Avian Flu, H7N9 – China – October 2014

WORLD TRAVEL HEALTH ALERT –  OCT 28/10/14. Polio Outbreak in Pakistan, Avian Flu in China, Enterovirus in the U.S. and Canada, MERS in Saudi Arabia, Ebola Global Update.

Polio- Pakistan

The number of Polio cases in Pakistan continues to increase, as 7 new cases are reported by the National Institute of Health in Islamabad, two of which have been diagnosed in infants, in Peshawar and Khyber.  Another 5 cases, also in infants, raises the total cases for 2014 to 227.  Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Nigeria are the only three countries in which polio remains endemic.

Avian Flu – China

A strain of Avian flu, even more dangerous than the H7 strain and H5N1 which first swept through Hong Kong in 1997, is infecting more and more people in China.  Labelled H7N9, the virus is, apparently, continuing to mutate, and although it is still a virus which cannot yet be transmitted between humans, the indications are that it could continue to “reassort” itself into a virus which could eventually become a greater threat.

Enterovirus –  U.S./Canada

Enterovirus D68, which causes severe respiratory illness grows more wide spread across North America, where over 1,000 cases have now been confirmed in the U.S., across 47 states, and 150 in Canada.  The outbreaks began in late summer and into September, with numbers continuing to rise, according to the C.D.C., (Centres for Disease Control, in Atlanta) and several deaths have been linked to the virus.

MERS –  Saudi Arabia

The Ministry of Health in Saudi Arabia has reported two new cases of MERS  in the past few days, both of which in the capital of Riyadh. As cases of the respiratory illness sweep through Saudi Arabia, the fatality rate has now risen to 43% of a total case count which now stands at 777.  In addition, the World Health Organization reports a global case total of 883.  Mers is a largely-misunderstood disease of the respiratory system, which continues to spread through Arabia and other gulf states such as Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait, and, recently Turkey. You could be at increased risk for MERS Co-V infection if:

– you have recently travelled to the Arabian peninsula and have developed symptoms such as fever, cough, and shortness of breath within 14 days; or

– you have been in contact with any person or any ill person who has returned from visiting the Arabian peninsula or surrounding states, and subsequently develop the above-mentioned symptoms within 14 days following contact.

Should these symptoms be present, contact your doctor at once, and stay home from work or school to avoid the risk of transmitting the virus to others.  MERS is highly contagious, so if you must go out in public, wear a mask to protect others.

Ebola – Global Update

-Australia today issued a ban on all travellers arriving from any country affected by the Ebola virus.  The news has not been well received, especially as fear and confusion build a storm of controversy that threatens basic human freedoms.

-Insurance broker, “AON” in the United States has issued liability insurance for hospitals and other healthcare institutions treating Ebola patients, as uncertainty regarding existing policies continues to become an issue.

-Nurse Kaci Hickox, a volunteer with MSF (Doctors without Borders), recently returned from work in Sierra Leone, has issued a vehement statement against the handling of healthcare workers returning home to the U.S., after having been quarantined at a New Jersey hospital against her will.

In her statement, Ms. Hickox claims that the quarantine policies invoked by New York, New Jersey, Minnesota, and several other states are misdirected and that the fight will only be won in West Africa.  Such measures are only discouraging more Doctors from volunteering for work in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone because of the stigma attached to those who do, and the treatment they receive upon returning.