Date: Wed, 3 Jul 2019 21:26:25 +0200
By Charles ONIANS

Rome, July 3, 2019 (AFP) - A volcano on the Italian island of Stromboli erupted dramatically on Wednesday, killing a hiker and sending tourists fleeing into the sea.   The volcano is known to be active but on Wednesday there were two particularly powerful explosions.   "Unfortunately one man is dead, there are a few injured, but none seriously," emergency worker Calogero Foti told RAI television.   The dead man was a 35-year-old from Messina in Sicily who was walking with a Brazilian companion who was found dehydrated and in a state of shock, the AGI news agency reported.   They were walking below the 400 metre altitude limit above which a guide is required.

- 'Like being in hell' -
A navy boat has been sent to the 12 square kilometre (five square miles) island for a possible mass evacuation, with 70 inhabitants and tourists already evacuated.   "It was like being in hell because of the rain of fire coming from the sky," Italian news agencies quoted local priest Giovanni Longo as saying.   He said it was not known if there were any hikers on the volcano at the time of the eruption, which caused fires around the village of Ginostra.   Stromboli is topped by an active volcano which is a magnet for tourists from early spring each year.   Italian media reported that some tourists had fled into the sea after the eruption, while others had barricaded themselves into homes.

Italy's National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology (INGV) said there were two huge explosions on the central-southern side of the volcano's crater at around 1446 GMT Wednesday, one of the biggest explosions ever recorded on the island.   The explosions were preceded by lava spills "from all the active mouths of the crater terrace," the INGV said, prompting a two-kilometre high plume of smoke.   "It's been a long time since we had an eruption of this magnitude," former local councillor Gianluca Giuffre told RAI news.   "My experience and of those who have been living here for generations leads us to believe that the situation will calm down again but we must be cautious," he said.   A firefighting plane could not put out fires in the area because of the amount of smoke, Italian media reported.   The INGV said it was monitoring the situation.

- Cinematic fame -
A previous massive eruption in December 2002 prompted a tidal wave after magma from a particularly violent eruption cascaded into the sea. Six people were injured.   Piers, boats and some buildings were swept away.   Access to the island was forbidden to outsiders for over a month amid the risk of further landslides and scientists set up electronic observation stations to monitor volcanic activity.   Four-fifths of the island's population of around 500 decided to leave for the Aeolian island administrative centre of Lipari, whose schools have taken on Stromboli's children since the disaster.   Stromboli was made famous in the 1950 film of the same name by Roberto Rossellini, starring Ingrid Bergman and is a major tourist attraction with thousands of people visiting its lava-spitting crater each year.   Stromboli is part of the seven-island Eolian Archipelago just off Sicily in southern Italy.
Date: Sat, 1 Jun 2019 21:20:01 +0200

Rome, June 1, 2019 (AFP) - Mount Etna in southern Italy has burst into life, spitting molten lava high into the sky, though cloud cover Saturday ruined the view for those brave enough to venture up the flanks of Europe's highest volcano.

The National Institute of Geophysics and Vulcanology (INGV) said there was "lively spattering" as fire and hot ash spewed high into the sky in an eruption which began Thursday and had slowed slightly by Saturday but still posed a risk to climbers.

The lava came from two eruptive fissures on the north-eastern and south-south-eastern sides of the New Southeast Crater.   The volcano on the island of Sicily previously erupted in December.   The latest lava show was not expected to pose any problems for nearby residential areas or for flights at the closest airport at Catania.
Date: 23 May 2019
Source: ECDC [edited]
<https://ecdclive.ingenta.com/content/10.2807/1560-7917.ES.2019.24.21.1900261?TRACK=RSS>

Abstract
"In 2018, there was a large West Nile virus (WNV) outbreak in northern Italy. We observed 5 atypical cases of WNV infection that were characterised by the presence of WNV RNA and WNV IgG at the time of diagnosis, but no IgM response during follow-up. Neutralisation assays demonstrated pre-existing Usutu virus immunity in all patients. Besides challenging diagnosis, the immunological crosstalk between the 2 viruses warrants further investigation on possible cross-protection or infection enhancement effects."
=====================
[WNV and Usutu virus (USUV) are genetically related neurotropic mosquito-borne flaviviruses, which are endemic in several European countries. In their transmission cycle, WNV and USUV share the same mosquito vectors and bird populations as amplifying hosts, and often the 2 viruses co-circulate in the same environment. Most WNV infections in humans are asymptomatic or characterised by influenza-like illness, while less than one percent of cases might evolve to severe and potentially fatal neuro-invasive disease, especially in elderly and immunocompromised individuals. USUV appears to be more pathogenic and lethal than WNV for some bird species, while it rarely causes disease in humans; (J Clin Virol. 2018;107:38-47. DOI: 10.1016/j.jcv.2018.08.007 PMID: 30176404).

According to the paper, the 1st human cases of WNV infection were detected in northern Italy in 2008 with subsequent WNV infection outbreaks reported every year. The 1st human cases of USUV infection were detected in northern Italy in 2009 in immunocompromised patients [Euro Surveill. 2009;14(50):19446.PMID: 20070936]. Seroprevalence studies and retrospective investigations suggested that the prevalence of USUV infection in humans could be higher than WNV infection (estimated to range between 0.3 and 3 percent) in areas where both viruses co-circulate [J Med Virol. 2018;90(10):1666-8. DOI: 10.1002/jmv.25230 PMID: 29797606].

The 2018 transmission season recorded a substantial increase in the number of human WNV infections, with approx. 1500 confirmed cases in European Union countries, with Italy as the most affected country [available from: <https://ecdc.europa.eu/en/west-nile-fever>]. The authors infer that the unprecedented high number of WNV infections recorded in 2018 in the Veneto Region (440 confirmed cases) was perhaps the main factor that led to the identification of the cases of WNV infection with an atypical immune response, which is described in the paper, since the diagnostic process was similar to that of the previous years.

The study concludes: "Further investigation including a larger number of cases is needed to better define the clinical and virological features of WNV infection in individuals with pre-existing flavivirus imunity and to understand if USUV infection provides cross-protection against WNV disease or whether it might increase the risk for more severe disease through antibody-dependent enhancement. Infections from closely related flaviviruses, like WNV and USUV, may pose problems not only because of the induction of cross-reactive antibodies that challenge the differential diagnosis, but also because the immunological crosstalk between heterologous viruses may increase the risk of severe disease through a mechanism of antibody-dependent enhancement of infection." - ProMED Mod.UBA]

[HealthMap/ProMED map available at:
Italy: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/75>]
Date: Mon, 20 May 2019 15:09:54 +0200

Milan, May 20, 2019 (AFP) - Alitalia has scrapped around half its flights scheduled for Tuesday after a call to strike by Italian pilots, cabin crew and ground staff.   The industrial action by employees of Alitalia, Blue Air and Blue Panorama was confirmed Monday over the future of the sector and specifically that of the troubled national carrier.   Alitalia has cancelled around half its flights on Tuesday, as well as some late Monday and early Wednesday. The company said it hoped to get 60 percent of passengers to their destination.

Unions lamented "on the one hand, a rising number of passengers and flights, and on the other a proliferation of bankruptcies", a statement said.   They are worried about Alitalia's future and want their jobs protected.   The Italian government earlier this month extended to June 15 a deadline for the state railway to submit a concrete takeover offer, following a request from Alitalia's administrators for more time.   Italy's state railway Ferrovie dello Stato (FS) floated a bid to buy Alitalia at the end of October, but it does not want to hold more than 30 percent in the airline.   The railway has been discussing a potential partnership with Atlanta-based Delta airlines, which is interested in a 15-percent stake.
Copenhagen, 7 February 2019

More children in the WHO European Region are being vaccinated against measles than ever before; but progress has been uneven between and within countries, leaving increasing clusters of susceptible individuals unprotected, and resulting in a record number of people affected by the virus in 2018. In light of measles data for the year 2018 released today, WHO urges European countries to target their interventions to those places and groups where immunization gaps persist.

Measles killed 72 children and adults in the European Region in 2018. According to monthly country reports for January to December 2018 (received as of 01 February 2019), 82 596 people in 47 of 53 countries contracted measles. In countries reporting hospitalization data, nearly 2/3 (61%) of measles cases were hospitalized. The total number of people infected with the virus in 2018 was the highest this decade: 3 times the total reported in 2017 and 15 times the record low number of people affected in 2016.

The surge in measles cases in 2018 followed a year in which the European Region achieved its highest ever estimated coverage for the second dose of measles vaccination (90% in 2017). More children in the Region received the full two-dose series on time, according to their countries’ immunization schedules, in 2017 than in any year since WHO started collecting data on the second dose in 2000. Coverage with the first dose of the vaccine also increased slightly to 95%, the highest level since 2013. However, progress in the Region, based on achievements at the national level, can mask gaps at subnational levels, which are often not recognized until outbreaks occur.

“The picture for 2018 makes it clear that the current pace of progress in raising immunization rates will be insufficient to stop measles circulation. While data indicate exceptionally high immunization coverage at regional level, they also reflect a record number affected and killed by the disease. This means that gaps at local level still offer an open door to the virus,” says Dr Zsuzsanna Jakab. “We cannot achieve healthier populations globally, as promised in WHO’s vision for the coming five years, if we do not work locally. We must do more and do it better to protect each and every person from diseases that can be easily avoided.”

Preventable tragedy

While immunization coverage has improved overall in the Region, many people remain susceptible.

• Estimated coverage with the second dose of measles vaccine was below the 95% threshold to prevent circulation (that is, to achieve “herd immunity”) in 34 countries of the Region in 2017.
• Subnational coverage rates point to disparities even within countries.
• Suboptimal coverage for either dose sets the stage for transmission in the future.

The European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020 (EVAP) lays out a strategy endorsed by all 53 Member States to eliminate both measles and rubella. Most importantly, at least 95% of every population needs to be immune, through two doses of vaccination or prior exposure to the virus, to ensure community protection for everyone – including babies too young to be vaccinated and others who cannot be immunized due to existing diseases and medical conditions.

“In adopting EVAP, all countries in the European Region agreed that elimination of measles and rubella is possible, and is also a cost-effective way to protect people of all ages from avoidable suffering and death,” says Dr Nedret Emiroglu, Director of the Division of Health Emergencies and Communicable Diseases, WHO Regional Office for Europe.

Forty-three European countries interrupted transmission of endemic measles for at least 12 months as of the end of 2017. Some of them also managed to limit the spread of the virus following importation to very few cases in 2017 and 2018, showing that elimination of the disease is well within reach for the whole Region. “Progress in achieving high national coverage is commendable. However, it cannot make us blind to the people and places that are still being missed. It is here that we must now concentrate increased efforts. We should never become complacent about our successes but continue to strive to reach the final mile. Together we can make this happen,” concludes Dr Emiroglu.

Closing the door on measles

Many factors contribute to suboptimal immunization coverage and the spread of measles. To prevent outbreaks and eliminate measles, countries need to sustain high national and subnational immunization coverage with two doses of measles-containing vaccine, as well as identify and address all pockets of underimmunization among their populations.

The Regional Office continues to work with countries in the Region to enhance their immunization and disease surveillance systems. This includes building capacities and providing guidance to:

• ensure that all population groups have equitable access to vaccination services and that these are convenient;
• identify who has been missed in the past and reach them with the vaccines they need;
• ensure that health workers are vaccinated to prevent transmission in health facilities, and that they have sufficient technical knowledge about vaccines and the immune system to feel confident in recommending vaccination to their patients;
• strengthen trust in vaccines and health authorities;
• secure access to a timely and affordable supply of vaccines;
• improve outbreak detection and response;
• listen and respond to people’s concerns, and respond to any health event that could be potentially related to vaccine safety.

Most of the countries struggling with suboptimal immunization coverage against measles in the Region are middle-income countries. The Regional Office is working with these countries to implement a coordinated strategy to address targeted programme areas.

Links

EpiData 1/2019
http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/vaccines-and-immunization/publications/surveillance-and-data/who-epidata/who-epidata-no-12019/

Immunization profile of the WHO European Region (1980–2017)
https://www.who.int/immunization/monitoring_surveillance/data/gs_eurprofile.pdf?ua=1

European Vaccine Action Plan 2015–2020
http://www.euro.who.int/en/health-topics/disease-prevention/vaccines-and-immunization/publications/2014/european-vaccine-action-plan-20152020-2014

For further information from the WHO Regional Office for Europe, contact:

Catharina de Kat
Communication Officer
Vaccine-preventable Diseases and Immunization programme
Telephone: +45 45 33 6907
Email: reynendekatc@who.int

Liuba Negru
External Relations Officer
Telephone: +45 45 33 67 89
Email: negrul@who.int
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