Cuba is an independent island country situated in the Caribbean. It is the largest of the islands and covers 42,000sq miles. The climate is sub tropical throughout the year with most of the rainfall in
Safety & Security:
The majority of tourists visiting Cuba will have no difficulty but bag snatching and other street crime appears to be increasing. The old Havana area and other major tourist resorts may be particular areas of concern in this regard. On arrival be careful to only use your recognised tour operator. If you are taking a taxi at any stage make sure it is a registered one and not a private vehicle. It is unwise to carry large quantities of money or jewellery away from your hotel and try not to flaunt wealth with your belongings. Pickpockets are too common an occurrence on buses and trains and at train stations so be careful with your essential documents and credit cards. Valuables should not be stored in suitcases when arriving in or departing from Havana as there have been a number of thefts from cases during the time the cases are coming through baggage handling. There is an airport shrink-wrap facility for those departing Havana which reduces the risk of tampering. Remember to carry a photocopy of your main documents (passport, flight tickets etc).
Following a number of serious road accidents involving tourists, you are advised not to use mopeds for travelling around Cuba or in Havana. Also, if you are involved in any accident a police investigation will be required to clear you and this may significantly delay your travel plans. On unlit roads at night there have been a number of accidents associated with roaming cattle (sounds like Ireland!). The traffic moves on the right side of the roads. There is a main highway running the length of the country but many of the country roads are in poor repair.
Local Laws & Customs:
When arriving into Cuba make sure you are not carrying any items which could be considered offensive. Any illicit drug offense is treated very seriously and Cuban law allows for the death penalty to be used under these circumstances. If you require personal medication for your health, make sure it is in original packing and carry a letter from your doctor describing the medication. Never agree to carry any item for another individual and always secure your cases once they are packed. Taking photographs of military or police installations or around harbours, rail and airport facilities is strictly forbidden.
Since 1993 it is now possible to use US dollars for all transactions within Cuba. Remember, there is a 20$ airport departure tax. Certain travellers cheques and credit cards may not be acceptable within Cuba. This is particularly true of American Express cheques and cards but check your situation with the travel operator before departure.
Generally healthcare facilities outside of Havana are limited and many standard medications may not be available. It is important to carry sufficient quantities of any medications which may be required for the duration of your time in Cuba.
Food & Water:
The level of food and water hygiene varies throughout the country and between resorts. On arrival check the hotel cold water supply for the smell of chlorine. If it is not present then use sealed bottled water for both drinking and brushing your teeth throughout your stay. Cans and bottles of drinks are safe but take care to avoid pre-cut fruit. Peel it yourself to make sure it is not contaminated. Food from street vendors should be avoided in most cases. Bivalve shellfish are also a high risk food in many countries and Cuba is no exception in this regard. (Eg Mussels, Oysters, Clams etc)
Malaria & Mosquito Borne Diseases:
Malaria transmission does not occur within Cuba and so prophylaxis is not required. However, a different mosquito borne disease called Dengue has begun to reoccur in the country over the past few years. This viral disease can be very sickening and even progress to death. It is rare for tourists to become infected but avoiding mosquito bites is a wise precaution.
Swimming, Sun & Dehydration:
The extent of the Cuban sun (particular during the summer months (April to October) can be very excessive so make sure your head and shoulders are covered at all times when exposed. Watch children carefully as they will be a significant risk. Drink plenty of fluids to replace what will be lost through perspiration and, unless there is a reason not to,
take extra salt either on your food or in crisps, peanuts etc. Take care if swimming in the Caribbean to stay with others and to listen to local advice. Never swim after a heavy meal or alcohol.
Rabies Risk in Cuba:
This viral disease does occur throughout Cuba and it is essential that you avoid any contact with all warm blooded animals. Dogs, cats and monkeys are the most commonly involved in spreading the disease to humans. Don't pick up a monkey for a photograph! If bitten, wash out the wound, apply an antiseptic and seek urgent medical attention.
Vaccinations for Cuba:
There are no essential vaccines for entry / exit if coming from Ireland. However, for your own personal protection travellers are advised to have cover against the following;
Tetanus (childhood booster)
Typhoid (food & water borne disease)
Hepatitis A (food & water borne disease)
For those planning a longer or more rural trip vaccine cover against conditions like Hepatitis B and Rabies may also need to be considered.
Cuba is becoming a popular destination for tourists and generally most will stay very healthy. However commonsense care against food and water borne disease is essential at all times. Also take care with regard to sun exposure, dehydration and mosquito bites.
Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS
By Katarina SUBASIC
Belgrade, June 18, 2018 (AFP) - "Join us comrade!" tourists are warmly greeted, as they climb into a vintage car that is no longer produced for a visit back in time to a country that no longer exists. As a symbol of the former Yugoslavia, the Yugo car is back in vogue on Belgrade's streets. Like in other places once stranded behind the detested Iron Curtain, the Serbian capital has found a unique way to cater for a surge in interest and even nostalgia for life under communism.
On a three-hour tour, visitors see some of Yugoslavia's most significant sites, seated in one of the once ubiquitous Yugos, ending up at the Museum of History of Yugoslavia which holds dictator Josip Broz Tito's mausoleum. "People come to experience rides in an iconic car and it is something they cannot experience anywhere else in the world actually," Jovana Stojiljkovic, who manages the Yugotour travel agency, told AFP. The last Yugo cars were produced a decade ago, but, says Stojiljkovic, they are still a hit among tourists for the "Rise and Fall of a Nation" tour, on which most clients are foreigners. "It's something similar to a Trabant (East German car) tour in Berlin," she says.
- Made in Yugoslavia -
For vintage car aficionados, Belgrade has a lot to offer, with sightings of American Chryslers or Ford limousines not uncommon. And for the handful of "Made in Yugoslavia" makes of car, thousands still rumble around on Balkans roads more than 25 years after Yugoslavia's collapse. As well as the Yugo, the small Fica and Zastava 101, all produced at the Zastava plant in the central town of Kragujevac, were the pride of communist Yugoslavia.
They were highly popular due to their low price. But the Yugo car was also often the butt of jokes over its design and unreliability. It even appeared in the 1995 Hollywood blockbuster "Die Hard With a Vengeance" with Bruce Willis and Samuel L. Jackson. Now it is tourists from all over the world climbing into the Yugos, which in their heyday were exported from Yugoslavia to 74 countries, including Egypt, India and even the United States. Described by the communist authorities as the "deal of the century" for the US market, the Yugo had only limited success there, however.
- 'View of history' -
When Stojiljkovic was born in 1992, Yugoslavia had already fallen apart in a series of bloody wars and most of its republics were already independent states. But by the age of 25, she had launched a career in preserving the memory of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) and telling its story, coinciding with a wave of "Yugonostalgia" among some for a period viewed as having enjoyed peace and relative prosperity before the onset of the conflicts. Dennis Bertelsen, a 38-year-old Dane on a weekend visit to the city, was among the hundreds of thousands of tourists descending on Belgrade -- it hosted one million last year, 835,000 of whom were from abroad, according to
With his three friends, he said he took the tour "to get a view of the history and what actually had been the development and downfall of Yugoslavia". The itinerary includes passing by the famous Hotel Jugoslavija on the Danube river bank, one of the country's most luxurious at the time. Guests included US presidents Richard Nixon and Jimmy Carter as well as Britain's Queen Elizabeth II. The hotel has been out of service since it was hit in a 1999 NATO bombing campaign to force the then Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic to withdraw his troops from Kosovo but the building still has a mythical status.
- 'Commercialisation' -
Polish student Dominik Wojciechowski came across the tour while researching the Fica car for his photo-art project on so-called Yugonostalgia, a feeling still present in all the countries that emerged after Yugoslavia's collapse, although much less in Croatia where a national sense of being Croat is ultra dominant.
"I am interested in this process of commercialisation of Yugonostalgia and how people today are trying to preserve knowledge of Yugoslavia, while the older generation even (attempts) to return to these times," the 25-year-old said. For him, the most impressive part of the tour was a 30-floor twin tower called Genex, or Western Gates of Belgrade, still among the tallest in the city. "You stand below it and look up how big it is and feel this grandiosity of Yugoslavia and how powerful it was," he said. Most tourists know very little about Yugoslavia, its 22 million people and dictator Tito who led it from the end of World War II until his death in 1980.
A decade later, the federation comprising six republics -- Bosnia, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia -- collapsed in a series of wars that claimed more than 130,000 lives. Although Stojiljkovic never lived in Yugoslavia she said she nevertheless knows a lot about it. "I have heard all the stories from my parents, their friends and the rest of my family, so based on their experience it was a really nice time, they had a good time," she said. And she herself is now the proud owner of two Fica cars, which, she said, was "to show to the rest of the world what they meant to us".
Belgrade, March 20, 2018 (AFP) - Serbian authorities said Tuesday they have launched an initial investigation of some public opponents of vaccination after 12 people, including two children, have died in an outbreak of measles. "The prosecutor's office for high-tech crime is looking into whether there is criminal accountability by a number of public persons, opponents of vaccination of children," the Serbian prosecutors's office said in a statement.
The probe came about after a group of 270 parents last month accused 43 people of "causing panic", including a famous folk singer Jelena Krleusa, a writer and even a doctor who have publicly spoken against vaccination, local media has reported. The prosecutor did not reveal the names of those being investigated. According to Serbia's Institute of Public Health, more than 3,800 cases of measles, including a 15-day-old baby, have been recorded since the beginning of the outbreak in October. The 12 people who died of the disease included two children, aged two and four, the Institute said on its web site.
Earlier this month Serbian Health Minister Zlatibor Loncar urged parents to vaccinate their children, saying "the outbreak of measles would have never happened if they had listened to doctors and not celebrities." The vaccination, including against measles, is mandatory for children in Serbia, but courts have rarely issued fines that are 30,000 to 150,000 dinars (250 to 1,250 euros/$300 to $1,550). Measles has also struck in neighbouring Romania as well as Italy, France, Germany and Greece.
According to the CDC:
World Travel News Headlines
Sydney, Dec 10, 2019 (AFP) - The death toll from New Zealand's White Island volcano eruption rose to six late Tuesday, after an injured person died in an Auckland hospital, police said. "Police can confirm a further person has died following the eruption on Whakaari/White Island, bringing the official toll to six," a police statement said. Eight more people who remain missing are presumed dead after the volcano erupted Monday.
By Andrew BEATTY, with Daniel de Carteret in Gosford
Sydney, Dec 10, 2019 (AFP) - Toxic haze blanketed Sydney Tuesday triggering a chorus of smoke alarms to ring across the city and forcing school children inside, as "severe" weather conditions fuelled deadly bush blazes along Australia's east coast. Fire engines raced office-to-office in the city centre with sirens blaring, as inland bushfires poured smoke laden with toxic particles into commercial buildings. Emergency services responded to an "unprecedented" 500 automatic call-outs inside a few hours according to New South Wales Fire and Rescue's Roger Mentha.
A regional fire headquarters miles from the nearest blazes was itself evacuated while throngs of mask-wearing commuters choked their way through thick acrid air and the organisers of a harbour yacht race declared it was unsafe to proceed. "The smoke from all the fires is just so severe here on the harbour that you just can't see anything, so it's just too dangerous," said spokeswoman Di Pearson of an event that normally foreshadows the famed Sydney-Hobart yacht race. "The vision is just so poor." Some of the city's commuter ferries were also cancelled "due to thick smoke" and school kids were kept inside at breaktime and sent home early as pollution levels soared far above "hazardous" levels.
For weeks the east of the country has been smothered in smoke as drought and climate-fuelled bushfires have burned. But the scale of the problem on Tuesday shocked even hardened residents. Bruce Baker -- an 82-year-old who lives in Gosford, north of Sydney -- said he was skipping his daily morning walk because of the smoke. "This is the worst it's been, for sure," he told AFP. "It dries your throat. Even if you're not asthmatic, you feel it." Authorities recommended that the vulnerable cease outdoor activity altogether and that everyone stay inside as much as possible, although one couple braved the toxic air to get married on the waterfront in front of Sydney Harbour Bridge shrouded in smog.
A cricket match between New South Wales and Queensland also went ahead, despite a barely visible ball. Tuesday had been expected to bring strong winds and high temperatures that made for "severe conditions where embers can be blown ahead of the fire into suburbs and threaten properties." But New South Wales Rural Fire Service said "deteriorating fire conditions have been delayed by a thick blanket of smoke" over the east of the state. As the day developed there were nearly 100 bushfire incidents in the state of New South Wales alone and dozens more in Queensland. Total fire bans were put in place across much of the east of the country and in large parts of western Australia. Temperatures in some inland areas eased past 44 degrees Celsius (111 Fahrenheit).
- The 'big dry' -
To the northwest of Sydney, several fires already burning for weeks have combined to create a "megafire" that has already destroyed 319,000 hectares (788,000 acres) of land, mostly inside national parks. Prime Minister Scott Morrison -- who for weeks has not commented on the smoke haze -- defended his government's handling of the fires and said there were no plans to professionalise the countryside's largely volunteer force. "Our policy is sensible when it comes to addressing and taking action on climate change. Our actions on climate change are getting the results they're intended to get," he said. Morrison's conservative coalition has been criticised by former fire chiefs for failing to heed warnings about climate change. The crisis has been propelled by a prolonged drought that has made vegetation tinder dry.
The Bureau of Meteorology has reported that Australia experienced its driest November on record this year. The "big dry" has left farmers desperate and small towns facing the prospect of running out of water completely. A swathe of the east of the country has seen "rainfall deficiencies" since early 2017 -- almost three years. Many dams in New South Wales are empty and almost all are well below capacity. Firefighters south of Brisbane recently reported 1,000 litres of water were stolen from tanks at their station. Amid the shortage, Tuesday also saw the toughest water restrictions in a decade being introduced for Sydney -- with curbs on everything from hosepipe use to washing cars.
By Allison JACKSON
Sao Paulo, Dec 10, 2019 (AFP) - Gripping the deadly snake behind its jaws, Fabiola de Souza massages its venom glands to squeeze out drops that will save lives around Brazil where thousands of people are bitten every year. De Souza and her colleagues at the Butantan Institute in Sao Paulo harvest the toxin from hundreds of snakes kept in captivity to produce antivenom. It is distributed by the health ministry to medical facilities across the country.
Dozens of poisonous snake species, including the jararaca, thrive in Brazil's hot and humid climate. Nearly 29,000 people were bitten in 2018 and more than 100 died, official figures show. States with the highest rates of snakebite were in the vast and remote Amazon basin where it can take hours to reach a hospital stocked with antivenom. Venom is extracted from each snake once a month in a delicate and potentially dangerous process.
Using a hooked stick, de Souza carefully lifts one of the slithering creatures out of its plastic box and maneuvers it into a drum of carbon dioxide. Within minutes the reptile is asleep. "It's less stress for the animal," de Souza explains. The snake is then placed on a stainless steel bench in the room where the temperature hovers around 27 degrees Celsius (80 degrees Fahrenheit). De Souza has a few minutes to safely extract venom before the snake begins to stir. "It's important to have fear because when people have fear they are careful," she says.
- Antivenom 'crisis' -
The snakes are fed a diet of rats and mice that are raised at the leafy institute and killed before being served up once a month. After milking the snake, de Souza records its weight and length before placing it back in its container. The antivenom is made by injecting small amounts of the poison into horses -- kept by Butantan on a farm -- to trigger an immune response that produces toxin-attacking antibodies.
Blood is later extracted from the hoofed animals and the antibodies harvested to create a serum that will be administered to snakebite victims who might otherwise die. Butantan project manager Fan Hui Wen, a Brazilian, says the institute currently makes all of the country's antivenom -- around 250,000 10-15 millilitre vials per year.
Brazil also donates small quantities of antivenom to several countries in Latin America. There are now plans to sell the life-saving serum abroad to help relieve a global shortage, particularly in Africa. About 5.4 million people are estimated to be bitten by snakes every year, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Between 81,000 and 138,000 die, while many more suffer amputations and other permanent disabilities as a result of the toxin. To cut the number of deaths and injuries, WHO unveiled a plan earlier this year that includes boosting production of quality antivenoms. Brazil is part of the strategy. It could begin to export antivenom as early as next year, Wen says. "There is interest for Butantan to also supply other countries due to the global crisis of antivenom production," she says.
Dec 9, 2019 (AFP) - New Zealand, struck by a deadly volcanic eruption Monday, lies in a zone where Earth's tectonic plates collide, making it a hotspot for earthquakes and volcanic activity. In one of its worst natural disasters, a huge mass of volcanic debris from the eruption of Mount Ruapehu triggered a mudslide in 1953 that washed away a bridge and caused a passenger train to plunge into a river with the loss of 151 lives. After Monday's eruption on New Zealand's White Island, here is a recap of some of the deadliest volcanic eruptions around the world in the past 25 years.
- 2018: Indonesia -
In December the Anak Krakatoa volcano, a small island in the Sunda Strait between Java and Sumatra, erupts and a section of its crater collapses, sliding into the ocean and generating a tsunami. More than 420 people are killed and 7,200 wounded.
- 2018: Guatemala -
The June eruption of the Fuego volcano, about 35 kilometres (22 miles) from the capital, unleashes a torrent of mud and ash that wipes the village of San Miguel Los Lotes from the map. More than 200 people are killed.
- 2014: Japan -
The sudden eruption in September of Mount Ontake, in the central Nagano region, kills more than 60 people in Japan's worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years. The mountain is packed with hikers at the time. In 1991 an eruption of the southwestern Unzen volcano kills 43.
- 2014: Indonesia -
At least 16 people are killed on the island of Sumatra in February by a spectacular eruption of Mount Sinabung, which had lain dormant for 400 years before roaring back to life five months earlier. In 2016 villages are scorched and farmland devastated after another eruption kills seven.
- 2010: Indonesia -
Indonesia's most active volcano, Mount Merapi on Java island, starts a series of explosions in October, eventually killing more than 320 people. An 1930 eruption of the volcano killed 1,300 people and one in 1994 claimed more than 60 lives.
- 2002: DR Congo -
The eruption in July of Mount Nyiragongo in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo destroys the centre of Goma town, along with several residential areas, and kills more than 100 people.
- 1997: Montserrat -
The capital of the small British colony, Plymouth, is wiped off the map and 20 are killed or left missing in avalanches of hot rock and ash clouds when its volcano erupts in June.
- 1995: The Philippines -
At least 70 are killed and another 30 missing after the crater of the Parker volcano in the south of the island of Mindanao collapses. Five years earlier the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, 80 kilometres north of the capital Manila, kills more than 800 people.
- Worst ever -
The explosion of Indonesia's Krakatoa volcano in 1883 is considered the worst ever seen. The eruption sent a jet of ash, stones and smoke shooting more than 20 kilometres (12 miles) into the sky, plunging the region into darkness, and sparking a huge tsunami that was felt around the world. The disaster killed more than 36,000 people.
The most famous eruption in history is that of Mount Vesuvius in modern-day Italy in 79 AD, which destroyed the towns of Herculaneum, Stabiae and Pompeii, wiping out an estimated 10 percent of the population of the three cities.
There were more human cases than animal ones in that outbreak, prompting Mod.AS to comment: "Unfortunately, during the recent South Sudan RVF event, as in most -- if not all -- previous RVF events in other African countries, humans served as sentinels. Improved surveillance in animals is desperately needed in Africa, to allow timely measures applied, predominantly preventive vaccination, before the development of a full-blown epizootic involving secondary infection in humans." Intensified surveillance is needed in South Sudan in those localities where the affected man had been prior to his return to Uganda.
A map showing the location of Edmonton can be found at
<https://goo.gl/maps/Rfq6XC2vvwi19ypb6>. - ProMED Mod.ML]
Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Over 635,000 Rohingya refugees and Bangladeshi host community will be vaccinated against cholera in a 3-week-long campaign beginning today at the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar and nearby areas, to protect vulnerable population against the deadly disease amidst increasing number of cases of acute watery diarrhoea (AWD).
The Oral Cholera Vaccination (OCV) campaign will be implemented in the refugee camps from 8-14 December to reach 139,888 Rohingya aged 1 year and less than 5 years. In the host community, the campaign will take place from 8-31 December and aims to reach any person older than 1 year (495,197). In total, 635,085 people are expected to be reached.
Led by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, with support of the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and other partners, the campaign aims to reach people who missed some or all previous cholera vaccination opportunities. The campaign, including operational costs, is funded by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance.
“We want to equip these populations with more protection against diarrheal diseases. Despite the progresses made to ensure access to quality water and sanitation, such diseases remain an issue of concern: approximately 80% of host community living near the camps have not been targeted in previous OCV campaigns and are still vulnerable”, says Dr Bardan Jung Rana, WHO Representative in Bangladesh.
Earlier rounds of cholera vaccination, which have taken place since the beginning of the emergency response in 2017, have helped prevent outbreaks of the disease. To this date, over 1 million people were vaccinated against cholera.
Heavy rain has led to rivers bursting their banks, forcing the closure of shops and restaurants
Streets in the South Island tourist towns of Wanaka and Queenstown were slowly going under water on Friday, after Lake Wanaka and Lake Wakatipu burst their banks earlier in the week, flooding businesses and sewerage systems.
Water and large debris closed the main street of Wanaka, a popular spot with Instagrammers thanks to its famous tree that appears to have grown out of the lake. On Friday businesses were sandbagging as heavy rain continued to fall.
Sewerage systems in the town were also at risk of contaminating the lake, with the Queenstown Lakes District council taking the precautionary measure of shutting down the sewer connection to a handful of premises.
Wanaka residents were told to be on “high alert” with heavy rain predicted all weekend.
The streets of the usually bustling tourist town were largely empty, and the popular cafes and restaurants on the lake shore were closed.