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Netherlands

The Netherlands - US Consular Information Sheet
January 04, 2007
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
The Netherlands is a highly developed, stable democracy.
Tourist facilities are available throughout the Kingdom.
Read the Department of State
ackground notes on The Netherlands for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required.
Visas are not required for U.S. citizens for tourist visits of up to 90 days.
That period begins when you enter any of the Schengen group of countries: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, and Sweden.
To be admitted into the Netherlands, travelers must have a passport with a validity that exceeds their intended stay, a return airline ticket, and enough money to finance the planned stay.
For further information on entry requirements, contact the Embassy of the Netherlands at 4200 Linnean Ave. N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 244-5300, or one of the Dutch consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, New York or Miami.
Additional information is available on the Netherlands' National Bureau for Tourism's Internet web site at http://www.goholland.com.
See our Foreign Entry Requirements brochure for more information on the Netherlands and other countries.
Visit the Embassy of the Netherlands web site at http://www.netherlands-embassy.org/homepage.asp for the most current visa information.
Information on work, residency and immigration requirements in the Netherlands can be found on the web site of the Dutch immigration authorities at www.ind.nl.

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

See Entry and Exit Requirements for more information pertaining to dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction.
Please refer to our Customs Information to learn more about customs regulations.

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
In 2004, the Dutch government implemented heightened security measures in response to concerns of international Islamic extremist terrorist activity on Dutch soil.
The November 2004 murder of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh by an Islamic extremist in Amsterdam further increased concerns over Islamic extremist activity in the Netherlands.
One individual was arrested and later sentenced to life in prison for van Gogh's murder and related Islamic extremist activities.
Since the murder, the Dutch government has remained on heightened alert.

U.S. citizens in the Netherlands are encouraged to monitor media reports, and are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.
As with other countries in the Schengen area, the Netherlands' open borders with its European neighbors allow the possibility of terrorist groups entering/exiting the country with anonymity.
Demonstrations are commonplace in the Netherlands and may range in number from a few people to several thousand.
Prior police approval is required for public demonstrations, and police oversight is routinely provided.
Nonetheless, situations may develop which could pose a threat to public safety.
U.S. citizens are advised to avoid areas in which public demonstrations are taking place.

For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department's Internet web site where the current Travel Warnings and Public Announcements, including the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement, 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., 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:
While the rate of violent crime in the Netherlands is low, tourists are often targets of thieves.
Visitors frequently fall prey to pickpockets, bag snatchers and other petty burglars.
Theft from automobiles and hotel rooms are also on the rise.
Never leave baggage or other valuables unattended.

While thieves may operate anywhere, the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam receives frequent reports of thefts from specific areas.
Within Amsterdam, thieves are very active in and around train and tram stations, the city center and public transport.
More specifically, trains to and from Schiphol Airport are considered to be high risk, and theft of laptop computers has increased.
Thieves often work in pairs; one distracts the victim, often by asking for directions, while the accomplice moves in on the victim's momentarily unguarded handbag, backpack, laptop or briefcase.
The timing of these thefts usually coincides with train stops, enabling the thieves to escape.
In addition, many Americans have reported that their purses and briefcases have been stolen while eating in downtown restaurants, including hotel breakfast rooms.
A good rule of thumb is to never leave your personal items unattended when going to the restroom, buffet table, etc.

Confidence artists have victimized a number of Americans.
Typically, a U.S. citizen is notified via email of a winning lottery ticket, an inheritance, or other offer, which requires his/her assistance and cooperation to conclude.
The American is asked to forward advance payments for alleged"official expenses," "taxes," etc. and, often, to come to Amsterdam to conclude the operation.
Several Americans have lost tens of thousands of dollars in such scams.
Funds transferred in response to such offers cannot be recovered.
Information on fraud schemes can be found on the U.S. Embassy's web page.
For additional information, please contact the nearest office of the U.S. Secret Service or visit that agency's web site at www.secretservice.gov.
Additional information is also provided in the Department of State's pamphlet, Advance Fee Business Scams.
Travelers may also contact the Fraud Unit, Amsterdam Police, Police Headquarters, PB 2287, 1000 CG Amsterdam, Netherlands, tel. (31) (20) 559-2380, fax (31) (20) 559-5755.

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.
In the Netherlands, the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam provides all passport and American citizen services.
A lost or stolen passport can usually be replaced within a few hours during normal working hours for those with immediate travel plans.
If you are the victim of a crime while in the Netherlands, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the U.S. Consulate General for assistance.
It is a good idea to make a photocopy of the "biographic page" of your passport, to bring extra passport photos, and to keep these separate from your actual passport just in case it is lost or stolen.
Consulate staff can, for example, help you 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.
Contact information is provided at the bottom of this document.

The Criminal Injuries Compensation Fund (CICF) of the Netherlands provides financial compensation, under specific circumstances, for victims of crime and for those who have suffered injuries and consequent loss caused by such incidents.
The fund also provides for dependents or immediate family members of homicide victims.
For more information, contact the Dutch Ministry of Justice at (31) (70) 414-2000.

See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Good medical facilities are widely available.
Emergency medical response can be accessed by calling 1-1-2.
Reputable pharmacies are widely available and can assist with emergency prescription needs.
Some common medications are not available in the Netherlands without a prescription, and some prescription drugs cannot be mailed into the country.
Travelers are therefore urged to carry an adequate supply of prescription drugs in their original container while traveling.
Some U.S. over-the-counter medications are not available in the Netherlands and travelers should carry an adequate supply of these as well.
Those traveling with any preexisting medical problems should bring a letter from the attending physician, describing the medical condition and any prescription medications, including the generic name of prescribed drugs.

Vaccinations are not required for travel to the Netherlands.
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 Internet site at http://www.cdc.gov/travel.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization's (WHO) website at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith.

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.
Medical evacuations cost thousands of dollars and are not always covered by travel insurance.
Foreign doctors and hospitals usually require payment at the time service is rendered, and this too may not be covered by a traveler's policy.
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 Netherlands is provided for general reference only, and it may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance:

Travel in, around, and between cities is possible via a highly advanced national train, light rail, tram, and bus network, by use of an extensive system of bike paths, and by automobile and motorcycle on the modern highway system.
Rail is often a convenient alternative to driving, particularly in the areas around Amsterdam, The Hague, and Rotterdam, where road congestion is frequent.
Rail network information is available at http://www.ns.nl.

Intercity travel by road is relatively safe in comparison with some other European countries.
Nonetheless, more than 1,000 people die and another 10,000 are injured in traffic accidents in the Netherlands each year.
More than two thirds of the fatal accidents occur outside urban areas.

A valid driver's license issued by a Department of Motor Vehicles in the U.S. is valid for use in the Netherlands for up to 180 days.
Seat belt and child seat use is compulsory.
Driving is on the right side of the road.
The maximum speed limit on highways is 120 km/h, with a highway speed limit of 100 km/h posted in most urban areas.
Secondary roads and some urban area highways have a speed limit of 80 km/h.
The speed limit in towns and cities is 50 km/h, with 30 km/h posted in residential areas.
The Dutch government has reduced speed limits on certain roads near cities in an effort to reduce air pollution.
During traffic jams, authorities also reduce speed limits; drivers should be sure to check for revised limits posted on electronic billboards above the highways.
Please note that drivers must yield the right-of-way to drivers and bikers coming from the right at intersections or traffic circles, unless otherwise posted.
The maximum allowable blood alcohol level in the Netherlands is 0.5 per mille.
The use of cellular telephones while driving is illegal without the use of a "hands-free" device.

Lanes at the center of many urban two-way streets are reserved for buses, trams and taxis.
In cities, pedestrians should be mindful of trams, which often cross or share bicycle and pedestrian paths.
Motorists must be especially mindful of the priority rights of bicyclists.
Pedestrians should not walk along bicycle paths, which are often on the sidewalk and usually designated by red pavement.
Travelers should also be watchful for one-way roads.

Taxi service in the Netherlands is safe but expensive.
Trams and buses are both convenient and economical, but often frequented by pickpockets.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the website of the Netherlands Bureau for Tourism at http://www.goholland.com.
Information also is available from the Netherlands Ministry of Transportation, Public Works and Water Management (Ministerie van Verkeer en Waterstraat) at http://www.minvenw.nl.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of the Netherlands' Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of the Netherlands' air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA's website at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
Dutch customs authorities stringently enforce regulations concerning importation into the Netherlands of items such as firearms and other controlled materials.
Contact the Embassy of the Netherlands in Washington, D.C., or one of the Dutch consulates in Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles or New York for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information sheet.

Everyone age 14 and above is required to carry identification at all times while in the Netherlands.
Accepted forms of identification for U.S. citizens are either a Dutch residence card, issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or a U.S. passport.

U.S. citizens who obtain Dutch nationality may be required by the Dutch authorities to relinquish their U.S. citizenship.
For further information visit http://www.ind.nl/EN/verblijfwijzer/ and/or http://netherlands.usembassy.gov/dual_nationality.html.

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 Dutch laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use or trafficking in illegal drugs in the Netherlands are strict and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.

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

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in the Netherlands are encouraged to register with the U.S. Consulate General through the State Department's travel registration website, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within the Netherlands.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the U.S. Consulate General in Amsterdam.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency and to provide periodic information on issues of interest to American citizens.

The U.S. Embassy is located in The Hague, at Lange Voorhout 102; tel. (31) (70) 310-2209.
However, all requests for consular assistance should be directed to the Consulate General in Amsterdam at Museumplein 19, tel. (31) (20) 575-5309.
The after-hours emergency telephone number is (31) (70) 310-2209.
The U.S. Embassy and Consulate General web site at http://netherlands.usembassy.gov/ answers many questions of interest to Americans visiting or residing in the Netherlands.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated June 28, 2006, to update the sections on Safety and Security and Aviation Safety Oversight.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Thu, 25 Jul 2019 13:14:32 +0200

The Hague, July 25, 2019 (AFP) - Thousands of travellers flying to and from Amsterdam's Schiphol airport were met with another day of cancellations on Thursday. Dozens of flights were suspended after a malfunction in the kerosene refuelling system on Wednesday, which was later resolved.  But the disruptions went on to wreak further havoc on Thursday with Dutch airline KLM announcing it had cancelled 61 flights from Schiphol, one of the world's busiest transport hubs.   "We are restarting our operations gradually," a KLM spokeswoman told AFP.    The airport was not able to give an exact figure on the number of flight delays and cancellations.

On Wednesday night, around 300 flights from Amsterdam-Schiphol were cancelled due to a malfunction by the only company at the airport which supplies the fuel system, Aircraft Fuel Supply. Tens of thousands of passengers were affected with many stuck on aircrafts that were grounded.    Some travellers whose planes could not take off on Wednesday were forced to spend the night at the airport, a spokeswoman for Amsterdam-Schiphol said.
Date: Wed, 10 Jul 2019 15:47:59 +0200
By Jan HENNOP

The Hague, July 10, 2019 (AFP) - Millions of tiny caterpillars that shoot toxic hairs have triggered a health scare in the Netherlands, with hundreds of people seeking medical help for symptoms including severe skin irritation and asthma attacks.   The plague has caused at least two school closures and sporting event cancellations, prompting a meeting of Dutch agriculture officials on Wednesday to discuss how to dispose of them.

The problem has got so bad that an elderly Dutch woman in the town of Enschede attacked what she called the "rotten beasts" with a heat gun, in a video that has gone viral in the Netherlands.   "It's actually the first time that we're experiencing a plague of such proportions," Bastiaan Meerburg, director of the Dutch Pest and Wildlife Expertise Centre, told AFP.   "In some places, the caterpillars have more than tripled."    Complaints after coming into contact with the creature's venomous barbs, called setae, range from skin rashes and ugly blotches to shortness of breath and vomiting.

The infestation has become so bad that Dutch Agriculture Minister Carola Schouten ordered the creation of a government website to answer questions about the pesky crawlers.   It has more than 100 frequently asked questions ranging from what to do when pets come in contact with the hairs, to why the Dutch army is not being deployed to combat the infestation.   Two primary schools were temporarily closed near the port city of Rotterdam after pupils and teachers came into contact with the oak processionary caterpillars.

Hockey clubs in the central town of Veenendal meanwhile called off local tournaments due to nearby caterpillar nests.   The oak processionary caterpillar has always been in the Netherlands, but especially due to climate change it has proliferated and steadily made its way from the southern Limburg province to the north over the last two decades.   "The only places now not infested are the Wadden Islands, which lies off the northern Dutch coast," said Meerburg.

More oak trees have also been planted over recent years, while experts also believe a decline in the caterpillars' natural enemies like other predatory insects may have played a role.   There is however some relief on the horizon: by mid-July the caterpillars are expected to go into cocoons to become moths, meaning no more creepy crawlies capable of producing a million microscopic hairs over two months.   But the nests and the hairs -- which can last for up to seven years and withstand temperatures of up to 600 degrees Celsius -- remain and needed to be removed by being sucked up with a special industrial vacuum cleaner.   "It's a problem that's not going to go away," said Meerburg.
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2019 15:49:33 +0200

The Hague, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - Dutch health authorities said Tuesday they are dealing with a measles outbreak in a devout Protestant fishing village where vaccination rates are among the lowest in the country.   Nine children and one adult have been diagnosed with the disease in the village of Urk, part of the so-called "Bible Belt" in the northern Netherlands, the Flevoland province health service said.

The health service said it was "actively monitoring the situation" and examining whether it was necessary to vaccinate or administer antibodies to people who have been in contact with the infected patients.   "In 2013 and previously, the disease occurred more often on Urk. Many people on Urk have experienced this disease and that means that a natural defence has built up," it said.   Only 61.1 percent of people are vaccinated against measles in Urk, one of the lowest rates in the Netherlands, where the national average is 92.9 percent, according to the National Public Health and Environment Institute.

Urk is regarded as one of the most devout of the villages in the "Bible Belt" of conservative Protestant communities running from Zeeland in the south of the Netherlands across the country to the north west.   Ninety-four percent of people in Urk regularly go to church, according to the Dutch Central Bureau of Statistics, compared to one in six of all Dutch people.

Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf said that in this devout community of Urk people believe that life and death are in God's hands, and so vaccinations are not permitted.   Urk is considered a "closed' community because of its fisheries culture and Protestant orthodox religion," a European Commission report from 2010 said.

The UN warned in April of a global resurgence of measles -- a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal -- amid a growing "anti-vax" movement worldwide.   The WHO says cases of the once all-but-eradicated disease surged 300 percent in 2018 across the globe.   The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the United States, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of claims that the jab could cause autism, which medical officials have found are baseless.
Date: Tue, 28 May 2019 11:27:14 +0200

The Hague, May 28, 2019 (AFP) - A strike by public transport workers in the Netherlands forced the cancellation of dozens of flights at the country's main airport on Tuesday as passengers faced difficulties reaching the airport.   "Several airlines cancelled their flights," said Willemeike Koster, spokeswoman of Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

Dutch carrier KLM, along with budget airlines Ryanair and EasyJet, were among the airlines cancelling some 80 flights overall. Several other flights were delayed.   "It's busy on the roads to the airport due to the strike because there is very limited train traffic between Schiphol and Amsterdam," she said. "There are four trains per hour today instead of the usual 25."

Once passengers reach the airport, services are functioning normally, she added.   Dutch trade unions called the strike to secure better pension benefits and to call for the country's retirement age to be fixed at 66 years.   The FNV, the largest trade union in the Netherlands, also plans for brief strike actions among security and cleaning staff at Schiphol airport on Wednesday.
Date: Sun, 26 May 2019 18:19:48 +0200

The Hague, May 26, 2019 (AFP) - A Dutch judge Sunday ruled against plans by the country's largest trade union to allow train drivers serving Amsterdam's busy Schiphol airport to join a country-wide strike.   Thousands of bus, train and tram drivers are expected strike on Tuesday in
protest at government plans to raise the retirement age from 66 and to demand higher pension payments.

"Our right to call a 24-hour strike remains, with the exception of a limited number of trains running to and from Schiphol," the FNV union said in a statement.   "There will be four trains an hour between Schiphol and Amsterdam Central station... in order to guarantee public order at the airport," the FNV said.   Last year, Schiphol was Europe's third-busiest airport with 71.5 million passengers, behind London Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle, according to figures by the Airports Council International Europe (ACI).   Apart from being the gateway to Amsterdam, Schiphol is also a major transit hub for flights from all around the globe.

The decision by the judge comes after negotiations between Schiphol Airport's management and the FNV broke down earlier on Sunday "despite intensive talks," the FNV said.   Schiphol, in a statement, warned of "traffic congestion, limited train access and no buses" during Tuesday's strike.   "If you're travelling to or from Schiphol Airport on 28 May, please note that travelling by train is limited and trains and stations will be crowded," the airport said.   Although no figures re available, FNV spokeswoman Mariette van Dijk told AFP that "thousands of bus, train and tram drivers, as well as ferry boat captains" were expected to join the strike.

Tuesday's day-long strike follows similar industrial action in March, when public transport was shut down for 66 minutes -- symbolic of the current retirement age.   But the government led by business-friendly Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte's Liberal VVD party accelerated plans to increase the retirement age to 67 years in 2021 and 67 years and three months in 2022.   "People are healthier and they live longer," the Dutch government said on its pensions website.   "The higher life expectancy makes working for longer and a gradual increase in the state pension age possible," the Dutch government said.
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue, 20 Aug 2019 05:21:07 +0200 (METDST)

Bangkok, Aug 20, 2019 (AFP) - At least 13 Chinese tourists were killed and dozens injured when their bus skidded off the road and plunged 30 metres into a ravine in Laos, a police officer said Tuesday.   The bus was carrying more than 40 Chinese nationals heading towards the tourist town of Luang Prabang when the accident occurred late on Monday.   "At this moment, 13 bodies have been recovered... while two are still missing," police officer Xaiyaphon Chitavong told AFP, blaming brake failure for the accident.   He added that 31 people were receiving medical treatment.    Chinese state media showed photos of rescuers wading through ankle-deep floodwaters.

Traffic accidents in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Myanmar are common, with safety regulations often flouted and law enforcement low.    The monsoon season from June to October also drenches rural roads with heavy rains creating slippery conditions.   Tourism to communist-run Laos has grown in recent years, and visitors from China increased by 13 percent in the first half of 2019 compared to the year before, according to the state-backed Vientiane Times.
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 20:57:15 +0200 (METDST)

Bukavu, DR Congo, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - A child has died from Ebola in DR Congo's South Kivu, health authorities said Monday, the second person to succumb to the virus since the epidemic spread to the eastern province.   The announcement last week of the first confirmed cases in South Kivu revived concerns that the highly contagious disease could cross the porous borders of the central African country, where it has claimed more than 1,900 lives since August last year.   "A seven-year-old child died yesterday (Sunday) of Ebola" in South Kivu's Mwenga region, said Claude Bahizire, communication officer of South Kivu's provincial health division.

The first death in South Kivu was a woman in her twenties who evaded movement controls to travel from the North Kivu town of Beni, the epicentre of the outbreak, to South Kivu's capital Bukavu and then Mwenga.    She died on Wednesday, and her seven-month-old son has been diagnosed with the virus and is receiving treatment.   Bahizire said that "two other suspected cases, two women, have been detected and admitted to Bukavu's transit centre".   The two women "were in contact with the woman who died last week while she was staying in Bukavu on the way to Mwenga," he added.

The outbreak of the haemorrhagic virus began in North Kivu on August 1, 2018 and spread to Ituri province.   The health ministry also announced that "a new health zone had been assigned in North Kivu".   A confirmed case of Ebola has been recorded in North Kivu's Pinga region, in Walikale territory, a source said without providing further details.   According to the latest numbers published on Sunday, 1,934 people have since died, while 862 have been cured.

The latest outbreak is the second-deadliest on record after more than 11,000 people were killed in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia between 2014-2016.   Also on Monday, World Health Organization (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus called on the nine countries that share a border with DR Congo to show solidarity to stop the spread of Ebola.   "We now have an Ebola vaccine that is more than 97 percent effective and treatments that are more than 90 per cent effective if used early enough," he said in Republic of Congo capital Brazzaville.
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 19:48:07 +0200 (METDST)
By Alain JEAN-ROBERT

Paris, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - French construction workers wearing protective masks returned to the site of stricken Notre-Dame cathedral on Monday after a three-week pause due to the risk of lead contamination.   Labour Minister Muriel Penicaud was given a tour of the scorched monumet wearing a white protective suit while workers could again be seen surveying the structure which was left damaged and weakened in a massive fire in April.

Restoration of the cathedral has yet to begin with efforts focused entirely on securing the building. The culture ministry has warned it is still at risk of collapse.   Efforts to remove lead from the area around Notre-Dame began last week after alarm grew over the presence of the toxic metal.   Hundreds of tonnes of lead in the roof and steeple melted during the April 15 blaze that nearly destroyed the gothic masterpiece, with winds spreading the particles well beyond the church grounds.

Residents have accused the Paris authorities of underplaying the risk from the lead although the culture ministry insists safety is the top priority.   But prefect Michel Cadot, the government's top official for the Paris region, approved the resumption of the works after visiting the site.   "I saw that the different recommendations of the labour inspectors had been implemented," he said, adding the decontamination work would help keep contractors safe.   Securing the structure is required before the restoration work can start.    The culture ministry said that stones had fallen from the nave vault during a heatwave in July.   "It is only the urgency linked to the persistent risk of a collapse that justifies the rhythm of work undertaken" since the fire, it said in a statement Wednesday.

President Emmanuel Macron has set an ambitious target of five years for the restoration to be finished. But the ministry said the work would not even begin until next year.   Paris prosecutors said in June that a poorly stubbed-out cigarette or an electrical fault could have started the fire and opened an investigation into criminal negligence, without targeting any individual.

French investigative news site Mediapart published a report this week accusing the ministry of repeatedly ignoring warnings by labour inspectors about the dangers posed by the lead until work was finally suspended on July 25.   Critics have accused the city of failing to notify the public about the test results, while an environmental group has filed a lawsuit alleging that officials failed to sufficiently contain the contamination.   The ministry rejected Mediapart's allegations it had failed to pay attention to the risks encountered by workers on the site.
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 13:26:06 +0200 (METDST)

Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - Scores of people including children were wounded Monday after a series of explosions shook the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, as the country's independence day was marred by bloodshed.

As many as 10 blasts were reported in and around the city in Nangarhar province, authorities said, and casualty numbers rose as the day wore on.   "The explosions were caused by IEDs in different parts of the city and as groups of people were celebrating independence day," the Nangarhar governor's spokesman Attaullah Khogyani said, referring to improvised explosive devices.   Jalalabad is the scene of frequent bomb attacks, and the surrounding terrain is home to both Taliban fighters and the Islamic State group's local affiliate.

At least 52 people were wounded, Khogyani said. Zaher Adel, a spokesman for a local hospital, said 66 wounded people had been brought in. An AFP correspondent saw children among the victims.   This year's August 19 celebrations mark 100 years of Afghan independence from British influence.   The day was supposed to be one of national pride and unity, but was overshadowed by an IS suicide attack Saturday on a crowded Kabul wedding hall that killed at least 63 people.

In Kabul, locals took to the streets to wave the black-red-and-green Afghan flag, but several public events to commemorate the date were scrapped as Kabul mourns and due to fears of a fresh attack.    "We postponed the celebrations to honour the victims, but we will definitely take revenge for our people," Afghan President Ahraf Ghani said.   "We will avenge the blood of our people, every drop of it."

Mayhem from Afghanistan's war continues to wreak havoc on Afghans every day, even though the US and the Taliban are in final negotiations for a deal that would see US troops begin to quit Afghanistan and could potentially lead to a reduction in violence.
Date: Wed 14 Aug 2019
Source: Universitat Hohenheim [in German, trans. Britta Lassmann, edited]

The University of Hohenheim and the Bundeswehr Institute of Microbiology [IMB] have detected spotted fever in a hyalomma tick, the 1st time such a tick is suspected to have caused disease in a human in Germany.

This tick feeds on humans and can transmit a form of spotted fever in Germany. What were still unanswered questions about the tropical giant tick hyalomma is now certainty. At the beginning of August [2019], it was suspected that for the 1st time, a human in Germany had contracted a disease with the typical symptoms of rickettsiosis from the bite of a hyalomma tick. Experts from the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and the IMB in Munich were able to detect the pathogen _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ in the tick. The number of hyalomma ticks in Germany increased significantly in 2019 compared to the previous year [2018]. In nearly half of the hyalomma ticks, _R. aeschlimannii_ can be detected. The tick researchers continue to ask the population to send them suspicious ticks.

It was probably no coincidence that this 1st case was in a horse owner. Tropical ticks of the genus _Hyalomma_ feed on large mammals. For several years, these ticks have been on the rise in Germany. Now tick researchers report the 1st suspected case of spotted fever transmitted in Germany. "Not only do we now know for sure that the hyalomma tick is also targeting humans," says Prof Dr Med Ute Mackenstedt, a parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim, "but also that there is the urgent suspicion that the transmission of spotted fever by these ticks is actually possible here in Germany."

The case: At the end of July [2019], the horse owner from near Siegen was bitten by a hyalomma tick. He sent the tick to the tick researcher in Hohenheim. He then presented to the hospital only a few days later with severe symptoms. Spotted fever caused by the bacterium _R. aeschlimannii_ was suspected. The tick was sent by courier service to the IMB in Munich, where the pathogen was detected in the tick. Thereafter, the patient received targeted antibiotic therapy, and his symptoms rapidly improved.

"We are talking about a suspected case, because direct detection of the pathogen from the patient was not possible," explains PD Dr Med Gerhard Dobler, medical doctor at the IMB. "The treatment of the patient came 1st. But the preceding tick bite, the typical symptoms
and, above all, the proof of the pathogen in the tick suggest that the case was spotted fever. The fact that the patient responded to targeted antibiotic therapy further supports this."

_R. aeschlimannii_ causes a feverish infection with headache and muscle pain, extreme joint pain, and a burning sensation. Typical for the disease, however, is the rash that gave the disease its name. This classic sign shows mainly on the extremities. The incubation period is about one week.

"If spotted fever is suspected after a hyalomma bite, a swab should be taken from the bite site and sent for examination," advises PD Dobler. "If there are questions, you are welcome to contact us. Ideally, we would also like to examine the tick."

About half of the hyalomma ticks, the researchers say, are infected with rickettsia. Transmission takes place exclusively via tick bite. "The number of hyalomma ticks in Germany is significantly higher this year [2019] than in the previous year [2018]," reports Prof Dr Med Mackenstedt, referencing the publication in which the situation was presented in 2018. The Hohenheim parasitologist not only cooperates closely with the IMB in Munich, but also with the working group of Prof Dr Med Christina Strube at the Veterinary University (TiHo) Hannover. "Together they already have found 50 such ticks in Germany in 2019. Last year [2018] there were a total of 35." Last year, these ticks had survived the winter in Germany for the 1st time.

"Rickettsia are the only pathogens that we have been able to detect so far," explains PD Dr. Dobler. "We have not found the virus that causes the dangerous Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever, nor the pathogens _Theileria equi_ and _Babesia caballi_, both of which can be transmitted from ticks to horses."

The research team continues to ask the population for support to further explore the spread and potential dangers. In case of a tick bite, it's best to remove the tick with a tick remover, TickCard, or tweezers. Then send the animal in a small, tightly closed container to:
University of Hohenheim
Prof. Dr. Ute Mackenstedt
Department of Parasitology
Emil-Wolff-Strasse 34
70599 Stuttgart

Background: Tick genus _Hyalomma_
_Hyalomma marginatum_ and _Hyalomma rufipes_ are native to the dry and semi-arid areas of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. Until recently, they did not occur in central and northern Europe. Their striped legs are striking, and they are much larger than the native ixodes ticks.

The adult ticks feed on large animals. They are active hunters and move quickly towards their host. They cover a distance of up to 100 m [328 ft]. Humans can serve as hosts. In contrast, tick larvae and nymphs mainly infest birds and small mammals and can stay up to 28 days with their hosts. Migratory birds can introduce larvae and nymphs to Germany.

In Eurasia, both _Hyalomma_ species are considered transmitters of the Crimean Congo hemorrhagic fever virus and the Arabic hemorrhagic fever virus (Alkhumra virus). They also transmit the bacterium _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_, which causes a form of spotted fever.

Reference:
Chitimia-Dobler L, et al. Imported _Hyalomma_ ticks in Germany in 2018. Parasites & Vectors. 2019; 12 (134).

More information:
Picture and video material [in German]
Press release: Tropical ticks in Germany: University of Hohenheim asks to send conspicuous tick finds [in German]
Press release: Tropical ticks: New immigrant species winters in Germany for the 1st time [in German]
-----------------------------------
communicated by:
Roland Hubner
Superior Health Council
Brussels
Belgium
====================
[Given that the ticks were found last year (2018) and that they overwintered and were found again this year (2019), it is likely that this genus of tick is becoming established in Germany. Although the species of _Hyalomma_ that infected the man with _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ was not determined, there is a clear association of this rickettsia with the 2 species of _Hyalomma_ that were tested. The published report cited above states, "35 ticks with an unusual appearance or behaviour were reported to us during summer-autumn 2018. For 17 of them, the description or photos implied that they belong to the hard tick genus _Hyalomma_. The remaining 18 ticks were sent to us and were identified as adult _Hyalomma marginatum_ (10 specimens) or adult _Hyalomma rufipes_ (8 specimens). All ticks tested negative for CCHF virus, _Coxiella burnetii_, _Coxiella_-like organisms, _Babesia_ spp. and _Theileria_ spp. The screening for rickettsiae gave positive results in 9 specimens. The _Rickettsia_ species in all cases was identified as _R. aeschlimannii_." Given that these ticks can be transported by birds migrating from Africa, continued surveillance in Germany for the rickettsia and the other pathogens that were not found currently is prudent. - ProMED Mod.TY]

The first human case of _R. aeschlimannii_ infection was identified in a patient who had fever, rash, and an eschar similar to _R. conori_ infection (Mediaterrian spotted fever) after travel in Morocco (1). _R. aeschlimannii_ infections in humans have been previously confirmed in South Africa, in Algeria, and in Tunisia (2). To our knowledge, the first human case of _R. aeschlimannii_ infection reported in Europe occurred in Greece and was reported in 2013 (3).

1. Raoult D, Fournier PE, Abboud P, Caron F. First documented human Rickettsia aeschlimannii infection. Emerg Infect Dis. 2002; 8: 748-9. doi: 10.3201/eid0807.010480
2. Demoncheaux JP, Socolovschi C, Davoust B, Haddad S, Raoult D, Parola P. First detection of _Rickettsia aeschlimanii_ in _Hyalomma dromedarii_ ticks in Tunisia. Ticks Tick Borne Dis. 2012; 3: 398-402.
3. Germanakis A, Chochlakis D, Angelakis E, Tselentis Y, Psaroulaki A. _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ infection in a man, Greece. Emerg Infect Dis. 2013; 19: 1176-7.  - ProMED Mod. LL]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Germany:
Date: Wed 19 Aug 2019, 12:48 PM
Source: Kazakh Telegraph Agency [edited]

A total of 4 anthrax cases have been confirmed in the Akmola region, reports the health care department. "Up to [now] 5 [suspected cases of] anthrax have been recorded; lab tests have confirmed 4. The cause of contamination was cow butchering without a veterinary certificate in a private yard," said the interlocutor.

"Epidemiological situation in the Akmola region and Nur-Sultan is stable," said the department. "The situation is being constantly monitored by the committee," said Ludmila Burabekova, chairfigure of the committee of quality control and goods safety. "Anti-epidemic and anti-epizootic arrangements have been organized in the area," she added.
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Date: Wed 19 Aug 2019, 12:04 PM GMT
Source: Radio Free Europe [edited]

A village near the Kazakh capital, Nur-Sultan, is under quarantine after lab tests confirmed anthrax infections in several people.

The Health Ministry said on [19 Aug 2019] that 5 residents of the village of Olginka, 100 km [about 62 mi] east of Nur-Sultan, have been hospitalized in recent days with anthrax symptoms, 4 of whom tested positive for _Bacillus anthracis_ -- the bacterium that causes the infectious disease. According to the statement, the situation in the village in the Aqmola region is under the control of the authorities and all necessary measures are being taken to prevent the possible spread of the disease.

In 2016, in nearby Qaraghandy Oblast, 2 people died as a result of anthrax infections.

According to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), domestic and wild animals -- such as cattle, sheep, goats, antelope, and deer -- can become infected by inhaling or ingesting spores in contaminated soil, plants, or water. CDC says all types of anthrax infections can cause death if they are not treated with antibiotics.
========================
[Olginka is in north-central Kazajhstan; see:

There is a measure of rural poverty in northern half of Kazakhstan, with the result that sick and moribund animals get butchered and eaten. Fortunately, as this village is within 100 Km [about 62 mi] of the Kazakh capital the affected have had the advantage of hospital care and proper laboratory confirmation. The coincident 5th person may have just shown a fever when the medical authorities were looking for clinical cases or it may be a false negative.

Folk have a habit of self-treating with antibiotics and this would have reduced the number of circulating vegetative cells available to testing. My friend Benyamin Cherkasskyi, the Soviet anthrax expert, used to tell me that only some 30%-40% of cutaneous cases would test positive. You have to know to insert your needle in under the lesion to draw out the fluid there which will contain cells, blood, and toxins. - ProMED Mod.MHJ]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 2019 03:45:54 +0200 (METDST)

Lomo del Pino, Spain, Aug 19, 2019 (AFP) - A raging wildfire on the Spanish holiday island of Gran Canaria forced the evacuation of some 5,000 people, authorities said Sunday, warning it could take days for the blaze to be brought under control.   The fire, which has spread to the mountainous Cruz de Tejeda region popular with tourists for its breathtaking views, is "extremely fierce" and "unstable", said Canary Islands president Angel Victor Torres in a statement.   No fatalities have been reported.

More than 600 firefighters and 14 aircraft battled to contain the flames, hampered by strong winds and high temperatures.   With the temperature set to rise Monday, authorities estimate it could take days before the blaze is brought under control.   "The next few hours will be very important because the weather forecast for the night is not good," Torres said.   The fire broke out days after another wildfire in the same region forced the evacuation of hundreds.

Gran Canaria is the second most populous of the Canary Islands in the Atlantic off the northwest coast of Africa.   The Canary Islands received 13.7 million foreign visitors last year, over half of them from Britain and Germany.   Spain is frequently plagued by huge forest fires because of its arid summer climate.
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2019 23:01:00 +0200 (METDST)

Lisbon, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Portuguese fuel tanker drivers whose strike has caused fuel shortages at the summer holiday season on Sunday ended their industrial action.   Drivers have been staging a strike since Monday to demand further wage increases in 2021 and 2022, prompting the government to declare an energy crisis.   "Since all the conditions are now in place to negotiate, we decided to end the strike," Pedro Pardal Henriques, spokesman for the National Union of Dangerous Goods Carriers (SNMMP), told reporters.

A meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, the union President Francisco Sao Bento said, adding that the union did not "rule out new strikes being called if Antram (the employers association) adopts an uncompromising attitude".   Police had launched an operation to escort fuel tankers with extra supplies and Portugal also mobilised about 500 members of the security forces to replace the strikers and drive the trucks.   Despite the shortages, Energy Minister Joao Pedro Matos Fernandes said about two-thirds of the country's 3,000 or so petrol stations had not run dry.
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2019 11:47:26 +0200 (METDST)
By By Emal Haidary and Mushtaq Mojaddidi

Kabul, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Joy and celebration turned into horror and carnage when a suicide bomber targeted a packed Afghan wedding hall, killing at least 63 people in the deadliest attack to rock Kabul in months, officials and witnesses said Sunday.   The massive blast, which took place late Saturday in west Kabul, came as Washington and the Taliban finalise a deal to reduce the US military presence in Afghanistan and hopefully build a roadmap to a ceasefire.   The groom recalled greeting smiling guests in the afternoon, before seeing their bodies being carried out hours later.

The attack "changed my happiness to sorrow", the young man, who gave his name as Mirwais, told local TV station Tolo News.   "My family, my bride are in shock, they cannot even speak. My bride keeps fainting," he said.   "I lost my brother, I lost my friends, I lost my relatives. I will never see happiness in my life again."   Interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said at least 63 people had been killed and 182 injured.   "Among the wounded are women and children," Rahimi said. Earlier he stated a suicide bomber carried out the attack.

Afghan weddings are epic and vibrant affairs, with hundreds or often thousands of guests celebrating for hours inside industrial-scale wedding halls where the men are usually segregated from the women and children.   "The wedding guests were dancing and celebrating the party when the blast happened," recounted Munir Ahmad, 23, who was seriously injured and whose cousin was among the dead.   "Following the explosion, there was total chaos. Everyone was screaming and crying for their loved ones," he told AFP from his bed in a local hospital, where he is being treated for shrapnel wounds.

Images from inside the hall showed blood-stained bodies on the ground along with pieces of flesh and torn clothes, hats, sandals and bottles of mineral water. The huge blast ripped parts of the ceiling off.   The wedding was believed to be a Shia gathering. Shia Muslims are frequently targeted in Sunni-majority Afghanistan, particularly by the so-called Islamic State group, which is also active in Kabul but did not immediately issue any claim of responsibility.

Wedding guest Hameed Quresh told AFP the young couple were saying their vows when the bomb went off.    "We fainted following the blast, and we don't know who brought us to the hospital," sobbed Quresh, who lost one brother and was himself wounded.   Another guest told Tolo that some 1,200 people had been invited. With low security, weddings are seen as easy targets.   The attack sent a wave of grief through a city grimly accustomed to atrocities. President Ashraf Ghani called it "barbaric", while Afghanistan's chief executive Abdullah Abdullah described it as a "crime against humanity".

- Withdrawal deal expected -
The attack underscores both the inadequacy of Afghanistan's security forces and the scale of the problem they face. While the police and army claim they prevent most bombings from ever happening, the fact remains that insurgents pull off horrific attacks with chilling regularity.   On July 28, at least 20 people were killed when attackers targeted Ghani's running mate Amrullah Saleh as he campaigned in presidential elections.    The incident showed how even amid tight security and known threats, insurgents can conduct brazen attacks.   The issue also goes to the heart of a prospective deal between the US and the Taliban that would see Washington begin to withdraw its approximately 14,000 soldiers from Afghanistan.

The deal relies on the Taliban providing guarantees they will stop jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and IS from using Afghanistan as a safe haven. Saturday's attack suggests any such promise would be tough to keep.   The "Taliban cannot absolve themselves of blame, for they provide platform for terrorists," Ghani said.   Few believe such a deal will bring quick peace.

Many Afghans fear the Taliban could return, eroding hard-won rights for women in particular and leading to a spiralling civil war.   Meanwhile, in the northern province of Balkh, 11 members of the same family were killed when their car hit a roadside bomb, officials said. The provincial governor blamed the Taliban for planting the device.
Date: Sun, 18 Aug 2019 05:28:47 +0200 (METDST)
By Amélie BOTTOLLIER-DEPOIS

Paris, Aug 18, 2019 (AFP) - Seafood lovers who prize the mussel for its earthy taste and succulent flesh may be unaware of its growing potential in the fight against water pollution.   The mussel is the hoover of the sea, taking in phytoplankton for nourishment along with microplastics, pesticides and other pollutants -- which makes it an excellent gauge.

One day, it may also be pressed into service to cleanse water.   "It's a super-filter in the marine world, filtering up to 25 litres of water a day," says marine biologist Leila Meistertzheim.   "It's a real model of bioaccumulation of pollutants generally speaking."   As they pump and filter the water through their gills in order to feed and breathe, mussels store almost everything else that passes through -- which is why strict health rules apply for those destined for human consumption.

Like canaries in a coal mine, mussels have long been used as "bio-indicators" of the health of the seas, lakes and rivers they inhabit.   Little-known pollutants can turn up to join the usual suspects, with increasing attention paid to microplastics containing bisphenol A and phthalates, both thought to be endocrine disruptors.

Meistertzheim heads a study for France's Tara Ocean Foundation using mussels to gauge the health of the estuaries of the Thames, Elba and Seine rivers.   The mussels, placed in fish traps, are submerged in the waters for a month before researchers dissect them to determine what chemical substances lurk in their tissues.   The idea of deploying mussels across the oceans to absorb ubiquitous microplastics is just a dream for now, but for other pollutants, the bivalves are already at work.   "In some places, mussels are used, as well as oysters, to cleanse the sea of pesticides, for example," Meistertzheim notes.

- E. coli busters -
Richard Luthy, an environmental engineer from California's Stanford University, says that, in most cases, mussels harvested from contaminated waters should not be eaten.   But if the contaminant is E. coli, mussels can be thanked for the "removal and inactivation" of the faecal material, he says, calling the service a "public health benefit".   The mussels are edible because they "excrete the bacteria as faeces or mucus," he says.   Mussels living in waterways affected by eutrophication -- often marked by abundant algae -- are also fit for human consumption, researchers say.   The phenomenon is often the result of waste dumped into the waterway containing phosphates and nitrites, such as detergents, fertilisers and sewage.   The nutrients in these substances encourage the proliferation of algae, which in turn starves the water of oxygen, upsetting the ecosystem.

Mussels "recycle" these nutrients by feeding on the algae, says Eve Galimany, a researcher of the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Milford Laboratory who has experimented with mussels in the Bronx River in New York.   The recycling principle is already at work in a pilot project titled Baltic Blue Growth in Sweden, Denmark and the Baltic countries which grows mussels to be fed to animals such as poultry, fish and pigs.   "Eutrophication... is the biggest problem of the Baltic Sea, the most urgent one," says project head Lena Tasse. Mussels "could be part of a solution".   Why feed them to animals if they are safe for humans? Because Baltic mussels are too small to be of interest to seafood lovers, says Tasse, adding: "Swedes like big mussels."

Meanwhile, the jury is still out on the effects of microplastics on human health.   A recent report by WWF said that humans ingest an average of five grammes of microplastics a week -- about the weight of a credit card.   A 2018 study published in the journal Environmental Pollution, based on samples from British coastlines and supermarkets, estimated that every 100 grammes (3.5 ounces) of mussels contained 70 tiny pieces of plastic.   Should we be worried? Meistertzheim thinks not.   "I eat them," she says. "A dish of mussels is not necessarily worse than organic hamburger meat wrapped in plastic."