airport staff. A cumulative total of 777 blood samples have been collected. For the pilot service to provide measles serology testing for Filipino foreign domestic helpers working in Hong Kong, a total of 146 blood samples have been collected to date. Participants are notified individually of the serology results.
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Hong Kong:
Date: Wed 15 May 2019 12:21 AM
Source: South China Morning Post [edited]

Hong Kong has recorded 3 new cases of the rat hepatitis E infection in humans, health authorities have revealed, adding that one of the patients with an unspecified underlying illness had died. The Centre for Health Protection (CHP) said on Tuesday night [14 May 2019] it  as investigating 3 separate cases, each involving an elderly man with underlying liver function issue. The men lived in different districts, with one each in Kowloon City, Southern, and Tuen Mun.

Kowloon City is beside Wong Tai Sin, where the 1st 2 cases of the infection were reported in Hong Kong in 2018. The other districts are well apart from these 2 areas. The 2 cases in 2018 were also the 1st reported in the world. Health experts called the latest incidents "very significant", showing transmission occurred from time to time in different parts of the city. One expert believed rat-to-human transmission was more likely than from person to person.

So far, the investigation has not been able to track down the source of the infections, but health chiefs ordered rat control measures to be stepped up in the districts. In the latest incidents, the 1st two cases involved men, aged 81 and 67, who developed liver-related problems. Neither required admission to hospital. The 67-year-old travelled to Taiwan and South Korea during the incubation period. A 3rd man, 74, also developed liver problems. He was hospitalized over an unspecified underlying illness and died on 4 May 2019.

"Based on the available epidemiological information, the source and the route of infection could not be determined [in the 3 cases]. The CHP's investigation is ongoing," a spokesman said. The centre urged the public to be vigilant against hepatitis E and "strictly observe good personal, food and environmental hygiene".

In September 2018, Hong Kong reported the world's 1st case of a human infected with the rat hepatitis E virus. The patient was a 56-year-old man living in Choi Wan Estate in Wong Tai Sin. He had undergone liver transplant surgery in May 2017 and developed persistent abnormal liver function 2 months later. In November 1018, a 70-year-old woman, who lived just 3 km (1.9 miles) away in the same district, was found to be carrying the virus.

Dr Siddharth Sridhar, clinical assistant professor from the University of Hong Kong's department of microbiology, said the latest cases were "very significant. The discoveries ... show the 2-case cluster in Wong Tai Sin was not a one-off transmission event but occurs from time to time in different parts of Hong Kong." Individuals with underlying illnesses should maintain high standards of personal, food and environmental hygiene, Sridhar said, adding people should avoid rodents and contact authorities if they spot an infestation.

Professor Yuen Kwok-yung, a leading microbiologist from HKU [University of Hong Kong], said human infection by the rat hepatitis E virus was "likely to be much more common than originally expected." He said personal hygiene may have been less than optimal in the 3 latest cases as they were elderly men. Also, all 3 had underlying illness. Both factors may predispose them to the infection. Yuen called for more investigations on the route of transmission, though he believed the virus jumping from a rat to a human was more likely than between 2 people.

A spokesman for the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department said its staff would work with the Housing Department and management companies to carry out a joint operation to step up cleansing of public places and rat control in the districts where the patients lived. Those who disposed of waste improperly would be prosecuted. The teams would provide professional advice and instructions on rat control to those involved in managing housing estates and buildings. The department would also work with district councillors on inspections of black spots and publicity campaigns.  [Byline: Danny Lee, Elizabeth Cheung]
======================
[The following is the introduction from a report of one of the 2018 cases (Sridhar S, Yip CCY, Wu S, et al. Rat hepatitis E virus as cause of persistent hepatitis after liver transplant. Emerg Infect Dis. Dec 2018; 24(12): 2241-50; <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6256372/pdf/18-0937.pdf>. The references can be seen at the original URL.

"Hepatitis E virus (HEV) infects 20 million humans worldwide annually (1). HEV-infected persons usually have self-limiting acute hepatitis. However, persistent hepatitis can occur in HEV-infected immunocompromised patients who acquire infection by eating undercooked pork, rabbit, deer, camel, or boar meat (2-6). HEV transmission through blood product transfusion also has been described (7).

The diverse Hepeviridae family, which incorporates all HEV variants, includes members whose primary host species are terrestrial mammals (genus _Orthohepevirus_) and fish (genus _Piscihepevirus_) (8). The _Orthohepevirus_ genus is classified into 4 species; HEV variants that have been reported to infect humans belong to _Orthohepevirus_ A (HEV-A). A total of 5 genotypes within HEV-A (HEV-1-4 and -7) cause hepatitis in humans, and 3 genotypes (HEV-3, -4, and -7) can cause chronic hepatitis in immunocompromised patients after foodborne zoonotic transmission (2,6,9,10).

In addition to HEV-A, the _Orthohepevirus_ genus includes 3 other species: _Orthohepevirus B_ circulates in chickens, _Orthohepevirus C_ (HEV-C) in rats and ferrets, and _Orthohepevirus D_ in bats. HEV-C, also known as rat hepatitis E virus, shares only 50%-60% nt [nucleotide] identity with HEV-A (8). The zoonotic potential of HEV-C is unknown; cases of clinical infection have not been reported. The substantial phylogenetic divergence between HEV-A and HEV-C, especially in critical receptor binding domains, forms a theoretical species barrier (11). Serologic and molecular tests for HEV are designed primarily to detect HEV-A, and they might miss HEV-C infections. Therefore, the threat to human health, including blood and organ supply safety, from HEV-C is unknown. We aimed to prove definitively that HEV-C can infect humans and describe the clinical, epidemiologic, genomic, and serologic features of this new zoonosis."

Additionally, a case was reported from Canada in 2019: ref: Andonov A, Robbins M, Borlang J, et al. Rat hepatitis E virus linked to severe acute hepatitis in an immunocompetent patient. J Infect Dis. 2019. doi: 10.1093/infdis/jiz025. [Epub ahead of print]; <https://academic.oup.com/jid/advance-article-abstract/doi/10.1093/infdis/jiz025/5288497>

Abstract
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"Hepatitis E virus (HEV) is a major public health concern in developing countries where the primary transmission is via contaminated water. Zoonotic HEV cases have been increasingly described in Europe, Japan and the United States with pigs representing the main animal reservoir of infection. We report an unusual acute hepatitis infection in a previously healthy man caused by a rat hepatitis E virus with a considerably divergent genomic sequence compared to other rat HEV strains. It is possible that rat HEV is an under recognized cause of hepatitis infection and further studies are necessary to elucidate its potential risk and mode of transmission."

As well, the virus has recently been reported in UK rodents: Murphy EG, Williams NJ, Jennings D, et al. First detection of Hepatitis E virus (_Orthohepevirus C_) in wild brown rats (_Rattus norvegicus_) from Great Britain. Zoonoses Public Health. 2019. doi: 10.1111/zph.12581. [Epub ahead of print]; <https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/zph.12581>

Abstract
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"In the United Kingdom, there has been an increase in the number of hepatitis E virus (HEV) infections in people annually since 2010. Most of these are thought to be indigenously acquired _Orthohepevirus A_ genotype 3 (HEV G3), which has been linked to pork production and consumption. However, the dominant subgroup circulating in British pigs differs from that which is found in people; therefore, an alternative, potentially zoonotic, source is suspected as a possible cause of these infections. Rodents, brown rats (_Rattus norvegicus_) in particular, have been shown to carry HEV, both the swine HEV G3 genotype and _Orthohepevirus C_, genotype C1 (rat HEV). To investigate the prevalence of HEV in British rodents, liver tissue was taken from 307 rodents collected from pig farms (n = 12) and other locations (n = 10). The RNA from these samples was extracted and tested using a pan-HEV nested RT-PCR. Limited histopathology was also performed. In this study, 8/61 (13%, 95% CI, 5-21) of brown rat livers were positive for HEV RNA. Sequencing of amplicons demonstrated all infections to be rat HEV with 87%-92% nucleotide identity to other rat HEV sequences circulating within Europe and China (224 nt ORF-1). Lesions and necrosis were observed histologically in 2/3 samples examined. No rat HEV RNA was detected in any other species, and no HEV G3 RNA was detected in any rodent in this study. This is the first reported detection of rat HEV in Great Britain. A human case of rat HEV infection has recently been reported in Asia, suggesting that rat HEV could pose a risk to public health." - ProMED Mod.LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Hong Kong:
Date: Sat, 11 May 2019 04:07:38 +0200

Hong Kong, May 11, 2019 (AFP) - Hong Kong will cull 6,000 pigs after African swine fever was detected in an animal at a slaughterhouse close to the border with China, the first case of the disease in the densely populated financial hub.   "In order to minimise the risk of ASF virus spreading from the slaughterhouse, all pigs in Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse will be culled so that thorough cleansing and also disinfection could be conducted," Sophia Chan, Secretary of the city's Food and Health Department, said late Friday.   She added that the pig detected with African swine fever was imported from a farm in the southern mainland Chinese province of Guangdong.    Pork is a staple of Chinese cuisine. Every day Hong Kong imports around 4,000 live pigs from China with only around 200 pigs coming from local farms in the crowded city.

After African swine fever spread across more than half of China's provinces last year, Hong Kong imposed import bans from any Chinese farms where the virus were detected.   With some of the world's most densely populated streets, Hong Kong remains on high alert to diseases. In 2003, some 300 people died during an outbreak of severe acute respiratory disease (SARS).   Chinese officials have said hundreds of thousands of pigs were culled in a bid to stop its spread -- an effort that has also seen restrictions placed on moving pigs from affected areas.   The virus is not dangerous to humans but is fatal to pigs and wild boar.
Date: Mon 1 Apr 2019
Source: GMA News Online [abridged, edited]

The Philippine Consul in Hong Kong confirmed that of the 30 people who have been infected with measles in Hong Kong, 6 of them came from the Philippines, and of these 6, 4 are Filipinos working as household helpers.

The 5th person who got infected with measles is a Filipino but his profession was not mentioned. The 6th individual infected, on the other hand, is a foreigner who visited the Philippines.
 
The measles outbreak has prompted Hong Kong's Department of Food and Health to advise Filipinos who went on vacation in the Philippines to have themselves vaccinated against measles 1st before going back to work in Hong Kong.
 
The advisory from Hong Kong's Department of Food and Health has also been sent to overseas Filipino worker (OFW) organizations.

A dialogue among Hong Kong's Health department officials and OFW groups has been set to identify clear guidelines on how to implement the policy in light of the outbreak.

Canete said the dialogue is expected to determine whether those who have been vaccinated before would still have to get vaccinated with an anti-measles shot, and who should pay for the anti-measles vaccine of household service workers.  [Byline: Llanesca T. Panti]
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[HealthMap/ProMED map of Hong Kong:
Date: Thu 14 March 2019
Source: South China Morning Post [abridged, edited]

Health authorities seek passengers on Cathay Pacific Hong Kong-Tokyo flight [1 Mar 2019] after a man [said to be a Cathay Pacific flight attendant] contracted measles, a contagious disease. The man tested positive for the immunoglobulin M antibody that confirms a measles infection. He was admitted to St Paul's Hospital in Causeway Bay after he returned to Hong Kong. He was later declared to be in a stable condition and discharged.

This is the 11th case of measles confirmed in city this year [2019] with at least 7 infections imported. Authorities seek passengers on the Cathay Pacific flight who might have had contact with the 23 year old man.  [byline: Danny Mok]
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[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Hong Kong:
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 12:02:50 +0200

Patna, India, June 16, 2019 (AFP) - Severe heat has left dozens dead over a 24-hour period in India's Bihar state, as the country enters a third week of searing temperatures, officials said Sunday.   The deaths occurred in three districts of the poor northern state, where temperatures have hovered around 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) in recent days, senior health official Vijay Kumar told AFP.

Forty-nine people died in three districts of the Magadh region that has been hit by drought, he said.   "It was a sudden development on Saturday afternoon. People affected by heatstroke were rushed to different hospitals," Kumar added.   "Most of them died on Saturday night and some on Sunday morning during treatment."   Kumar said about 40 more people were being treated at a government-run hospital in Aurangabad.   "Patients affected by heat stroke are still being brought, the death toll is likely to increase if the heatwave continues."

Most of the victims were aged above 50 and were rushed to hospitals in semi-conscious state with symptoms of high fever, diarrhoea and vomiting.   Twenty-seven people died in Aurangabad district, 15 in Gaya and seven in Nawada district, officials said.    State Chief Minister Nitish Kumar has announced a compensation of 400,000 rupees ($5,700) for the family of each victim.   Harsh Vardhan, India's health minister, said people should not leave their homes until temperatures fall.    "Intense heat affects brain and leads to various health issues," he said.

Large parts of northern India have endured more than two weeks of sweltering heat. Temperatures have risen above 50 degrees Celsius (122 Fahrenheit) in the desert state of Rajasthan.   A heatwave in 2015 left more than 3,500 dead in India and Pakistan.   In 2017, researchers said South Asia, which is home to one fifth of the world's population, could see heat levels rise to unsurvivable levels by the end of the century if no action is taken on global warming.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 01:30:52 +0200

Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A powerful 7.4 magnitude earthquake stuck near the uninhabited Kermadec islands northeast of New Zealand Sunday, the US Geological Survey said as authorities monitored for signs of a tsunami.   New Zealand's civil defence organisation said it was monitoring the situation and if a tsunami was generated it would take at least two hours to reach the country.   The Pacific Tsunami Warning Center said "hazardous tsunami waves from this earthquake are possible within 300 km of the epicentre along the coasts of the Kermadec islands."   The earthquake struck at 10:55am (2255 GMT Saturday) some 928 kilometres (575 miles) north-northeast of the New Zealand city of Tauranga in North Island at a depth of 34 km.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 00:59:42 +0200

Wellington, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A magnitude 6.1 earthquake struck Sunday centred 97 kilometres (60 miles) north-east of Ohonua, on the Pacific island of Tonga, the US Geological Survey reported.   The quake hit at 2156 GMT Saturday with an epicentre depth of 10 kilometres, the US global quake monitor said.   The Pacific Tsunami Warning Centre issued no alerts, and there were no immediate reports of damage or casualties.   The reported epicentre lies within the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire, an area of regular seismic activity.   In February 2018, a 7.5 magnitude earthquake in Papua New Guinea killed 150 people and destroyed hundreds of buildings.
Date: Sun, 16 Jun 2019 00:19:43 +0200

Geneva, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - A woman has drowned in Lake Geneva when her sightseeing boat sank as a violent storm battered parts of Switzerland on Saturday, police said.   A man who was in the same boat was able to swim to another vessel from where he fired "two flares", Joanna Matta, police spokeswoman for the canton (region) of Geneva, told AFP.   The man told officers that the woman had been "passing through Geneva" and that the storm had taken them "by surprise", Matta said.   Three police boats and emergency services rushed to the scene. Police divers later retrieved the woman's body from the lake.

The victim, whose nationality remains unknown, was then taken to a hospital in Geneva where she was declared dead.   In a separate incident, the storm also damaged some of the 465 boats taking part in the 81st edition of the Bol d'Or, an annual regatta on Lake Geneva, the event's press service said.   Heavy rain and strong winds lashed the participants on Saturday afternoon, causing boats to capsize although nobody was injured.

However, the storm broke the mast of the ultra-fast "Real Team" catamaran, which had been in the lead and was forced to pull out of the race.   The bad weather struck western Switzerland on Saturday afternoon, bringing hail and winds reaching up to 110 kilometres (70 miles) per hour, according to the national forecaster MeteoSwiss.   In the neighbouring French region of Haute-Savoie the storm also caused damage and left a 51-year-old German tourist dead after a tree came down at a campsite.
Date: Sat, 15 Jun 2019 16:27:09 +0200

Windhoek, June 15, 2019 (AFP) - Drought-hit Namibia has authorised the sale of at least 1,000 wild animals -- including elephants and giraffes -- to limit loss of life and generate $1.1 million for conservation, the authorities confirmed Saturday.   "Given that this year is a drought year, the [environment] ministry would like to sell various type of game species from various protected areas to protect grazing and at the same time to also generate much needed funding for parks and wildlife management," environment ministry spokesman Romeo Muyunda told AFP.

The authorities declared a national disaster last month, and the meteorological services in the southern African nation estimate that some parts of the country faced the deadliest drought in as many as 90 years.    "The grazing condition in most of our parks is extremely poor and if we do not reduce the number of animals, this will lead to loss of an animals due to starvation," Muyunda said.

In April, an agriculture ministry report said 63,700 animals died in 2018 because of deteriorating grazing conditions brought on by dry weather.   Namibia's cabinet announced this week that the government would sell about 1,000 wild animals.   They include 600 disease-free buffalos, 150 springbok, 65 oryx, 60 giraffes, 35 eland, 28 elephants 20 impala and 16 kudus -- all from national parks.   The aim is to raise $1.1 million that will go towards a state-owned Game Products Trust Fund for wildlife conservation and parks management.

The government said there were currently about 960 buffalos in its national parks, 2,000 springbok, 780 oryx and 6,400 elephants.   The auction was advertised in local newspapers from Friday.   Namibia, a country of 2.4 million people, has previously made calls for aid to assist in the drought emergency that has already affected over 500,000 people.   In April the government announced that it will spend about $39,400 (35,200 euros) on drought relief this year to buy food, provide water tankers and provide subsidies to farmers.
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2019 18:27:56 +0200
By Rosa SULLEIRO

Sao Paulo, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - A nationwide strike called by Brazil's trade unions disrupted public transport and triggered road blocks in parts of the country Friday, ahead of protests against far-right President Jair Bolsonaro's pension reform.   Hours before the opening match of the Copa America in Sao Paulo, some metro lines in the country's biggest city were paralyzed as professors and students also prepared to take to the streets over the government's planned education spending cuts.    It will be the latest mass demonstration against Bolsonaro since he took office in January, but the timing could not be worse for the embattled president as Brazil prepares to play Bolivia in South America's showcase football tournament.

Bolsonaro was expected to attend the opener at Morumbi stadium where police sharpshooters will be deployed as part of increased security for the competition.    One of Brazil's main trade unions estimated 45 million workers had taken part in the strike.   Some 63 cities had been affected by the stoppage, with more than 80 cities recording demonstrations, G1 news site said.   The number of protesters is expected to balloon in the afternoon with demonstrations planned in Brazil's major cities.   Protesters have already blocked some roads in several cities, including Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo, where G1 said police had used tear gas to disperse demonstrators and clear the streets.   Brazilians were divided over the partial strike.   "This current government wants to destroy everything that we built decades ago so that's why I'm in favor (of the strike) and I am fighting against social inequality," Vania Santos, 49, told AFP in Rio.    In Sao Paulo, Flavio Moreira opposed the stoppage, however, saying it "hurts the commercial part" of the city.

- Pension savings cut -
Bolsonaro's proposed overhaul of Brazil's pension system -- which he has warned will bankrupt the country if his plan is not approved -- is seen as key to getting a series of economic reforms through Congress.    But the changes, including an increase in the retirement age and workers' contributions, have faced resistance from trade unions and in the lower house of Congress, where Bolsonaro's ultraconservative Social Liberal Party has only around 10 percent of the seats.    A pared-back draft of the reform presented to Congress on Thursday -- which reduces expected savings from 1.2 trillion reais ($300 billion) in 10 years to around 900 billion reais -- did little to appease union leaders, who vowed to go ahead with the shutdown.   Such savings are seen as vital to repairing Brazil's finances and economy, which were devastated by a 2015-2016 crisis.

Economy minister Paulo Guedes, who is spearheading the government's reform agenda, has threatened to resign if the bill is not passed or is watered down significantly.   It caps a tumultuous six months for Bolsonaro, who has seen his popularity nosedive as he struggles to push his signature reform through a hostile Congress and keep Latin America's biggest economy from sliding back into recession.   More than 13 million people are unemployed, the latest data shows, with a record number giving up looking for a job.     Fighting between military and far-right factions of Bolsonaro's government has fueled chaos in his administration where his sons and right-wing writer and polemicist Olavo de Carvalho wield enormous influence.   Bolsonaro sacked his third minister on Thursday -- retired general Carlos Alberto dos Santos Cruz, who had been the government secretary and seen as a moderate voice.   That came on the same day Bolsonaro broke his silence to defend Justice Minister Sergio Moro, who has been accused of wrongdoing while serving as a judge in the sprawling Car Wash anticorruption investigation.
Date: Fri, 14 Jun 2019 06:02:40 +0200
By Clotilde RAVEL

Abidjan, June 14, 2019 (AFP) - "Cover your goods," Diakaria Fofana, a doctor of public health, warns food vendors as a thick cloud of insecticide spray wafts down a street in Abidjan, Ivory Coast's economic capital.   Men in protective clothes, goggles and masks are disgorging plumes of mosquito-killing chemicals in a bid to roll back an outbreak of dengue.   Two people have died and 130 have fallen ill since the fever returned to the West African state last month.

The toll, so far, is tiny compared with other tropical countries, especially in Southeast Asia, where the painful and sometimes deadly disease is an entrenched peril.   But tackling the outbreak is a major challenge for Ivory Coast, a poor country that is having to resort to time-honoured, labour-intensive methods of spraying and neighbourhood awareness campaigns to prevent its spread.   Female mosquitoes carrying the dengue virus transfer the pathogen when they tuck into a blood meal from someone. 

A vaccine does exist, but is not available in Ivory Coast because "it has many secondary effects (and) it's expensive"," explained Joseph Vroh Benie Bi, director of the National Institute for Public Hygiene (INHP).    Developed by French pharmaceutical group Sanofi Pasteur, the vaccine is recommended for use in people aged nine and older, and only for individuals who have already been infected.    Usually accompanied by flu-like symptoms, dengue makes some people very sick indeed, developing into a haemorrhagic fever that can cause difficulty breathing, heavy bleeding or even organ failure. While a first bout of dengue is rarely fatal, subsequent infections are usually worse.

- 'Fighting the mosquito' -
The UN's World Health Organization (WHO) says there are up to 100 million cases of dengue worldwide every year, and almost half the world's population lives in countries where the disease is endemic.   It kills more than 20,000 people each year. Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific are the worst-hit areas.   There is no cure, and the WHO recommends that patients take paracetamol, rest and drinking plenty of fluids.   Five new vaccines are in development, but in the meantime Fofana says: "The only effective means of fighting (dengue) is fighting the mosquito."   In Ivory Coast, most recorded cases have occurred in Abidjan.

Health workers are striving to enlist the public in tackling the mosquito, targeting its life cycle.   "The larvae multiply in stagnant water, for example inside used tyres," said Fofana, deputy director of the vector control unit at the INHP.   "People should never store water in buckets in the open air and they should regularly throw out the water in plates under houseplants."   But he faces an uphill job in a sprawling port city of 4.4 million people in the middle of the rainy season.   What's more, people who are infected, even without knowing it, and can bring the virus to new areas when they are bitten by local mosquitoes.    The WHO has set a goal to halve the number of dengue deaths by 2020, but incidence of the disease has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years.   "Before 1970, only nine countries had experienced severe dengue epidemics. The disease is now endemic in more than 100 countries," it says.

- 'Malaria's big brother' -
In Ivory Coast, where malaria accounts for a third of all medical consultations, many people self-medicate when they experience symptoms such as high fever, vomiting, nausea or aches and pains.   "This is a real problem, because the symptoms of malaria, dengue, typhus and yellow fever are similar. Doing a blood test is absolutely indispensable," said Fofana.   Treatment with the wrong medicines can worsen the situation, he stressed -- aspirin or ibuprofen can increase the risk of bleeding, for example.   In the meantime, the spraying goes on.    "We know the risks," said Bamba Segbe, an Abidjan resident watching the masked men in action. "It's not for nothing that we call dengue malaria's big brother."
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2019 17:37:51 +0200
By Grace Matsiko

Mpondwe, Uganda, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - At the bustling Mpondwe border post, a woman crossing from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Uganda is whisked away to an isolation unit after a thermal scanner picks up her high temperature.   Health workers keep Mulefu Kyakimwa, a 32-year-old vegetable oil trader, under observation but later discharge her, once Ebola has been ruled out as the cause of her fever.

The border post is on high alert after a family with suspected Ebola escaped isolation on the Congolese side and entered Uganda, where two of them died this week.   The spread of the deadly virus to Uganda comes after months of efforts in a region of porous borders to contain an outbreak in Congo which has killed 1,400 people, according to the latest official data.    "Since the start of the outbreak, the total number of cases is 2,084, of which 1,990 have been confirmed and another 94 are probable," the Congolese health ministry said in its daily bulletin from Wednesday.   "In all, there have been 1,405 deaths -- 1,311 confirmed and 94 probable -- and 579 people have recovered," the bulletin said, adding that 132,679 people had been vaccinated.

- 'We expected it' -
Few people seem to be surprised that Ebola would eventually make its way to Uganda -- which has experienced outbreaks in the past.   "The outbreak is not a surprise. We expected it. People cross the borders all the time and interact a lot," said Dorcus Kambere, a 29-year-old Ugandan bar attendant who feels her job puts her at risk.

At Mpondwe -- where 25,000 people cross daily -- travellers undergo rigorous health checks to detect the lethal virus, which attacks the organs and leads to internal and external bleeding.   Soldiers carrying automatic rifles guide travellers through the screening process, making sure they wash their hands with disinfectant.   The travellers then pass through a shelter with a thermal scanner that feeds people's body temperatures into a computer.   "This is a situation we go through every day since the Ebola outbreak," said Ambrose Nyakitwe, 34, a Ugandan trader returning from the Congo side.   "It is good. I have a family. I have to see that they don't get affected," he added, after passing through the scan.   Outside the busy border post, business carries on as usual, with children swimming and playing in the muddy Lhubiriha river that draws a natural boundary between the two nations.

- 'Not safe' -
A woman serves pancakes with her bare hands from a bucket as pot-bellied money changers lounging next to her carry out their trade.   However, while some carry on seemingly oblivious to the dangers posed by the virus, others are increasingly suspicious.   "It is not safe. If they say people with Ebola crossed into Uganda, how sure are we there are not many who will infect us and are yet to be got?" asked Bernadette Bwiso, 41, a trader.    "Government must do a house-to-house search," she said.   Meanwhile, Nyakitwe is anxious about how the infected patients managed to cross into Uganda despite heightened surveillance.   A Congolese woman -- who is married to a Ugandan -- her mother, three children and their nanny had travelled to DRC to care for her ill father, who later died of Ebola.

The World Health Organization said 12 members of the family who attended the burial in Congo were placed in isolation in the DRC, but six "escaped and crossed over to Uganda" on June 9.   The next day, a five-year-old was checked into hospital in Bwera vomiting blood. Tests confirmed he had Ebola and the family was placed in an isolation ward.   His three-year-old brother was also confirmed to have Ebola, as was their grandmother who died late Wednesday.   Uganda and the RDC are discussing what can be done to intensify collaboration between the two countries to prevent the spread, the Congolese authorities said.

- No surveillance -
Uganda's health ministry said that the surviving travellers and the Ugandan father -- five people in total -- had agreed to be repatriated to DRC on Thursday for treatment and "family support and comfort" from relatives on the other side of the border.   However, three unrelated patients are still in a Ugandan hospital awaiting the result of Ebola tests.

Uganda's Health Minister Jane Ruth Aceng said challenges remained at "unofficial entry points" between Congo and Uganda, which share a porous 875-kilometre (545-mile) border.   These unauthorised border crossings, known as "panyas" in the local Lukonzo language, are often merely planks laid down across a point in the river, or through forests and mountains where there is no surveillance.   In a bid to contain the spread of the disease the Ugandan government has suspended market days and urged people to stop shaking hands and hugging.
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2019 16:33:58 +0200

Madrid, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Spain will launch a campaign to urge young people to "always carry a condom on them" as the number of sexually transmitted infections (STI) surges, the government said Thursday.   The news comes a week after the World Health Organization expressed alarm at the lack of progress on curbing STI or diseases (STD), with one expert warning of complacency as dating apps spur sexual activity.   In Spain, videos and ads will be posted from Monday on social networks, music platforms and media that 14- to 29-year-olds most follow, the health ministry said.   "It's normal that you want to do it in your parents' bed. What isn't normal is that you want to complicate your life," reads one ad, going on to show the number of new cases of HIV and other infections.

In a statement, the health ministry urged "everyone -- and particularly the young -- to always have a condom on them and use it."   "The use of condoms has dropped among the 15- to 18-year-olds over the last few years," Health Minister Maria Luisa Carcedo told reporters.   She said there was complacency over STI, including infection by the HIV virus that causes AIDS.   The campaign is a "first shock measure" to challenge the rise of STI among young people, the statement said.   The number of cases of gonorrhoea, for instance, has risen an average of more than 26 percent annually between 2013 and 2017, according to the ministry.

Syphilis "has risen less but in 2017, it reached its highest peak since the start of statistics in Spain: 10.61 infections per 100,000 residents compared to 2.57 in 1995."   The highest rates of chlamydia, meanwhile, are among 20- to 24-year-olds and particularly women, the ministry said.   In 2017, Spain registered close to 24,000 cases of infection by gonorrhoea, syphilis, chlamydia and LGV, a sexually-transmitted disease, according to the statement.
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2019 15:12:32 +0200

Vilnius, June 13, 2019 (AFP) - Lithuanian temperatures have hit record June highs, meteorologists said Thursday, as a heatwave forced school closures and threatened to reduce harvests in the draught-hit Baltic region.   Kaisiadorys in central Lithuania was the hottest place at 35.7 degrees Celsius (96.2 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, the highest-ever temperature recorded for June in the country, weather forecaster Paulius Starkus told AFP.   Six people drowned in the Baltic EU state on Wednesday, the deadliest day of the year to date, while some schools put classes on hold or cut lessons short due to the heatwave.

Scientists say the extreme weather is in part a result of climate change.   "Lithuania used to have heatwaves but now they occur more often and are more intense due to climate change," Vilnius University climatologist Donatas Valiukas told AFP.   Starkus said a downpour with thunder and hail could follow in some areas on Thursday afternoon.   Agriculture Minister Giedrius Surplys told lawmakers that some areas were experiencing "a real climatic draught" threatening harvests, while hydrologists warned that river water levels posed a threat to fish.   Demand for air-conditioning has also soared in recent weeks.   Lithuania's hot weather is expected to last through the week, then temperatures may ease below 30 degrees Celsius starting Monday.   Fellow Baltic state Latvia is also experiencing unusual heat for June, with temperatures over 32 degrees Celsius.

In recent days, Latvia's western region of Kurzeme saw thunderstorms with hail damaging buildings, smashing greenhouses and tearing power lines.   Two people have been hospitalised in the northern Latvian town of Cesis after a tree fell on their camper van while they were inside.    Fellow Baltic state Estonia had a heatwave last week and is now experiencing rainy and windy weather.   Poland has also been experiencing high temperatures this month, which has resulted in increased air-conditioner use. The power transmission system operator PSE said that on Wednesday there was record electricity demand for a summer morning at nearly 24.10 gigawatts (GW).   Forty-two people have already drowned in Poland this month, according to the government security centre RCB.