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]
<https://www.zmescience.com/medicine/measles-jump-venezuelan-outbreak-04313/>

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;
<https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/mm6747a6.htm>]  [Byline: Tibi Puiu]
=========================
[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]
Date: Sun, 25 Nov 2018 03:15:36 +0100
By Plableysa Ostos, Margioni Bermudez

Ciudad Guayana, Venezuela, Nov 25, 2018 (AFP) - Yoli Cabeza was sent from one hospital to another before finally giving birth to her daughter Yusmari in the corridor of a maternity ward because her contractions came quicker than medical help.   The 37-year-old was diagnosed with a high-risk pregnancy but that didn't spare her from Venezuela's medical "roulette" -- the practice of referring patients from hospital to hospital due to a lack of personnel, supplies or sanitary conditions.

Cabeza told AFP she "did the tour of every hospital in" Ciudad Guyana, the biggest town in the state of Bolivar, before returning to the place she started at, the Negra Hipolita maternity unit where "they took me in."   Incredibly, her case isn't rare in a country where many women are forced to give birth in the street because they can't get into a state medical facility.   At the beginning of November, a woman was filmed giving birth to her son squatting by a tree in front of the biggest hospital in Bolivar.   Venezuela is in the midst of an economic meltdown triggered by mismanagement and a slump in oil prices followed by US sanctions.   The United Nations says some 2.3 million people have fled Venezuela since 2015 and amongst them have been many doctors.

- Bring your own supplies -
According to a study by a dozen non-profits, some 22,000 doctors, more than half the former total, emigrated between 2012 and 2017.   Added to that, more than 6,000 nurses (74 percent of that industry's workforce) and 6,600 lab technicians have left while there's a shortage of 90 percent of necessary medicines and supplies.   Often, patients are turned away "because there are no surgical materials, no anesthesiologists. They don't even have chlorine to clean the cubicles," said Silvia Bolivar, a nurse at Concepcion Palacios, the biggest maternity unit in the capital Caracas.   Pregnant women are sometimes expected to bring their own disinfectant and garbage bags.   Venezuela has been suffering from four years of recession in which poverty is on the rise as food has become short in supply.   A caesarean section kit costs the equivalent of $100 at the black market rate while the minimum wage is 1,800 bolivars ($6) a month.   Inflation, which the International Monetary Fund predicts will reach 1.35 million percent this year has crippled the currency as United States sanctions saw foreign investment dry up.

- Surging infant mortality -
The effect on pregnant women has been devastating.   Yusmari Vargas, 24, was suffering from preeclampsia, a condition marked by high blood pressure that can develop into a more serious one that puts both the mother and baby's lives at risk.   When she arrived at the maternity unit, it was closed. The hours passed, the contractions became stronger and her baby ended up on the floor, welcomed into the world with a bump to its head.   "When he fell, they didn't even help me pick him up, there was nothing to cut the umbilical cord. It was a mess," she said.

Carolina Rojas, 22, almost lost her daughter after her caesarian section was postponed several times.   "One day there was no specialist, the next the pediatrician or the anesthesiologist didn't turn up," said Rojas.   Her daughter swallowed amniotic fluid and spent eight days in hospital after she was born.   Infant mortality rose 30 percent in 2016, with the deaths of 11,466 babies up to a year old, according to the latest Health Ministry figures.   Despite refusing to acknowledge the country's public health problems, President Nicolas Maduro launched a program to reduce the number of caesarian section births, but a year later he admitted it hadn't provided the expected results.

- 'Terrible year' - 
Suffering from post-natal pain, 32-year-old Yohanni Guarayote forced her way into the Negra Hipolita maternity unit, which locks its doors at night due to crime in the area.   She was only able to have two prenatal check-ups because she couldn't pay for a private clinic as her husband is unemployed.   "Some days the doctor didn't turn up, others there was no water, and so on," she said.   Her arms are so thin they look like a child's. During the pregnancy, she barely reached 43 kilograms (95 pounds), eating mostly sardines, yucca and squash.   "Now, I'm like a stick," she said, reclining in a sweltering room with six beds but no sheets.   She receives government subsidies but with another three children to feed, she says it's "not enough."   "This year has been terrible for pregnant women. They need to show more love to motherhood."
Date: Tue 16 Oct 2018
Source: Caraota Digital [in Spanish, trans., edited]
<http://www.caraotadigital.net/nacionales/mas-de-650-mil-casos-en-2018-federacion-medica-de-venezuela-alerto-sobre-epidemia-de-malaria/>

The president of the Medical Federation of Venezuela, Douglas Leon Natera, reported Monday [15 Oct 2018] on the significant increase in cases of malaria in the country during 2018, due to the increase in medication shortages and lack of supplies. "More than 650,000 cases of malaria have been reported [nationally as of 15 Oct 2018, which is compounded by] the fact that national hospitals have received only 6% of their needed supplies to be operational," he said in a press release.

He also warned that "alarms are also activated" for an imminent epidemic of hepatitis and measles, a situation that occurs while most medical centers in the country continue to demand decent salaries and respect for the salary tables established in their collective contracts. "We have already completed 3 months of the professional strike, and the salary tables announced by the government so far have not been met; only doctors with more than 30 years of service are receiving 200 more bolivars [USD 20] in their monthly salary," he complained.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Venezuela is the country that has reported the highest increase in malaria cases in the world, according to the EFE News Agency. Officially in 2016, there were 245 000 cases and one death, whereas WHO estimated that the number of infected individuals approached at least 300,000 with 280 deaths.

However, for 2017, the WHO indicated that at least 406,000 cases were reported, a figure that is difficult to verify given that the epidemiological system of the country is precarious, but accounts for the significant increase, which is not expected to decline in 2018.  [Byline: Luis Alfredo Ledezma]
=======================
[Venezuela has experienced a huge increase in malaria cases since 2012, probably starting in Bolivar state. Lack of drugs for treatment and insufficient funding for the national control programme are the main reasons. - ProMED Mod.EP]

[HealthMap/ProMED map:
Venezuela: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/29>]
Date: Fri 3 Aug 2018
Source: Outbreak News Today [edited]
<http://outbreaknewstoday.com/venezuela-22-states-capital-district-report-diphtheria-cases-since-2017/>

The diphtheria outbreak in Venezuela that began in July 2016 continues. A total of 1904 suspected diphtheria cases have been reported, including 164 deaths: 324 cases and 17 deaths in 2016, 1040 cases and 103 deaths in 2017, and 540 cases and 44 deaths through the halfway mark of 2018. Of note, in 2016, cases were reported in 5 states (Anzoategui, Bolivar, Delta Amacuro, Monagas, and Sucre), while in 2017 and 2018, 22 states and the Capital District have reported confirmed cases. Cases have been reported among all age groups.  In 2018, the incidence per 100,000 inhabitants was higher in those under 15 years of age than in those over 15 years of age.
======================
[In the last ProMED-mail post on diphtheria in Venezuela in May 2018 (Diphtheria - Americas (02): PAHO/WHO epidemiological update http://promedmail.org/post/20180525.5817823), 1716 suspected diphtheria cases were reported since the beginning of the outbreak in July 2016 (324 cases in 2016, 1040 in 2017, and 352 in 2018), of which 1086 were confirmed by laboratory (350) or epidemiological-link (736), and 160 died (17 in 2016, 103 in 2017, and 40 in 2018).

The cumulative case fatality rate is 14.7 per cent. There are now 188 more cases of suspected diphtheria for a total of 1904 suspected diphtheria cases reported, including 164 deaths: 324 cases and 17 deaths in 2016, 1040 cases and 103 deaths in 2017, and 540 cases and 44 deaths in the 1st half of 2018. - ProMED Mod.ML]

[HealthMap/ProMED-mail map: Venezuela: <http://healthmap.org/promed/p/29>.]
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