India Beats Tetanus -14th September 2015

Here’s this week’s global travel health news.

India beats tetanus

Just over a year ago India announced it had completely eliminated polio, an astonishing feat and one they can be very proud of. Now there’s more good news as reports reveal the nation is now completely free from Tetanus, which is no longer a threat to the people most at risk, notably mothers and newborn babies.

Tetanus is an infection spread by bacteria and women often catch it when they give birth in less than hygienic places. In 1988 the disease killed a horrifying 160,000 young children in India.

The spores that contain the disease are everywhere, occurring in soil all over the world, so it can never be completely wiped out. But in India simple precautions like good hygiene and vaccination have brought cases down to such an extent that it can now be officially classified as ‘eliminated’.

In an initiative that started during 1999, India vaccinated pregnant women and paid many of them to give birth in a hospital, in clean conditions. If that wasn’t possible the country’s government handed out sterilised kits for home births. It appears the project has been a resounding success.

Avian flu risk spread appeal in Nigeria

Avian flu, AKA bird flu, is on the increase in Nigeria, and the country’s government has told the poultry industry, both private and public, to clean its act up.

It’s essential for everyone to co-operate to prevent the disease spreading out of hand, with fresh outbreaks in the Lagos and Oyo states as well as Abia and Enugu. The situation needs to be addressed, especially since the disease’s effects have already “traumatized the poultry industry and the nation’s food security.”

Apparently Nigeria’s poultry production and trade sectors are at very high risk of being infected by the disease, since very few commercial farms and markets selling live chickens carry out strict enough biosecurity measures.
Lagos state is particularly vulnerable and always at a risk of bird flu infection, since chickens are brought in from elsewhere in the country to the region’s 200 or so poultry markets, which in turn feed the nation. According to one commentator:

“Since the beginning of the month of July 2015, streams of reports of high moralities of birds in various poultry farms across Lagos state have been pouring into the Avian Influenza desk office.”

US states deliver an all clear on West Nile Virus risk

Climate change is allowing mosquitoes bearing infectious diseases to travel further north. New Hampshire, Maine and Vermont in the United States have all suffered cases of West Nile disease and Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) in past years and this year they’ve sounded the all-clear. But things are not going so well for Massachusetts.

According to two separate federal agencies, Massachusetts has reported two cases of West Nile virus in humans so far this year but nobody, human or otherwise, has tested positive for the disease in Maine and New Hampshire.

West Nile is nasty. But EEE is the nastier disease, fatal to around 33% of the people who contract it. The best precaution against both illnesses is to avoid mosquito bites in the first place, although experts say if the cool weather over there continues, and it stays this dry, New England might avoid any cases of EEE altogether this year.

More than 10,000 cases of dengue hit Taiwan

Taiwan’s tourist industry is suffering a blow as people intending to visit change their minds because of a huge spike in dengue cases. More than 80 percent of people who were planning to travel to south Taiwan’s Tainan have cancelled their trips as the disease reaches epidemic proportions.

Since May 2015 the nation has seen a record-breaking 8,677 dengue fever cases and last week alone more than 600 new cases were reported, another record-breaker.

Tainan is the worst hit, with 90% of the country’s total cases. An estimated 44 people have died of the disease so far, 18 of which have been offocially confirmed as dengue and the remainder of which are still being investigated.

Again, the only reliable way to avoid dengue is to avoid being bitten by a disease-carrying insect.

Rabies scare in Pennsylvania, USA

Sleepy Wilmot Township in Bradford County, Pennsylvania, is on rabies alert thanks to a feral cat. The cat, which was hiding under a car, attacked the owner as she entered the vehicle and bit her leg and arm. The car owner’s daughter was also bitten while trying to help her mother.

The cat later tested positive for rabies. Luckily there are no reports of the creature coming into contact with local domestic cats or dogs, and the women are both having rabies treatment.

Pennsylvanian law says all domestic dogs and cats must be vaccinated against rabies within a month of turning 12 weeks old, with a booster 12-14 months later. After that the animal should be given boosters according to the instructions from the vaccine manufacturer. If you live in the state and don’t comply, you can be fined up to $300.

Since almost all cases of rabies are fatal if left untreated it makes a lot of sense to steer clear of dogs and cats in the USA – and anywhere else abroad – even if they appear friendly and healthy.

We’ll be back next week with more global travel health news from the travel vaccination coalface. In the meantime look after yourself… and contact us if you’re going travelling and need to be inoculated against nasty things!