H1N1 Swine Flu Hits Pune Hard – 12th October 2015

It’s time for our weekly global travel health update looking at destinations you might want to avoid, outbreak hotspots and the latest developments in fighting travel-related illnesses.

Invasive plant acts as blood alternative for mosquitoes

As reported by this week’s New Scientist magazine, East Africa has made great progress in the fight against Malaria. But an invasive plant is putting all their hard work at risk.

The American plant Famine Weed, also called Santa Maria Feverfew, is spreading across East Africa incredibly fast. It secretes a poison called parthenin which can cause dermatitis, hay fever and asthma in humans as well as being harmful to livestock. Worse still, the malaria-carrying female Anopheles gambiae mosquito finds the plant’s flowers irresistible.

If the famine weed keeps spreading, there’s a risk that the mosquitoes will find it easier to survive between meals of blood, potentially making the ongoing worldwide battle against the disease more challenging than ever. Scientists are currently looking at whether the weed’s nectar also increases the frequency at which the insects bite people. Let’s hope not.

H1N1 Swine flu hits Pune hard

Pune, in India, has always been a hotspot for difficult-to-stop swine flu infections. This season three people have already died of the virus, one in Latur, one in Pune and one in Kolhapur. There are also 19 critical cases on a ventilator, 17 of whom come from Pune.

According to the Times Of India the extended rainy season is to blame this year. The virus thrives in cold, damp conditions and matters are not helped by the festival season, where large numbers of people congregate and diseases spread more easily.

Lack of medicines, hospital infrastructure, beds and doctors make it difficult for the Indian government to contain the annual outbreak. And awareness among the Indian public is also sub-standard, which contributes to the disease’s spread.

West Nile Virus more common in California this year

The number of Human West Nile virus cases in the sunshine state of California in the United States has increased to 67 in the last 7 days, a total of 311 cases apread over 29 counties, the most cases seen in any US state. New cases have arisen in Butte, Fresno, Kern, Los Angeles, Madera, Merced, Orange county, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, Shasta, Ventura and Yolo.

Merced county saw its first ever case of the disease this year and so far 13 people have died of it. The illness has also just surfaced in New Jersey, USA. The best way to avoid West Nile Virus is to avoid being bitten by a mosquito in the first place. If you’re heading for California, take note of the advice on our Insects and Bugs page.

UK doctors on the lookout for post-Hajj MERS

The recent annual Pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia’s Mecca, the Hajj, has ended and British MDs are on the look-out for signs of MERS in returning pilgrims.

Middle Eastern Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus comes with acute breathing difficulties and early detection is vital to limit the onward spread of the disease, which was first discovered in 2012. The Hajj is a widely recognised ‘amplifying event’ for respiratory illness, with increased serious respiratory illnesses and infections observed in previous years. If you’ve been to the Hajj and you’re feeling poorly, see your GP immediately.

Dengue outbreaks worsen across the world

Dengue Fever has been a big issue in Taiwan recently and continues to spread fast. The disease has also taken dramatic hold in Brazil – particularly the Matto Grosso – plus several provinces in China, areas of Delhi in India, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Mexico, Guatemala and Yemen.

Lyme disease soars in the UK

Lyme disease cases have quadrupled in Britain with four times the number of cases compared to 12 years ago. The bacterial infection has seen more than 1100 people diagnosed in 2013 alone, the latest figures available. The disease is also on the increase across Europe.

Climate change appears to be at fault yet again with warmer winters keeping ticks alive, as well as new housing being built in the countryside and immigration from central and eastern Europe. The ticks carrying the disease usually live in woodland. If you’re in the woods wear long trousers and sleeves to minimise the chance of being bitten by a disease-carrying insect.

We’ll be back next week with another global travel health update to help you travel safely.