Flu Drugs Approval from Independent UK Panel – 19th October 2015

It’s time for our weekly round-up of travel-related risks around the world, our weekly travel health update.

Flu drugs approval from independent UK panel

As reported in this week’s New Scientist magazine, Tamiflu and Relenza, the flu drugs, have been found to help mitigate flu deaths in pandemics.

An independent UK panel found the drugs do work, contrary to campaigners’ claims. The Academy of Medical Sciences and the Wellcome Trust examined claims that stockpiling the drugs is a waste of money. Critics have been saying the drugs are no more use than a stiff whisky, but the research reveals smaller trials can’t be extrapolated to fit epidemics and pandemics, where severe cases of flu are more common.

Various infectious outbreaks in the Maldives

Heading for one of the world’s most beautiful tropical paradise island chains for your holiday? The Maldives is suffering a mass outbreak of viral fever, common colds and diarrhoea, all highly contagious, and the authorities there are warning people to take common sense action to stop the spread. If you’re going there, it makes sense to do the same.

Here’s a link to our page about avoiding travellers diarrhoea.

Dengue outbreak carries on in Taiwan, H5N2 bird flu returns

Taiwan has been experiencing record numbers of Dengue Fever cases, with 367 new ones reported island wide this week. Now they’re tackling the return of the highly pathogenic H5N2 bird flu, with thousands of birds culled in Taipei on a farm where the disease has been identified.

The farm saw 495 chickens die in less than a week, and epidemic prevention measures were put in place as soon as the alert was received. There’s no current threat to humans from the virus but people exposed in high-risk environments like poultry farms might be vulnerable to it, and there’s always an ongoing risk that the flu might eventually hop species and settle in humans, something global health authorities are at great pains to prevent.

West Nile virus in Ventura county, California

Five residents of Ventura, California, have caught West Nile virus, four of whom live in Simi Valley. One Simi Valley redsident died of West Nile complications last week, the only fatality so far. One person remains in hospital but the rest have been released.

Officials believe the outbreak has been caused by hot weather, which can attract mosquitoes and lead to random clusters of West Nile cases. The area’s public health and environmental health experts are discussing redoubling efforts to control the insects, including checking 700 known breeding sites in Simi regularly. Meanwhile two more birds checked in Ventura County have tested positive for West Nile virus, so the outbreak might not be under control yet.

Canadian Salmonella outbreak

An outbreak of Salmonella has hit eight Canadian provinces and several people have been hospitalised. The source is still a mystery but the investigation continues. There are currently 34 cases across British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Quebec.

The bacteria that cause the illness live naturally animal, reptile and bird intestines, usually transmitted to humans through contaminated food, and the best way to avoid it is to handle food with care, bearing hygiene in mind, and cooking it thoroughly.

Ebola rumbles on

Ebola cases are still surfacing in at-risk areas, including two in Guinea, bringing an end to hopes that the disease had run its course in West Africa. It means the outbreak will probably enter its third year, having already killed more than 11,000 out of 28,500 known cases in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.

Liberia was declared free of Ebola transmission on 3rd September, with no new cases in 42 days, and Sierra Leone is on track. But Guinea lags behind. One new male case is thought to have been transmitted sexually but nobody knows for sure. It appears the disease can lurk in the testes of male survivors for as long as 9 months, and – as in the case of the Scottish nurse currently battling a relapse – in other parts of the body, including the eyes.

On the bright side, treatment has been transformed recently by a successful trial vaccine, now used to treat new cases and the other people they may have come into contact with and infected.

We’ll be back next week with another global health update for travellers.