Wanderlust travel health update: Colombia, India, Brazil and more

Weekly round-up of the world's travel health news from Nomad including malaria in Colombia, chikungunya in India, dengue fever in Brazil and more

5 mins

This health advice is provided by Nomad, who offer Wanderlust visitors 10% off equipment online and in store including 10% off vaccinations. See the Nomad website for more details.

Australia – Influenza

The number of laboratory-confirmed flu cases has increased almost seven-fold this year. A Queensland Health spokeswoman said the number of flu cases in central Queensland and central-west districts had reached 306 by 8 August 2011.

It is a dramatic increase compared to the number of cases for the same period last year, which was 45.

Advice to travellers

Influenza is spread by droplet infection. You are at higher risk in crowded situations such as on public transport, markets etc. Ensure good hand washing and consider vaccination before you travel to an area especially if you are in the high-risk groups (defined by your GP) or if travelling into an outbreak situation.

India – Chikungunya

Data released by the directorate of health services has revealed that 39 people in Goa have tested positive for chikungunya this year. From January to 12 August 2011, almost 291 people were tested for chikungunya virus infections.

Advice to travellers

Chikungunya is spread by daytime biting mosquitoes normally from sunrise to sunset and is more common in urban areas. There is no vaccine available and therefore insect bite avoidance is essential.

India – Japanese Encephalitis

A total of four more deaths due to encephalitis have been reported in the Purvanchal region of Uttar Pradesh, taking this year's toll to 143. At present, 168 patients are undergoing treatment at the Nehru Hospital.

Hong Kong – Japanese Encephalitis

Hong Kong has confirmed its first case of Japanese encephalitis in four years. The patient, a six-year-old girl, was admitted to Tuen Mun hospital with fever and vomiting last month. She is now in stable condition. She had no recent travel history, and four of her family members are under medical surveillance.

Advice to travellers

Japanese encephalitis is spread by night-biting mosquitoes in certain parts of Asia. Outbreaks occur mainly during or just after monsoon time, however can happen year round. The risk to short-term travellers is very low, particularly if they are only visiting urban areas, with overall estimates of one case per million travellers. The risk becomes greater for persons who intend to live or travel in risk areas for long periods of time, and have rural trips during transmission seasons. The majority of cases of JE are asymptomatic or non-specific. Travellers to affected areas should seek advice prior to their trip. Vaccination is available and consists of two or three injections over a four to six week period. Bite avoidance is essential.

Indonesia (Bali) – Rabies

A 39-year-old Klungkung man has died at Bali's Sanglah General Hospital of rabies. The man, who was a father of two, was admitted to the hospital and died the following day. This man was the 18th fatality attributed to rabies in Bali in 2011. The victim was reportedly bitten several months ago by a puppy purchased in Denpasar.

France (ex-Morocco) – Rabies

A case of rabies in a dog, his owners had brought the dog back from Morocco to Nantes on 1 August, was confirmed on this past Thursday (11 August) by the Pasteur Institute. All persons in contact were taken into preventive care. While tests were conducted by the Pasteur Institute, an epidemiological investigation was launched by the regional office of Health Pays de la Loire, which identified 24 people who had contact with the animal.

Advice to travellers

Travellers are advised to consider pre-travel Rabies vaccine, this consists of a course of three vaccines administered over the course of 21-28 days; this removes the need for Rabies Immunoglobulin in the event of an injury. Animal contact should be avoided wherever possible and in the event of contact with animal saliva, any wound should be thoroughly washed with soap and water and Iodine or Alcohol applied. Medical advice should be sought as soon as possible even if vaccinated with a full course of Rabies vaccine.

Colombia – Malaria

So far this year 187 cases of malaria have been reported in La Guajira, and 95 of them are located in the capital city (Riohacha), according to the Departmental Secretary of Health. Most persons affected belong to the Wayuu community, who were affected by the first outbreak. 24 cases have been reported in La Cachaca I and II settlements, and some additional cases have been reported in Argote, Puerto Caracol, and El Horno communities. According to the health secretary, the causes for this outbreak affecting indigenous communities are water pools, brooks, and still water pools that are used on a daily basis by indigenous people. These are the places where mosquitoes lay their eggs, easily reproducing and afterwards biting people.

Advice to travellers

Travellers to the affected area should seek expert advice before they travel, regarding the most suitable form of malaria tablets for their trip and medical history. They should ensure that they take the tablets as advised or they will not work as well. Malaria tablets are approximately 90-95% effective when taken properly, so bite avoidance should also be adhered to. Always wear 20-50% DEET on all exposed skin, sleep under a mosquito net and wear long clothing to protect you. Malaria-carrying mosquitoes generally bite between sunset and sunrise.

Thailand – Dengue Fever

Health authorities have highlighted 20 cases of dengue fever on Phi Phi, including some among travellers. There have been 380 dengue fever cases in Krabi (province), and some tourists have fallen victim to the disease on Phi Phi and needed treatment at the island hospital. Cases of dengue have been reduced on Phuket in the past couple of years. There has been one death from the disease on the island in the first six months of 2011, the first for two years.

Vietnam – Dengue Fever

Since early this year, there have been approximately 23,000 cases of dengue fever in the country, causing 22 deaths so far. The General Department of Preventive Medicine reported a total of 5,000 cases in July 2011 alone, including eight fatalities. It said the number of (dengue virus) infection cases continued rising not only in the south but also in the north.

Brazil (Rio de Janeiro) – Dengue Fever

Dengue has now killed 113 people in Rio de Janeiro state, according to a bulletin issued by the state Secretariat of Health. Suspected (dengue) cases number 154,669, with a peak in April 2011 and a decrease since then.

Advice to travellers

Dengue fever is spread by daytime biting mosquitoes normally from sunrise to sunset and is more common in urban areas. It causes a high ‘breakbone’ fever (pain all over), accompanied with headache and rash. It lasts a few days and will resolve itself. If caught a second time it has a 2% chance of developing into dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal. There is currently no vaccine available and therefore insect bite avoidance is essential.

All outbreak information has been sourced from Promed.

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For more travel health stories see our health news pages

For travel health articles check our Dr Jane Wilson-Howarth's features here

More information on Dengue Fever can be found here: Dealing with Dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases

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