Lyssa Virus – New South Wales, Australia – October 2014

WORLD TRAVEL HEALTH ALERT  30/10/14, Protests in Hong Kong, Lyssa Virus in Australia, Security in Israel and Ebola Update.

Protests – Hong Kong

A Reuters bulletin yesterday quoted former Hong Kong Central Bank chief, Joseph Yam, as saying that Beijing could punish Hong Kong if pro-democracy protests that have paralysed parts of the city are allowed to continue.  Mr. Yam added that should the protests continue, the city’s financial integrity and the stability of its currency could be at risk.   This statement was followed just hours later by news that China’s top parliamentary advisory body had expelled Hong Kong lawmaker, James Tien Pei-Chun, for calling on the city’s chief executive, Leung Chun-Ying, to resign. The tens of thousands of demonstrators have trickled down to hundreds, but the protest sites remain, and the camps are still in Hong Kong’s central financial district, as the protesters and government have reached an impasse.  Visitors to Hong Kong should be conscious of the fact that even though things are calmer, there is tension and the potential for ongoing disturbances between the two sides.

Lyssa Virus – New South Wales, Australia

A series of rabies-like infections in 32 people requiring post-exposure prophlaxis, and three deaths from lyssa virus in Queensland, Australia have prompted NSW Health to issue a warning against risking contact with bats or flying foxes.  A bite or scratch from a one of these animals can cause infection with the deadly virus.  Included in the warning is that contact with domesticated or wild animals such as monkeys, and wild dogs or cats, which can also be infected with the virus, should be avoided. Only those who are fully-vaccinated and trained in the handling of such animals should approach them. If you are bitten or scratched, it is most important that you wash the wound thoroughly for 5 minutes, and then apply a strong antiseptic, such as Betadine, before seeking urgent medical assistance.

Shootings and Threats – Jerusalem

The closure of Temple Mount, following the drive-by shooting of a rabbi in Jerusalem in Israel on Wednesday night has caused heated exchanges between Israeli and Palestinian leaders.  Temple Mount, the holiest site in Judaism, and third-holiest in Islam, has been closed, say Israeli sources, only temporarily, to prevent further trouble.  The Palestinian President, Mahmoud Abbas, has called the closure “A declaration of war”.

Ebola – Global Update

The Ebola outbreak in West Africa has caused close to 5,000 deaths, from among more than 13,000 reported cases, in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone. Liberia has been the hardest hit during this outbreak which first came to light in March, and with the tragic shortage of facilities, professional healthcare workers, and protective hazmat gear, the virus has spread at an alarming rate.  In addition to the human toll that Ebola has taken, the healthcare system in Liberia is now in danger of collapse.

With all available resources dedicated to the fight against the virus, precious little remains to help patients suffering with other diseases.  At present, it is estimated that at least 300,000 in the capital of Monrovia could be at risk for Malaria, which is endemic in Liberia.

Since the early symptoms of Malaria are similar to Ebola, there is  fear that those suffering the symptoms of Malaria could conceivably be admitted to an Ebola treatment centre by mistake, thereby being placed in close contact with Ebola patients and further spreading the virus.  MSF (Médecins sans Frontières) organises the distribution, each day, of anti-malarial medication to families in the poorer sections of the capital, where population density puts people further at risk.