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Travel Health News Digest (3 December 2013 - 9 December 2013)

Take precautions against dengue fever when travelling abroad

Dengue fever is an endemic disease in most Southeast Asian countries including Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the Philippines. Travellers visiting these places are advised to protect themselves against mosquitoes all year round.

The recent dengue fever activity in Asia has been more severe than that of last year. Various popular tourist attractions among Hong Kong people including Thailand, Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia, observed recent persistent increase in the number of dengue fever cases. Other neighbouring Asian countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, the Philippines, Pakistan and India, also recorded rising dengue fever activities.

Outbreaks of dengue fever were observed in Guangdong province in China, Brazil, Costa Rica, Columbia, Paraguay and the Dominican Republic this year. It was expected that dengue fever activities will continue to rise in coming months in Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

Travellers planning to travel in these areas should take precautions against the disease.

Cumulative reported number of dengue cases in 2013 *

 

Cumulative reported no. of cases in 2013

Source of information and
date of report

Australia

1,543

World Health Organization, 13 November 2013

Brazil

1,451,432

World Health Organization, 5 December 2013

Cambodia

15,193

World Health Organization, 13 November 2013

China
  Guangdong province


753


Department of Health of Guangdong Province, 15 October 2013

India

55,063

Ministry of Health & Family Welfare, India, 28 October 2013

Lao PDR

43,620

World Health Organization, 13 November 2013

Malaysia

29,754

World Health Organization, 13 November 2013

Mexico

215,991

World Health Organization, 5 December 2013

New Caledonia

10,538

World Health Organization, 13 November 2013

Philippines

154,833

World Health Organization, 13 November 2013

Singapore

20,940

Singapore National Environment Agency,6 December 2013

Sri Lanka

28,844

Ministry of Health, Sri Lanka, 5 December 2013

Taiwan

708

CDC, ROC (Taiwan), 9 December 2013

Thailand

146,700

Ministry of Public Health, Thailand, 27 November 2013

Vietnam

44,085

World Health Organization, 13 November 2013

Remark:
* Dengue reporting systems vary by country.

Travellers should stay vigilant against dengue fever and adopt the following personal preventive measures against mosquito bite:

* Always wear long-sleeved clothing and trousers;
* Stay in air-conditioned residence or places with mosquito screens;
* If mosquito screen or air-conditioning is absent, aerosol insecticide and bed nets are advised;
* Use insect repellents containing DEET on exposed skin and clothing;
* Use insect repellents containing DEET apart from applying sunscreen while staying in beaches;
* Carry a portable bed nets and apply permethrin on it as well as to clothes if travelling to rural areas where dengue fever is prevalent.

Travellers returning from areas where dengue fever is prevalent should seek medical advice as soon as possible if they feel unwell and provide travel details to their doctors.

 

Advice for pilgrims visiting Mecca, Saudi Arabia (Hajj)

Pilgrims are advised to note the followings:

  1. Vaccination against meningitis

  2. The Saudi Arabia government requires all pilgrims on entry to provide a proof of vaccination against the meningococcal disease using the quadrivalent vaccine (serogroups A, C, W135 and Y). The vaccine should have been received not more than 3 years and not less than 10 days before arrival.

     

  3. Vaccination against seasonal influenza

  4. The Saudi Ministry of Health recommends that international pilgrims be vaccinated against seasonal influenza before arrival into the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, particularly those at increased risk of severe influenza diseases, including pregnant women, children under 5 years, the elderly, and individuals with underlying health conditions such as HIV/AIDS, asthma, and chronic heart or lung diseases.

     

  5. Be Vigilant against Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

  6. Travellers should take note of MERS-CoV (formerly known as novel coronavirus). Most of the cases reported to date originated or returned from the Middle East and subsequently became ill. The most common symptoms observed include fever, cough, and breathing difficulties. Approximately half of the patients have died.

    In view of the severity and possibility of spread of the illness among human through close contact, if you are travelling to the Middle East for vacation or pilgrimage, please observe personal and environmental hygiene strictly at all times such as avoiding undercooked meats, raw fruits and vegetables, unless they have been peeled, or unsafe water. Travellers should also avoid direct contact with animals, birds, poultry or sick people during the journey and should wear face masks in crowded places.

    Pilgrims should be reminded that pre-existing major medical conditions can increase the likelihood of medical problems, including MERS-CoV infection, during travel; thus, pilgrims should consult a health care provider before travelling to review the risk and assess whether making the pilgrimage is medically advisable. For further advice from the Saudi Ministry of Health, please see ( http://www.moh.gov.sa/en/Hajj/Pages/HealthRegulations.aspx )

    Travellers who develop symptoms during travel or up to 14 days after their return from affected areas should put on face masks, seek medical attention and inform doctor of their travel history. Before departure, if you feel unwell, such as having fever, sore throat, muscle pain or cough, you are advised to seek medical attention and delay the trip until recovery. For further information on MERS, please visit Centre for Health Protection (CHP) website (http://www.chp.gov.hk)。

     

  7. Other infectious diseases

  8. Updating immunization against vaccine-preventable diseases in all travellers is strongly recommended. With the recent resurgence of measles and rubella cases, special attention is needed for both of these vaccines to avoid widespread outbreaks with this virus during Hajj and Umra this year.

    Men are required to shave their heads after Hajj, and unclean blades can transmit disease. Male pilgrims should go to officially designated centers to be shaved, where barbers are licensed and use disposable, single-use blades.

     

  9. Food hygiene

  10. Fresh food carried by visitors and pilgrims are banned and not allowed into the country. Only properly canned food in very small amount which is enough for one person to the end of his or her trip is allowed. In addition, diarrhea is common during Hajj, so eat only food that is cooked and served hot and drink only beverages from sealed containers.

     

  11. Injury

  12. Try to avoid the most densely congested areas and always be aware of the location of emergency exits. Pilgrims can perform rituals during non-peak hours to avoid crowds.

     

  13. Heat stroke

  14. Temperatures in Mecca can exceed 37.8 ºC (100°F) in October. Heat exhaustion and heatstroke are leading causes of illness during Hajj. Pilgrims should drink plenty of water (bottled), wear sunscreen, rest, and seek shade as much as possible. Symptoms of heat-related illness can include profuse sweating, chills, headache, dizziness or confusion, and nausea. Travelers who develop these symptoms should move to a cool area and seek medical attention.

     

  15. Observe personal and environmental hygiene strictly at all times. For more information, please read the section on Travel Health Advice.
  16.  

(Source: World Health Organization, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention & Ministry of Hajj, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia)

 

Hong Kong: Avian Influenza, human

The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health is investigating another confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong affecting a man aged 80. The patient, with underlying medical condition, lives in Shenzhen. He was admitted to a hospital in Shenzhen for management of his chronic illness from November 13 to 29. On December 3, he arrived in Hong Kong with his three family members via Shenzhen Bay Port Border Control Point and was admitted into Tuen Mun Hospital for further management of his chronic illness on the same day. The patient had no fever upon admission. However, he developed fever this morning and was put under isolation immediately. His nasopharyngeal swab was tested positive for the avian influenza A(H7N9) virus upon laboratory testing by the Public Health Laboratory Services Branch of the CHP today. The patient will be transferred to Princess Margaret Hospital for isolation. His current condition is stable. This is the second confirmed human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Hong Kong.

(Source: The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health 6 December 2013)

 

Mainland: Avian Influenza, human

The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health verified with the National Health and Family Planning Commission an additional human case of avian influenza A(H7N9) in Zhejiang affecting a man aged 30. The case was confirmed on December 5 and the patient is currently receiving treatment in a hospital in Hangzhou.

(Source: The Centre for Health Protection of the Department of Health 6 December 2013)

 

Germany: Avian Influenza, poultry

H5N3 avian influenza virus infection was reported in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. Of 130 susceptible birds, 20 were affected and all were destroyed.

(Source: World Organisation for Animal Health 3 December 2013)

 

Sudan: Yellow Fever [Update]

The Federal Ministry of Health in Sudan has notified WHO of a Yellow Fever outbreak affecting twelve localities in West and South Kordofan states. The affected localities are Lagawa, Kailak, Muglad and Abyei localities in West Kordofan and Elreef Alshargi, Abu Gibaiha, Ghadir, Habila, Kadugli, Altadamon, Talodi and Aliri in South Kordofan. Between 3 October and 24 November 2013, a total of 44 suspected cases of yellow fever including 14 deaths were reported from this outbreak.

(Source: World Health Organization 3 December 2013)

 

Hong Kong: Avian Influenza, human

The Secretary for Food and Health (December 2) has confirmed the first human case of avian influenza H7N9 in Hong Kong, affecting a 36-year-old Indonesian domestic helper. She is in critical condition. She has a history of travelling to Shenzhen in November, buying a chicken, slaughtering and eating the chicken. Her close contacts are being isolated in hospital.

(Source: Government of Hong Kong SAR 2 December 2013)

 

United Arab Emirates: Middle East Respiratory Syndrome

World Health Organization was informed of an additional three laboratory-confirmed cases of infection with Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus in the United Arab Emirates. This brings the latest global number of confirmed cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome to 163, including 70 deaths.

(Source: World Health Organization 2 December 2013)

 

Thailand: Red Travel Alert

Following the large political demonstrations and violent clashes in Thailand, the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region Government has raised the Outbound Travel Alert (OTA) for Bangkok, Thailand to Red. Hong Kong residents intending to visit Bangkok should adjust their travel plans and avoid non-essential travel. Those already there should monitor the situation, attend to personal safety and avoid protests and large gatherings of people.

For more information, please visit the OTA webpage.

(Source: Security Bureau, Government of Hong Kong SAR 2 December 2013)

 

 

Last revision date: 9 December 2013