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Sao Toma and Principe

Sao Tome and Principe US Consular Information Sheet
August 15, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
São Tomé and Príncipe is a developing nation, comprising the islands of São Tomé and Príncipe, located off the western coast of central Africa.<
R />Facilities for tourism are limited, but adequate.
Read the Department of State Background São Tomé and Príncipe for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry.
Visas must be obtained in advance.
Travelers can obtain visas and the latest information on entry requirements from the Permanent Mission of São Tomé and Príncipe to the UN, 400 Park Ave., 7th Floor, New York, NY
10022, telephone (212) 317-0533, fax (212) 317-0580.
Travelers transiting through Gabon can also obtain visas and the latest information on entry requirements from the São Tomé and Príncipe Embassy to Gabon, B.P. 49, Libreville, Gabon, telephone (241) 72-15-27, fax (241) 72-15-28.
Overseas, inquiries should be made at the nearest São Toméan and Príncipian embassy or consulate.

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

SAFETY AND SECURITY:
Americans should maintain security awareness at all times.
There have been recent, isolated incidents of civil unrest in the capital city.
Large gatherings or any other events where crowds have congregated to demonstrate or protest should be avoided.

Americans may contact the U.S. Embassy in Gabon for the most up-to-date information on safety and security.
The Embassy informs the registered resident U.S citizen community of security matters through a warden system (please see the Registration/Embassy Location section below for more information).

In the event of a fire, dial 112 on the telephone.
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:
Crimes such as burglary, pick-pocketing and armed robberies in homes do occur on the islands, particularly around the winter holidays.
Such crimes can occur anywhere, but are more prevalent in public places, such as in markets, on the streets, or near hotels.
Do not display large amounts of cash in public.
If possible, leave valuables and extra cash at your hotel while sightseeing or visiting the beach.
When dining in restaurants or visiting markets, it is recommended that one carry only minimal amounts of cash and avoid wearing excessive amounts of jewelry.
If involved in an attempted robbery or carjacking, Americans are encouraged to comply with the attacker to avoid injury and to report all incidents to the police and the U.S. Embassy in Libreville.
Police response time to reports of crime can be slow.

While scams and confidence schemes are not common, travelers should exercise caution.
The prevalence of sexual assault is low, and no specific groups seem to be targets for victimization.

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

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in São Tomé and Príncipe to reach the police is 22-22-22.
See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities in São Tomé and Príncipe are extremely limited.
There is one hospital in the country, on the island of São Tomé, and several foreign-run clinics.
However, the level of care is low.
For all but minor medical needs, it is necessary to travel to Libreville (Gabon), Lisbon (Portugal), or elsewhere.
Additionally, some medicines are not available; travelers should carry properly labeled required medicines and medications with them.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of São Tomé and Príncipe.

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 São Tomé and Príncipe is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Streets in the city of São Tomé are paved, but large potholes are common.
Major roads outside of town are also paved.
Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and animals on the roads can be a major hazard.
Outside of the city of São Tomé, there are no sidewalks or shoulders along the side of roads.
In rural areas outside of the capital city, drivers are expected to honk the car’s horn periodically as a warning signal of their approach.
There is no street lighting outside of the capital.
Some roads may be impassable without a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

Only a few miles of improved roads exist on the island of Príncipe; the conditions are similar to those found on São Tomé.
Although taking taxis is fairly safe, it is advisable to rent a car instead.
If you must take a taxi, exercise caution, and negotiate the rate before entering the taxi.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in São Tomé and Príncipe, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed São Tomé and Príncipe’s Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
São Tomé and Príncipe is a lusophone country; travelers who do not speak Portuguese may face difficulties associated with the language barrier.

Americans should always carry identification with them in the event they are stopped by police.

Taking photographs of military or government buildings is strictly forbidden.
São Tomé and Príncipe is largely a cash economy.
Credit cards are accepted at only a few major hotels.
Travelers’ checks can be cashed or dollars exchanged for dobra at hotels and at one private bank in São Tomé city, but transaction fees can be high.
U.S. dollars are widely accepted at tourist establishments.

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 São Toméan and Príncipian laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in São Tomé and Príncipe 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:
Although there is no U.S. Embassy in São Tomé and Príncipe, the U.S. Embassy in Libreville, Gabon is also accredited to São Tomé and Príncipe and can provide assistance to Americans there.
All Americans in São Tomé and Príncipe are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Gabon through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within São Tomé and Príncipe.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
By registering, Americans make it easier for the Embassy or Consulate to contact them in case of emergency.

The U.S. Embassy is located in downtown Libreville on the Boulevard du Bord de Mer.
The mailing address is Centre Ville, B.P. 4000, Libreville, Gabon.
The telephone numbers are (241) 76-20-03 or (241) 76-20-04.
The fax numbers are (241) 74-55-07 or (241) 76-88-49 and the web site is http://libreville.usembassy.gov/.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information dated November 8, 2007 to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Safety and Security, Crime, Information for Victims of Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Traffic Safety and Road Conditions, Special Circumstances, and Registration/Embassy Location.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue, 12 Dec 2017 02:47:28 +0100
By Caroline CHAUVET

Sao Tome, Sao Tome and Principe, Dec 12, 2017 (AFP) - A big roadside poster announces a "Pest Control Campaign" in Sao Tome and Principe, with a man in a white face mask wielding an insecticide spray fuelled by a tank on his back.   The island nation in the Gulf of Guinea is at war against malaria, as it has been twice a year since 2003, with such success that the disease no longer routinely claims lives.   In mainland central Africa, the incidence of malaria spread by infected female mosquitos is among the highest rates in the world.

Malaria killed some 445,000 people around the planet in 2016, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), out of 216 million estimated cases that year.   "Our last death was in 2016. It was a Portuguese man who failed to take measures for prevention and treatment," said Hamilton Nascimento, coordinator of the National Programme to Fight Paludism (PNLP) in Sao Tome.   In 2005, malaria claimed more than 5,000 lives out of about 50,000 infected people in Sao Tome and Principe, according to the WHO.   The humid tropical climate of the islands provides an ideal breeding ground for the female mosquitos that carry the parasitic infection from one person to another with their bloodsucking bites.

- National priority -
Yet since 2014, the number of deaths has fallen to none on Sao Tome, apart from the Portuguese victim. On Principe, lying to the north, malaria has been eradicated, in official terms.   The government wants to wipe it out everywhere by 2025, but the WHO has warned that a sizeable part of future funding is at risk.   The battle against a once endemic disease began as a national priority in the 1980s, in the wake of independence from Portugal in 1975, Nascimento told AFP.

The islands of Sao Tome and Principe, which have a combined land surface of 1,000 square kilometres (386 square miles), benefit from their offshore location west of Gabon and from a small population of less than 200,000 inhabitants.   "We have three strategies: spraying inside houses, distributing mosquito nets impregnated (with insecticide) and the fight against larvae using a biological insecticide that we spread in stagnant waters," Nascimento said.   The population of Sao Tome also has access to free medication to treat malaria and to testing campaigns nationwide. If a case of malaria is detected, "the hospital follows up the patient for 28 days," he added.   "Sick people are given free care by the health centres and medicine is
accessible everywhere in the country."

For all the successes in tackling a disease that has no available vaccine and is prone to mutate, residents of the islands have begun to grow weary of the repeated campaigns.   "The number of people who open their doors to the mosquito sprayers has gone down," Health Minister Maria Jesus Trovoada said, concerned that this refusal to take part "puts all the efforts of the government in peril".   Authorities in Sao Tome and Principe have been clear about their desire to reduce dependence on foreign aid, which accounts for about 90 percent of the nation's resources, and the battle with malaria is part of that goal.   At the end of the 1980s and again in 2012-2013, the disease ravaged the country because of a shortfall in funding and spreading resistance to insecticides, Hamilton said.   "We must often -- about every 10 years -- change the insecticide, because the mosquitos develop resistance," he explained.

- Funding cuts? -
While the government recently stepped up its contribution, the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, a foundation partnered with the WHO, finances most measures to beat the disease on the islands.   The grant from the Global Fund may be slashed by more than 50 percent, the WHO warned in a recent report. Sao Tome and Principe would then "need more or less $5 million (4.2 million euros) between 2018 and 2021 to go on getting good results".   "The impact of lack of funding is unknown. However, if current efforts to control malaria have to be reduced due to lack of funds a high risk of a relapse exists," Rebekka Ott, the Global Fund representative on Sao Tome, told AFP.

The foundation is also concerned about Sao Tome's cutting of diplomatic ties with Taiwan at the end of 2016 in order to develop relations with China. Taiwan previously paid more than 30 percent of the cost of fighting malaria.   China, whose flag has already been mounted at the National Centre for Endemics, is expected to take up the baton, but by providing "technical assistance" rather than financial aid.   Whatever the obstacles, the WHO announced in April 2016 that 21 countries in the world may eliminate malaria by 2020. Six of those nations are in Africa: Algeria, Botswana, Cape Verde, Comoros, Swaziland and South Africa.
Date: Wed 8 Feb 2017
From: Raquel Tavares <raquelmrtavares@gmail.com> [edited]
[Re: ProMED-mail posts Buruli ulcer - Sao Tome and Principe
http://promedmail.org/post/20170208.4824961 and http://promedmail.org/post/20170210.4830051]
----------------------------------------------------------------------
In March 2016 we started following a patient from Sao Tome with severe leg ulcer, complicated with bacterial infection and extension to bone. In December 2016, an _Aspergillus fumigatus_ DNA was found in a bone biopsy. The patient has improved since, with anti-fungal therapy (first with itraconazole and in the last 2 months changed to voriconazole). I think this is a possible aetiology. It was a very difficult diagnosis, because normal fungal cultures were negative. We also did DNA and culture for _Mycobacterium ulcerans_ and it was negative.
------------------
Raquel Tavares,
MD Infectious Diseases Specialist
Hospital Beatriz Angelo
Loures Portugal
raquelmrtavares@gmail.com
Date: Fri 3 Feb 2017 13:46 CET
Source: L'Express, Agence France-Presse (AFP) [in French, machine trans., edited]
<http://goo.gl/DUrF3d>

A disease of unknown origin, manifested by a violent cutaneous ulcer, torments the inhabitants of Sao Tome. 1094 cases have been registered since October [2016] among a population of less than 200,000 inhabitants, the health authorities of the small African archipelago announced this [Fri 3 Feb 2017]. The authorities have requested support from the World Health Organization (WHO), which has sent a Benin specialist in Buruli ulcer.
=======================
Dr Irene Lai International SOS
irene.lai@internationalsos.com
=======================
[ProMED-mail thanks Irene Lai for submitting the news report above. Sao Tome, with a population of 56,945 residents, is the capital city of the island nation of Sao Tome and Pri­ncipe, in the Gulf of Guinea, off the western equatorial coast of Central Africa. (<https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sao_Tome>). Buruli ulcer (also known as the Bairnsdale ulcer in Australia) is a chronic skin and soft tissue infection due to _Mycobacterium ulcerans_ with large ulcers usually on the legs or arms that can lead to adjacent bone infection and permanent disfigurement and disability.

Buruli ulcer is named after a county in Uganda. _M. ulcerans_ needs a temperature between 29-33 deg C (84.2-91.4) to grow in vitro (<http://jcm.asm.org/content/36/11/3420.full>). The organism produces a unique toxin -- mycolactone, which causes tissue damage and inhibits the immune response. Local immunosuppressive properties of the mycolactone toxin enable the disease to progress with no pain and fever.

The diagnosis can be confirmed by polymerase chain reaction (PCR), direct microscopy, histopathology, and culture. Buruli ulcer has been reported in over 30 countries usually with tropical climates in Africa, South America, Asia, and Western Pacific regions, as well as Australia. Countries in West and Central Africa -- Benin, Cameroon, Cote d'Ivoire, Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghana -- report the majority of cases. In Africa, most cases occur in children under 15 years, whereas in Australia, only 10 per cent are children under 15 years; and in Japan, 19 per cent are children under 15 years.

_M. ulcerans_ has been identified in fresh and brackish water and soil in swampy areas. Abrasions of the skin after contact with contaminated water, soil, or vegetation are likely routes of entry. _M. ulcerans_ is not believed to be transmitted from person to person; but the exact mode of transmission is unknown and may vary by geographic region. Vectors, in particular aquatic insects and mosquitoes, may also play a role in some locations.

In south-eastern coastal Australia, possums, which have laboratory-confirmed _M. ulcerans_ skin lesions and/or _M. ulcerans_ PCR-positive faeces, may be a reservoir (ProMED-mail post Buruli ulcer - Australia: (VI) M. ulcerans, possum faeces http://promedmail.org/post/20140913.2771412).

Buruli ulcer has been reported to develop in travellers at the site of a trauma after having left a disease-endemic area. 80 per cent of cases detected early can be cured with a combination of antibiotics; however, late diagnosis can result in long and costly hospitalizations with significant morbidity and disability.

Medical treatment is rifampin, combined with either streptomycin, clarithromycin, or moxifloxacin for 8 weeks, in addition to surgical wound management.

Pictures of Buruli ulcers can be seen at (<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XCQ67NGmytI>). - ProMED Mod.ML]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/63>.]
Date: Thu, 5 Jan 2006 From: ProMED-mail Source: Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) [edited] In response to a cholera outbreak that struck Sao Tome and Principe in Oct 2005, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA) is helping to control the outbreak by distributing disinfectants among the community, as well as promoting improved health and sanitation practices through campaigns that teach villagers how to prevent the transmission of this contagious disease. ADRA has organized an awareness campaign among 50 rural community groups targeting 1000 women, focusing primarily on the districts of MeZochi and Caue. With this training, the women become health promoters in their communities, teaching other people the same health and hygiene practices they have been taught. Each woman will receive training on how cholera is transmitted, how it can be treated, and how to prevent it. They will also receive bottles of lye, which they will use to safely disinfect water, food, and any other potential contaminant. In addition, ADRA will distribute 10 health education leaflets to each woman; one for her personal use, and 9 additional leaflets to share among her community. ADRA will also perform a theatre play that will be performed in 24 communities to educate the community on the cholera outbreak. As of 1 Jan 2006, nearly 30 people have succumbed to the disease, since the outbreak began 3 months ago, out of an estimated 1849 severe cases that have been reported since its inception.
Date: Tue, 20 Dec 2005 From: ProMED-mail Source: XinHuaNet.com [edited] The 2-month-old cholera epidemic sweeping Sao Tome and Principe shows no sign of letup, having claimed 5 more lives and doubling the number of reported cases. According to reports reaching here on Mon, 19 Dec 2005, the spokesman for the national committee overseeing the anti-cholera campaign, Jose Manuel de Carvalho, said that 5 more people had died from the disease in the preceding 2 weeks for a total of 25 fatalities. In the same period, de Carvalho added, the number of cases more than doubled to 1374 from 650. The outer island of Principe has so far been spared. He repeated government appeals for increased attention to personal and public hygiene to help staunch the highly infectious disease. Last week, a riot erupted in the archipelago's capital when a police officer tried to enforce a ban on the sale of street food at a Sao Tome market.
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Cook Islands

No Profile is available at present

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

8 Aug 2019

Dengue-type1 outbreak was declared on the 27 Feb 2019 following a laboratory (NZLabPlus) confirmation of 7 dengue type 1 cases. From 28 Jan-4 Aug 2019, a cumulative number of 78 dengue cases have been reported (22 confirmed, and 56 probable-NS1Ag positives). Rarotonga and Aitutaki are the only islands affected and most of the cases have been from the main island of Rarotonga. Aitutaki has managed to contain its number of cases to 3. The last case was reported on 18 Apr 2019. A total of 42 cases have been hospitalised and given free mosquito nets to take and use at home. Apart from some severe cases, the hospitalisation was also an effort to contain and minimise the spread of the infection into the community. Unfortunately, some cases refused to be admitted but were given some health advice and mosquito precautionary measures. No deaths reported.

- Cook Islands. 17 Aug 2019. 78 dengue cases have been reported in Cook Islands since the outbreak began early in the year [2019]. The Cook Islands News reports the Ministry of Health saying 22 were confirmed cases while 56 have been deemed probable positives.

HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Cook Islands:
- Cook Islands. 12 Apr 2019

As of Wednesday [10 Apr 2019], the Ministry for Health has 18 confirmed and 12 probable dengue fever cases. This is a total of 30 cases compared to 24 previously identified.
Date: Thu, 2 Jul 2015 05:34:35 +0200 (METDST)

Wellington, July 2, 2015 (AFP) - Airport authorities in the Cook Islands on Thursday warned thrill seekers to stay away from their runway's jet blast zone after three tourists were injured when a plane was taking off.   The main road in the tiny Pacific nation passes by the bottom of the runway and daring plane-spotters often stand in the wash of jet engines, clinging to the airport's fence as aircraft hit maximum thrust for ascent.   "If you don't hang onto anything, you'll be knocked over," Cook Islands Airport Authority chief executive Joe Ngamata told AFP.   "You get the young people and tourists looking for thrills going down there."

Ngamata said three tourists were blown over by the power of the jet blast last Thursday and were lucky to only receive cuts and bruises.   "It can be dangerous," he said, adding that the area was clearly marked with red danger signs to deter the practice.    "We might need to look at extra barriers or fences to keep people away."   However, stopping it may be difficult, with the national tourism authority including the jet blast in a recent marketing video showing "the top 10 reasons to come to the Cook Islands".
Date: Tue 1 Apr 2014
From: Dr Alyssa Pyke <Alyssa.Pyke@health.qld.gov.au> [edited]

A female patient in Townsville, Queensland, Australia has been diagnosed with Zika virus infection following a recent trip to the Cook Islands, where the virus is currently circulating. A serum sample collected in March 2014 was positive by 2 separate Zika virus TaqMan real-time RT-PCRs and a pan-Flavivirus RT-PCR. Nucleotide sequencing and phylogenetics revealed 99.1 per cent homology with a previous Cambodia 2010 sequence within the Asian lineage. Flavivirus IgG and IgM antibodies were also detected in the serum sample.

This is the 1st known imported case of Zika virus infection into northern Queensland, where the potential mosquito vector _Aedes aegypti_ is present, and only the 2nd such case diagnosed within Australia.
----------------------------------------------------
Dr Alyssa Pyke
Public Health Virology
Forensic and Scientific Services
Coopers Plains, Queensland
Australia
==============================
[As of 25 Mar 2014, there were 49 confirmed cases of Zika virus infection in the Cook Islands, the source of the virus in the case above. Concern for Zika virus introduction into northern Queensland where vector mosquitoes are present is a serious concern. Transport of this virus by viremic individuals has been the mechanism for its introduction into several Pacific islands. Dengue viruses have been introduced into Townsville, northern Queensland, by infected individuals and started small outbreaks there. Since that has happened with dengue viruses, it can happen with Zika virus as well.

ProMED thanks Alyssa Pyke for sending in this report.

A HealthMap showing the location of Queensland state can be accessed
at <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/285>, and the Cook Islands at
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/4035>. - ProMed Mod.TY]
Date: Tue 25 Mar 2014
Source: Radio New Zealand [edited]

There are now 49 confirmed cases of Zika virus [infection] in the Cook Islands, and as many as 630 people are believed to have suffered from the mosquito-borne disease.

Last month [February 2014], health authorities 1st thought they were dealing with dengue fever, but the 1st batch of test results confirmed 18 cases of Zika [virus infection].

The Director of Community Health Services, Dr Rangi Fariu, says further results from French Polynesia, where the disease 1st broke out in the region, take the number to 49.

He says scientists there are still determining the exact nature of the strain. "Tahiti just asked for those who were already shown positive; they wanted more samples to find out if the Zika [virus] strain that we have here is similar to the one that they have in Tahiti."

Dr Rangi Fariu says doctors have reported about 630 cases of suspected Zika virus [infection] in the Cook Islands and says the real number would be much higher.
========================
[This is the 1st report of Zika virus infections in the Cook Islands. The virus has been circulating in the islands of French Polynesia, New Caledonia and Easter Island. Although the distances between these islands is significant, the virus is being moved by viraemic people who travel between them. One can expect further spread to localities where there are populations of vector mosquitoes that can initiate new outbreaks. Zika virus is a flavivirus. Symptoms of Zika fever may include fever, headache, red eyes, rash, muscle aches, and joint pains. The illness is usually mild and lasts 4-7 days. No fatalities caused by Zika virus infection have been reported.

A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map showing the location of the Cook Islands in the Pacific can be accessed at
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World Travel News Headlines

Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 11:08:10 +0200 (METDST)

Manila, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Parents lined up from sunrise holding sleeping infants as the Philippines launched a campaign on Monday to vaccinate millions of children against polio, which has re-emerged nearly two decades after the nation's last cases.   Years of falling vaccination rates, made worse by the botched rollout of a dengue vaccine, culminated in an outbreak of the preventable disease in September.   "This is for the welfare of my child," Ruth Miranda told AFP after the vaccine was squirted into her child's mouth at the Manila slum they call home.

Miranda's child is among scores who are unprotected in the capital of about 13 million people, where vaccination rates of young children plunged from 77 percent in 2016 to a mere 24 percent in June.   The atmosphere at the event in Manila was festive -- with ice cream vendors and music -- but the stakes for the campaign are high.

Polio, which can cause paralysis and can be fatal in rare cases, has no cure and can only be prevented with several doses of oral and injectable vaccines.   Two cases were detected in September, the first polio infections in the Philippines since 2001, adding to the woes of a country already hit by deadly measles and dengue epidemic.   The risk of the disease spreading within the Philippines is high, according to World Health Organization, due to low immunisation coverage partly blamed to a dengue vaccine scandal.

The Philippines was the first nation to use Dengvaxia in a mass programme in 2016, but a botched rollout led to claims that children had died after being vaccinated.   A dramatic drop in vaccine confidence followed, with trust plunging from 93 percent in 2015 to 32 percent in 2018, according to a study led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.   The Philippines polio outbreak has been traced back to the weakened form of the virus used in vaccines, which is excreted by people for a time after they receive it.   According to the WHO, that form can mutate and spread in the surrounding community when immunisation rates get too low.
Date: Mon, 14 Oct 2019 10:25:38 +0200 (METDST)
By Shingo ITO, Sara HUSSEIN

Tokyo, Oct 14, 2019 (AFP) - Tens of thousands of rescue workers in Japan battled on Monday to find survivors of a powerful typhoon that killed at least 43 people, as fresh rain threatened to hamper efforts.   Typhoon Hagibis crashed into the country on Saturday night, unleashing high winds and torrential rain across 36 of the country's 47 prefectures, and triggering landslides and catastrophic flooding.   "Even now, many people are still unaccounted for in the disaster-hit area," Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told an emergency disaster meeting on Monday.   "Units are trying their best to search for and rescue them, working day and night," Abe said.

But even as rescuers, including troops, combed through debris, the country's weather agency forecast rain in central and eastern Japan that it warned could cause further flooding and new landslides.   "I would like to ask people to stay fully vigilant and continue watching for landslides and river flooding," Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told a news conference.   In Nagano, one of the worst-hit regions, rain was already falling and was expect to intensify.   "We are concerned about the impact of the latest rain on rescue and recovery efforts," local official Hiroki Yamaguchi told AFP.   "We will continue operations while watching out for secondary disasters due to the current rain."

- 43 dead, 16 missing: NHK -
By late Monday afternoon, national broadcaster NHK said the toll had risen to 43 dead, with 16 others missing and over 200 people injured. The government gave lower figures but was continuing to update its information.   The dead included a municipal worker whose car was overcome by floodwaters and at least seven crew from a cargo ship that sank in Tokyo Bay on Saturday night, a coast guard spokesman said.   Four others, from China, Myanmar and Vietnam, were rescued when the boat sank and the coast guard was still searching for a last crew member.   While Hagibis, one of the most powerful storms to hit the Tokyo area in decades, packed wind gusts of up to 216 kilometres (134 miles) per hour, it was the heavy rains that caused most damage.

A total of 142 rivers flooded, mainly in eastern and northern Japan, with river banks collapsing in two dozen places, local media said.   In central Nagano, a levee breach sent water from the Chikuma river gushing into residential neighbourhoods, flooding homes up to the second floor.   As water slowly receded Monday, television footage showed patients being transferred by ambulance from a Nagano hospital where some 200 people had been cut off by flooding.   Elsewhere, rescuers used helicopters to winch survivors from roofs and balconies, or steered boats through muddy waters to reach those trapped.

- Japan dedicates rugby win to victims -
By Monday afternoon, some 75,900 households remained without power, with 120,000 experiencing water outages.   The disaster left tens of thousands of people in shelters, with many unsure when they would be able to return home.   "Everything from my house was washed away before my eyes, I wasn't sure if it was a dream or real," a woman in Nagano told NHK.   "I feel lucky I'm still alive."   The storm brought travel chaos over the holiday weekend, grounding flights and halting commuter and bullet train services.

By Monday, most subway trains had resumed service, along with many bullet train lines, and flights had also restarted.   The storm also brought havoc to the sporting world, forcing the delay of Japanese Grand Prix qualifiers and the cancellation of three Rugby World Cup matches.   But a crucial decider pitting Japan against Scotland went ahead, with the hosts dedicating their stunning 28-21 win to the victims of the disaster.   "To everyone that's suffering from the typhoon, this game was for you guys," said Japan captain Michael Leitch.
Date: Sun, 13 Oct 2019 23:31:57 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, Oct 13, 2019 (AFP) - Doctors will use a second Ebola vaccine from November in three eastern provinces in the Democratic Republic of Congo to fight the deadly virus, medical officials said Sunday.   "It's time to use the new Ad26-ZEBOV-GP vaccine, manufactured by Johnson & Johnson's Belgian subsidiary," said Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe, who leads the national anti-Ebola operation in the DRC.    It will arrive in the eastern city of Goma, in North Kivu province, on October 18 and be used from the beginning of next month, he added.   DRC's latest Ebola epidemic, which began in August 2018, has killed 2,144 people, making it the second deadliest outbreak of the virus, after the West Africa pandemic of 2014-2016.

Muyembe said the communes of Majingo and Kahembe had been selected to receive the vaccine as they were considered the epicentres of the epidemic.   "We will extend this vaccination to our small traders who often go to Rwanda to protect our neighbours," he added.   "If it works well, we will expand vaccination in South Kivu and Ituri."   DR Congo's eastern provinces of Ituri, North Kivu and South Kivu sit on the borders with Uganda, Rwanda and Burundi.   The Belgian laboratory will send a batch of 200,000 doses to neighbouring Rwanda and 500,000 doses in the DRC, Muyembe said.   More than 237,000 people living in active Ebola transmission zones have received a vaccination produced by the pharma company Merck Sharpe and Dohme since August 8, 2018. 

The J&J vaccine had been rejected by DRC's former health minister Oly Ilunga, who cited the risks of introducing a new product in communities where mistrust of Ebola responders is already high.   But Ilunga's resignation in July appears to have paved the way for approval of the second vaccine. He currently faces charges that he embezzled funds intended for the fight against Ebola.   In his letter of resignation Ilunga said "actors who have demonstrated a lack of ethics" want to introduce a second vaccine, but did not elaborate.    Muyembe, who took over the Ebola fight in the DRC in July, said "The Johnson & Johnson vaccine has the most science-based data."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 20:02:59 +0200 (METDST)
By Robbie COREY-BOULET

Addis Ababa, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - A palace that once housed Ethiopia's emperors and also served as a torture site under the communist Derg regime is to open to the public in a controversial government tourism project.    The palace compound in Addis Ababa, which Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed's government has rebranded "Unity Park", was formally launched Thursday and will be open from Friday.    Abiy's office said on Twitter Thursday that the project "symbolises our ability to come together".

But critics have dismissed it as vanity project for Abiy that could prove divisive.   Backed by the United Arab Emirates, the project cost more than $160 million (145 million euros), Ethiopian officials told reporters at a briefing earlier this week.    Built in the late 1800s by Emperor Menelik II, who founded Addis Ababa, the palace was the residence of Ethiopia's rulers for more than a century.   Abiy himself does not live there, and it has seen little activity in recent years.    Abiy's advisers say he has taken a keen interest in transforming the palace into a tourist attraction since coming to power in April 2018 -- visiting the site every day in recent weeks to monitor progress.

The government's "Home-Grown Economic Reform" agenda, unveiled last month, describes tourism as a primary engine of potential job creation.    On Thursday, government officials and the diplomatic corps toured the expansive site before attending a banquet that was expected to draw five regional heads of state and other dignitaries.    The restored rooms feature items like Menelik's sword and a life-size wax replica of former Emperor Haile Selassie, who lived at the palace and was then etained there after the Derg overthrew him in 1974.

The site also includes a sculpture garden with installations representing Ethiopia's nine regions, and a zoo is expected to open by the end of the year.    Aklilu Fikresilassie, an Ethiopian employee of the United Nations who attended the launch Thursday, said he was "really fascinated" to set foot inside a place that had been closed to the public his entire life.    "For us it's like a government house, so now when you enter that palace it tells you that we are getting somehow closer to our leaders," he said.

But not everyone is convinced the palace will succeed in bringing Ethiopians together.   In a country grappling with ethnic divisions, some worry that the palace could alienate ethnic Oromos who contend that their ancestors were forced off their land when Addis Ababa was built.    Journalist and former political prisoner Eskinder Nega said the renovations were undertaken "without consultation from the public", which he called "a huge mistake."    "This is all about heritage, about preserving heritage. The people should have had a say in it," he said.    "Like everything else this was decided from the top and implemented only by the decision of the prime minister."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 13:13:57 +0200 (METDST)

Hanoi, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Selfie-snapping tourists railed against the closure of Hanoi's 'train street' on Thursday after police blocked off the Instragram-famous tracks for safety reasons.   The narrow railway corridor in central Hanoi has become a hotspot among visitors seeking the perfect holiday snap on the tracks -- often dodging trains that rumble through daily.    But Hanoi authorities said this week they would block people from the tracks to avoid accidents, and police on Thursday erected barricades to keep out disappointed visitors.    "I'm very frustrated because today I can't go in and take a picture," Malaysian tourist Mustaza bin Mustapha told AFP, vowing to come back later.

Dozens of other tourists were turned away, though some managed to get onto still-open sections of the railway, moving out of the way as an afternoon train chugged past.    Built by former colonial rulers, the railway once shipped goods and people across France's former Indochina colony and remains in use today by communist Vietnam's state-run railway company.    The stretch of the tracks was once known as a rough part of town, occupied by drug users and squatters until their recent discovery by camera-wielding holidaymakers who have splashed images of the area across social media.

Cafe owners complained that business would be hurt thanks to the new regulations, and that tourists always moved out of the way for oncoming trains.   "There has never been any regretful accidents here," said Le Tuan Anh, who runs a cafe from his home along the tracks.   "Compared to traffic density elsewhere in the city, this is much safer," he said, referring to Hanoi's chaotic, motorbike-clogged streets.   New signs were installed in the area Thursday, warning passersby not to take photos or videos in the "dangerous area", much to the chagrin of British tourist Harriet Hayes.   "People come from all over the world to Hanoi just to see the train go past," she told AFP.   "It's such a shame that we come and have been told that we have to leave."
Date: Thu, 10 Oct 2019 06:51:42 +0200 (METDST)
By Holly ROBERTSON

Sydney, Oct 10, 2019 (AFP) - Large numbers of tourists are rushing to scale Uluru -- also known as Ayers Rock -- ahead of a looming ban on climbing a site sacred to indigenous Australians.   Photographs of hundreds of people clambering up the giant red monolith have provoked a social media backlash, with critics lashing as "ignorant" those going against the wishes of the traditional Aboriginal owners of the land, the Anangu.   "A mass of morally and ethically bankrupt people," indigenous woman Laura McBride tweeted alongside an image showing a queue of people snaking up the side of Uluru.    "One even hiking a toddler up, teaching the next generation how to be ignorant."   "Imagine rushing to climb Uluru before it closes just so you could brag about disrespecting the oldest living culture in the world," tweeted National Indigenous Television journalist Madeline Hayman-Reber, who called the scenes "embarrassing".

Officials say the ban, which comes into effect on October 26, is intended to show respect for cultural practices, protect the site from further environmental damage and to ensure visitors' safety.    More than 395,000 people visited the Uluru-Kata National Park in the 12 months to June 2019, according to Parks Australia, about 20 percent more than the previous year. Around 13 percent of those who visited during that period made the climb, park authorities said.    More recent figures are not available but Tourism Central Australia CEO Stephen Schwer said there had been a "significant jump" in the number of people visiting in recent weeks, with the period leading up to the ban coinciding in part with school holidays.   "Its been very busy, particularly down in the national park precinct itself," he told AFP.   "We've had quite an issue with accommodation availability, because there's a lot of people want to climb Uluru before it closes. It's been a busier than normal holiday period."   Japanese visitors and Australians on driving holidays were most likely to want to scale Uluru, Schwer said, though he urged them not to do so.

Australian tourist Belinda Moore, 33, drove to Uluru from her home in central Queensland state to ascend the rock, an experience she said she "absolutely loved".   "It's always been something to tick off the bucket list and when we heard it was closing, we knew it was now or never," she told AFP.   Moore said she did not think her climb was disrespectful to traditional owners as she was not Aboriginal.    "It may be for their own people, because it's their sacred site," she said.   "I'm pretty sad that they're closing it, but it's still amazing just to see it. I would still recommend it."   The climb will be permanently closed as of October 26, the anniversary of ownership being handed back to the Anangu people.

Uluru has great spiritual and cultural significance to indigenous Australians, with their connection to the site dating back tens of thousands of years.   Though visitor numbers were expected to decline once the ban was in place, Schwer said local tourism operators were "not particularly concerned" as it would return the area to normality.   "People need to remember that in central Australia we're a very interconnected community," he said. "The people who are requesting the climb closure are our friends and colleagues.   "We're just looking forward to being able to have the climb consigned to the annals of history."
Date: Wed, 9 Oct 2019 22:01:17 +0200 (METDST)

Kinshasa, Oct 9, 2019 (AFP) - Six people were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo after torrential rains hit the capital Kinshasa, flooding several neighbourhoods. a local official said.    The bodies were found between Tuesday night and Wednesday morning.    Five people were killed in the capital's Selembao municipality where around 30 houses collapsed, local mayor Augustin Mankesi told Top Congo radio station.   One woman died in the Pelende district after she was electrocuted, he added.    "Our community is stricken," Mankesi added, calling on the Congolese authorities for help.   Fatal floods and rains are frequent in Kinshasa. In January last year 48 people were killed in landslides, floods and after houses collapsed, according to authorities.    Residents told AFP the road from the sea port district of Matadi to the Kinshasa turnoff has been closed due to erosion caused by the rain.    The passage is Kinshasa's main supply route for imported goods and also serves as an exit point for exports.
Date: Tue, 8 Oct 2019 04:13:25 +0200 (METDST)
By Margioni BERMÚDEZ

Caracas, Oct 8, 2019 (AFP) - The small waiting room at the home of self-styled healer "Brother Guayanes" in Caracas' rundown Petare district fills up quickly with patients -- business has never been better.   With Venezuela's chronic medicine shortages and hyperinflation, more and more people are turning to alternative medicine to treat common ailments in the crisis-wracked South American country.   "We go to the hospital and there's nothing there. They don't have medicines, or they're too expensive, what are we to do?" said Rosa Saez, 77, who has come to get treatment for a painful arm.   Carlos Rosales -- he uses the more ceremonious "Brother Guayanes" for his business -- is finishing up a "spiritual intervention" on a patient in what passes for his surgery.   The patient lies, eyes closed, on a cot as, in a series of swishes and clicks, the healer waves five pairs of scissors one after another over his prone body.    The healer says he performs 200 such interventions a week in a dim, candle-lit room that features two camp beds and an array of plaster statues that Rosales says represent "spiritual entities".   A regular visitor to the spiritual center, Saez says she has faith in Rosales' methods: "He healed my kidneys."

- Natural healing -
All across Venezuela, but particularly in poor areas like Petare, patients cannot hope to afford the price of medicines that due to the economic crisis, have become exceedingly rare.  Venezuela's pharmacists' federation say pharmacies and hospitals have on average only about 20 percent of the medicine stock needed.   Rosales' clinic is muggy with the smell of tobacco. A crucifix suspended from a chain around his neck, he practices a seeming mixture of smoke-blowing shamanism, plant-based medicine and mainstream religion.    Posters hung near the entrance remind clients to arrive with a candle and tobacco and "Don't forget that payment is in cash".   Much like a general practitioner, Rosales spends time consulting with his patients, examining them with a stethoscope, before offering a diagnosis. Often he prescribes potions based on plants and fruit, such as pineapple and a type of local squash known as chayote.   "We know medicines are necessary," he says. "I'm not against medicine, but my medicine is botany."

- Plants replace drugs -
At her stall in a downtown Caracas market, 72-year-old Lilia Reyes says she has seen her trade in medicinal plants flourish.   "I can't keep up with the demand," she said at her stall, bathed in the aroma of camomile, one of the 150 plants she sells.   Careless consumption of some herbs can be deadly, warns Grismery Morillo. A doctor at a Caracas public hospital, she says she has seen many cases of acute liver failure in people who have eaten certain roots.   According to Venezuela's opposition parties, some 300,000 chronically ill people are in danger of dying from the shortages of medicines.

But despite the risks, people like Carmen Teresa say they have no alternative.    In the kitchen of her restaurant which closed down three years ago as the economic crisis took hold, the 58-year-old Colombian prepares an infusion of fig leaves to treat "diabetic neuropathy".   The painkillers needed for the condition are "too expensive" and prices are going up due to hyperinflation, so she is cutting back on the pills and supplementing her treatment with herbal infusions.   She needs at least four tablets a day to keep her diabetes at bay. Her mother, bedridden since breaking a leg a year ago, suffers from Alzheimer's disease and needs five pills a day for hypertension.   "I'm still taking my pills, but I reduced the dose," says Teresa, who is also replacing cholesterol pills with lemon juice.
Date: Sun, 6 Oct 2019 12:04:37 +0200 (METDST)

Riyadh, Oct 6, 2019 (AFP) - Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it would allow unmarried foreign couples to rent hotel rooms together as the ultraconservative kingdom begins offering up tourist visas for the first time.   The tourism authority said in a statement published on Twitter that Saudi women travelling alone would also be able to check into a hotel by presenting valid ID.

In the past, couples wanting to stay in a hotel had to prove they were married.    "This is no longer required for tourists," the statement said.   Saudi Arabia announced on September 27 it was opening its doors to holidaymakers with the goal of diversifying its oil-dependent economy.   The kingdom had previously only issued visas to Muslim pilgrims, foreign workers, and recently to spectators at sporting or cultural events.

Kickstarting tourism is one of the centrepieces of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman's Vision 2030 reform programme to prepare the biggest Arab economy for a post-oil era.   Citizens from 49 countries are now eligible for online e-visas or visas on arrival, including the United States, Australia and several European nations.   On September 28, Saudi authorities warned that tourists who violated "public decency", including with immodest clothing and public displays of affection, would be subject to fines.
Date: Sat, 5 Oct 2019 03:30:17 +0200 (METDST)
By Giovanna FLEITAS

Petorca, Chile, Oct 5, 2019 (AFP) - For Erick Hurtado, the worst thing about the drought that has devastated his family farm in Chile is the dead animals.   "Going out and seeing the animals dead on the ground is so horrible," Hurtado says as he gazes across the dusty paddocks of his farm in Petorca, near the coastal city of Valparaiso.

Farmers are counting the cost of one of the driest austral winters in six decades, which has destroyed crops and left tens of thousands of farm animals dead in the fields of central Chile.   Hurtado's farm, owned by his grandfather, has lost half its 60 head of cattle.   So far, 106,000 animals have died due to lack of water and fodder, mostly goats, cattle and sheep, according to the agriculture ministry.   President Sebastian Pinera, who last month announced a $5 billion plan to improve water distribution, this week set up a crisis group of government agencies to tackle the water crisis, which he said had become "more extensive and more intense."

In Colina, north of the capital Santiago, the drought has been hard on small farmers. Scrawny cattle pick at sprigs of strawy grass on pastures that have turned to dust. Cows, goats and horses roam hungry on hills have turned to a dry muddy brown.   "The drought has been disastrous for us," said Sandra Aguilar. Her family owned about a hundred head of cattle. Today, only half survive thanks to a trickle of water provided by a neighbor who still has some reserves.   "The situation is complicated," said Javier Maldonado, governor of the province of Chacabuco, where several agricultural areas have been hit particularly hard by the drought.    "We have to be realistic, climate change is here to stay," he said.

- Water shortages -
Dominga Mondaca points out the deep fissures that run through the garden behind her house in the village of La Ligua near Valparaiso. The garden used to be full of strawberries and citrus trees; now it's cracked earth.    "We have had many years with little water. But the last year, it didn't rain at all," said the 73-year-old, one of more than 600,000 people the government is supplying by tanker trucks as part of emergency measures.   She says she has had to give up raising chickens, in order to keep what little water she and her husband receive for their own consumption, washing and cleaning. Whatever is left, she uses to sprinkle on herbs in a small kitchen garden.   The agriculture ministry says 37,000 family farms need assistance in the central Chile.

- Thirsty avocados? -
In Petorca, some rivers have run dry, and the landscape has been left parched, but lush avocado and citrus plantations are nevertheless thriving.   Locals in Petorca say the real, long-term problem is the mismanagement of water resources.    "There is an excess of monoculture plantations that consume all the water," said Diego Soto of the Movement for the Defense of Access to Water, Land and Environmental Protection (MODATIMA) told AFP.   Avocados need a lot of water to grow, said Soto.   "An avocado tree needs 600 liters of water per week, whereas humans consume 50 liters a day, or 350 liters a week," he said.   Producers refute these figures and say the real problem is a lack of infrastructure to store water, both above and below ground.    "The avocado is not a crop that needs more water," insisted Francisco Contardo, chairman of the local producers' committee.   Avocados are a key export for Chile, mostly to the US and China, but drought has reduced exports by 25 percent.

- Less snow -
For many though, the changes being wrought by climate change are overwhelmingly obvious. Snow in the highlands of central Chile was relatively scarce this year.    Scientists predict an average decrease of between five and 10 percent snowfall every 10 years in almost the entire Andes mountains, one of the country's main sources of water.   "The central zone of Chile is highly dependent on the summer melt season, its snow and glaciers, which means that if the snow cover is reduced, there is also a reduction in the availability of water resources," said Paul Cordero, climate change expert at the University of Santiago.   Weak snowfall forced the country's main ski resorts to use artificial snow machines much earlier and more often this season than in previous years.    "Chile has been living as if it were a country with an abundance of water," said Pinera.   "Climate change and global warming have changed this situation probably forever."