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Taiwan

This large island is situated off the coastland of China and has been ruled separately since a civil war in 1949. Nevertheless, China is exerting significant pressure on the Taiwan government to ensure that the island returns under full Chinese rule. Mala
ia prophylaxis is not required. The capital of Taiwan is Taipei. This is a typical bustling Asian city with a significant pollution problem associated with cars and scooters. The climate is hot and humid for much of the year. Mains electricity is 110v using the small American style plugs.
Despite the American influences throughout Taiwan it is worth knowing that the level of understanding of English is very poor outside the major hotels. Taxi drivers (cheap and worthwhile if any distance is involved) will understand almost no English so it is essential that you have the name of your hotel written in Chinese with you at all times.
In Taipei, the shops and banks tend to open later than might be expected. Typically banks open at about 9am and many shops at 10am or later. On early arrival at Taipei airport the banks may not be open and so it is important to change money in your hotel if possible.
There is a wide variety of food available within the main urban areas ranging from the quick foods (MacDonalds etc) to the traditional Chinese restaurants) The cost of meals would be similar to most European countries.
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Taiwan US Consular Information Sheet
August 18, 2008
Reminder:
The Department of State provides information to assist travelers in better understanding foreign locations they may visit and the known risks that they should consider.
Travelers traveling to Taiwan are encouraged to inform themselves about Taiwan prior to commencement of travel.
It is the traveler’s responsibility to obtain a U.S. passport from the Department of State and the appropriate visas from the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Representative’s Office (TECRO) in Washington, D.C., or the nearest office of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO).
When making reservations, travelers should discuss cancellation policies with their travel agent, travel insurer or airline, as scheduled trips abroad may be nonrefundable.
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; Medicare does not cover medical expenses abroad.

DESCRIPTION:
Taiwan is a stable democracy with a strong and well-developed economy.
Tourist facilities are widely available.
Read the Department of State Background Notes on Taiwan for additional information.

ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
U.S. passport holders will be allowed to enter Taiwan without a visa for up to thirty days (no extensions or change of status allowed) if they have a passport valid for at least six months from the date of entry into Taiwan and a confirmed return or onward air ticket.
Travelers must have already met any additional visa requirements for the next destination, if applicable.

Visitors with passports valid for less than six months from the date of entry into Taiwan must apply for a landing visa, which has a duration of stay of no more than 30 days, or until the passport’s expiration date, whichever comes first.
Extensions are not permitted.
Travelers who apply outside of Taiwan at Taiwan Overseas Missions for a landing visa will be charged a processing fee of US $131.
Travelers who apply for a landing visa upon arrival in Taiwan will be charged NT $4,900.
This fee includes a NT $800 service charge and can be paid only in Taiwan currency.

U.S. travelers planning to visit longer than 30 days may apply for and receive a visitor visa at one of the Taiwan Overseas Missions.
The processing fee is U.S. $131; an additional $65.50 will be charged for expedited processing.
Travelers arriving in Taiwan with a valid passport and valid Taiwan visa may be admitted for up to 60 days for multiple entries even if their passports are valid for less than 6 months.

For specific information about application, entry requirements and fees, travelers should contact the Taipei Economic and Cultural Representative Office (TECRO), 4201 Wisconsin Avenue NW, Washington, DC
20016-2137, via either its main telephone number, (202) 895-1800, or its visa section telephone number, (202) 895-1814.
TECRO's visa website is http://www.taiwanembassy.org/US/lp.asp?ctNode=2315&CtUnit=62&BaseDSD=7&mp=12.
The main fax number at TECRO is (202) 363-0999, and the visa section fax number is (202) 895-0017.
TECO (Taipei Economic and Cultural Office) also has offices in Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Guam, Honolulu, Houston, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, San Francisco and Seattle.

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:
For the latest security information, Americans traveling abroad should regularly monitor the Department’s Internet web site at http://travel.state.gov where the current Worldwide Caution, Travel Warnings, and Travel Alerts can be found.
Up-to-date information on security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the United States and Canada, or for callers outside the United States 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 Standard 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.

Public Demonstrations:
Taiwan is a modern democracy with vibrant public participation.
Political demonstrations are common, especially around election time.
Since Taiwan democratized in the early 1990s, there have been very few cases of violence associated with political demonstrations.
But even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational.
American citizens are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any political demonstrations.

CRIME:
Although the overall violent crime rate in Taiwan is relatively low, travelers should avoid high crime areas, such as areas where massage parlors, illegal "barbershops," and illegal "nightclubs" run by criminals prevail.
In contrast to their counterparts, legal barbershops prominently display the usual grooming services.
Illegal nightclubs have no advertisement and are publicized by word of mouth only.
Public transportation, including the buses and the subway, is generally safe in Taiwan, but women should exercise caution when traveling alone in taxis late at night.
In several parts of Taiwan, incidents of purse snatching by thieves on motorcycles have been reported.

In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available.
Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law.
In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines.
More information on this serious problem is available at www.cybercrime.gov.

The emergency telephone number for Taiwan services (ambulance, fire, police) is 119.
Taiwan Police offers a 24-hour telephone line for foreigners in English:
0800-024-111.

INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the National Immigration Agency and to American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)-Taipei or AIT-Kaohsiung.
The National Immigration Agency has foreign affairs sections that are usually staffed by English-speaking officers.
National Immigration Agency contact numbers for the major cities in Taiwan are as follows: Taipei (02) 2389-9983, Kaohsiung (07) 282-1400, Tainan (06) 293-7641, Taichung (04) 2254-9981, Taitung (089) 342-251, Pingtung (08) 721-6665.

If you are the victim of a crime while in Taiwan, in addition to reporting to the local police, contact AIT-Taipei (02) 2162-2000 or AIT-Kaohsiung (07) 238-7744 for assistance.
AIT’s consular staff can, for example, help you find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends, and explain how funds can be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime is solely the responsibility of local authorities, consular officers can help explain the local criminal justice process and assist with finding an attorney if needed. See our information on Victims of Crime.

MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Health facilities in Taiwan are adequate for routine and emergency medical treatment.
Physicians are well trained and many have studied in the U.S. and speak English.
State-of-the-art medical equipment is available at many clinics and hospitals.
Hospitals’ nursing services provide medication dispensing and wound care, but generally not the daily patient maintenance functions found in U.S. hospitals.
Ambulances are available in Taiwan but are not like those in the U.S.
There are no trained Emergency Medical System Technicians accompanying an ambulance, unless within 2 kilometers of National Taiwan University Hospital or Veterans General Hospital.
For information on specific clinics and hospitals, please refer to the AIT web page at http://www.ait.org.tw/en/uscitizens/HealthCareInTW.asp
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); fax 1-888-CDC-FAXX (1-888-232-3299), or via the CDC’s Internet 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.

English speakers experiencing a personal crisis in Taiwan can contact the Community Services Center in Taipei (www.community.com.tw) at (02) 2836-8134 or (02) 2838-4947 to arrange counseling or to contact a support group.

The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of Taiwan.
However, persons staying over 90 days or applying for residency or work permits must be tested for HIV/AIDS.
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
Doctors and hospitals in Taiwan expect immediate cash payment for health services, although some private clinics may accept credit cards.
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 outside the United States, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Taiwan is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Roads in Taiwan's major cities are generally congested, and the many scooters and motorcycles that weave in and out of traffic make driving conditions worse. Special caution should be taken when driving on mountain roads, which are typically narrow, winding, and poorly banked, and which may be impassable after heavy rains.

Pedestrians should exercise caution when crossing streets because many drivers do not respect the pedestrian's right of way.

Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.
The national authority responsible for road safety in Taiwan is the Traffic Safety Committee, MOTC. Information regarding road safety may be found on their web site at http://www.motc.gov.tw/en/hypage.cgi?HYPAGE=Eng_Index.htm.

For general information on tourism in Taiwan information may be found at www.tbroc.gov.tw (Taiwan Tourism Bureau - Ministry of Transportation and Communication).

For specific information concerning Taiwan's driver's permits, vehicle inspection road tax and mandatory insurance, contact the nearest TECO office.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT:
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of Taiwan's air carrier operations.
For more information, visit the FAA’s Internet web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa.

SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Screening Process:
Because of the need for early detection and prevention of communicable diseases, all arriving passengers are scanned with an infrared thermal apparatus to test for elevated temperatures.
Passengers with elevated temperatures are required to fill out the Communicable Disease Survey Form and will then be evaluated for additional testing and/or follow up with local health authorities.

Customs Regulations:
Taiwan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary import or export of items such as: firearms, antiquities, medications, currency, ivory, etc.
It is advisable to contact the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECRO) in Washington or one of the TECO offices in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our information on customs regulations.

Disaster Preparedness:
Taiwan is subject to strong earthquakes that can occur anywhere on the island.
Taiwan is also hit by typhoons, usually from July to October.
Travelers planning a trip to Taiwan can obtain general information about natural disaster preparedness on the Internet from the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) at http://www.fema.gov/.
Additional information about currently active typhoons can be obtained on the University of Hawaii tropical storm page at http://www.solar.ifa.hawaii.edu/Tropical/tropical.html.
The Central Weather Bureau of Taiwan also maintains a web site that provides information about typhoons and earthquakes.
Its Internet address is http://www.cwb.gov.tw.

Dual Nationality and Compulsory Military Service:
Taiwan law provides for compulsory military service.
Men between the ages of 18 and 36 who were born in Taiwan or who have ever held a Taiwan passport should be aware that they may be subject to compulsory military service in Taiwan, even if they are also U.S. citizens, and even if they have entered Taiwan on U.S. passports.
Potentially affected individuals are urged to consult with the nearest office of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office (TECO) in the United States before visiting Taiwan to determine whether they are subject to the military service requirement.

English Language Programming:
The International Community Radio Taipei (ICRT) www.icrt.com.tw provides all of Taiwan with English-language programming 24 hours a day.
In the event of an emergency or an approaching typhoon, travelers in the Taipei and Kaohsiung areas should tune their radios to FM 100.7 for English-language updates.
Travelers can find ICRT in Taichung at FM 100.1.
Travelers can listen to ICRT's live broadcasting on the Internet at http://www.icrt.com.tw/en/D01.php.
TV news in English is available on channel 53 at 6:00 a.m. and at 11:45 pm on Formosa Television, or at its web site http://englishnews.ftv.com.tw.
The three main English-language daily newspapers published in Taiwan are Taipei Times, Taiwan News and China Post.
In addition to the print versions, readers can read their content online at http://www.taipeitimes.com, http://www.etaiwannews.com and http://www.chinapost.com.tw.

Judicial Assistance:
Judicial assistance is provided by authorities on Taiwan in response to letters rogatory from foreign courts in accordance with Taiwan's "Law Governing Extension of Assistance to Foreign Courts."
For further information regarding judicial assistance in Taiwan please go to the following website: http://www.ait.org.tw/en/uscitizens/judicial.asp.

AUTHORITY - 22 U.S.C. 3306(b) provides acts performed by officers of the American Institute in Taiwan under 22 U.S.C. 3306 are valid, as if performed by any other person authorized under the laws of the United States to perform such acts (consular officers).
The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT) is a nonprofit corporation under the laws of the District of Colombia.
22 U.S.C. 3305, 3306(a)(3).
The judicial assistance acts of AIT personnel parallel the acts performed by U.S. consular officers under 28 U.S.C. 1781 (a)(2).
See Sec. 1-201(h) of Executive Order No. 12143, 44 Fed. Reg. 37191 (June 23, 1979).
Pursuant to Section 10(a) of the Taiwan Relations Act (TRA), 22 U.S.C. 3309(a), the Taiwan Economic Cultural Representative's Office ("TECRO") is the instrumentality established by the people of Taiwan having the necessary authority under the laws of Taiwan to take actions on behalf of Taiwan in accordance with the Act.

CRIMINAL PENALTIES:
While outside the United States, a U.S. citizen is subject to local 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 those in the United States for similar offenses.
Persons violating Taiwan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. In Taiwan, either side has the right to appeal a court decision, sometimes necessitating a second or even a third trial.
Americans contemplating visiting or residing in Taiwan should note that judges have discretionary authority to prevent defendants from leaving Taiwan until all appeals have been exhausted.
Americans have been barred from leaving Taiwan for extended periods, even in cases that involved only nominal civil damages or fines. .
Penalties for possession of, use of, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Taiwan are severe and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in illicit sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign state 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/LOCATION OF THE AMERICAN INSTITUTE:
The American Institute in Taiwan is authorized by law to perform American citizen services.
Americans living or traveling in Taiwan are encouraged to register with AIT through the State Department’s travel registration web site, and to obtain updated information on travel and security within Taiwan.
Americans resident in Taiwan are encouraged also to become a member of AIT's group email notifications by sending an email to AIT_Citizens-subscribe@yahoogroups.com.
Americans without Internet access may register directly with AIT Taipei or AIT Kaohsiung.
By registering, American citizens make it easier for the American Institute to contact them in case of emergency.

The American Institute in Taiwan is a full passport services agency.
Processing time for routine passports is about two weeks.

The American Institute in Taiwan is located at No.7 Lane 134, Hsin Yi Road Section 3, Taipei, Taiwan, telephone: (886) 2-2162-2000; fax: (886) 2-2162-2239, web site: http://www.ait.org.tw.
The American Institute in Taiwan branch office is located at No. 2 Chung Cheng 3rd Road, 5th Floor, Kaohsiung, Taiwan, telephone: (886) 7-238-7744; fax: (886) 7-238-5237.
AIT's citizen services section can also be contacted by e-mail at aitamcit@mail.ait.org.tw.
In case of emergencies after working hours, the duty officer at the American Institute in Taiwan at Taipei may be contacted at (886) 2-2162-2000.
* * *
This replaces the Specific Information dated April 15, 2008, to add emergency telephone numbers, to change the email address for subscribing to the Yahoo group for email notifications, and to update the section on Entry/Exit Requirements, Medical Facilities and Health Information, Criminal Penalties and Special Circumstances.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Tue 10 Sept 2019
Source: Focus Taiwan [edited]

Taiwan's enterovirus cases continued to increase last week, bringing the total number to nearly 20 000 between [1 and 7 Sep 2019], the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Tuesday [10 Sep 2019].

A total of 19 254 patients sought outpatient or emergency treatment at hospitals for enterovirus infection around the country, up 4% from the figure recorded the previous week [25-31 Aug 2019] and the highest over the same period in nearly 5 years, according to CDC data.

CDC physician Lin Yung-ching said there were 2 severe cases recorded last week, one of which involved an 8-month-old girl and the other a 4-year-old boy, both in central Taiwan. The 2 children were reported in stable condition after treatment.

Some of the 2 patients' family members or classmates with whom they had had contact have also been confirmed as enterovirus cases, and the CDC judged that the infection might have been spread through contact, Lin said.

A total of 303 cases of enterovirus-71 (EV-71), the most severe enterovirus strain, have been reported so far this year [2019], the highest in the same period from 2016 to 2018.

Meanwhile, a total of 36 cases with severe complications have been recorded nationwide, including 27 EV-71 cases, according to CDC statistics.

EV-71 is a neurological disease that attacks the nervous system, and infants under the age of 5 are at highest risk of developing severe complications from this type of infection.

In extreme cases, EV-71 can cause polio-like permanent paralysis, according to the CDC. As Taiwan is still in the peak season for enterovirus infection, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo urged the public to take precautions against the spread of the illness, especially among children.

Children infected with enterovirus should be kept away from school so as to prevent the spread of the disease, as enterovirus is highly contagious, Lo advised.  [Byline: Chen Wei-ting and Evelyn Kao]
=====================
[The enteroviruses are spread from person to person by coughs, sneezes, or touching objects or surfaces that have the virus on them. Therefore, practicing good personal hygiene -- washing hands regularly and thoroughly with soap and water -- is the best way to prevent from getting and spreading the infectious disease.

However, most people infected with non-polio enteroviruses do not get sick, or present with mild illness, like the common cold. Infants, children, and teenagers are more likely than adults to get infected and become sick because they do not yet have immunity (protection) from previous exposures to the viruses. Adults can get infected too, but they are less likely to have symptoms, or their symptoms may be milder. Symptoms of mild illness may include fever; runny nose, sneezing, and cough; skin rash; mouth blisters; and body and muscle aches.

Some non-polio enterovirus infections can lead to:
- Viral conjunctivitis;
- Hand-foot-mouth disease;
- Viral meningitis (infection of the covering of the spinal cord and/or brain);
- Viral encephalitis (infection of the brain);
- Myocarditis (infection of the heart);
- Pericarditis (infection of the sac around the heart);
- Acute flaccid paralysis (a sudden onset of weakness in one or more arms or legs);
- Inflammatory muscle disease (slow, progressive muscle weakness).

Infants and people with weakened immune systems have a greater chance of having these complications. People who develop myocarditis may have heart failure and require long-term care. Some people who develop encephalitis or paralysis may not fully recover.

Enterovirus cases were reported from Taipei, Taiwan in 2017 (Human enterovirus - Taiwan: alert http://promedmail.org/post/20170418.4978387), and health alerts like the one mentioned in report above were issued to the general public to observe proper hygiene to reduce disease transmission. Also the case number for EV-71 associated severe disease has also increased, which is a cause for public health concern. - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Date: 27 Aug 2019
Source: Taiwan News [edited]

A migrant worker in Taiwan has been diagnosed with [a] hantavirus infection, the 1st case in the country this year [2019].

The afflicted individual, a male in his 20s, is a fisherman living in northern Taiwan. He has not travelled abroad recently, and his life is mostly spent at sea, said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The male started exhibiting symptoms of the disease on 3 Aug [2019], including vomiting, diarrhoea, and fatigue. He later developed liver and renal conditions before receiving a confirmed diagnosis of hantavirus infection.

Hantavirus is contracted through contact with rodent urine and faeces or rodent bites. Signs and symptoms include fever, muscle pain, headache, abdomen pain, and flushing. Some patients may fall ill with symptoms like renal failure, haemorrhaging, and shock.

CDC noted that the individual has been discharged from hospital, and the health authorities have conducted sterilization and rodent control around locations he visited.

Taiwan sees around 0-2 cases of hantavirus infections a year, mostly among the indigenous population. Males account for 83 percent of the total confirmed cases. Residents are advised to sterilize areas contaminated by rodent excrement with diluted bleach.  [Byline: Huang Tzu-ti]
===============
[The circumstances under which the individuals acquired his hantavirus infection are not given, nor does the report above indicate which hantavirus is involved in this and in previous cases.

In Asia, the 5 recognized hantaviruses, with their main rodent reservoir species, are: Hantaan virus (_Apodemus agrarius_), Amur virus (_A. peninsulae_), Thailand virus (_Bandicota indica_), Seoul virus (widely distributed worldwide in the brown rat, _Rattus norvegicus_), and Muju virus (_Myodes regulus_). Hantaan virus and Seoul virus cause cases of haemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) frequently in China.

The hantavirus most likely involved in the case above in Taiwan is Seoul virus harboured by _Rattus_ spp., as was the case in 2010 (see ProMED-mail archive no. http://promedmail.org/post/20100415.1221). People become infected when exposed to virus in excreta (urine, saliva, and faeces) of infected rats. It is not necessary to have contact with liquid urine; dust particles contaminated with dried urine may be inhaled.

An image of the brown rat, _R. norvegicus_, a reservoir of Seoul, virus can be accessed at

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Date: Sun 18 Aug 2019
Source: Taipei Times [abridged, edited]

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday [17 Aug 2019] confirmed 5 new measles cases associated with a cluster outbreak in Taipei, saying that 1981 people who had come into direct contact with the patients would be monitored for symptoms until 6 Sep 2019.

The cases are likely associated with a man in his 30s living in northern Taiwan who was infected with measles in Viet Nam, returned home on 29 Jul 2019, transmitted the disease to his flat-mate, and was confirmed to have measles on Wed 31 Jul 2019, the centres said.

One of the 5 cases confirmed yesterday [17 Aug 2019] is a man in his 30s who was on the same flight with the index case on 29 Jul 2019 and was in Viet Nam from 5 Aug to Wed 14 Aug 2019, so he might have been infected by the index case or by other people in Viet Nam, it added.

The other 4 patients are nurses who work at Cathay General Hospital's emergency room who had come into contact with the index case, the CDC said.

The nurses started experiencing symptoms between Friday last week [9 Aug 2019?] and Thursday this week [15 Aug 2019?], CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said, adding that one of them was vaccinated for measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) in 2013, and 2 were vaccinated last year [2018], but the other has not been vaccinated.

The hospital held an emergency response meeting to discuss prevention measures and asked the medical practitioners who have had direct contact with the index case to have their measles antibody levels measured and receive an MMR vaccine if no antibodies are found, hospital deputy superintendent Lee Chia-long said. The hospital also asked medical practitioners with higher antibody levels to help screen patients with a fever, control the personnel who are allowed to enter the emergency room, take disinfection measures, and put up posters to warn people about clustered measles cases, he said.

One 119 measles cases have been confirmed this year [2019] -- 72 domestic cases, among whom 51 had come into contact with confirmed cases, and 47 imported -- the CDC said.  [Byline: Lee I-chia]
Date: Thu, 8 Aug 2019 06:45:09 +0200 (METDST)

Taipei, Aug 8, 2019 (AFP) - A 5.9-magnitude earthquake that rattled Taiwan on Thursday killed one woman and caused temporary power outages that affected over 10,000 homes, authorities said.   Tremors were felt across the island and high-rises in Taipei swayed as the quake struck off the north-eastern coast at dawn, waking sleeping residents.   A 60-year-old woman was killed outside the capital after a closet fell on her during the quake, the National Fire Agency said.   More than 10,000 houses around the greater Taipei area and neighbouring Yilan lost power, while rail authorities suspended some train services in Yilan affecting thousands of passengers.

Taiwan was already on alert for typhoon Lekima, which is gaining momentum and is expected to buffet the island with powerful winds and heavy rains through to Friday.   "We will continue to monitor if there could be a combined impact from the aftershocks of the earthquake and the approaching typhoon," President Tsai Ing-wen told reporters.    Taiwan lies near the junction of two tectonic plates and is regularly hit by quakes.   In April, a 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck eastern Hualien, disrupting traffic and injuring 17 people.   Taiwan's worst tremor in recent decades was a 7.6-magnitude quake in 1999 that killed around 2,400 people.
Date: Mon 29 Jul 2019
Source: Focus Taiwan [abridged, edited]

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has confirmed a new measles case in Taiwan but said it is still searching for the source of the infection because the patient works at Taoyuan International Airport and had not travelled abroad in the past month.

A man in his 20s was confirmed to be infected with measles Sun [28 Jul 2019], CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said, noting that the patient developed a fever on 21 Jul 2019 but did not see a doctor until a rash broke out on his face, chest and hands on 24 Jul 2019.

The case was reported to health authorities that day, and tissue samples were sent for laboratory testing. Two days later, the test results came back positive for measles, which led to Sunday's [28 Jul 2019] confirmation, according to the CDC.

Also, in the light of the man's workplace and the fact that he made no overseas travel over the past month, the patient may have been infected himself by a traveller from a measles-stricken area who contracted the disease but had yet to develop symptoms, he said.

The origin of the infection still needs to be clarified, Chuang said.

Taiwan has recorded 108 measles cases so far this year [2019], with 67 indigenous cases and 41 imported cases, according to CDC data. Of the 41 imported cases, 36 involved Taiwanese nationals.

Measles outbreaks have been seen in neighbouring countries, the CDC said, noting that as of 19 Jul 2019, there had been 3800 cases reported in Thailand this year [2019] and 349 cases in New Zealand, while Viet Nam had reported 4700 confirmed cases as of the end of June 2019.  [Byline: Chang Ming-hsuan, Wu Jui-chi and intern Tiffany Chiu]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Tue 17 Sep 2019
Source: Boston Globe [edited]

Rhode Island officials announced Tuesday [17 Sep 2019] that 2 more human cases of eastern equine encephalitis [EEE] were confirmed in the state.

The 2 people -- one a Coventry child younger than 10 and the other a person in their 50s from Charlestown -- have been discharged from the hospital and are recovering, according to a statement from the state's Department of Public Health.

Authorities think the 2 people contracted EEE in late August [2019]. The cases were confirmed by tests done at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There have been 3 confirmed EEE cases in Rhode Island this year [2019]. A West Warwick resident diagnosed with the mosquito-borne illness died this month [September 2019].

All 3 people contracted EEE before areas at critical risk for the disease were aerially sprayed with pesticide, state officials said.

EEE is a rare but potentially fatal disease that can cause brain inflammation and is transmitted to humans bitten by infected mosquitoes, according to federal authorities. About 1/3 of infected people who develop the disease will die, officials have said, and those who recover often live with severe and devastating neurological complications. There is no treatment for EEE.

"This [2019] has been a year with significantly elevated EEE activity, and mosquitoes will remain a threat in Rhode Island until our 1st hard frost, which is still several weeks out," said Ana Novais, the deputy director for the state's health department. "Personal mosquito-prevention measures remain everyone's 1st defence against EEE. If possible, people should limit their time outdoors at sunrise and sunset. If you are going to be out, long sleeves and pants are very important, as is bug spray [repellent]."

EEE was also confirmed in a deer in Exeter this week [week of Mon 16 Sep 2019].

In Massachusetts, 8 human cases of EEE have been confirmed this year [2019]. Last month [August 2019], a Fairhaven woman with EEE died.
========================
[The 1st Rhode Island case died. Now there are 2 additional EEE cases who have recovered sufficiently to have been discharged from the hospital. Although most reported cases of EEE this year [2019] have occurred in horses, there have been several recent human cases as well. Individuals living in areas where human or equine EEE cases have occurred should heed the above recommendations to prevent mosquito bites. Avoidance of mosquito bites is the only preventive measure available. Fortunately, horses can be vaccinated, but there is no vaccine available for humans.

The risk of EEE virus infection for humans and horses will continue in Rhode Island and the other affected states until the 1st killing frosts occur, likely in October (2019). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Rhode Island, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/241>]
Date: Tue 17 Sep 2019
Source: Detroit Free Press [edited]

State health officials said Tuesday [17 Sep 2019] that 3 Michiganders have died from the rare and dangerous mosquito-borne virus eastern equine encephalitis [EEE], and 4 others have been sickened by the disease, amid the biggest outbreak in more than a decade.

Those who live in all 8 of the affected counties -- Kalamazoo, Cass, Van Buren, Berrien, Barry, St. Joseph, Genesee, and Lapeer counties -- are urged to consider canceling, postponing, or rescheduling outdoor events that occur at or after dusk, especially those that involve children, according to the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. This would include events such as late-evening sports practices or games or outdoor music practices "out of an abundance of caution to protect the public health, and applies until the 1st hard frost of the year [2019]," according to an MDHHS news release.

The 3 people who died were all adults and lived in Kalamazoo, Cass, and Van Buren counties, [respectively], said Bob Wheaton, a spokesman for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services. The 4 other confirmed cases are in Kalamazoo, Berrien, and Barry counties.

Animals have also been confirmed to have the virus in St. Joseph, Genesee, and Lapeer counties.

The Kalamazoo County Health and Community Services Department also issued a recommendation to local communities and school districts to consider canceling outdoor events at dusk or after dark, when mosquitoes are most active, or move [the events] indoors.  "Michigan is currently experiencing its worst eastern equine encephalitis outbreak in more than a decade," said Dr. Joneigh Khaldun, MDHHS chief medical executive and chief deputy for health. "The ongoing cases reported in humans and animals and the severity of this disease illustrate the importance of taking precautions against mosquito bites."

EEE is one of the deadliest mosquito-borne viruses in the US. One in 3 people who are infected with the virus die. The only way to prevent it is to avoid mosquito bites. The MDHHS says residents should
- apply insect repellents that contain the active ingredient DEET or other US Environmental Protection Agency-registered product to exposed skin or clothing, and always follow the manufacturer's directions for use;
- wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants when outdoors. Apply insect repellent to clothing to help prevent bites;
- maintain window and door screening to help keep mosquitoes outside;
- empty water from mosquito breeding sites around the home, such as buckets, unused kiddie pools, old tires, or similar sites where mosquitoes may lay eggs; and
- use nets and/or fans over outdoor eating areas.

Symptoms of EEE include
- sudden onset of fever, chills;
- body and joint aches, which can progress to a severe encephalitis;
- headache;
- disorientation;
- tremors;
- seizures;
- paralysis; and
- coma.

Anyone experiencing these symptoms should visit a doctor.

[Byline: Kristen Jordan Shamus]
=======================
[The number of human cases remains at 7. However, 3 of these have died since the 6 Sep 2019 report (see Eastern equine encephalitis - North America (18): USA human, horse, deer http://promedmail.org/post/20190910.6667626). However, even among the survivors, there is a significant risk of permanent neurological damage following clinical encephalitis. CDC reports that many individuals with clinical encephalitis "are left with disabling and progressive mental and physical sequelae, which can range from minimal brain dysfunction to severe intellectual impairment, personality disorders, seizures, paralysis, and cranial nerve dysfunction. Many patients with severe sequelae die within a few years" (<https://www.cdc.gov/easternequineencephalitis/tech/symptoms.html>). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Michigan, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/225>
Michigan county map:
Date: Mon 16 Sep 2019
Source: Patch [edited]

The state Department of Public Health is warning that an adult resident of East Lyme has tested positive for eastern equine encephalitis (EEE). This is the 1st human case of EEE identified in Connecticut this season [2019].  The patient became ill during the last week of August [2019] with encephalitis and remains hospitalized. Laboratory tests, which were completed today at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Laboratory in Ft. Collins, Colorado, confirmed the presence of antibodies to the virus that causes EEE.  "EEE is a rare but serious and potentially fatal disease that can affect people of all ages," said DPH commissioner Renee Coleman Mitchell in a release. "Using insect repellent, covering bare skin, and avoiding being outdoors from dusk to dawn are effective ways to help keep you from being bitten by mosquitoes."  The EEE virus has been identified in mosquitoes in 12 towns and in horses in 2 other towns.

Towns where mosquitoes have tested positive for EEE include Chester, Haddam, Hampton, Groton, Killingworth, Ledyard, Madison, North Stonington, Plainfield, Shelton, Stonington, and Voluntown. Horses have tested positive for EEE virus in Colchester and Columbia this season, and the virus has been detected in a flock of wild pheasants.  Other states throughout the northeast are also experiencing an active season for EEE. In addition to the virus being found in mosquitoes, there have been a total of 8 human cases of EEE infection in Massachusetts and one human case in Rhode Island, with one case in each state resulting in a fatality. "This is the 2nd human case of EEE ever reported in Connecticut," said Dr. Matthew Cartter, director of infectious diseases for the DPH. "The 1st human case of EEE reported in Connecticut occurred in the fall of 2013."

The DPH advises against unnecessary trips into mosquito breeding grounds and marshes, as the mosquitoes that transmit EEE virus are associated with freshwater swamps and are most active at dusk and dawn. Overnight camping or other substantial outdoor exposure in freshwater swamps in Connecticut should be avoided. Even though the temperatures are getting cooler, the DPH is advising that mosquito season is not over, and residents should continue to take measures to prevent mosquito bites, including wearing protective clothing and using repellents.  Although EEE-infected mosquitoes continue to be detected in the south-eastern corner of the state, the numbers are declining, and we are not experiencing the excessively high levels of activity seen in Massachusetts. There are currently no plans to implement widespread aerial pesticide spraying in the state.

Severe cases of EEE virus infection (involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) begin with the sudden onset of headache, high fever, chills, and vomiting. The illness may then progress into disorientation, seizures, and coma. Approximately 1/3 of patients who develop EEE die, and many of those who survive have mild to severe brain damage, according to the DPH.

There is no specific treatment for EEE. Antibiotics are not effective against viruses, and no effective anti-viral drugs have been discovered. Severe illnesses are treated by supportive therapy, which may include hospitalization, respiratory support, IV fluids, and prevention of other infections. It takes 4-10 days after the bite of an infected mosquito to develop symptoms of EEE.

The management of mosquitoes in Connecticut is a collaborative effort involving the Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, the Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station, and the DPH, together with the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Pathobiology at the University of Connecticut. These agencies are responsible for monitoring and managing the state's mosquito population levels to reduce the potential public health threat of mosquito-borne diseases.

Information on what can be done to prevent getting bitten by mosquitoes and the latest mosquito test results and human infections is available online.  [Byline: Rich Kirby]
===========================
[This has been an active year for EEE virus transmission in the eastern USA from the upper Midwest to the northeastern states and south to Florida. Although historically, EEE human cases in Connecticut have been very rare, the occurrence of a human case in the state this year (2019) is not surprising. There have been equine and/or human EEE cases this summer (2019) in the 3 bordering states: Rhode Island, Massachusetts, and New York. Interestingly, pheasants are mentioned in the above report. They are susceptible and, after being infected with the virus from the bite of an EEE-carrying mosquito, become ill or moribund with viremia titers that can reach 10^9 per ml. Ill or moribund pheasant can be attacked and cannibalized by pen mates that, in turn, are infected orally and may become ill and die as well. As the above report cautions, the only way to avoid infection is for people to avoid mosquito bites. Although the incidence of EEE cases and virus-positive mosquitoes may be declining, there is a risk of infection until the 1st killing frost occurs in autumn, when the mosquitoes are no longer active. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map:
Connecticut, United States: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/210>]
Date: Wed 11 Sep 2019
Source: BBC Afrique [In French, trans. Mod.LXL, edited]

At least 18 people died in 10 days after eating pesticide-contaminated food in 2 localities in Burkina Faso. A dozen still remain under observation in hospitals, according to the Minister of Health.  The 1st cases were reported on [1 Sep 2019] in the town of Didyr in the centre-west of the country, said Professor Claudine Lougue, Minister of Health.  About 15 members of the same families felt unwell after eating local dishes made from bean leaves and small millet seeds, which are actually seed remains. Thirteen died later despite medical care.

On Monday [2 Sep 2019], the ministry received another alert, this time from the central-eastern region. Here again, 14 people from the same family were admitted to the health centres. Five have lost their lives. After analysis, doctors diagnosed massive food poisoning, said the minister. Complementary examinations incriminate pesticides, she said.  "Investigations have been made on samples of biological products such as blood and urine, and we found an unusually high level of pesticides in foods that were consumed. There was an abnormally high level of pesticides, and these pesticides were strongly incriminated," said the minister.

The remains of food have been secured, announced Professor Lougue, who calls on citizens to observe strict hygiene measures in the use of plant leaves for consumption. Pesticides are used for the needs of field work, especially in the countryside during this period of wintering.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 16:44:19 +0200 (METDST)

London, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - British Airways pilots on Wednesday cancelled a strike that had been due September 27, the British Airline Pilots Association union said after two walkouts last week that cost the company dear.   "Someone has to take the initiative to sort out this (pay) dispute and with no sign of that from BA the pilots have decided to take the responsible course," BALPA General Secretary Brian Strutton said in a statement.    The union chief added that the airline's "passengers rightly expect BA and its pilots to resolve their issues without disruption and now is the time for cool heads and pragmatism to be brought to bear.    "I hope BA and its owner IAG show as much responsibility as the pilots," he added.   It was now "time for a period of reflection before the dispute escalates further and irreparable damage is done to the (BA) brand."

However the union added that should the airline "refuse meaningful new negotiations, BALPA retains the right to announce further strike dates".   British Airways, which likes to call itself "the world's favourite airline", flew into turbulence last week as pilots staged a costly and historic two-day strike, tarnishing its global reputation according to aviation analysts.   Pilots walked out for the first time in the company's 100-year history, sparked by a bitter and long-running feud over pay.   BA faced the embarrassment of grounding its entire UK fleet on September 9 and 10, causing the cancellation of about 1,600 flights.   The move sparked travel chaos for about 200,000 passengers who had been due to fly in and out of London's Gatwick and Heathrow airports.

The disruption continued into September 11 because half of BA's 300 aircraft and more than 700 pilots were mostly in the wrong place.   As a result, BA was forced to cancel approximately ten percent of its daily 850 flights in and out of Britain that day.    BALPA and its members are demanding a bigger share of British Airways profits.   The airline has offered a salary increase of 11.5 percent over three years, which it argues would boost the annual pay of some captains to £200,000 ($250,000 or 226,000 euros).   However, the union has rejected the proposal made in July.   BALPA meanwhile estimates that last week's 48-hour strike cost the airline £80 million.   BA is owned by IAG, which was formed in 2011 with the merger of British Airways and Spain's Iberia. IAG has since added other carriers, including Austria's Vueling and Ireland's Aer Lingus.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 12:26:37 +0200 (METDST)
By Sam Reeves

Kuala Lumpur, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - Toxic haze from Indonesian forest fires closed schools and airports across the country and in neighbouring Malaysia Wednesday, while air quality worsened in Singapore just days before the city's Formula One motor race.   Illegal fires to clear land for agriculture are blazing out of control on Sumatra and Borneo islands, with Jakarta deploying thousands of security forces and water-bombing aircraft to tackle them.

Indonesian blazes belch smog across Southeast Asia annually, but this year's are the worst since 2015 and have added to concerns about wildfire outbreaks worldwide exacerbating global warming.   On Wednesday, air quality deteriorated to "very unhealthy" levels on an official index in many parts of peninsular Malaysia, to the east of Sumatra, with the Kuala Lumpur skyline shrouded by dense smog.    Nearly 1,500 schools were closed across Malaysia due to the air pollution, with over one million pupils affected, according to the education ministry.

A growing number of Malaysians were suffering health problems due to the haze, with authorities saying there had been a sharp increase in outpatients at government hospitals -- many suffering dry and itchy eyes.   Indonesian authorities said hundreds of schools in hard-hit Riau province on Sumatra were shut, without providing a precise number, while about 1,300 were closed in Central Kalimantan province on Borneo.    Borneo is shared between Indonesia, Malaysia and Brunei.   Poor visibility closed seven airports in the Indonesian part of Borneo, the transport ministry in Jakarta said. Scores of flights have already been diverted and cancelled in the region in recent days due to the smog.

- Singapore smog race? -
Air quality in Singapore worsened to unhealthy levels and a white smog obscured the striking waterfront skyline, featuring the Marina Bay Sands casino resort with its three towers and boat-shaped top level.    The worsening pollution increased fears that this weekend's Formula One race may be affected. Organisers say the possibility of haze is one of the issues in their contingency plan for Sunday's showpiece night race, but have not given further details.

The city-state's tourism board said spectators would be able to buy masks as protection from the haze if conditions did not improve and assistance would be provided for those who feel unwell, the Today news portal reported.   The fires have sparked tensions between Indonesia and Malaysia.    Indonesia's environment minister initially suggested the haze was from Malaysian fires despite satellite data showing hundreds of blazes in Indonesia and only a handful in its neighbour, prompting anger from her Malaysian counterpart.

Indonesia later sealed off dozens of plantations where it said fires were blazing, including some owned by Malaysia-based firms, deepening the row.   But Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad, who has struck a diplomatic tone throughout the crisis, said Malaysia may pass legislation forcing its companies to tackle fires on plantations abroad.   Malaysia wants its firms with sites overseas to put out blazes contributing to the haze, he said, adding: "Of course, if we find they are unwilling to take action, we may have to pass a law to make them responsible."

The Indonesian government has insisted it is doing all it can to fight the blazes. But this year's fires have been worsened by dry weather and experts believe there is little chance of them being extinguished until the onset of the rainy season in October.   Indonesia's meteorology, climate and geophysics agency said Wednesday that over 1,000 hotspots -- areas of intense heat detected by satellite that indicate a likely fire -- had been sighted, most of them on Sumatra.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 12:14:44 +0200 (METDST)
By Aishwarya KUMAR

New Delhi, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - India announced on Wednesday a ban on the sale of electronic cigarettes, as a backlash gathers pace worldwide due to health concerns about a product promoted as less harmful than smoking tobacco.   The Indian announcement, also outlawing production, import and distribution, came a day after New York became the second US state to ban flavoured e-cigarettes following a string of vaping-linked deaths.   "The decision was made keeping in mind the impact that e-cigarettes have on the youth of today," Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman told reporters in New Delhi.

E-cigarettes do not "burn" but instead heat up a liquid -- tasting of everything from bourbon to bubble gum and which usually contains nicotine -- that turns into vapour and is inhaled.   The vapour is missing the estimated 7,000 chemicals in tobacco smoke but does contain a number of substances that could potentially be harmful.   They have been pushed by producers, and also by some governments including in Britain, as a safer alternative to traditional smoking -- and as a way to kick the habit.

However critics say that apart from being harmful in themselves, the flavours of e-cigarette liquids appeal particularly to children and risk getting them addicted to nicotine.   Some 3.6 million middle and high school students in the United States used vaping products in 2018, an increase of 1.5 million on the year before.   The New York emergency legislation followed an outbreak of severe pulmonary disease that has killed seven people and sickened hundreds.   President Donald Trump's administration announced last week that it would soon ban flavoured e-cigarette products to stem a rising tide of youth users.

- Big E-Tobacco -
Although few Indians vape at present, the Indian ban also cuts off a vast potential market of 1.3 billion consumers for makers of e-cigarettes.   Tobacco firms have been investing heavily in the technology to compensate for falling demand for cigarettes due to high taxes and public smoking bans, particularly in the West.

In 2018 Altria, the US maker of brands such as Marlboro and Chesterfield, splashed out almost $13 billion on a stake in one of the biggest e-cigarette makers, Juul.   A few Indian states have already banned e-cigarettes although the restrictions have been ineffective since online sale of vaping products continue.   The new ban does not cover traditional tobacco products in India.   According to the World Health Organization, India is the world's second-largest consumer of tobacco products, killing nearly 900,000 people every year.

Nearly 275 million people over 15, or 35 percent of adults, are users, although chewing tobacco -- which also causes cancer -- is more prevalent than smoking.   India is also the world's third--largest producer of tobacco, the WHO says, and tobacco farmers are an important vote bank for political parties.   According to the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry, an estimated 45.7 million people depend on the tobacco sector in India for their livelihood.   Tobacco is also a major Indian export, and the government holds substantial stakes, directly or indirectly, in tobacco firms including in ITC, one of India's biggest companies.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 03:56:31 +0200 (METDST)

Washington, Sept 18, 2019 (AFP) - Hurricane Humberto strengthened to a major Category 3 storm on Tuesday and was expected to pass near Bermuda, threatening it with dangerous waves and heavy rain, the US National Hurricane Center said.   "Hurricane conditions are expected to reach Bermuda by Wednesday night and continue into early Thursday morning," the Miami-based NHC said.   "Some fluctuations in intensity are likely during the next day or so, but Humberto should remain a powerful hurricane through Thursday," it said.   As of 8:00 pm (0000 GMT), the storm had maximum sustained winds of 115 miles per hour (185 kilometers per hour) and was moving east-northeast at 12 miles per hour.
Date: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 01:36:21 +0200 (METDST)

Dakar, Sept 17, 2019 (AFP) - Four people died after a boat carrying dozens of tourists capsized during heavy storms in Senegal, authorities and emergency services said Tuesday.   The death toll could rise as three passengers were said to be missing after the accident.  The boat was carrying several Senegalese nationals, six French people, two Germans, two Swedes and one person from Guinea-Bissau, when it turned over Monday in driving rain and a heavy swell, fire department chief Papa Angel Michel Diatta said.   All the dead were Senegalese, officials and emergency services said.

Two worked in a national park, one was a woman and the other victim was a child, Diatta said.   The boat was heading for the Madeleine islands, site of an offshore national park popular with tourists who travel from Dakar, coastal capital of the West African country.   Senegalese President Macky Sall appealed for "greater caution and respect for existing security norms duing the rainy season" in a tweet.

Emergency services continued to look for those missing on Tuesday. AFP journalists saw a dozen divers at the scene. Distressed families were waiting on the shore to get news of their loved ones.    "The gendarmerie called us at 5:00 am (GMT and local time). My brother was on the boat. The worst thing is not knowing," said Aminata Diop, who was among the relatives on the beach.   There are "four dead bodies and between three and four people are missing. Thirty-five people were on the boat. Search and rescue operations are continuing this morning," Interior Minister Aly Ngouille Ndiaye told AFP by telephone.

The causes of the accident were unclear. The interior minister told Senegalese media overnight that several tourists were worried about the heavy rains and wanted to return to the pier but others wanted to stay on the boat.   The survivors spent the night on the island, Ndiaye told local radio on Tuesday. Blankets and food were sent to them and they were to be ferried back to the mainland in the morning, he added.   The rainy season arrived late this year and heavy storms have resulted in several casualties this month.    Two fishermen were killed on their canoe in the same area nearly two weeks ago.
Date: Tue, 17 Sep 2019 15:38:37 +0200 (METDST)

Jakarta, Sept 17, 2019 (AFP) - Massive forest fires in Indonesia that have caused a toxic haze to spread as far as Singapore and peninsular Malaysia are also seriously affecting endangered orangutans and their habitat, a rescue foundation said Tuesday.   Jakarta has deployed thousands of troops as temporary fireman and deployed dozens of water-bombing aircraft to battle blazes that are turning pristine forest into charred landscape in Sumatra and Borneo islands.   The fires -- usually started by illegal burning to clear land for farming -- have unleashed a choking haze across parts of southeast Asia.

The Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation said Tuesday that the haze was affecting hundreds of great apes in its care at rescue centres and wildlife re-introduction shelters.   "The thick smoke does not only endanger the health of our staff... but also it affects the 355 orangutans we currently care for", the foundation said in a statement, referring to just once cetre in Kalimantan   "As many as 37 young orangutans are suspected to have contracted a mild respiratory infection," it added.   Conditions were so bad at their Samboja Lestari facility in East Kalimantan that outdoor activities for the animals had been restricted to a few hours a day.

Orangutans have been particularly vulnerable to commercial land clearances and have seen their natural habitat shrink dramatically in the last few decades.   The population of orangutan in Borneo has plummeted from about 288,500 in 1973 to about 100,000 today, according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.   The toxic smoke caused by the forest fires is an annual problem for Indonesia and its neighbours, but has been worsened this year by particularly dry weather.   On Borneo island, which Indonesia shares with Malaysia and Brunei, pollution levels were "hazardous", according to environment ministry data.   Hundreds of schools across Indonesia and Malaysia were shut.