Date: Tue, 26 Jun 2018 18:23:31 +0200

Riga, June 26, 2018 (AFP) - Latvia's government on Tuesday declared a national state of disaster in its agricultural sector as a result of a prolonged drought that has affected most of the Baltic state and which some call the worst in decades.

The westernmost region of Kurzeme has been hit hardest, though several areas have not seen proper rain since April, resulting in burnt-up fields and lost crops.    "Last year we had heavy rainfall and a flood. My fields were submerged, and I wasn't able to harvest crops. This year: the complete opposite. I worry about my bank loans," said Dainis Rutenbergs, a farmer near the central town of Dobele.

"My red beet seeds didn't even sprout. There's an empty field where there should be beetroots right now," he told AFP.   Rutenbergs said his losses could reach 10,000 euros, ($11,700) -- a considerable amount for a small family-owned farm -- adding that he hopes to make up some of the difference on autumn berries, which have not been affected.

Because of the state of disaster declaration, banks will be forbidden from foreclosing on farms, and farmers will get some leeway to finish development projects in time to secure EU funding.   Agriculture Minister Janis Duklavs told reporters that the financial losses incurred by farmers "will not be directly compensated by the state budget".

However he added that the government has already asked the European Commission to provide its promised farming subsidies ahead of schedule.    "This is the worst drought in 40 years," Gundega Mertena, editor-in-chief of the regional newspaper Ventas Balss, said of the situation in Kurzeme.    "Last weekend we had some raindrops, but it was insufficient for the fields. Crops have died out along with cattle fodder," she told AFP, adding that farmers have been forced to butcher some of their animals.
Date: Mon 22 May 2017
Source: The Baltic Course [edited]
<http://www.baltic-course.com/eng/baltic_news/?doc=17925>

The Latvian Infectology Center has received this season's 1st 2 patients with alleged tick-borne encephalitis, Riga Eastern Hospital Representative Aija Lietina said.

This year [2017] 343 ticks have been removed from patients and inspected, and 17 of them were infected with encephalitis [virus].

The 1st tick this year was brought for inspection on 18 February [2017], and the next one on 8 March [2017].

Tick season usually lasts from March to October, but could be longer during a warmer autumn.

Persons are asked to be careful when walking through forests and fields. Experts remind that in order to avoid tick bite, clothes must be adjusted so that ticks could not get under the clothes - trousers must be tucked into socks, shirt - in trousers, the cuffs and the collar must be tight. It is advisable to wear light clothes while outdoors so as to notice the tick and flick it off in time.
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[Discovery of active ticks reported above is early in the season. Finding tick-borne encephalitis virus in these ticks is a warning that the transmission season is beginning. Tickborne encephalitis is a viral infection caused by one of 3 tickborne encephalitis virus (TBEV) subtypes belonging to the Flaviviridae family: Central European, Siberian, and Far Eastern (formerly known as Russian spring-summer encephalitis). The Central European subtype is found in Latvia. It is transmitted to humans there through the bite of infected sheep ticks, _Ixodes ricinus_. The WHO states, "Approximately 10 000-12 000 clinical cases of tick-borne encephalitis are reported each year, but this figure is believed to be significantly lower than the actual total. Immunization offers the most effective protection. Currently, there are 4 widely used vaccines of assured quality: FSME-Immun and Encepur, manufactured in Austria and Germany respectively, and based on European strains of the virus; and TBE-Moscow and EnceVir, manufactured in the Russian Federation and based on Far-Eastern strains. The 4 vaccines are considered to be safe and efficacious." (<http://www.who.int/immunization/topics/tick_encephalitis/en/>). - ProMED Mod.TY]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/119>.]
Date: Mon 16 Nov 2015
Source: Public Broadcasting of Latvia [edited]
<http://www.lsm.lv/en/article/societ/society/diphtheria-spreads-in-latvia.a155188/>

Despite state-funded vaccines, cases of diphtheria in Latvia have doubled in the last 3 years. At a time when the disease has been all but eradicated in other EU countries, in Latvia 20 people have died from diphtheria in the last 15 years, including 4 children. Parents' irresponsibility, lack of knowledge, and myths about vaccination are to blame, Latvian Radio reported on Mon 16 Nov 2015; 1/3rd of the EU's diphtheria patients are Latvians.

The last diphtheria outbreak in Latvia happened in the early 1990s when more than 300 people caught the disease. The epidemic was caused by anti-vaccination sentiments in a large part of society. "There were calls that [people] shouldn't be vaccinated, and many responded to these calls and didn't vaccinate their children in the 1980s. As a result, the so-called collective immunity crumbled," said Juris Perevoscikovs, a representative from the [Latvian] Center for Disease Control and Prevention (SPKC).

The epidemic was prevented after a wide vaccination campaign, but since 2011, cases have been on the rise again. From 2009 to 2011, there were 14 diphtheria patients in Latvia -- only in adults -- while in the last 3 years, the number of cases has doubled and there are 16 children among the patients.

The SPKC admits that it's a huge number when compared to other EU countries, where diphtheria has been almost completely eradicated.

"In the EU, there have been 93 diphtheria cases in 3 years. Of these, 27 were registered in Latvia. Practically speaking, every 3rd case in the EU is tied to Latvia.

The cases outside of Latvia, like in Germany or the United Kingdom, are mostly due to people visiting foreign countries, India, for example, where diphtheria is still not something unusual. "The people in Latvia, though, didn't go anywhere. They caught the disease right here," said Perevoscikovs.

As before, one of the main reasons why there are so many cases of the disease now is that people choose not to get diphtheria shots. About 95 percent of Latvian infants have been vaccinated in their 1st year of life, while only a little more than half are vaccinated among adults.

However, vaccines are the only safeguard against the disease, the mortality rate of which reaches 10 percent. Sadly, 20 people have died from diphtheria in the last 15 years, and 4 of them were children. None of them had been vaccinated, said Perevoscikovs.

Dace Zavadska, a pediatrist from the Children's Clinical Hospital where the last 2 registered cases of diphtheria were treated, listed a few reasons why parents choose forgoing vaccination for their children. "It's fear of [adverse] reactions, of which most are transient and don't harm the child in any way. Then there are many stories and myths on the Internet, between friends and among activist groups, about complications that may arise, but in reality it's not based on facts," said Zavadska.

Family practitioners should encourage vaccination. The SPKC told Latvian Radio that family practitioners should convince people to take vaccines, which are voluntary. Old people are particularly hard to convince about vaccination. "Those who work, and young people, they all agree to have shots, while more than half of those over 70 refuse. They say that they have already lived their life and that they won't catch the disease anymore. The argument that they can become disease carriers and endanger others if they don't get vaccinated doesn't convince them," said family practitioner Ainars Mezals.

The diphtheria vaccine is fully funded by the state. Adults should take reinforcing (booster) doses every 10 years. If the number of cases rises again, it's possible that the interval will be reduced to 5 years.  [Byline: Aija Pakalna]
=======================
[Aggressive vaccination programs are the sole way to prevent a spate of infectious diseases.

The following is extracted from:
<http://www.medindia.net/patients/patientinfo/diphtheria.htm>:

Diphtheria takes its name from the Greek word dipthera meaning leather and was named in 1826 by French physician Pierre Bretonneau. This is because it refers to the leathery, sheath-like membrane that grows on the tonsils, throat and in the nose. It was previously considered to be one of the most dreaded diseases, with frequent large-scale outbreaks in the New England colonies between 1735 and 1740. It was said that the disease killed as many as 80 percent of the children below 10 years of age.

Diphtheria is otherwise called the "Strangling Angel of Children" and was a dreaded common childhood illness. Statistics shows that in the 1920s there were an estimated 100 000 to 200 000 cases of diphtheria per year in the United States, with 13 000 to 15 000 deaths. - ProMed Mod.LL]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/119>.]
Date: Wed 29 Apr 2015
Source: ECDC [edited]
<http://ecdc.europa.eu/en/press/news/_layouts/forms/News_DispForm.aspx?List=8db7286c-fe2d-476c-9133-18ff4cb1b568&ID=1208L>

An outbreak of _Salmonella_ Enteritidis is reported to have affected more than 100 participants at the Riga cup, a junior ice hockey tournament that took place in Riga, Latvia between the 27 Mar and 26 Apr 2015. The most likely source of the outbreak is a cafeteria at the tournament venue, although additional places of exposure are not ruled out at this stage.

According to the Latvia public health authorities, the organisers of the tournament have identified 104 persons with gastrointestinal symptoms: 82 cases from Finland and 22 cases from Norway to date. Junior ice hockey teams from Belarus, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxemburg, Norway, Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland and Ukraine participated in the tournament. As the tournament has just finished and the source of infection is not yet identified, new cases are likely to be detected. The most recent date of onset was 23 Apr 2015, which indicates that the outbreak is still ongoing.

ECDC encourages affected countries and all others with known or potentially associated cases to report detection of all such cases through the Epidemic Intelligence Information System for Food and Waterborne Diseases (EPIS-FWD) and to communicate about adopted control measures through the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS).
=====================
[Although the tournament is over and since the source of the _S._ Enteritidis has not been determined and the venue remains in use, additional Latvian cases or international cases may occur. - ProMED Mod.LL]

[A HealthMap/ProMED-mail map can be accessed at:
<http://healthmap.org/promed/p/119>.]
Date: Tue, 22 Jul 2014 15:27:45 +0200 (METDST)

RIGA, July 22, 2014 (AFP) - Latvia on Tuesday declared a state of emergency in a second area of this Baltic EU state as efforts continued to contain an outbreak of deadly African swine fever in its pig population.

The extension of the emergency quarantine zone means large swathes of Latvia's borders with Belarus, Estonia, Lithuania and Russia now fall within it.   Inside the zone, animals cannot be moved between farms, access is restricted to infected farms and inspectors can order culls on the spot.   The government also approved measures Tuesday including compensation for small farmers who have had to slaughter diseased pigs and broader rights for veterinary inspectors in accessing private property.

Prime Minister Laimdota Straujuma warned Tuesday of "major losses" to the farming sector unless the disease is contained, with Russia and Belarus already slapping blanket bans on Latvian pork products.   Straujuma blamed wild boar crossing in from Russia for Latvia's first-ever outbreak of the disease, detected on June 26.   Since then, a total of 26 wild boar and 19 pigs on 11 farms have tested positive for it, and 185 pigs have been put down.   Experts believe it first emanated from Belarus, and was also confirmed earlier this year in wild boar in fellow European Union members Poland and Lithuania.

The disease is harmless to humans but lethal to pigs and has no known cure.   Posing a lethal threat to commercial pig farms, African swine fever has spread throughout the Balkans, the Caucasus and Russia since 2007, and is endemic to areas of Africa, according to the United Nations' Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).   The FAO warns of "vast losses" if it migrates from Russia to China, which is home to half of the world's pigs.
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