Travel Risk: Bug Bites that cause Chagas’ disease

The triatomine bug mainly sucks blood from victims’ faces and often defecates in the wound, especially around the eyes and lips where the skin is thinner

‘Disease like AIDS’ can follow bug bites

By Zheng Caixiong in Guangzhou

A forest bug clambers on a fern in a garden outside Moscow on June 27, 2017. (YURI KADOBNOV / AFP)

The Guangzhou Center for Disease Control and Prevention has posted a reward for the capture of triatomine bugs as it works to prevent an outbreak of Chagas’ disease by identifying cases early.

Chagas’ disease, which has an incubation period of between 20 and 30 years, is “a new disease like AIDS”, the center said.

Chagas’ disease, which has an incubation period of between 20 and 30 years, is “a new disease like AIDS”

“The campaign is expected to offer early diagnosis and better treatment to patients in the coming months,” the center said in a statement published on its WeChat account on Thursday.

Those who provide the center with triatomine bugs – dead or alive – will receive a reward of 8 yuan (US$1.20) per specimen, it said.

Chagas’ disease most often causes flu-like symptoms like fever, facial swelling, body aches and vomiting. However, 20-30 percent of those infected with the disease can contract chronic conditions, including inflammation of the heart, enlargement of the esophagus and colon, blood clotting and even sudden death. It can lie dormant in a human body for decades.

An official from the center said no Chagas’ disease cases have been reported in Guangzhou so far, but the city is a place for investigating the Chagas’ disease in Guangdong province.

The triatomine bug mainly sucks blood from victims’ faces and often defecates in the wound, especially around the eyes and lips where the skin is thinner, the center said in its statement. An adult bug is usually about 2.5 centimeters long.

The bug is a carrier of the disease, which claims thousands of lives each year in Central and South America. With increasing globalization, cases of the disease have been reported in North America, Europe, Oceania and Japan in recent years, the statement said.

“Chagas’ disease might break out in the city if many bugs are present, so it is important to find the bugs and identify victims early to help control infection rates,” it said.

“Currently there is no vaccine to prevent Chagas’ disease, and there are no specific medicines effective to cure the disease when it reaches a late stage,” the statement said.

Triatomine bugs mainly live in cracks in walls and stones, but have also been found in forests, fields, animal pens and chicken coops. The bugs usually emerge at night to feed.

People who capture the bugs are urged to put them in sealed bottles before taking them to a CDC office in the city.

Reported by China Daily on 10 July 2018.

Asbestos Exposure: Hidden Travel Risk!

Asbestos exposure, a hidden risk for budget tourists in Asia

Travelling cheaply through Asia may be a rite of passage but healthy young Australians may, in the process, expose ...

We are just beginning to realise that exposure to asbestos is a hidden travel risk in Asia, particularly for those on a low budget who stay in cheap deteriorating buildings or next to demolition sites.

It’s a small but real risk.

Asbestos is a popular building material in many parts of Asia and given that it only takes a few fibres to cause a fatal cancer, tourists may unknowingly be facing a health risk.

While there is no safe level of exposure to asbestos, risk does increase with dose.

Australians who may be hyper-vigilant about exposure to asbestos at home, travel though Asia oblivious of the risks.

The longer and higher the level of exposure, the greater the dose. This explains why asbestos workers are at higher risk of developing disease. But others get it too and some are totally disbelieving when they get the diagnosis because they can’t recall ever being exposed.

Although asbestos may be locked into insulation, floor tiles and coating, walls and roofing material, as buildings decay fibres can be freed.

These fibres can be 1000 times thinner than a human hair and can be inhaled without detection.

Some travel blogs suggest opting for new hotels and avoiding construction or renovation sites where fibres may be in the air, the soil or on nearby surfaces.

Oblivious of danger

Professor Ken Takahashi of Asbestos Diseases Research Institute says Australia has a responsibility to raise awareness ...

Australians who may be hyper-vigilant about exposure to asbestos at home, travel though Asia oblivious of the risks.

Professor Ken Takahashi, director of the Asbestos Diseases Research Institute (ADRI) says the travel risks have not previously been considered by researchers.

“But in the case of travel, one can assume that the exposure level is low and the duration of exposure is short. Therefore, the risk would be small,” he says.

“A practical recommendation would thus be to avoid going near places where asbestos may be obviously present, the most typical of which is asbestos factories or mines.

Some travel blogs suggest opting for new hotels and avoiding construction or renovation sites where fibres may be in the ...

“Of course, presence of asbestos is not always obvious, such as in the case of exposure to buildings containing asbestos or exposure to asbestos-containing products.

“It then becomes a matter of practicality whether one should avoid travel in view of the small risk.

He strongly believes Australia has a responsibility to raise awareness of asbestos in Asia, provide education on protection against it and hopefully, help to get rid of it completely “for the sake of workers and residents of the country itself, much more than for the sake of travellers”.

He says more than 60 per cent of the world consumption of asbestos occurs in parts of Asia where commercial convenience and the need for development and housing outweigh public health concerns.

Asbestos is a popular building material in many parts of Asia and given that it only takes a few fibres to cause a fatal ...

Causing persistent damage

While Japan and South Korea have banned it, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are among the top 10 consumers in the world.

The small country of Laos has the highest per capita consumption of asbestos on the planet.

For almost 50 years, it has been known that inhaled asbestos fibres can cause cancer of the lungs or can pass through the lungs into a cell layer that surrounds all internal organs.

Asbestos remains a highly popular building material in many parts of Asia

This layer is called the called the mesothelium and where malignant mesothelioma forms.

While the asbestos itself is chemically harmless, its long-pointed fibres lodge in the body and cause a series of micro-injuries.

As the body is unable to clear these fibres, they remain stuck and cause persistent damage to the tissue.

About 30 years ago, scientists observed that a single dose of asbestos fibres damages the mesothelium tissue.

It was proposed that persistent injury led to chronic inflammation and that cell proliferation somehow paved the way for fatal mesothelioma.

Asbestos can also cause asbestosis, a non-malignant disease that results in irreversible lung damage, difficulty breathing, a cough and, in severe cases, an enlarged heart.

Australia should ‘share knowledge’

Professor Takahashi says Australia is the only country in the world that has a dedicated federal agency to deal with the legacy of the asbestos industry.

While Japan and South Korea have banned it, China, India, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam are among the top 10 asbestos ...

In other countries, if it is managed at all, it is done so within health, labour or environmental ministries.

“Australia should be taking a lead in the global effort to ban asbestos in developing countries that continue to use it at a very high level because it is cheap, widely available and has many advantageous characteristics.”

He says Australia should share its knowledge and technology about substitutes for asbestos within the Asian neighbourhood.

“These countries are hesitant to make the transition because they prioritise economy over health and added to that is the fact that there are many pro-asbestos lobbies trying to maintain the global trade.

“And there is corruption among officials of ministries of developing countries, so they are not fully motivated to make the transition.

“I believe Australia should assist these counties in developing their own expertise to detect the disease and also develop systems so that workers and consumers are not exposed to asbestos while they are using it.

“Until these countries stop the manufacture and export of products containing asbestos, Australia will have to deal with illegal imports for a long time.”

Occupational exposure

Asbestos can also cause asbestosis, a non-malignant disease that results in irreversible lung damage, difficulty ...

Professor Takahashi says this as the epidemic of asbestos-related disease in Australia has begun peaking.

Although Australia implemented a complete asbestos ban in 2003, classic asbestos cancer – mesothelioma – can take up to 40 years to develop, which means new cases will continue to occur and people will be dying from it for many years to come.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Australia had the world’s highest per capita rate of asbestos consumption. Today it has among the highest rates of mesothelioma.

In 2016, about 700 people – the great majority male – were newly diagnosed with this fatal disease.

Apart from those involved in mining or manufacturing asbestos, many more people have been affected because vast numbers of houses built before 1990 had materials containing asbestos.

Tradesmen, such as plumbers and electricians, working in such residential properties had a high degree of occupational exposure.

Mesothelioma has been characterised by nihilism in the past but an international research effort is making some inroads into the disease.

Last month, Swiss researchers unmasked an underlying mechanism that helps explain why asbestos causes cancer.

Dr Yuen Cheng, a molecular biologist at Asbestos Diseases Research Institute, says Swiss research has taken the science ...

Detecting disease earlier

They say that until now, this cancer was “a black box” and they are hopeful their discovery may lead to detecting the disease much earlier in its development.

This may then lead to a means of slowing it.

They say over time the immune system can’t cope with the changes induced by the presence of the fibres.

“The immune system goes out of balance and is no longer strong enough to combat tumour formation,” said lead researcher Dr Emanuela Felley-Bosco, of the Swiss National Science Foundation.

Published in the journal Oncogene, the study proposes that immunotherapy, a treatment that triggers the body’s own immune system to fight disease, may work in this cancer.

Using mice, the researchers showed that micro-injuries caused by asbestos triggered an immune reaction.

Tissue-repair pathways were activated that promote cell proliferation and favoured the growth of tumours

Professor Takahashi says Australia should share its knowledge and technology about substitutes for asbestos within the ...

The team also found an accumulation of mutations in RNA (a kind of working copy of DNA), which they thought weakened the tissue-repair immune response.

As a result, tumour formation was no longer effectively combated and cancer developed.

Immune imbalance

An analysis of data from a human gene bank revealed that human mesothelioma tumours also produce large amounts of the enzyme that causes the mutations in the RNA.

It’s hoped this will be useful in recognising early signs of inflammation and in developing a specific immunotherapy against mesothelial cancer.

A clinical study of immunotherapy at the advanced stage of this disease is under way at hospitals in Switzerland, Spain and Britain.

Dr Yuen Cheng, a molecular biologist at ADRI, says the Swiss research has taken the science of mesothelioma a step forward.

While it was known an immune imbalance occurred, the importance and the potential triggers for it were not known.

The Swiss have shown immune imbalance plays a major role and have provided list of genes that were previously not considered.

While these genes were found in the animal model, they were also found in mesothelioma tumours in human gene banks.

The problem is that the banks have samples from fewer than 100 tumours and hundreds of thousands are needed to confirm the finding.

“They’ve clearly shown a link, something different to what other researchers have done, but we don’t know for certain until we have done a large sample,” Dr Cheng says.

The next step, which is not difficult, is to confirm this in humans. If proved correct, it could be useful in the clinical setting.

*Jill Margo is an adjunct associate professor at The University of NSW.

Weather Risk – Typhoon Pakhar impacts Hong Kong flights

Severe Tropical Storm Pakhar casus flight chaos at Hong Kong International Airport

The 2nd major storm to hit Hong Kong within a week leads to 206 flight cancellations and 471 delays

Forty-two landing attempts were aborted at Hong Kong International Airport between 7am and 7.30pm on Sunday as winds whipped up by Severe Tropical Storm Pakhar made conditions unsafe.

A review by the Post of data from Flightradar24, which tracks commercial flight movements, found some aircraft tried two or even three times to make a safe touchdown, as crosswinds and wind shear, which exerts a turning force on aircraft, wreaked havoc on operations.

Some pilots eventually opted to divert to other airports, with Xiamen, Kaoshiung, Haikou, Manila and Bangkok taking a large chunk of flights.

Diverted aircraft included Cathay Pacific flight 238 from London, which made no fewer than three failed attempts at landing before being diverted to Kaoshiung. Another flight, CX616 from Bangkok, made one failed attempt to touch down before flying back to the Thai capital.

A Hong Kong finance worker who asked not to be named said his flight to Singapore was supposed to depart at 11.15am on Sunday, but had been delayed twice.

On Twitter, affected fliers complained of delays, with one hitting out at Hong Kong’s flagship airline Cathay for bumping him to a flight on Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s Airport Authority said 44 flights had been diverted to other destinations.

A total of 206 flights were cancelled and 471 delayed due to the storm, with 50 planes left stuck on the tarmac at one point in the day as the city was pummelled by its second severe storm in a week.

The Hong Kong Observatory issued a T8 warning on Sunday morning as Pakhar lashed the city with heavy rain, but downgraded that signal to T3 at 1.40pm and T1 at 5.40pm.

Both of the airport’s runways were set to operate overnight instead of the usual one, to cope with a backlog of flights.

At noon on Sunday, all airlines closed their check-in services until 2pm.

Earlier in the week, more than 450 flights were cancelled due to Typhoon Hato, which hit the city on Wednesday and caused major damage.

The typhoon left 10 people dead in nearby Macau and at least 244 people injured.

On Sunday, as Pakhar lashed the city, an authority spokesman advised travellers to check the status of their flight before coming to the airport.

“Operations are quite severely affected,” he said.

The spokesman said flights were still coming and going from the airport on Sunday afternoon, but a flight attendant on a Delta plane waiting to take off said no planes were taking off or landing, according to a Post reporter on board an affected flight.

The pilot for flight DL38 to Seattle said that at one point 20 planes were stuck on the runway waiting for safer conditions, while another 30 were waiting to push off from the terminal.

He estimated that take-off could be a few hours away at the very least.

Now we are just stuck on the flight like sitting ducks
MARK STRANSON, BUSINESS TRAVELLER

Flights heading southeast of Hong Kong were largely cancelled, while planes to Thailand, Japan and the United States boarded their passengers, the pilot said.

Mark Stranson, aboard DL38 after visiting Hong Kong on business, said he was pleased with the decision not to fly.

“I’d prefer that they delayed us before boarding because now we are just stuck on the flight like sitting ducks, but I’m glad they’re not trying to fly in this weather.”

But Cheri Cheung Wing-lam, a Georgetown University student, expressed concern she would miss her connecting flight.

“I cannot believe we have to sit here for so long, they shouldn’t have boarded us if they were going to keep us waiting. I’m thankful they’re not risking anything and that they provided refreshments, but I cannot imagine sitting here for hours.”

 Reported by South China Morning Post on27 August 2017.

Jet blast from a plane kills a tourist at St. Maarten airport

Jet blast from a plane kills a tourist at a Caribbean airport

A sign near St. Maarten's Princess Juliana International Airport warns people about the danger from airplane jet engines.

A tourist from New Zealand was killed by the blast of a plane at an airport in the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten.

The 57-year-old woman, who was not identified, was hanging onto a fence to watch the plane leave Wednesday, the island’s police said on Facebook.
The jet’s blast was so powerful, it knocked her down, police said. She later died.
Watching planes land and take off at Princess Juliana International Airport is a well-known tourist attraction, as approaching aircraft tend to fly very low above their heads.
But both airport and local authorities warn against getting too close to the planes, calling the practice “extremely dangerous.”
Police didn’t say what kind of plane was involved in Wednesday’s incident.
Island authorities say they have taken necessary precautions to warn tourists not to get too close to planes. They’ve placed signs and they patrol the area to warn people, the police department said.
Thrill-seekers and tourists have been watching planes take off and land at the airport since it opened in 1943.
In 2012, a woman was injured after she was flung into a nearby concrete barrier by a jet blast.
Reported by CNN on 14 July 2017.
It is worth highlighting a suggestion posted on Facebook by Paul Trueschler In know it’s a tourist attraction, but please install a small deflector to at least reduce the blast effects. It can still be exciting while becoming safer.
Hope the Dutch Caribbean island of St. Maarten Airport Authorities instal a small deflector, to reduce the risk of injury and death of future visitors.   

Emerging Travel Risk: Australia’s mosquito-borne Ross River virus could become global epidemic

What is Ross River virus?

  • Most common mosquito-borne disease in Australia
  • Previously thought to be endemic to Australia and Papua New Guinea
  • Last breakout outside Australia/PNG was in 1979-1980 in American Samoa
  • Symptoms include swollen joints, fever/chills, rashes, debilitating pain
  • 3,552 people infected Australia-wide in 2016
  • Previously understood to sustain itself only through marsupials
University researchers warn that the virus now seems to be able to sustain itself outside marsupials.
Australia’s Ross River virus has the potential to become a global epidemic, similar to the Zika virus, researchers say.
It was previously thought that the mosquito-borne virus could only sustain itself among marsupials, which kept the disease endemic to Australia and Papua New Guinea.
But research fellow at the University of Adelaide Professor Philip Weinstein said he and his partners at the Australian National University (ANU) found the disease silently planting roots in the South Pacific.
“It’s really only in the last few years [it became apparent] when tourists returning to their home countries … were diagnosed with Ross River virus after travelling in the Pacific,” Professor Weinstein said.
“They’d never been to Australia or New Guinea. That’s when the little alarm bells started ringing that this was perhaps circulating outside Australia.”
Professor Weinstein said the new finding meant that even though there were no marsupials in the Pacific Islands, the virus was seemingly able to maintain itself there anyway.
He warned that if the virus could sustain itself in areas where there were no marsupials, “then it could sustain itself anywhere in the world”.
“That certainly means that it could be another global outbreak like Zika or Chikungunya a few years before that, another mosquito-borne virus that suddenly went global,” he said.
Professor Weinstein said all it could take was a “perfect storm” of a tourist carrying the virus, a set of animals who could harbour the virus, and the right conditions for mosquitos to bite those animals for an epidemic to take off.
In fact, he said, it was possible that was already happening.
“This has probably been chugging along quietly on different Pacific islands for a number of years, but because the symptoms are so general it’s not been identified as a Ross River Virus problem,” Professor Weinstein said.
In January alone 1,174 people were infected nationwide in Australia.
Source: ABC News reported 22 February 2017

Australia’s Ross River virus spike prompts mosquito warning across NSW Riverina

Mosquito biting human skin.

New South Wales Health authorities renew warnings for residents and holiday makers in the state’s Riverina region to protect themselves against mosquitoes after a fivefold increase in the number of Ross River virus infections compared to the average in previous years.

NSW Public Health Director Tracey Oakman said there were 34 cases of the virus in the Murrumbidgee Local Health District in December, five times the average for this time of year.

“The highest number of notifications have been in the 45- to 65-year-old age group and then the next age group most commonly notified is the 25- to 44-year-old age group,” she said.

The city of Griffith has been flagged as a hotspot for the virus, with seven cases reported in the region last month.

Ms Oakman also said a number of holiday makers in the Riverina who contracted the disease were unlikely to have been picked up in the latest figures.

“If we’ve got holiday makers that have been bitten and gone home, they’ll be recorded as having the virus from the postcode that they’re living in,” she said.

Ms Oakman said the numbers were concerning and she urged people to be vigilant, use quality mosquito repellents and wear long clothing.

How is the virus spread?

Ross River virus is spread among humans by the bite of certain types of infected female mosquitoes, which generally pick up the virus when feeding on the blood of infected animals.

Outbreaks can occur when local conditions of rainfall, tides and temperature promote mosquito breeding.

Tips to beat bites

  • Wear long, loose-fitting clothing
  • Use effective mosquito repellents containing DEET or picaridin
  • Control mosquitos with sprays or vaporising devices for inside use, including caravans
  • Install fly screens
  • Make sure mosquitos can’t breed by removing stagnant water every week
  • Empty children’s wading pools when not being used
  • Limit outdoor activity at dusk and dawn

Source: Department of Health 

 

Ms Oakman said mosquito numbers had flourished after months of wet weather.

“That’s really concerning because we don’t normally see such a high level of Ross River virus in December.

“We normally get higher cases in February, March and April, the tail end of summer.

“Seeing them this early is a real concern,” she said.

Ms Oakman warned that wet conditions were likely to lead to even more people contracting the virus across the region in the coming months. She called on people who became infected to visit the doctor.

“The symptoms … joint aches and pains, headaches, fever, a chill and sometimes a rash,” she said.

“Sometimes the symptoms persist for weeks and even months.

“It’s quite a miserable time for someone who contracts it.”

Reported by ABC News on 6 January 2017.

25% of Americans Will Cancel, Delay, Relocate, Change or Reconsider Travel Plans Before Taking a Vacation

American Travelers are Taking Terror Risk into account in Vacation Planning

Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index Reveals almost a Quarter of Americans Will Cancel, Delay, Relocate, Change or Reconsider Travel Plans Before Taking a Vacation

RICHMOND, VA, 7.25.2016 — The majority of Americans (86 percent) are concerned about terrorist attacks occurring while on vacation in various regions of the world in the future, prompting many to make major changes to their travel plans, according to the annual Vacation Confidence Index released by Allianz Global Assistance.

The region Americans are most concerned will be the site of an attack is the Middle East (75 percent), followed by Europe (66 per cent) and Africa (63 percent).

With recent attacks in Istanbul, Israel, Paris, Brussels, and Nice, almost a quarter of Americans (22 percent) say that the fear of further violence has influenced their vacation planning in some way; whether that be cancelling (6 percent); changing locations (5 percent), travel dates (4 percent), mode of transportation (4 percent), local tours (4 percent) or accommodations (3 percent); or by purchasing travel insurance (3 percent).

As Americans age, the fear of terror attacks happening while traveling to different regions of the world increases significantly. That trend, however, is reversed for travel within the U.S. and Canada, where millennials aged 18 to 34 have the greatest fear of an attack happening on home soil (57 percent) compared to generation X (51 percent) and baby boomers (48 percent).

Those Americans influenced by an act of terrorism are more likely to be traveling within the U.S. or Canada (50 percent), likely due to the higher number of domestic vs. international vacations planned. Internationally, Americans who have changed their plans were most likely to be visiting Europe (42 percent), followed by Asia (29 percent), Latin America (26 percent), Australia and the South Pacific (26 percent), the Middle East (22 percent) or Africa (21 percent).

An analysis of flight bookings showed a 10 percent overall increase in travel to Europe during the summer, despite recent acts of terror in Brussels, Istanbul and France. While these targeted destinations saw a significant decrease or virtually no change in U.S. travelers visiting during the upcoming summer, Europe as a whole recorded an overall increase to 515,676 travelers in 2016 compared to 471,823 in 2015.

“What we’re seeing is that the American traveler is a complex demographic that shares common fears and concerns, but deviate greatly on where they find those fears and how they face them,” said Daniel Durazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance USA. “But we’re pleased to see that whatever those differences are, one thing that remains consistent is that they are finding ways to follow their passion of seeing the world despite the challenges that come with traveling in a time of terror.”

VCI Terror Risk

 

Methodology: These are some of the findings of an Ipsos poll conducted on behalf of Allianz from May 3 to 10, 2016. For the survey, a sample of n=2,007 Americans were interviewed online via Ipsos’s American online panel. The precision of Ipsos online surveys is measured using a Bayesian credibility interval. In this case, with a sample of this size, the results are considered accurate to within ± 2.5 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, of what they would have been had all Americans been polled. The margin of error will be larger within sub-groupings of the survey population.

Source: Allianz Travel Insurance Vacation Confidence Index