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Venezuela

Venezuela US Consular Information Sheet
May 05, 2008
COUNTRY DESCRIPTION:

Venezuela is a medium income country whose economy is dominated by a substantial oil industry.
The political climate in Venezuela is highly polarized and
olatile.
Violent crime is a continuing problem.
Assaults, robberies, and kidnappings occur throughout the country.
Scheduled air service and all-weather roads connect major cities and most regions of the country.
Venezuela’s tourism infrastructure varies in quality according to location and price.
For an in depth country description of Venezuela, please read the Department of State Background Notes on Venezuela.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS:
A valid passport and a visa or tourist card are required.
Tourist cards are issued on flights from the U.S. to Venezuela for persons staying less than ninety days.
Persons traveling for reasons other than tourism, however, should consult the Venezuelan Embassy or nearest Venezuelan consulate regarding possible visa requirements for their specific purpose of travel.
Venezuelan immigration authorities may require that U.S. passports have at least six months validity remaining from the date of arrival in Venezuela.
Some U.S. citizens have been turned back to the United States if their passports will expire in less than six months. Passports should also be in good condition, as some U.S. citizens have been delayed or detained overnight for having otherwise valid passports in poor condition.
U.S. citizens residing in Venezuela should be careful to obtain legitimate Venezuelan documentation appropriate to their status.
There have been numerous cases in the last several months of U.S. citizens who, having employed intermediaries, received what they believed to be valid Venezuelan resident visas and work permits.
They were subsequently arrested and charged with possessing fraudulent Venezuelan documentation.
ONIDEX, the Venezuelan government agency responsible for immigration documents, has informed the Embassy that the only valid resident visas are those for which the bearer has personally signed at ONIDEX headquarters in Caracas.

Venezuelan law requires Venezuelan citizens to enter and depart Venezuela using Venezuelan passports and Venezuelan immigration authorities are increasingly enforcing this requirement.
In order to comply with U.S. and Venezuelan law, persons who hold dual American-Venezuelan nationality must plan to travel between Venezuela and the United States with valid U.S. and Venezuelan passports.
Please see our information on dual nationality for entry and exit requirements pertaining to dual nationals.
Venezuela's child protection law mandates that minors (under 18) who are citizens or non-citizen residents of Venezuela and who are traveling alone, with only one parent, or with a third party, must present a copy of their birth certificate and written, notarized authorization from the absent parent(s) or legal guardian, specifically granting permission to travel alone, with one parent, or with a third party.
This authorization must reflect the precise date and time of the travel, including flight and/or other pertinent information.
Without this authorization, immigration authorities will prevent the child's departure from Venezuela.
The Venezuelan Government no longer recognizes blanket or non-specific travel authorizations.
When a parent is deceased, a notarized copy of the death certificate is required in lieu of the written authorization.
If documents are prepared in the United States, the authorization and the birth certificate must be translated into Spanish, notarized, and authenticated by the Venezuela Embassy or a Venezuelan consulate in the United States.
If documents are prepared in Venezuela, only notarization by a Venezuelan notary is required.
A permission letter prepared outside Venezuela is valid for 90 days.
A permission letter prepared in Venezuela is valid for 60 days.
Travelers entering Venezuela from certain countries are required to have a current yellow fever vaccination certificate.
The Venezuelan government recommends that all travelers, regardless of their country of departure, be vaccinated for yellow fever before entering Venezuela.
Mosquito-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever are also common in some areas and travelers should take precautions to prevent infection.

An exit tax and airport fee must be paid when departing Venezuela by airline.
The exit tax is currently 46 Bolívares Fuertes, and the airport fee is currently 115 Bolívares Fuertes (a total of approximately 75 USD calculated at the official exchange rate). In many instances, especially with non-U.S. airlines, the exit tax and airport fee are not included in the airline ticket price and must be paid separately at the airport upon departure.
Authorities usually require that payment be made in local currency.
Both the departure tax and the airport fee are subject to change with little notice.
Travelers should check with their airlines for the latest information.
For current information concerning entry, tax, and customs requirements for Venezuela, travelers may contact the Venezuelan Embassy at 1099 30th Street, NW, Washington DC
20007, tel: (202) 342-2214, or visit the Embassy of Venezuela web site at http://www.embavenez-us.org/.
Travelers may also contact the Venezuelan consulates in New York, Miami, Chicago, New Orleans, Boston, Houston, San Francisco, or San Juan.
Additional information about vaccination requirements for travel to Venezuela, as well as to other international destinations, 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 CDC's Internet site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.

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:
Violent crime in Venezuela is pervasive, both in the capital, Caracas, and in the interior.
The country has one of the highest per-capita murder rates in the world.
Armed robberies take place in broad daylight throughout the city, including areas generally presumed safe and frequented by tourists.
A common technique is to choke the victim into unconsciousness and then rob them of all they are carrying.
Well-armed criminal gangs operate with impunity, often setting up fake police checkpoints.
Kidnapping is a particularly serious problem, with more than 1,000 reported during the past year alone.
Investigation of all crime is haphazard and ineffective.
In the case of high-profile killings, the authorities quickly round up suspects, but rarely produce evidence linking these individuals to the crime.
Only a very small percentage of criminals are tried and convicted.

Travel to and from Maiquetía Airport, the international airport serving Caracas, can be dangerous and corruption at the airport itself is rampant.
Travelers at the airport have been victims of personal property theft, as well as mugging and “express kidnapping” in which individuals are taken to make purchases or to withdraw as much money as possible from ATMs, often at gunpoint.
The Embassy has received multiple, credible reports that individuals with what appear to be official uniforms or other credentials are involved in facilitating or perpetrating these crimes.
For this reason, American citizen travelers should be wary of all strangers, even those in official uniform or carrying official identification.
There are also known drug trafficking groups working from the airport.
Travelers should not accept packages from anyone and should keep their luggage with them at all times.

Because of the frequency of robberies at gunpoint, travelers are encouraged to arrive during daylight hours.
If not, travelers should use extra care both within and outside the airport.
The Embassy strongly advises that all arriving passengers make advance plans for transportation from the airport to their place of lodging.
If possible, travelers should arrange to be picked up at the airport by someone who is known to them.
The Embassy has received frequent reports of armed robberies in taxicabs going to and from the airport at Maiquetía.
There is no foolproof method of knowing whether a taxi driver at the airport is reliable.
The fact that a taxi driver presents a credential or drives an automobile with official taxi license plates marked “libre” is no longer an indication of reliability.
Incidents of taxi drivers in Caracas overcharging, robbing, and injuring passengers are common.
Travelers should take care to use radio-dispatched taxis or those from reputable hotels.
Travelers should call a 24-hour radio-dispatched taxi service from a public phone lobby or ask hotel, restaurant, or airline representatives to contact a licensed cab company for them.
A list of transportation services used by members of the U.S. Embassy community is available on the U.S. Embassy web site at http://venezuela.usembassy.gov/.
The Embassy does not vouch for the professional ability or integrity of any specific provider.
The list is not meant to be an endorsement by the Department of State or the Embassy.
Likewise, the absence of any individual or company does not imply lack of competence.
While visiting Venezuela, Americans are encouraged to carry as little U.S. currency on them as possible and to avoid wearing expensive or flashy watches and jewelry.
Due to the poor security situation, the Embassy does not recommend changing money at the international airport.
Visitors should bring a major credit card, but should be aware of widespread pilfering of credit card data to make unauthorized transactions.
Travelers’ checks are not recommended as they are honored in only a few locations.
It is possible to exchange U.S. currency at approved exchange offices near major hotel chains in Caracas (personal checks are not accepted) and at commercial banks with some restrictions.
Due to currency regulations, hotels cannot provide currency exchange.
There are ATM machines throughout Venezuela.
Malfunctions are common, however, and travelers should be careful to use only those in well-lit public places.
ATM data has also been hacked and used to make unauthorized withdrawals from user’s accounts.
Popular tourist attractions, such as the Avila National Park, are increasingly associated with violent crime.
Americans planning to participate in outdoor activities in potentially isolated areas are strongly urged to travel in groups of five or more and to provide family or friends with their itineraries prior to departure.
Cross-border violence, kidnapping, drug trafficking, smuggling, and cattle-rustling occur frequently in areas along the 1,000-mile long border between Venezuela and Colombia.
Some kidnap victims have been released after ransom payments, while others have been murdered.
In many cases, Colombian terrorists are believed to be the perpetrators.
Colombia's National Liberation Army (ELN) has had a long history of kidnapping for ransom, and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) are active in the kidnapping trade.
Common criminals are also increasingly involved in kidnappings, either dealing with victim's families directly or selling the victim to terrorist groups.

In-country travel by U.S. Embassy employees, both official and private, within a 50-mile area along the entire Venezuela/Colombia border, is prohibited.
The State Department warns American citizens not to travel within a 50-mile area along the entire Venezuela/Colombia border.
U.S. citizens who elect to visit areas along the border region with Colombia despite this warning, apart from the Colombian terrorist threat, could encounter Venezuelan military-controlled areas and may be subject to search and arrest.
The U.S. Embassy must approve in advance the official travel to Venezuela of all U.S. Government personnel.
Private travel by U.S. military personnel to Venezuela requires advance approval by the U.S. Embassy.
Please consult the Department of Defense Foreign Clearance Guide at https://www.fcg.pentagon.mil/ for further information.
Non-military employees of the U.S. Government do not need Embassy approval for private travel.
Political marches and demonstrations are frequent in Caracas and often pass without incident.
Nevertheless, travelers should be aware that violence, including exchanges of gunfire, has occurred at political demonstrations in the past.
Demonstrations tend to occur at or near university campuses, business centers, and gathering places such as public squares and plazas.
Marches generally occur on busy thoroughfares, significantly impacting traffic.
Most major tourist destinations, including coastal beach resorts and Margarita Island, have not in the past been generally affected by protest actions.
The city of Merida, however, a major tourist destination in the Andes, has been the scene of frequent student demonstrations, some of them violent, including the use of firearms.
Travelers should keep informed of local developments by following the local press, radio and television.
Visitors should also consult their local hosts, including U.S. and Venezuelan business contacts, hotels, tour guides, and travel organizers.
As circumstances warrant, the Embassy sends out messages to U.S. citizens who have registered on-line.
These messages are also posted on the U.S. Citizens page of the Embassy’s web site at http://venezuela.usembassy.gov/.
U.S. citizens traveling or residing in Venezuela are advised to take common-sense precautions and avoid large gatherings and demonstrations, no matter where they occur.
Harassment of U.S. citizens by pro-government groups, Venezuelan airport authorities, and some segments of the police occurs but is quite limited. Venezuela’s most senior leaders, including President Chavez, regularly express anti-American sentiment.
The Venezuelan government’s rhetoric against the U.S. government, its American culture and institutions, has affected attitudes in what used to be one of the most pro-American countries in the hemisphere.

Venezuela is an earthquake-prone country and is occasionally subject to torrential rains, which can cause major disasters such as the one in Vargas State in 1999.
Travelers who intend to rent or purchase long-term housing in Venezuela should choose structures designed for earthquake resistance.
Such individuals may wish to seek professional assistance from an architect or civil/structural engineer, as does the Embassy, when renting or purchasing a house or apartment in Venezuela.
Americans already housed in such premises are also encouraged to seek a professional structural assessment of their housing.

For further information on seismic activity, you may wish to visit:

1. The Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER) web site at http://mceer.buffalo.edu/infoservice/Quakeline_Database/default.asp
2. The Global Seismic Hazard Assessment Program web site at www.seismo.ethz.ch/GSHAP
3. The Caribbean Disaster Mitigation Project web site at www.oas.org/CDMP
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 including the Worldwide Caution can be found.
Up-to-date information on safety and security can also be obtained by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll free in the U.S. and Canada, or for callers outside the U.S. and Canada, a regular toll-line at 1-202-501-4444.
These numbers are available from 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern Time, Monday through Friday (except U.S. federal holidays).
The Department of State urges American citizens to take responsibility for their own personal security while traveling overseas.
For general information about appropriate measures travelers can take to protect themselves in an overseas environment, see the Department of State’s pamphlet A Safe Trip Abroad.
CRIME: Venezuela and its capital, Caracas, have one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world.
Virtually all murders go unsolved.
The poor neighborhoods that cover the hills around Caracas are extremely dangerous.
These areas are seldom patrolled by police and should be avoided.
Armed robberies are common in urban and tourist areas throughout Venezuela, even areas presumed safe and visited by tourists.
Crimes committed against travelers are usually money-oriented crimes, such as theft and armed robbery.
Incidents occur during daylight hours as well as at night.
Many criminals are armed with guns or knives and will use force.
Jewelry attracts the attention of thieves.
Travelers are advised to leave jewelry items, especially expensive-looking wristwatches, at home.
Gangs of thieves will often surround their victims and use a chokehold to disable them, even in crowded market areas where there is little or no police presence.
Theft from hotel rooms and safe deposit boxes is a problem, and theft of unattended valuables on the beach and from rental cars parked near isolated areas or on city streets is a common occurrence.
A guarded garage or locked trunk is not a guarantee against theft.
Pickpockets concentrate in and around crowded bus and subway stations in downtown Caracas.
Subway escalators are favored sites for "bump and rob" petty thefts by roving bands of young criminals.
Many of these criminals are well dressed to allay suspicion and to blend in with crowds using the subways during rush hour.
Travelers should not display money or valuables.
"Express kidnappings," in which victims are seized in an attempt to get quick cash in exchange for their release, are a problem.
Kidnapping of U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals, from homes, hotels, unauthorized taxis and the airport terminal has occurred.
U.S. citizens should be alert to their surroundings and take necessary precautions.
The Department has received reports of robberies during nighttime and early morning hours on the highways around and leading to Caracas.
Reports have specifically involved cars being forced off the La Guaira highway leading from Caracas to the Maquetía International Airport, and the "Regional del Centro" highway leading from Caracas to Maracay/Valencia, at which point the victims are robbed.
The Department recommends avoiding driving at night and in the early morning where possible.
Drivers traveling on highways during nighttime and early morning hours should exercise caution.
Police responsiveness and effectiveness in Venezuela vary drastically but generally do not meet U.S. expectations.
U.S. travelers have reported robberies and other crimes committed against them by individuals wearing uniforms and purporting to be police officers or National Guard members.
Incidents of piracy off the coast of Venezuela remain a concern.
Some of these incidents have been especially violent, including the severe beating of a U.S. citizen in 2002, the fatal shooting of an Italian citizen in January 2004, and a machete attack on a U.S. citizen in 2005.
U.S. citizen yachters should exercise a heightened level of caution in Venezuelan waters.
Please consult the U.S. Coast Guard web site at http://www.uscg.mil/hq/g-o/g-opr/g-opr.htm for additional information on sailing in Venezuela.

Rules governing the sale of fuel to foreign sailors in Venezuela vary by state.
U.S. citizen yachters should inquire about specific state procedures prior to attempting to purchase fuel in any given location.
Failure to comply with a state’s particular requirements can result in arrest and criminal charges.

The Embassy is aware of several instances where women lured American men to Venezuela after establishing “relationships” with them over the Internet.
Some of these men were robbed shortly after they arrived in Venezuela.
Others were recruited to act as narcotics couriers or “drug mules.”
In three instances, the Americans were arrested at the airport with narcotics in their possession and served extended jail terms in Venezuela.
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 http://www.cybercrime.gov/18usc2320.htm.
INFORMATION FOR VICTIMS OF CRIME:
The loss or theft abroad of a U.S. passport should be reported immediately to the local police and the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
If you are the victim of a crime while overseas, in addition to reporting to local police, please contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for assistance.
The Embassy/Consulate staff can, for example, assist you to find appropriate medical care, contact family members or friends and explain how funds could be transferred.
Although the investigation and prosecution of the crime are 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.
See our information on Victims of Crime.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION:
Medical care at private hospitals and clinics in Caracas and other major cities is generally good.
Public hospitals and clinics generally provide a lower level of care and basic supplies at public facilities may be in short supply or unavailable.
Cash payment is usually required in advance of the provision of medical services at private facilities, although some facilities will accept credit cards.
Patients who cannot provide advance payment may be referred to a public hospital for treatment.
Private companies that require the patient to be a subscriber to the service or provide cash payment in advance generally provide the most effective ambulance services.
Public ambulance service is unreliable.
U.S. citizens should be aware that due to the currency restrictions in effect in Venezuela they might find it difficult to receive wire transfers from abroad, whether through a bank or Western Union.
Such wire transfers cannot be used reliably as a source of emergency funds.
U.S. citizens traveling to Venezuela may also find it difficult to obtain certain prescription drugs, particularly name brands, and should ensure that they have sufficient quantities of all medications for the duration of their stay.
Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s hotline for international travelers at 1-877-FYI-TRIP (1-877-394-8747) or via the CDC’s web site at http://wwwn.cdc.gov/travel/default.aspx.
For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad consult the World Health Organization’s (WHO) web site at http://www.who.int/en.
Further health information for travelers is available at http://www.who.int/ith/en.
MEDICAL INSURANCE:
The Department of State strongly urges Americans to consult with their medical insurance company prior to traveling abroad to confirm whether their policy applies overseas and whether it will cover emergency expenses such as a medical evacuation.
Please see our information on medical insurance overseas.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS:
While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning Venezuela is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.
Driving regulations in Venezuela are similar to those in the United States, although many drivers do not obey them.
Defensive driving is a necessity.
Child car seats and seatbelts are not required and are seldom available in rental cars and taxis.
Outside the major cities, night driving can be dangerous because of unmarked road damage or repairs in progress, unlighted vehicles, and livestock.
Even in urban areas, road damage is often marked by a pile of rocks or sticks left by passersby near or in the pothole or crevice, without flares or other devices to highlight the danger.
Traffic jams are common within Caracas during most of the day and are frequently exploited by criminals. Stops at National Guard and local police checkpoints are mandatory.
Drivers should follow all National Guard instructions and be prepared to show vehicle and insurance papers and passports.
Vehicles may be searched.
Inexpensive bus service is available to most destinations throughout the country, but the high incidence of criminal activity on public transportation makes bus travel inadvisable.
Peak holiday travel occurs during summer and winter school breaks and major civil and religious holidays, including Carnival, Easter, Christmas and New Year's holidays.
Lengthy delays due to road congestion are common during these peak periods.
Please refer to our Road Safety page for more information.

AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the Government of Venezuela’s Civil Aviation Authority as being in compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for the oversight of Venezuela’s air carrier operations.
For more information, travelers may visit the FAA’s web site at http://www.faa.gov/safety/programs_initiatives/oversight/iasa/.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: In February 2007, the National Assembly granted President Chavez the authority to rule by decree in 11 general areas for 18 months.
Laws issued by President Chavez under this authority become effective immediately after their publication in the government legislative gazette.
As a result, laws directly impacting U.S. Citizens or their interests in Venezuela may come into force with little or no warning.
U.S. Citizens are advised to carefully monitor changes in Venezuelan law. Venezuela is also slated to hold gubernatorial and mayoral elections nation-wide in late 2008.
These electoral races are expected to generate extensive political campaigning from pro-government and opposition parties.
The government of Venezuela implemented rigid foreign exchange controls in 2003, including a fixed official rate of exchange.
Foreign exchange transactions must take place through exchange houses or commercial banks at the official rate.
As of October 2005 it is no longer possible to exchange money at hotels.
Currency exchange for tourists can be arranged at "casas de cambio" (exchange houses).
There are exchange houses located near most major hotels.
It is also possible to exchange money at commercial banks; however, visitors should be aware that the exchange would not be immediate.
Exchanges through commercial banks must first be approved by the Commission for Administration of Foreign Currencies (CADIVI).
This requires a registration process, which delays the exchange.
The exchange control mechanisms also require the exchange houses and commercial banks to obtain authorization from CADIVI to trade Bolívares Fuertes (the local currency) into U.S. dollars.
Outside the major cities, a good supply of Venezuelan currency is necessary, as it may be difficult to find exchange houses.
The Embassy cannot provide currency exchange services.
Travelers will likely encounter individuals in Venezuela who are willing to exchange Bolívares Fuertes for U.S. dollars at a rate significantly higher than the official rate of exchange.
These "parallel market" currency exchanges are prohibited under the Venezuelan foreign exchange controls.
Travelers engaging in such activity may be detained by the Venezuelan authorities.
Additionally, in accordance with an October 2005 law, any person who exchanges more than 10,000 U.S. dollars in the course of a year through unofficial means is subject to a fine of double the amount exchanged.
If the amount exceeds 20,000 U.S. dollars the penalty is two to six years imprisonment.
Any person who transports more than 10,000 U.S. dollars into or out of Venezuela by any means must declare this amount to customs officials.
Credit cards are generally accepted at most upscale tourist establishments, but foreign exchange controls have made credit card acceptance less common than in the past.
Visa, MasterCard, and American Express have representatives in Venezuela.
Due to the prevalence of credit card fraud in Venezuela, travelers should exercise caution in using their credit cards and should check statements regularly to ensure that no unauthorized charges have been made.
Most major cities have ATMs with 24-hour service where users may withdraw local currency, but many of these ATMs will not accept U.S.-issued debit cards.
Venezuelan customs authorities may enforce strict regulations concerning temporary importation into or export from Venezuela of items such as plant and animal products, firearms, medications, archaeological or "cultural heritage" items, and pirated copies of copyrighted articles.
It is advisable to contact the Embassy of Venezuela in Washington or one of Venezuela's consulates in the United States for specific information regarding customs requirements.
Please see our Customs Information.
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 Venezuela’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned.
Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Venezuela are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines.
Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime, prosecutable in the United States.
Please see our information on Criminal Penalties.
CHILDREN'S ISSUES:
For information see our Office of Children’s Issues web pages on intercountry adoption and international parental child abduction.

REGISTRATION / EMBASSY LOCATION:
Americans living or traveling in Venezuela are encouraged to register with the U.S. Embassy in Caracas through the State Department’s travel registration web site so that they can obtain updated information on travel and security within Venezuela.
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 to contact them in case of emergency.
The Consular Section is open for American Citizen Services from 8:00 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. Monday through Friday, excluding U.S. and Venezuelan holidays.
The U.S. Embassy is located at Calle Suapure and Calle F, Colinas de Valle Arriba, Caracas.
The telephone number during regular business hours (8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.) is (58) (212) 975-6411.
In case of an after-hours emergency, callers should dial (58) (212) 907-8400.
The Embassy’s web site, http://venezuela.usembassy.gov/ , contains complete information about services provided and hours of operation.
A part-time consular agent in Maracaibo provides services for U.S. citizens in western Venezuela.
The agent is available to the public every Monday from 8:15 am to 12:15 pm, at the Centro Venezolano Americano del Zulia (CEVAZ), Calle 63 No. 3E-60, Maracaibo; telephone 58)(0261) 793-2101 or 793-3488.
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This replaces the Consular Information Sheet dated November 1, 2007, and updates all sections.

Travel News Headlines WORLD NEWS

Date: Wed 19 Jun 2019
Source: InSight crime [edited]

Disease outbreaks show desperate Venezuelans have migrated to illegal gold mining areas for work.

Outbreaks of malaria and diphtheria in a region of Venezuela where these diseases are rare has revealed how armed groups are organizing a vast migration to illegal mines.

The outbreaks show that criminals operating in the state of Miranda found a way to make money amid the country's worsening crisis by moving into the illegal gold mines of Bolivar state, in the south of Venezuela.

In the middle of 2017, doctors witnessed an unusual, sustained, and inexplicable malaria outbreak in Valles del Tuy, a region in the state of Miranda located between the coast and the center of Venezuela where the mosquito-borne disease is seldom seen, Efecto Cocuyo reported.

The startling epidemic offered the 1st clue to the changing criminal dynamics in the region.

"Malaria was not a disease native to states in the center of the country, so this caught our attention. We started to ask patients about it to find out how they contracted it. The surprise came when one of the patients told me that he had caught it in the mining region in the state of Bolivar, where they went to work in gold mining," explained a doctor whose practice is in Charallave, the municipal seat in Cristobal Rojas municipality in Miranda state. The doctor asked to remain anonymous for security reasons.

Pressured by the economic situation and massive inflation, residents of the Valles del Tuy region began working during their vacations in the illegal mines in Bolivar, more than 500 kilometers [about 311 mi] away. The doctor said that they were recruited by 'pranes', or prison gang bosses, who had previously been the leaders of local 'megabandas' in Valles del Tuy.

The megabandas' grip on Valles del Tuy began in 2013, when various sites were converted into so-called peace zones, areas where security forces could not enter.

Later, when kidnappings and extortion stopped being profitable in the poor areas where they operated, members of the same megabandas migrated to the mining region in search of other sources of income, and to escape police and military raids.

InSight crime analysis
----------------------
Criminals are not immune to the effects of Venezuela's current economic, political, and social crisis.

Many criminals, primarily pranes and leaders of megabandas, have been forced to abandon their former strongholds and change the pattern of their criminal activities, according to investigations conducted by InSight Crime.

Criminals are trading robbery, petty theft, and kidnappings for drug trafficking and illegal mining. Additionally, they are migrating to states where these illicit economies are strongest: Sucre, Zulia, Tachira, and Bolivar. In the south of Venezuela, Bolivar has become the principal destination for the pranes of Valles del Tuy.

Ramon Teran Rico, alias "Monchi," for example, was the leader of one of the largest criminal organizations in the state of Miranda. Community representatives told InSight Crime that he fled to Bolivar's mines 2 years ago.

Monchi was the 1st crime boss to try his luck at the Orinoco Mining Arc, a transnational mining project created in 2016. He gradually moved his henchmen there from the Valles del Tuy. Sources in his circle of friends say that he even purchased his own dredge to extract gold.

Leaders of other criminal structures operating in the Valles del Tuy have also had to reinvent themselves in order to survive, and have moved into southern Venezuelan states where they operate comfortably.

Hundreds of residents of the towns in Valles del Tuy have migrated to the mining region. "All of the families here have at least one person that has gone to work in the mines," said a resident of Ocumare del Tuy in Miranda state, who reports seeing his neighbors' children and relatives head for the mines.

In November 2016, a case of diphtheria, an acute infectious disease [that most commonly affects the throat and the tonsils], was detected in the Sucuta sector of Ocumare del Tuy, alerting health authorities to the re-emergence of a disease rarely seen in the center of the country.

Follow-up with the patient found that he had contracted the infection in the Bolivar mines.

Health authorities developed prevention plans targeted at the neighborhoods where criminal groups operate. Investigations conducted by health authorities demonstrated that the men that go to work in the mines, as well sex workers or women who work in the kitchens there, carried these diseases back to the Valles del Tuy.

The public health problem shed light on the fact that an illegal gold mining fever had emerged -- an economic lifeline that is now strengthening organized crime.  [Byline: Venezuela Investigative Unit]
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[Malaria has surged in Venezuela over the past 9 years (see ProMED reports below). Control measures have ceased to exist and drugs for treatment have become difficult to find. The association with illegal haphazard mining was reported from Bolivar state in 2012, and the present report underlines that such activities constitute high risk for malaria and other diseases.

The diphtheria outbreak that began in July 2016 remains ongoing. Through February 2019, Venezuela has seen a total of 2726 suspected cases (1612 confirmed), including 164 in 2019 to date (<http://outbreaknewstoday.com/diphtheria-update-venezuela-60872/>). - ProMED Mod.EP]

[Maps of Venezuela:
Date: Sat, 25 May 2019 03:37:38 +0200
By Andrea TOSTA

Caracas, May 25, 2019 (AFP) - If it weren't for the Center for Malaria Studies in Caracas, Francelis Pacheco would have been unable to get treatment for a disease she has contracted around 20 times.   Pacheco, 25, sells clothes and cigars in the claustrophobic tunnels of gold mines in southern Venezuela's Bolivar state, where a type of malaria-carrying mosquito is particularly active.   "If it weren't for (treatment) here, honestly I don't know what I would have done," Pacheco told AFP as she waited in the clinic for a new diagnosis, having spent several months in Bolivar state and neighboring Guyana, some 600 kilometres (370 miles) from her Caracas home.

The clinic, though, is not immune to Venezuela's economic crisis and is struggling to treat patients.   This is a country that lacks 85 percent of the medicines it needs, according to the pharmaceuticals industry.   With a tiny budget, the malaria clinic, which was opened in 1973, relies on donations.   Between 20 and 30 people a day from all over the country come get diagnosed and receive medication to alleviate the symptoms of a disease that can be fatal.

- 'Zero funding' -
Scientists who would later work for this clinic contributed in 1961 to helping Venezuela become the first country to eradicate malaria.   However, there was a resurgence seven years ago, worsening to become an epidemic in 2016, according to the Red de Epidemiologia NGO.   Today the clinic is in a sorry state: yellowed microscopes, a dishwasher stained by purple chemicals, refrigerators corroded by rust.   Over the years, fridges, freezers and air conditioners have stopped working and there's been no budget to  repair or replace them. Maintenance costs $1,000 a month.   Until 2007, the clinic received state funding for studies, but the money dwindled and then disappeared, Oscar Noya, the institution's director, told AFP.   "In Venezuela, scientific and investigative funding is zero!" he said.

The clinic has eight staffers who are paid salaries equivalent to $7 to $11 a month.   "We're at extreme poverty levels," said Noya, adding that "a full-time researcher should earn $4,000 to $5,000 a month."   Despite this, the center continues to propose malaria research projects to universities in France, Spain or Scotland, which allows them to secure funding.   According to the World Health Organization, Venezuela registered more than 400,000 malaria cases in 2017, making it one of the hardest-hit countries in the Americas.   Noya, though, believes the true extent of the epidemic is "close to two million" people affected.   The clinic treated 3,500 patients in 2018 alone, a figure that was "150 times greater than the past but with the same number of staff."

- Surviving on donations -
The government stopped publishing its epidemiology bulletins in 2016 when it acknowledged 240,000 cases.   Venezuela is blighted by the worst economic crisis in its recent history with basic necessities such as food and medicine in short supply.   Oil production, on which Venezuela is almost entirely dependent, has dropped alarmingly in the last decade while the International Monetary Fund predicts inflation will reach a staggering 10 million percent this year.

President Nicolas Maduro's government blames the country's woes on US sanctions, which the socialist leader claims have cost Venezuela $30 billion.   The malaria clinic survives on donations from NGOs such as Doctors Without Borders, Aid For Aids and the Rotary Club, as well as through international partnerships.   The money raised is spent on medicine, quick test kits, gloves and chlorine to clean the facilities.   In 2018, they also received anti-malaria medication from the Pan American Health Organization after two years without any, Noya said.   "Today, we're on the mat... but we're fighters and that's why we're still here, even though we've had many offers to leave the country" for work, he added.
Date: Sun, 10 Mar 2019 00:58:06 +0100

Caracas, March 9, 2019 (AFP) - Fifteen Venezuelans with advanced kidney disease have died after being unable to get dialysis during the country's extended power outage, an NGO reported Saturday.   "Between yesterday and today, there were 15 deaths for lack of dialysis," said Francisco Valencia, director of the Codevida health rights group.

"The situation of people with kidney failure is very difficult, critical, we are talking about 95 percent of dialysis units, which today likely hit 100 percent, are paralyzed, due to the power outage," Valencia added.   He warned that there are more than 10,200 dialysis-dependent people nationwide who were at risk by the blackout.   Venezuelans since Thursday afternoon have been in the grips of the worst blackout in the history of the oil-producing country.   President Nicolas Maduro government has charged that a US-led war on electric power supply was under way.

The United States backs the interim presidency of opposition leader Juan Guaido. He is now recognized as interim president for more than 50 countries.   Maduro told supporters Saturday that almost 70 percent of power had been restored but at midday there was another cyber "attack at one of the generators that was working perfectly and that disturbed and undid everything we had achieved."   Although Caracas and the states of Miranda and Vargas -- home to the country's international airport and main port -- had intermittent power, the western regions of Barinas, Tachira and Zulia remained without electricity.
Date: Tue, 29 Jan 2019 18:36:21 +0100

Washington, Jan 29, 2019 (AFP) - The United States on Tuesday urged its citizens to avoid all travel to crisis-torn Venezuela, citing risks of crime and arrest and the US embassy's limited ability to assist.   "Do not travel to Venezuela due to crime, civil unrest, poor health infrastructure and arbitrary arrest and detention of US citizens," the State Department said in an updated travel advisory.   "There are shortages of food, electricity, water, medicine and medical supplies throughout much of Venezuela," it said.   Venezuela becomes the only country in the Western Hemisphere to be slapped with the State Department's "Level 4" warning against all travel, joining war zones such as Syria and Yemen. Americans, however, are not legally forbidden from going.

The US State Department had earlier listed Venezuela as Level 3, meaning that Americans should reconsider visits.    While the new travel advisory concerns security of US citizens, it comes as the United States is pressing leftist President Nicolas Maduro to step down faced with Venezuela's economic collapse and mounting street protests.   The United States has recognized opposition leader Juan Guaido as the interim president.   Washington has refused Maduro's orders to close down the embassy but has pulled out non-emergency staff and families due to security risks.   The travel advisory said that the United States "has limited ability to provide emergency services" in Venezuela.
Date: Mon 3 Dec 2018 8:47 PM
Source: ZME Science [abridged, edited]

Decades of progress in reducing the spread of measles have been stymied by outbreaks in Europe and the Americas, particularly in Venezuela. According to a recent report [see reference below] authored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of cases of the highly contagious disease reported worldwide has jumped by 31% between 2016 and 2017.

Measles is the leading cause of vaccine-preventable infant deaths.

Before the introduction of measles vaccine in 1963 and widespread vaccination, major epidemics occurred approximately every 2-3 years and measles caused an estimated 2.6 million deaths each year. Thanks to modern healthcare and vaccination policies, the spread of the disease has been greatly reduced. For instance, between 2000 and 2017, reported measles cases dropped by 80% worldwide (from 853 479 to 173 330). During this time, researchers estimate that vaccination prevented 21.1 million deaths.

However, when vaccination coverage is poor, measles can easily resurface even in regions where it had previously been eradicated, largely due to international travellers carrying the virus. Just 2 years ago, the WHO stated that measles was no longer circulating in the Americas. Today, endemic measles is back on the American continents, largely due to a terrible outbreak in Venezuela: the country where inflation reached 1 million percent and whose public system has gone into disarray could no longer afford to properly organize vaccination campaigns. Today, there are 3545 confirmed cases of measles in Venezuela since 2016, which have resulted in 62 deaths.

From there, Venezuelan refugees have spread the disease to other parts of the continent -- especially in Brazil.

Measles outbreaks have also appeared elsewhere, including Europe and some parts of the United States. This time, however, the stead of the disease was not triggered by civil upheaval and economic collapse, but rather by the refusal of some parents to vaccinate their children. >From 2016-2017, the number of cases of measles in Europe rose by 458%, to 24,356.

According to the latest entry in the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, there were 173 300 cases of measles reported worldwide in 2017, compared to only 132 328 in 2016. That's still a much better situation than the world was facing only 2 decades ago. However, it's disappointing to see how so much hard-earned progress is [lost].

This study shows just how vulnerable populations can be, even in places where measles had been previously all but eradicated.

[Reference
---------
Dabbagh A, Laws RL, Steulet C, et al. Progress toward regional measles elimination -- worldwide, 2000-2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018; 67(47); 1323-29;
=========================
[The report contains a very nice figure showing the estimated annual number of measles deaths with and without vaccination programs -- worldwide, 2000-2017. Credit: CDC] - ProMED Mod.LK]
More ...

World Travel News Headlines

Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 15:37:17 +0200
By Julie Pacorel

Marseille, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - France's second city and key tourist hub Marseille has enforced temporary swimming bans on several beaches amid pollution concerns, disappointing locals and tourists hoping to take a dip as temperatures soar.   Seven of the city's 21 beaches have raised a purple flag -- which means no bathing -- since the start of the month, on days when hygiene inspections revealed high levels of faecal matter.   Marseille is a tourist hotspot, attracting five million visitors per year thanks to its Mediterranean coastline and sun-kissed climate.

But the city, France's largest port, struggles with pollution from industry and shipping.   "It's mostly caused by sanitation problems, but there are also increasing numbers of boats spewing out their grey and black waste before they enter the port," said Sarah Hatimi, head of the water quality programme at Surfrider Foundation Europe environmental group.   Swimming bans are nothing new in Marseille. Last year, authorities enforced 153 bans amid fears of a pollution spike after heavy rainfall.   "This year, we can't say it's because of the rain," Monique Daubet, local councillor responsible for public health, said, adding that spillages from swimming pools and "lots of animal faeces" are part of the problem.   But the city is "proactive", she said, going "even further" than weekly water inspections imposed by a European law to "pay for our own analysis to protect swimmers".

Every morning, inspectors take water samples from each of the city's beaches to test for E. coli and enterococci bacteria, which indicate human or animal defecation.   A laboratory can reveal test results the same morning, whereas the previous weekly tests "arrived far too late, two or three days later," Daubet said.   Despite efforts, Marseille authorities aren't hopeful they can secure a "blue flag" stamp of approval for beach hygiene.   "Our water quality doesn't meet the criteria, which includes, for example, keeping bins at least 100 metres away from the beach".   "Nobody is forcing us to do this," she said. "Rather than complaining, people should be grateful we're closing the beaches!"
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 10:37:11 +0200
By Elizabeth Vuvu

Kokopo, Papua New Guinea, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Papua New Guinea's volatile Ulawun volcano -- designated one of the world's most hazardous -- erupted Wednesday, spewing lava high in the air and sending residents fleeing.   A pilot for Niugini Helicopters flying near the crater witnessed a column of lava spurting vertically into the equatorial sky, along with ash that has been belching since early morning.   Ulawun, on the remote Bismarck Archipelago chain, is listed as one of 16 "Decade Volcanoes" targeted for research because they pose a significant risk of large, violent eruptions.   Witnesses said lava had cut off the main highway in north of the island.   "The volcanic activity at Mt Ulawun began at 7:00 am this morning after slight rumbling and light emission," Leo Porikura, an official with the West New Britain Disaster Office, told AFP earlier.   "The Rabaul Volcano Observatory has declared a stage one alert warning of a possible eruption."

Witnesses had reported ash spewing out of the 2,334 metre (7,657 foot) summit, sending trails spanning high overhead.    "The sky has turned black," said Kingsly Quou, manager of the nearby Mavo Estates palm plantation.   Quou said that villagers living at the base of the volcano had already been evacuated and he and his colleagues were gathering their belongings.   Japanese satellite imagery and sources on the ground had shown sulphur dioxide and now volcanic ash drifting from the crater.   Australia's Bureau of Meteorology said the ash reached more than 13 kilometres (44,000 feet) into the air.   The bureau's Darwin Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre issued a "red" warning to airlines, indicating the eruption was imminent, although there is not believed to be an immediate threat for flight routes.   Thousands of people live in the shadow of Ulawun, despite it being one of the most active volcanoes in the country.

Porikura said people living in the vicinity of the volcano had been instructed to move away to safer areas and a disaster team had been dispatched.   "The disaster team will liaise with the local community, local businesses and local level government authorities to prepare for a possible eruption," he said.   "Three crucial priority areas being addressed include transport plan, care centre preparations and getting the communities in the high-risk areas to prepare for an evacuation," Porikura said.   The nearby Rabaul Volcano Observatory said emissions from the volcano were getting darker, indicating a higher ash content -- which can cause breathing problems, eye irritation and skin irritation because of the high acid content.   A team of experts had visited earlier this month and reported the volcano was "quiet" adding "there is no indication of any change in its state of unrest."   The ash emissions had been proceeded by an increase in seismic activity, Porikura said.
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 10:01:43 +0200

San José, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - A 6.2 magnitude earthquake hit the Panama-Costa Rica border around midnight on Tuesday, the US Geological Survey said, revising earlier warnings of "significant damage", as the tremor cut power supplies near the epicentre.   The quake struck at a depth of 26 kilometres (16 miles), about two kilometres from the nearest town of Progreso in Panama, USGS said, updating a previous alert that estimated the depth at 10 kilometres.

There were no immediate reports of casualties, and USGS said "the impact should be relatively localized", reversing an earlier advisory that "past events with this alert level have required a regional or national level response."   "Estimated economic losses are less than 1 percent of GDP of Panama," the website said.   According to the National Seismological Network (RSN) in Costa Rica, the quake struck at 0523 GMT Wednesday (11.23 pm Tuesday) with its epicentre located 11 kilometres east of the Panamanian border town of Puerto Armuelles.

The tremor was felt in Costa Rica's capital San Jose and in many parts of the Central American country, according to initial reports, but the national tsunami warning system said there was no risk of a tsunami.   Villagers in the south of Costa Rica fled their homes, fearing aftershocks. Two houses in the region were damaged by the quake, said Alexander Solis, president of the country's National Emergency Commission.

Costa Rica's President Carlos Alvarado said there were power cuts in several communities in the southwest of the country, near the epicentre.   In November 2017 a 6.5-magnitude quake on the Pacific coast of Costa Rica caused buildings to sway in San Jose and contributed to the deaths of two people who had heart attacks.   Further north, two months earlier a 7.1-magnitude earthquake killed more than 300 people in Mexico.
Date: Wed, 26 Jun 2019 03:43:29 +0200
By Béatrice DEBUT

eMalahleni, South Africa, June 26, 2019 (AFP) - Tumelo has again lost several days at school because of sickness.   "My eyes are burning. Sometimes I can't breathe," she coughs.   "The doc said there is nothing we can do," says her mother Nono Ledwaba. "We need to take her out of eMalahleni. When she goes to her grandma in Mafikeng, the symptoms disappear."

The 14-year-old lives in house number 3094 of eMpumelelweni township in eMalahleni, part of the Highveld region turned over to mines and power plants that, according to activists, are killing local people.   Her neighbour in 3095, Lifa Pelican, has similar symptoms, which badly set back his schooling. At 25, he never moves without his inhaler, even inside his chilly home with rough-hewn walls.   "If I don't have it with me, sometimes I can't breathe. Sometimes I feel I am going to die," he says.   "These mines get a lot of money and we suffer. There's solar power. We don't need to use these coal plants."   Green energy such as solar and wind power account for less than two percent of electricity production in South Africa, while coal still provides 86 percent.

Lifa's breathing troubles began after he moved to eMalahleni, at the mercy of gritty coal dust and thick whitish smoke of electricity power stations burning fuel day and night.   Relief comes when he visits his father in Nelspruit, about 200 kilometres (125 miles) away, trips that feel like a new lease on life. "I don't use the inhaler."   Tumelo's own troubles began when the family moved to eMalahleni in 2007, when she was a toddler.   The trips to Mafikeng are literally a breath of fresh air -- her grandmother's home is 400 kms from the mines.   "The only solution is to close down the plants, but will this happen?" Ledwaba asks.   eMalahleni, which means "the place of coal", is among the worst places in the world for pollution by nitrogen dioxide and sulphur dioxide, according to Greenpeace.

- 'Deadly pollution levels' -
South Africa, like many developing countries, has placed a heavy bet on coal for its development -- a fuel that is plentiful, cheap and locally-sourced.   But campaign groups say health and climate costs are high.   Two environmental non-governmental organisations, groundWork and Vukani, say they have identified the top culprits.   They include 12 coal-burning power stations run by state-owned Eskom along with a plant for liquefying coal and an oil refinery.   Pollution from these sites was responsible for between 305 and 650 premature deaths in 2016, say the two NGOs.   They have initiated a suit against the government for "violation of the constitutional right to clean air" -- a legal first in South Africa, the leading industrial power on the continent.

The NGOs contend that the government has failed to reduce deadly pollution levels in the area, just an hour and a half's drive from Johannesburg.   "It has evolved into a public health crisis," says Tim Lloyd, lawyer for groundWork and Vukani.   "The cost of the air pollution to our economy each year is around 35 billion rand (1.8 billion euros, $2 billion)."   In response to the accusations, an environment ministry spokesman told AFP that SO2 (sulphur dioxide) emissions have "shown improvements across all the five monitoring stations" in the worst-affected region of the Highveld.   Criticism by environmental groups "fails to recognise these improvements', the ministry stated, declining to give further details about the data.   "The reality is that the desired improvements will not happen over a short period of time," it said.   Eskom admitted the area's pollution problem "requires urgent attention", adding that domestic coal burning, traffic and mining dust were also to blame.

- 'The life of my kids' -
"When people from other provinces come, they start getting sick with respiratory issues," says Alexis Mashifane, a doctor with a busy practice in Middelberg, 30 kms from eMalahleni.   "When they leave this area, some of them get better."   But many have no choice, saying they are stuck in the toxic region for economic reasons.   "I wish to move away because this place is not right," says Mbali Mathebula, a single mother who is raising a small daughter and a baby girl, both suffering from asthma. "I don't have money to buy a house".

In Mathebula's home at the foot of the Schonland coal mine, five-year-old Princess plays with the useless mask given to her mother at hospital.   Mathebula, a supermarket employee, could not afford a 70-euro ($80) oxygen machine to attach to the mask.   If a child has an asthma attack in the night, Mathebula says she has to wait until the morning and then go to hospital. "Sometimes I don't have money to go there. I must borrow."   Her neighbour Cebile Faith Mkhwanazi has to cope with her three-year-old daughter's asthma attacks.   "I'm thinking of taking them to my mother," she adds, broken-hearted. "So that they stay there forever for their health."
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2019 17:57:30 +0200
By Clare BYRNE

Paris, June 25, 2019 (AFP) - As Europe sizzled Tuesday at the start of a heatwave tipped to break records, drivers on Germany's famously speedy motorways were ordered to slow down and fans at the women's World Cup were showered in health warnings.

Meteorologists blamed a blast of torrid air from the Sahara for the unusually early summer heatwave, which could send thermometers above 40 degrees Celsius (104 Fahrenheit) in some places on Thursday and Friday.   Experts say such heatwaves early in the summer are likely to be more frequent as the planet heats up -- a phenomenon that scientists have shown to be driven by human use of fossil fuels.

In Germany, where forecasters have warned a June record of 38.5 degrees could be smashed, speed restrictions were placed on some stretches of "autobahns" as the unusually warm weather raised the risks of "blow-ups" -- the hot tarmac breaking up and shredding tyres.   A forest fire was raging north of Cottbus, the second-largest city in Brandenburg state, in an area that was just recovering from a fire in 2018.   It was deemed especially dangerous due to the risk of unexploded ammunition left in the area, which is home to a military training facility.

- 'Hell is coming' -
In Spain, TV weather presenter Silvia Laplana riffed on the doom-filled catchphrase "Winter is coming" from the blockbuster series Game of Thrones to describe what lay in store for the country.   "El infierno (hell) is coming," she tweeted alongside a weather map which showed most of the country coloured scarlet later in the week.   "Of course it's hot in summer but when you have a heatwave that is so extensive and intense, during which records are forecast to be beaten, it's NOT normal," she tweeted.   Temperatures are expected to be particularly sweltering in the northeast of Spain, with a stifling 45 degrees expected Friday in the city of Girona, and 44 degrees in Zaragoza at the weekend.   Five northern provinces were placed on an orange high alert for a heatwave on Wednesday, with another five to be added by the weekend.

- 'Overdoing' the warnings? -
Authorities were also taking no chances in France, where a heatwave in August 2003 was blamed for 15,000 deaths, many of them elderly people who were left to fend for themselves.   In a highly unusual move, Education Minister Jean-Michel Blanquer on Monday postponed national school exams to next week. Paris authorities have banned older models of diesel and petrol cars from Paris on Wednesday, fearing a build-up of pollution.   Health Minister Agnes Buzyn denied the government was being excessively vigilant.   "For all those who know (the risks), obviously it's too much, but if I can avoid unnecessary deaths, I will continue to communicate about prevention," Buzyn told LCI television, referring to the warnings on radio, TV and public transport.

The Red Cross meanwhile urged people to check on vulnerable neighbours, relatives and friends, saying the "coming days will be challenging for a lot of people, but especially older people, young children, and people with underlying illnesses or limited mobility."   Players and spectators at the women's football World Cup taking place in cities around France were also being inundated with messages about keeping hydrated.   In a rare gesture by FIFA on Monday evening, fans were allowed to bring their own bottles of water into the Paris stadium where Sweden took on Canada.   Phil Neville, the England coach, was sanguine about the impact of the weather on the tournament, however.   "There's no excuse, the players are ready for it."

Meanwhile, French beekeepers and farming groups said they were bracing for a "catastrophic" honey harvest this year after frost damage in winter, an unusually rainy spring, and, now, unusually high temperatures.   "In the hives, there is nothing to eat, beekeepers are having to feed them with syrup because they risk dying from hunger," added the union, which represents many small farms in honey-producing regions.   In the Baltic region of northeast Europe, crowds have flocked to lakes and rivers to cool down, leading to a spike in drownings.    Twenty-seven people were reporte to have drowned so far in Lithuania where the temperature soared to an unusual high of 35.7 degrees Celsius.
Date: Tue, 25 Jun 2019 15:49:33 +0200

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

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

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

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

The UN warned in April of a global resurgence of measles -- a highly contagious viral infection that can prove fatal -- amid a growing "anti-vax" movement worldwide.   The WHO says cases of the once all-but-eradicated disease surged 300 percent in 2018 across the globe.   The anti-vax phenomenon has adherents across Western countries but especially in the United States, where it has been fuelled by the spread on social media of claims that the jab could cause autism, which medical officials have found are baseless.
Date: Thu 13 Jun 2019
Source: I Am Expat [edited]
<https://www.iamexpat.de/expat-info/german-expat-news/giant-tropical-ticks-overwinter-germany-first-time>

Normally, the tropical tick species _Hyalomma [marginatum_] only arrives in Germany with the 1st wave of migratory birds. However, experts believe that this year [2019] the disease-carrying giant ticks have spent the winter here for the 1st time ever. The tropical tick species _Hyalomma_ is not native to Germany and was detected in the federal republic for the 1st time in 2017. The ticks only began to appear in large numbers last year [2018], when a total of 19 specimens were found in 8 of Germany's federal states.

This year [2019], however, discoveries of the ticks were reported unusually early, leading researchers at the University of Hohenheim in Stuttgart and the Munich Institute for Microbiology to conclude that the newly-arrived tropical tick species overwintered in Germany for the 1st time this year [2019]. Over the past few days, 6 of the spidery ticks have been discovered in Germany: 5 on a horse farm in the Lower Rhine and one on a horse in Lower Saxony. "After the 1st evidence of this year [2019], we must assume that these animals can winter in Germany," said Ute Mackenstedt, a parasitologist at the University of Hohenheim.

Accordingly, the ticks are "a significant step further towards establishing themselves here." The _Hyalomma_ tick is native to the dry and semi-arid areas of Africa, Asia, and southern Europe. It is distinctive for its long, spidery, striped legs and large body, and can grow up to 2 centimetres [about 0.8 in] in length, 2-3 times larger than their closest European relatives. Usually, the adult _Hyalomma_ ticks stick to sucking the blood of large animals, but they have been known to transfer themselves to human hosts too.

The major factor that distinguishes them from Germany's native tick population is the fact that they are able to actively sense, track, and hunt their warm-blooded hosts over dozens of meters. _Hyalomma_ ticks are also considered a major carrier of a dangerous virus that can cause Crimean-Congo haemorrhagic fever -- the most widespread viral disease carried by ticks. Currently, there is no vaccine for this, and 10 to 40 percent of cases are fatal.

However, at the moment there is no cause for alarm: none of the tick specimens that were discovered last year [2018] were found to be carrying infectious agents. The size of the ticks means that they are also easier for humans to detect and remove. Moreover, the early appearance of the ticks does not necessarily mean that they have already become native to [established in] Germany. For a significant population to develop, males and females would have to find each other. That can be a tall order when the population is still relatively small. Even if they did find each other, the unhatched larvae would have to rely on an animal host, such as a bird or hare, to develop. [Byline: Aby Carter]
========================
[Although there may not be immediate concern about _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks posing a human or animal health danger in Germany, if they have truly become established there and their numbers increase, there is a risk of transmission of pathogens such as Crimean-Congo hemorrhagic fever, as occurred in Spain, or spotted fever rickettsia such as _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ that has been found in these ticks in Germany.

The only documented _Hyalomma_ spp. tick in Germany was found on a human in the southern part of the country (Lake Constance area) in May 2006, but the possibility of tick transportation from Spain was not ruled out (1,2). The authors state that it is reasonable to suggest that the _Hyalomma_ spp. ticks that were examined had been transported by the birds from Africa.

The fact that a randomly caught bird was infested with _R. aeschlimannii_­-infected ticks is suggestive of the intensive stream of new pathogens transported through Europe by migrating birds

References
----------
1. Rumer L, Graser E, Hillebrand T, et al. _Rickettsia aeschlimannii_ in _Hyalomma marginatum_ ticks, Germany [letter]. Emerg Infect Dis. 2011; 17(2): 325-6; <https://dx.doi.org/10.3201/eid1702.100308>.
2. Kampen H, Poltz W, Hartelt K, et al. Detection of a questing _Hyalomma marginatum marginatum_ adult female (Acari, Ixodidae) in southern Germany. Exp Appl Acarol. 2007; 43(3): 227-31 <https://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s10493-007-9113-y>.

A map of the known distribution of _Hyalomma marginatum_ as of 2018 can be accessed at
<https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/publications-data/hyalomma-marginatum-current-known-distribution-january-2018>.

An image of _Hyalomma marginatum_ can be accessed at the source URL above. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map of Germany:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/101>]
Date: Mon 24 Jun 2019
Source: ABC News [edited]

India's Supreme Court on Mon 24 Jun 2019 directed state and national authorities to file reports to the court on an encephalitis outbreak in the eastern state of Bihar this month [June 2019] in which 152 children have died.

A senior health department official in Bihar, Sanjay Kumar, said the epidemic is showing signs of slowing with no new deaths on Monday [24 Jun 2019]. The fatalities have occurred in 20 of the state's 38 districts.

The outbreak has been exacerbated by a heatwave, with temperatures in Patna, Bihar's capital, reaching a high of 45.8 C (114.5 F).

"We're hoping with the onset of the monsoon, the epidemic will ease further," Kumar said.

More than 700 cases of encephalitis have been registered since the outbreak began on 1 Jun [2019], officials said. Young children are particularly vulnerable to the illness, which can cause swelling of the brain, fever, and vomiting.

The Supreme Court was responding to a petition filed by a lawyer. "The deaths of children are a direct result of negligence and inaction" on part of authorities, said Manohar Pratap, the petitioner.

The court expressed concern over the deaths and asked the governments to respond within 7 days with details on medical facilities, nutrition, sanitation and hygiene conditions in the state.

Thousands of Indians suffer from encephalitis, malaria, typhoid and other mosquito-borne diseases each year during the summer monsoon season.

India's central government has sent medical experts to Bihar to help doctors treat the patients.

The Bihar authorities have been sharply criticized because patients were sharing beds in crowded hospital wards with too few doctors. The families who could afford it transferred their children to private hospitals in Patna and other larger cities.

The Press Trust of India news agency on Mon 24 Jun 2019 reported that about 6000 deaths from encephalitis occurred in India between 2008 and 2014.
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[The number of cases has increased rapidly from 142 on 22 Jun 2019, to 152 in 2 days in the report above. However, the number of fatal cases reported last week varied widely, from 142 to 1349 (see Japanese encephalitis & other - India (07): (BR) http://promedmail.org/post/20190623.6534477).

One hopes that the assessment of the situation as slowing is accurate. There is no indication in the above report of the etiological agent(s) involved in these cases. Japanese encephalitis is one possibility. The majority of cases have been classified as acute encephalitis syndrome (AES). AES has continued to be attributed to a variety of etiologies, including Reye syndrome-like disease, possible enterovirus infection from polluted water, heatstroke, lychee fruit consumption (especially in recent reports), and scrub typhus (_Orientia tsutsugamushi_). A recent publication states that dengue virus is one of the 3 most common agents identified in AES, but existing surveillance for AES does not include routine testing for dengue. Until the etiology (or etiologies) of these AES cases is determined, effective and efficient prevention of these cases will not be possible. - ProMED Mod.TY]

[Maps of India:
Wed 26/06/2019 15:03
http://www.emro.who.int/som/somalia-news/who-and-unicef-somalia-and-partners-call-on-all-somalis-to-vaccinate-children-against-polio.html
https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/poliomyelitis

Mogadishu, 25 June 2019 - Health authorities rolled out a polio campaign yesterday in Puntland and Somaliland to vaccinate more than 940 000 children under 5 years of age to stop an ongoing outbreak of a strain of poliovirus.

The campaign runs from 24 to 27 June 2019, with support from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). It targets all children in 12 districts in Somaliland and 9 districts in Puntland.

By the numbers:
  • 945,480 children to be vaccinated
  • 3160 vaccinators knocking on doors
  • 677 team supervisors taking part
  • 1558 social mobilizers sharing messages on vaccination and children’s health
  • 15 children have been infected with the polioviruses so far, since outbreaks began
Somaliland, Puntland and other states in Somalia are currently experiencing outbreaks of 2 strains of poliovirus. Each strain requires a different vaccine. Children need several doses of each vaccine to boost immunity. Even though these viruses are not wild poliovirus, both these circulating strains can infect and paralyse children with low immunity. The last case of wild poliovirus in Somalia was in August 2014.

“It’s vital that parents ensure their children receive this vaccine because it builds immunity against a specific strain of poliovirus circulating in the country. I call upon all caregivers in the areas being covered in this campaign to please ensure children are at home and accept the oral polio vaccine when it is offered. Oral polio vaccines are stored and administered safely, and can save children from paralysis and permanent disability,” said Dr Mamunur Rahman Malik, WHO Representative for Somalia.

“The only way to protect children from all polioviruses is to ensure they receive multiple doses of polio vaccine, through campaigns and health facilities where possible,” said Werner Schultink, UNICEF Somalia Representative. “Caregivers need to ensure children receive this vaccine when it is available.”

Somalia’s polio programme has conducted 14 immunization campaigns, including 5 nationwide campaigns, since December 2017 to stop further spread of the outbreaks. Despite these efforts, not all Somalia’s children are being vaccinated, which has resulted in the polioviruses spreading across the country and spilling over to Ethiopia. To address this, polio teams from Somalia and Ethiopia conducted a joint planning workshop in Hargeisa last week, and are coordinating immunization activities along their shared border and in high-risk areas in each country during this round in order to prevent cross-border transmission and spill over.

Concurrent to the polio campaign, polio health workers have also been working to vaccinate more than 650 000 people aged one year and above against cholera in high-risk districts of Somalia.
Date: Mon, 24 Jun 2019 16:11:10 +0200

Kinshasa, June 24, 2019 (AFP) - More than 1,500 people have died in a nearly 10-month-old outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of Congo, the health ministry said Monday.   As of Sunday, 1,506 people have died out of 2,239 recorded cases, it said.   Earlier this month, the virus claimed two lives in neighbouring Uganda among a family who had travelled to the DRC.   Nearly 141,000 people have been vaccinated in the affected eastern DRC provinces of Ituri and North Kivu, the epicentre of the outbreak.

Ebola spreads among humans through close contact with the blood, body fluids, secretions or organs of an infected person, or objects contaminated by such fluids.   The current outbreak in the DRC is the worst on record after an epidemic that struck mainly in Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone between 2014-2016, killing more than 11,300 people.   Chronic violence and militia activity in Ituri and North Kivu as well as hostility to medical teams among locals have hampered the response.

On Monday, a crowd of people opposed to the burial of two Ebola victims in the Beni area burnt the vehicle of a health team, local police chief Colonel Safari Kazingufu told AFP.   He said a member of the medical team had been injured in the attack and taken to hospital.    The United Nations in May nominated an emergency coordinator to deal with the crisis. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) said this month the outbreak currently did not represent a global threat.