WORLD NEWS

Getting countries ...
Select countries and read reports below or

Swaziland

Swaziland US Consular Information Sheet
February 10, 2009
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:
Swaziland is a small developing nation in Southern Africa.
Several well-developed facilities for tourism are available.
The capital is Mbabane.
R
ad the Department of State Background Notes on Swaziland for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A passport is required.
Visas are not required for tourists and business travelers arriving in Swaziland for short visits (less than 60 days) on standard U.S. passports.
Most travelers visiting Swaziland enter through South Africa.

PLEASE NOTE:
All travelers traveling to South Africa are strongly encouraged to have several unstamped visa pages left in their passports. South Africa requires two unstamped visa pages, excluding amendment pages, to enter the country. Visitors who do not have enough free visa pages in their passport risk being denied entry and returned to the U.S. at their own expense.

For the most current information on Swaziland’s visa requirements, contact the Embassy of the Kingdom of Swaziland, 1712 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009; phone (202) 234-5002.

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:
Public protests, demonstrations, and strikes occur from time to time in Swaziland and are mostly in response to on-going labor relations/difficulties.
When a strike is pending, armed soldiers may be called to augment the police force, and they have used force to disrupt such events.
During the course of such events, police may not distinguish between “innocent bystanders” and protesters.
Americans should avoid crowds, political rallies and street demonstrations.
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs’ web site, 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 A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME:
Violent crime is a concern and is the most significant threat to American citizens visiting or working in Swaziland.
Incidents of petty crime and occasionally violent crime are most prevalent in Mbabane, the capital city, and Manzini, Swaziland’s urban industrial center, but also affect most other urban and rural areas.
Criminals will resort to force if necessary, including deadly force, in order to accomplish their goal.
Gangs are not deterred by confrontations with their intended victims.
Carjacking occurs and, as with other crimes, can be potentially violent if victims do not immediately cooperate.

Congested dark urban areas are particularly dangerous at night and daytime attacks are not uncommon.
The presence of others on the street should not be misinterpreted as an indication of security.
Many victims report being robbed in the presence of large numbers of witnesses.
Pedestrians are cautioned not to wear jewelry or carry expensive or unnecessary valuables in public.
American citizens are also advised against displaying cell phones and large sums of cash, as they are targets for thieves.
Money should only be converted at authorized currency exchanges and never with street vendors.
Exercise caution with using local taxis.
Ensure the taxi you use is from a reputable company.
Never enter a taxi that is occupied by anyone else besides the driver.
It is good practice to call a friend to let them know the plate number of the taxi you are using.
Crime tends to increase during the holiday season from December to January.
Crime victims should immediately report the incident to the nearest police station.
If there is an emergency, the police can be contacted by dialing 999.

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, 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.

The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in Swaziland is 999.
Please see our information on Victims of Crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.

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 Swazi laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Swazi 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.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Swaziland does not have any unusual customs/currency regulations nor any visa registration requirements.
It is illegal to photograph Swaziland’s government buildings, members of the Swazi armed forces, royal residences and official ceremonies without prior permission from government authorities. Please see our Customs Information sheet.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical facilities are limited throughout Swaziland and emergency medical response capabilities (including ambulance transport) are almost non-existent.
Although the Mbabane Clinic in the capital is small and currently undergoing building renovations, it is well equipped and well staffed for minor procedures. For advanced care, Americans often choose to go to South Africa where better facilities and specialists exist.
Most prescription drugs are available locally or can be imported from South Africa, but travelers are advised to bring sufficient quantities of their own required medication.
A doctor’s note describing the medication may be helpful if questioned by authorities.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Swaziland.
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.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site.
Further health information for travelers is available from the WHO.
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 Swaziland is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Traffic accidents in Swaziland may pose an even greater hazard than crime.
Visitors should use extreme caution when driving, given the relatively high rates of speed of drivers on major thoroughfares.
Other hazards include poor lighting and traffic signals; presence of pedestrians, animals, and slower moving vehicles; aggressive driving behavior; and erratic stopping for pedestrian and animals.
Traffic drives on the left in Swaziland, which requires U.S. drivers to exercise particular caution.
Special care should be used in driving at night and in fog, especially in rural areas.
Rural and suburban areas are poorly lit and pose additional safety hazards as pedestrians and animals cross the road.
Many vehicles are poorly maintained and lack headlights.
Extreme caution is recommended if/when using mini-bus taxis, which follow fixed routes and are flagged down by passengers almost everywhere on the streets and roads of Swaziland.
Many of these vehicles fail to meet minimal safety standards.
Drivers frequently overload the vehicles and travel at excessive speeds.
Fatal accidents involving these conveyances are very common.
The Royal Swaziland Police Service set up periodic road blocks and also uses radar to monitor your speed.
Respect the local laws.
If you are pulled over for a moving violation you will be responsible for the consequences.
Always drive with your driver’s license.
Failure to do so will result in a fine.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
Visit the web site of the country’s national authority responsible for road safety.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Swaziland’s Civil Aviation Authority as not being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Swaziland’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA web site.

CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Swaziland are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Swaziland.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the embassy or consulate to contact them in case of emergency.
The U.S. Embassy is located in the Central Bank Building on Mahlokohla Street in the capital city of Mbabane.
The mailing address is Box 199, Mbabane, Swaziland.
The telephone number is (268) 404-6441/5; fax (268) 404-5959. For after-hours emergencies involving American citizens, please dial 268-602-8414.
* * *
This replaces the Country Specific Information for Swaziland dated August 6, 2008, to update sections on Entry/Exit Requirements, Crime, Medical Facilities and Health Information, and Traffic Safety and Road Conditions.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Mon, 24 Jul 2017 12:55:52 +0200

Paris, July 24, 2017 (AFP) - Swaziland, which bears the world's heaviest HIV burden, has halved the rate of new infections in five years by boosting access to virus-suppressing drugs, researchers said Monday.   The country where about one in three adults are infected with the AIDS-causing virus, has vastly expanded public programmes to test people for HIV infection and put them on life-saving anti-retroviral treatment (ART).   "Since 2011, national HIV incidence in Swaziland dropped by almost half," a research team led by Velephi Okello of the Swazi health ministry said in a written presentation to an HIV science conference in Paris.   Incidence is the word used by epidemiologists for the rate of new infections in a population.   "Sustaining these achievements will be paramount to Swaziland's success in curbing its severe HIV epidemic," said the researchers.   In 2011, 31 percent of adults (aged 18-49) out of a total country population of just over 1.2 million, were infected with HIV, according to government data.   This made Swaziland the country with the highest national rate of new infections, said the authors of the new study, as well as the highest proportion of people living with HIV.

The latest data, based on blood tests from about 11,000 people aged 15 and over, showed that 27 percent were HIV-positive in 2016.   This translated to an infection rate of 1.39 percent among 18- to 49-year-olds, down from 2.58 percent in 2011 -- a 46-percent reduction.   "Incidence was higher among women than in men," said the report to the International AIDS Society conference. The decline was also steeper for men at 52 percent than for women at 40 percent.   The survey showed that 73 percent of people on ART had achieved suppression of the virus, compared to 35 percent in 2011.   ART not only stops HIV from replicating and attacking a patient's immune system, but also curbs its spread to sexual partners.   The gains were the fruit of a much improved HIV treatment programme, said the researchers.   The number of HIV tests conducted in Swaziland more than doubled from 176,000 in 2011 to 367,000 in 2016, and the share of infected people on ART rose from 37 percent to 74 percent.
Date: Thu, 11 Aug 2016 19:48:51 +0200

Mbabane, Swaziland, Aug 11, 2016 (AFP) - Drought-stricken Swaziland Thursday said it would begin sever water rationing in the capital Mbabane after levels in the main dam supplying the city fell to a critical low.   Swaziland Water Services Corporation (SWSC) said the restrictions would begin on Friday and probably last until the arrival of summer rains expected around October.

Under the measure, there will be no mains water for four days a week. Residents will collect water from mobile tanks instead.   "This is because of the dire drought situation which has decreased water levels at the Hawane Dam," said SWSC spokeswoman Nomahlubi Matiwane.   She said water levels in the dam had dropped from 15 percent of capacity in the last few weeks to just nine percent.

Swaziland is one of a number of countries in southern Africa that have been badly hit by El Nino -- a weather phenomenon that is centred on the countries in the Pacific but can affect other regions as well.   In February, dry conditions gripping the agricultural sector prompted the government to declare a state of emergency.   Water resources in the impoverished country of 1.2 million people have more than halved, contributing to higher food prices and poor crops.   Last month aid organisations estimated that El Nino had affected 12.3 million people across southern Africa.
Date: Sat 1 Dec 2012
Source: Observer.org (Swaziland) [edited]

A rabies outbreak has been reported in the Manzini region almost 2 months after dogs were vaccinated countrywide.  The most affected areas are Ludzeludze, Ngabezweni and Dwaleni Power Station, and the outbreak is so bad that the ministry of agriculture has decided to revaccinate canines.

The outbreak was 1st spotted at Ngabezweni when a dog from a legislator's family, a Dlamini, went berserk, chasing after people and barking at its shadow.

Because the dog was a nuisance to the community, they decided to team up against it and stoned it to death then called for veterinary assistance from Ludzeludze Rural Development Area (RDA), who took it for tests.

A few days later, another report was received from Dwaleni (Power) about a troublesome dog, whereby veterinary officers took it for tests. "The dogs tested positive to rabies, and it was then that we resolved to undertake the revaccination exercise. Our investigations also revealed that owners of both dogs did not vaccinate them when the ministry conducted the exercise in September [2012?]. One wonders why people fail to vaccinate their dogs when called to do so, because it is free," said a source from the ministry of agriculture.

It was then gathered that the revaccinating exercise began on Monday [26 Nov 2012], and areas within a radius of 7 km also have to be visited, where all the dogs will be revaccinated.

The source revealed that one of the major challenges that might compromise the revaccinating exercise was the shortage of chemicals [vaccines?].

Reached for comment, Director of Veterinary Services Dr Xolani Dlamini said he was not aware of the matter and had to investigate it further.  [Byline: Faith Vilakati]
======================
[As with the entire African continent, animal rabies is endemic in Swaziland, mainly involving dogs. According to Swaziland's annual OIE reports, the number of cases in dogs for 2011 was 26 and for humans 38 (rate per 100 000 population = 3.2371). For comparison: India, generally regarded to rank high among rabies-stricken countries, reported 162 human cases (0.015 per 100,000) during 2010 (most recent available quantitative information).

During 2011, 60 868 dogs have reportedly been vaccinated in Swaziland. - ProMed Mod.AS]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/r/3psa>.]
Date: Wed 12 Sep 2012
Source: Observer (Swaziland) [summarised, edited]

In an interview with Swazi TV on Monday [10 Sep 2012], many residents said their cows had been dying in the past few days, but they had no idea what was killing them. The Mbelebeleni area in the Manzini region was one of the affected areas where the mystery disease killed about 25 cows.

Minister Clement Dlamini confirmed yesterday [11 Sep 2012] that a mysterious disease was killing cows nationwide. The ministry was currently not in a position to state what kind of disease was killing the cattle. He said the ministry was currently engaged in investigations following many reports that have been received.

He said the ministry had since conducted a postmortem of the dead animals, after which a report would be compiled, and thereafter advice would be given to cattle owners as to what to do next.

Dlamini said that for now, the facts would be known only after the postmortem report had been finalised. He said all regions of the country had been affected.  [Byline: Winile Masinga]
======================
[In the absence of any details on the affected population, clinical signs and denominator, a plausible list of candidate suspected etiologies, infectious or otherwise, cannot be suggested. Postmortem findings and results of laboratory tests will be appreciated. - ProMed Mod.AS]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/r/3psa>.]
Date: Sun, 29 Jul 2012 04:07:14 +0200 (METDST)
by Johannes Myburgh

MBABANE, July 29, 2012 (AFP) - In the geography class at St Mark's High School, boys play chess on a board scratched onto a workbench in one corner, while in another a girl knits a scarf while her friends gossip. Swazi teachers have been on strike for more than a month, but so far their abandoned classrooms are the only tangible result of a movement that wants not just salary increases but democratic reforms in Africa's last absolute monarchy. "Our ultimate goal is democracy," said Sibongile Mazibuko, president of the  Swaziland National Association of Teachers, who see King Mswati III as the country's biggest problem. "He creates the poverty himself." Teachers went on strike on June 22 demanding a 4.5 percent salary increase. Other public servants joined briefly, but the movement is stuttering after nurses returned to work on Tuesday following a court interdict.

Sporadic protests have drawn hundreds into the streets, where police greet them with rubber bullets, water cannons and batons. Now most teachers go to school only to sign attendance registers, but still don't teach. Police have arrested 41 teachers, and the union has spent almost 150,000 emalangeni ($18,000, 15,000 euros) on legal fees, Mazibuko said. "The protests have become unsustainable. We are looking at stayaways, picketing on the premises," she said. Their financial demands are modest -- they want a 4.5 percent raise, while inflation is around nine percent. It's their political demands that roil the palace, which like to paint a picture of traditional mountain kingdom where the monarch is revered by his subjects. That image has faded as pro-democracy protests mushroomed over the past year, sparked by a crippling financial crisis.

The International Monetary Fund has urged the government to slash its public wage bill as the economy stagnates, but has pulled its team from the country after the kingdom made no progress on reforms. Striking teachers have had their salaries slashed as authorities retaliate against the strikes, receiving as little as 30 emalangeni for their last paycheck. Some were handed dismissal letters and threatened with jail for contempt of court if they didn't report to work, said government spokesman Percy Simelane. "Even if money could come now it would be very difficult to increase salaries," he told AFP. "We need to adhere to this advice or sink."

Teachers point to a 30 percent increase lawmakers awarded themselves in 2010. "If you've paid yourself so much, why can't you pay them?" asked Mazibuko. "The politicians' kids are outside the country. The king's children are outside the country." "They will not invest in educating kids for the poor," she said. Public servants also blame the lavish lifestyle of Mswati and his 13 wives. Forbes magazine rates him as among the world's 15 richest royals, keeping each wife in her own palace. This week opposition groups claimed three of the queens and an entourage of 66 would travel to Las Vegas for a holiday. The lawmakers' big paychecks "could be contributing towards the hefty salary bill that we have," Simelane said. "If it is not (withdrawn) amid the outcry... discontent will be very rife."

But he insisted democratic reforms were not necessary. "We are one of the most democratic societies in the region," he said."The king loves his people. I don't think he can create conditions where people go hungry," he said. About 60 percent of the tiny country's 1.1 million people live on less than $2 a day. The UN World Food Programme says one-fifth of the country experienced food shortages this year. Simelane also justified police violence against protesters. "In most cases provocation of some kind came out," he said. "We have one of the most disciplined police forces in the region." "They normally don't shoot to kill."

Life in Swaziland continues despite the school groundings, the tiny country's troubles far from the international spotlight. Other government workers are also demanding raises, but generally are not downing tools. But Mazibuko is adamant that growing awareness will see her movement succeed. "Little by little people are seeing the light," she 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.
*****************************
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."