Travel health news
Here are this week’s travel alerts, essential if you’re off on your travels, whether it’s Europe or somewhere much more exotic and far-flung.
Malaysia typhoid alert
Kelantan state, which is in north east of peninsular Malaysia, is seeing an increase in typhoid cases, with 1512 people infected since the end of October 2015 compared to 35 cases this time last year.
Wells are though to be the culprit, with contaminated water found in four wells in an area where people predominantly use them rather than treated water.
If you’re travelling to Malaysia, you might be recommended the typhoid vaccine. Ask one of our qualified Travel Nurses for the latest and best advice, and remember to take common sense precautions with food, water and personal hygiene.
Worst dengue fever outbreak since 1996 continues in India
Delhi has a long history of dengue fever and the current outbreak is the worst since 1996, with almost 15,000 reported cases so far.
There’s no vaccine for dengue so it’s vital to avoid mosquito bites, particularly during the day but – to be safer – 24/7. Cover exposed skin, use a good insect repellent and insist on a bed net that has recently been impregnated with insecticide. If you’re staying in or near the city in an hotel and you plan to stay for some time, choose an hotel that has done everything possible to eradicate mosquito breeding sites in the immediate area.
Extreme TB ‘successfully treated’ in American child
India has the world’s highest incidence of TB. They also suffered the biggest increase in multidrug-resistant TB between 2011 and 2012. So when a two year old child returned home from India to the USA a couple of years ago, doctors suspected TB even though it didn’t show up in tests. They suspected it might be an acute case, perhaps even antibiotic-resistant. And they were right.
Drug-resistant tuberculosis is a severe and growing global health threat, particularly difficult to diagnose in young children and even more difficult to treat. This particular little girl was lucky, with doctors at Johns Hopkins Children’s Center confirming they’ve successfully treated her.
She’s one of the few toddlers diagnosed in the USA with the extensively drug-resistant XDR-TB. The Johns Hopkins Center has some of the world’s finest medical facilities. But treating the child was still a huge challenge. Now she’s five years old and healthy, but the case brings the threat of resistant strains of TB into sharp focus.
A recent WHO report says almost ten million people worldwide had TB in 2014, including a million children. Some experts think more children are affected than the figures reveal, since children in poorer countries can die undiagnosed.
Teachers treated for TB in the Bronx, New York
Public School 112 in the Bronx, New York, has 400 students. And their parents are worried. It has emerged that three teachers at the school have been treated for TB. City health officials are working closely with the Department of Education to investigate.
Fewer than 200,000 TB cases are reported per year in the US, and while it is highly contagious, you need to spend a great deal of time in very close contact with an infected person to be at risk. On the other hand infected people don’t always show symptoms, which makes it tricky to pin down. Here’s a link to our TB page, where you’ll find sensible advice.
More yellow fever mosquitoes found in California
San Jacinto is the latest place in Riverside County, California, to report ‘yellow fever mosquitoes’ breeding. The Department of Environmental Health said a city resident brought an Aedes aegypti mosquito in to show vector control experts, and a further investigation trapped eight more of the insects. It looks like they’ve migrated to the area.
San Jacinto is the 35th California city to find the non-native mosquitoes breeding. While they are not an immediate and automatic risk, they can carry and transmit the disease. But there’s a ‘safety catch’ – yellow fever mosquitoes must feed on the blood of an infected host before they can pass it on.
Conflict means disease
Millions of people in north-east Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad and Niger are suffering the results of conflict, with epidemics a major concern.
Over two and a half million have fled their homes because of the Boko Haram-related violence and many of them are forced to live in desperate conditions where disease is rife. Cholera, measles, meningitis and yellow fever are all on the cards.
The same goes in any area where conflict drives people from their homes and refugees gather in large numbers, in poor conditions. If you’re travelling to an at-risk area because you have family there, or you’re an aid worker or volunteer, take the greatest care of your health and well-being. We have plenty of sensible, up to date advice on our website to help you stay safe and well.
Polio finally on the run
The human race completely eradicated smallpox from the face of the planet some time ago, an amazing scientific and collaborative feat. Now we’re on the brink of making polio the second human disease to be totally eradicated.
In 1998, when the Global Polio Eradication Initiative began, there were around 350,000 polio cases worldwide. In 2014 there were just 359. 2015 looks like being even better, with only 51 cases of wild polio virus reported compared to 277 at the same time in 2014. Type 2 polio disappeared completely in 1999 and type 3 hasn’t been seen since 2012. It’s estimated the initiative, in total, has saved 1.5 million people from death and an amazing 13 million children from a lifetime’s paralysis.
Just two countries retain a risk of polio, Afghanistan and Pakistan, where the WHO says the wild polio virus is still circulating in the population. Throughout the rest of the world, the immunisation campaigns that have helped eradicate the disease from so many countries are carrying on, preventing it from recurring.
Take Namibia, which is set to introduce the inactivated polio vaccine, IPV, into their official routine immunisation schedule. The vaccine makes antibodies to all three polio virus types, stopping the spread of the virus to the central nervous system and protecting against paralysis. The country’s Maternal and Child Health Week is behind the initiative, and have adopted the theme ‘Vaccinated communities are healthy communities’ for this year’s event.
Come back next week for another global travel health update, all sorts of important information gathered together here for your convenience. If you have any questions, we’ll be pleased to asnwer them. Just book an appointment with one of our travel clinic experts.