Diphtheria, Bangladesh, Indonesia – October 2018


International travellers are reminded to keep their routine vaccinations up to date following a large number of cases of diphtheria reported in recent months in several locations around the world. Some cases have been reported in South America but the most intense transmission is currently occurring in Bangladesh and Indonesia. The situation in Bangladesh has been exacerbated by the influx of a large number of refugees from Myanmar. The government of Indonesia is planning to vaccinate almost 2 million children to manage the outbreak in that nation.


Diphtheria is a serious and potentially fatal bacterial infection that affects the mucous membranes of the throat  and heartand nose with initial flu-like symptoms but can aggravate to fever, swallowing difficulties, hoarseness, enlarged lymph nodes, coughing, and shortness of breath; while in some patients, the disease may affect the skin, leading to ulcers. The bacteria also produces a toxin which may damage the heart. Several effective vaccines are available from our clinic.


Cholera, Yemen – October 2018


A severe cholera epidemic has devastated the Middle Eastern nation of Yemen which has been in the grip of conflict for several years. Cholera is a severe diarrhoeal illness which can become a major risk after natural disasters or during military conflict. Almost 250,000 cases of cholera have been identified and 1,500 deaths have occurred. Almost all provinces have been affected by the epidemic. About one quarter of all children who have been diagnosed with cholera in this outbreak have died from this illness. Two thirds of the entire population of Yemen are in need of urgent humanitarian aid. Less than 45% of hospitals are operational. Although an effective vaccine for cholera is available from our clinic all non-essential travel to Yemen should be avoided at this time.


Yellow fever, South America, Africa – October 2018


Authorities in areas of Brazil and Bolivia are attempting to contain outbreaks of yellow fever which developed in recent months. Yellow fever is a severe viral haemorragic fever transmitted by the bite of a moquito. The illness can be prevented by vaccination. The current outbreaks centred on the regions of Minas Gerais and Espritu Santo in Brazil and Cochabamba in Bolivia where several hundred cases have been reported and numerous deaths have occurred. Efforts are underway to control the outbreak with mosquito control measures and mass vaccination. Some surrounding countries have also recently reported cases including Peru, Columbia.


Several cases of yellow fever have also been reported in Central and West Africa in recent weeks with majority reported in Democratic Republic of Congo and in Liberia.


Zika Virus update, South America, Asia, Pacific – January 2018


Travellers to South America, USA, Pacific Islands and Southeast Asia need to remain vigilant against mosquito bites due to an ongoing epidemic of the vial illness Zika fever. The current outbreak affected dozens countries but was most severe in Brazil, Columbia and Venezuela. Recently cases have been reported as far as Florida (USA), Vietnam, Thailand and Singapore. In recent months cases have also been reported in West Africa. The Zika virus is transmitted by the bite of a specific type of mosquito and causes symptoms which include fever, rash, conjunctivitis and joint pain. In most cases the illness is mild and self limiting but more concerning is an apparent link to a specific birth defect called microcephaly resulting in small head size and brain damage. Although Zika virus is only likely to cause a minor illness in most travellers, pregnant travellers should avoid non-essential travel to affected regions at the present time. No vaccine is available for the Zika virus.


Dengue Fever update – October 2018


During the last few months, dengue fever cases have been reported in a number of regions around the globe. High dengue activity is occuring in Sri Lanka, India (multiple states), Pakistan (Punjab, Sindh), Myanmar, Philippines, Mexico, Panama, Fiji several areas in West Africa and Palau at the present time.


Dengue fever is common in many tropical areas of the world that are frequently visited by travellers. The illness is often transmitted in urban areas. Those affected may develop a severe flu-like illness with a characteristic rash. No vaccine is available however the illness risk may be reduced by minimising the number of mosquito bites in affected regions. Anti malaria tablets do not protect against dengue fever. Travellers are advised to dress appropriately and use high quality insect repellants if required. Although rarely fatal, the illness may be severe or prolonged in some individuals and in children. Complications may arise.


All visitors to dengue fever regions are advised to minimise the risk of mosquito bites and seek medical attention if ill. Asprin must NOT be used.


Measles , various countries – October 2018


Travellers are advised to consider an update of measles vaccination due to several cases being reported in some countries around the world. Recent outbreak of this highly infectious disease have been reported in United Kingdom, Pakistan, Taiwan, Greece, Romania, Sweden, Indonesia, Finland and Democratic Republic Congo. Typical symptoms of measles include fever, sore eyes, dry cough and a characteristic rash. Significant  measles outbreaks have occurred in several continents in recent years.


Polio, PNG – October 2018


Cases of Polio are continuing to emerge in Papua New Guinea after an outbreak of the illness was identified in June 2018. PNG was declared polio free in 2000 but a cluster of cases has recently been diagnosed. Other countries recently reporting cases include Nigeria, Niger, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. The virus, which mainly affects children, causes paralysis of varying degrees of seriousness. Polio virus spreads through faecal-oral contamination, multiplies in the intestines, and then affects the central nervous system. There is no cure for polio, which can only be controlled by vaccinations in childhood.


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