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.

Scoot investigating sparks from Boeing 787 engine

SINGAPORE: Low-cost carrier Scoot is investigating after sparks were seen coming from the engine of one of its planes on Saturday (Nov 26).

A user on social network Sina Weibo uploaded a video of the incident on Saturday evening and said that a friend, who was on board flight TZ001 travelling from Sydney to Singapore, had sent him the footage. He said a loud bang was heard about 30 to 40 minutes before the plane landed and the engine on the right side of the plane started emitting sparks.

The video, which has been shared about 780 times as of Monday night, has also been reposted on YouTube.

In a statement on Monday evening, Scoot said the plane, which was carrying 338 passengers, encountered “an incident during the descent into Singapore which necessitated a shut-down of the right engine”.

“Our flight crew exercised due diligence and immediately contacted Singapore’s Air Traffic Control while requesting for fire services to be on standby on landing. The aircraft landed as scheduled without incident and fire services subsequently confirmed that there was no engine fire,” a spokesperson for the airline said, adding that the cause of the incident is under investigation.

“Safety is of utmost importance to Scoot and we will spare no effort to ensure the well-being of our guests,” Scoot added.

Reported by Channel NewsAsia on 28 November 2016.

Singapore Airlines pilot wisdom questioned after deciding to fly on despite confirmed ‘tail strike’, risking the life of 282 passengers and crew

Australian Government launches Probe launched into Singapore Airlines ‘tail strike’ flight SQ238

  • Melbourne Airport Air traffic controllers warn pilot of smoke or dust coming from the rear of the aircraft on take-off
  • Singapore Airlines pilot of the Boeing 777-300, with 282 passengers and crew on board, took the risk to continue to Singapore instead of returning to the airport to check for possible damage
  • In the event of a confirmed tail strike, QANTAS policy is to turn the aircraft around
  • Singapore Airlines confirmed that an engineers’ inspection of Flight 238 on its arrival in Singapore had revealed a tail strike with contact with the tail skid system. The aircraft is being repaired.
  • Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating

Australia’s air safety watchdog has launched an investigation into a “tail strike” at Melbourne airport on Sunday where a Singapore Airlines captain flew on to Singapore despite being warned by air traffic controllers of smoke or dust coming from the rear of the aircraft on take-off.

The event has raised debate in the aviation sector about the wisdom of the pilot of the Boeing 777-300, with 282 passengers and crew on board, deciding to not return to the airport to check for possible damage.

A Qantas spokeswoman told The Australian: “In the event of a confirmed tail strike, our policy is to turn the aircraft around.”

A Singapore Airlines spokesman yesterday confirmed that an engineers’ inspection of Flight 238 on its arrival in Singapore had revealed a tail strike, but said it did not risk the integrity of the plane. “The inspection in Singapore confirmed there was no contact with the fuselage, (but) there had been contact with the tail skid system,” he said. “The affected component is being repaired and the aircraft is expected to return to service (today).”

He added: “Safety of our customers is our No 1 priority.”

The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigation. The aircraft took off on a day that saw wild winds, and the main runway was closed for 30 minutes as engineers inspected for damage after the ­accident.

“Following advice from air traffic control that a suspected tail strike had occurred, the captain confirmed there was no aircraft system alert of a tail strike and conducted further checks,” said the Singapore Airlines spokesman. “These checks, undertaken to confirm that all aircraft systems and parameters are normal as ­according to the tail strike checklist, also showed no indication of a tail strike and as such the decision was made to proceed.”

In 2009 at Melbourne airport, an Emirates Airbus A340-500 struck its tail three times, and sustained $100 million damage as it barely cleared the airport boundary fence before returning to make an emergency landing.

A tail strike led to the deadliest single aircraft accident in history in 1985 when a poorly repaired bulkhead on a Japan Airlines 747SR gave way several years later, leading to the loss of 520 people when it crashed.

Reported by The Australian on 11 October 2016.


JIT: Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile

JIT: Flight MH17 was shot down by a BUK missile from a farmland near Pervomaiskyi

The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi  which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. This was announced today by the JIT during a presentation for the relatives of the victims. Members of the JIT, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, are working together on the criminal investigation into the crash of flight MH17.

On 28 September 2016, the interim results of the criminal investigation which included the findings regarding the weapon and launch location were presented. The investigation into those responsible for the crash will take more time.

Further information about the witness call for the international criminal investigation into the crash of flight MH17.

Source: JIT Press Release

Nederland – The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) is convinced of having obtained irrefutable evidence to establish that on 17 July 2014, flight MH-17 was shot down by a BUK missile from the 9M38-series. According to the JIT there is also evidence identifying the launch location that involves an agricultural field near Pervomaiskyi which, at the time, was controlled by pro-Russian fighters. This was announced today by the JIT during a presentation for the relatives of the victims. Members of the JIT, Australia, Belgium, Malaysia, the Netherlands and Ukraine, are working together on the criminal investigation into the crash of flight MH17.


Today, the interim results of the criminal investigation which included the findings regarding the weapon and launch location were presented. The investigation into those responsible for the crash will take more time.


All forensic examinations, witness statements, telecom information, satellite images, radar data, findings by experts and other supporting evidence point to an attack by a ground based air defence system. In addition, the JIT has also investigated other alternative scenarios.

Of these alternative scenarios, an accident and evidence for a terrorist attack from inside the aircraft have been ruled out. Results from the forensic investigation support the scenario of an attack from outside the aircraft. The scenario that flight MH17 was shot down by a military aircraft was explored and discounted on the basis of radar data, witness testimonies and forensic research. The JIT has obtained sufficient radar data, both from Russia and Ukraine, which – when viewed in conjunction – provide a full picture of the airspace over eastern Ukraine. This shows that at the time of the crash, no other airplanes were in the vicinity that could have shot down flight MH17.

The Russian Federation mentioned last week that they have found ‘new’ primary radar images. Based on those images the Russian Federation concludes also that there was no second airplane that could have shot down MH17.


The investigation demonstrated that flight MH17 was shot down by a 9M38 series BUK missile. Investigators have compared parts of the alleged weapon which were found at the crash site with reference material. This involved the dismantling of various types of BUK missiles from the 9M38 series and comparing this reference material with the metal parts recovered from the crash site.

Animation 1: the weapon 

Forensic investigation

The investigation team had to establish a link between the parts found and the downing of flight MH17. It had to be proven that the parts had not been in the area prior to the crash, and that they had not been placed there by third parties after the crash. The crash site was not fenced off for the purpose of forensic examination. It was clear that persons other than the investigators had access to the crash site.

Two examples of the link were presented:

  • During the autopsy of the bodies of the cockpit crew, several fragments were found that belonged to the warhead of a 9M38 series BUK missile. One of these fragments found showed traces of cockpit glass on the surface, which was the same unique type of glass that is used for the a Boeing 777. It was determined that the fragment pierced the aircraft from the outside through the cockpit window.
  • In the frame of one of the cockpit windows a metal piece was found which was identified as a part of a 9M38 series BUK missile. This piece was located in a twisted position in the frame, making it clear that it was shot into the window frame with great force.

Animation 2: Forensic investigation 

Transport of the missile installation

The JIT has been able to identify a large part of the route concerning the arrival and the departure of the BUK-TELAR. This was the result of intercepted telephone conversations, witness statements, photographs and videos that had been posted on social media, and a video never shown before which was obtained from a witness. The system was transported from Russian territory into eastern Ukraine and was later transported on a white Volvo truck with a low-boy trailer. The truck was escorted by several other vehicles and by armed men in uniform.

Launch site

The final destination of the BUK-system was on farmland near Pervomaiskyi. Evidence that supports this includes multiple witnesses who saw and photographed the condensation trail of the BUK missile and its movement through the air. Other witnesses were able to link the trail to the BUK-TELAR which they had seen earlier on 17 July 2014.

Witnesses were interviewed who had seen a plume of smoke, the BUK-TELAR at the launch site in Pervomaiskyi, and the missile right after it had been launched.

Journalists have spoken to witnesses who had seen the launch of the missile at a very short distance from the launch location. These witnesses testified that they heard a very loud noise and a high whistling sound.

After the BUK missile had been fired, the BUK-TELAR initially drove off under its own power. A short time later it was reloaded onto the Volvo truck and transported back to the Russian border. During the night, the convoy crossed the border into the territory of the Russian Federation.

Animation 3: regarding the transport route and the launch site


Now that we have established what happened, the investigation now focuses on the perpetrators. This will be a matter for the long haul. So far, the JIT has identified approximately 100 people who can be linked to the downing of MH17 or the transport of the BUK-TELAR. The JIT has been investigating these people through various sources, such as intercepted telephone conversations and witness statements.

In addition, an investigation is conducted into the chain of command. Who gave the order to bring the BUK-TELAR into Ukraine and who gave the order to shoot down flight MH17? Did the crew decide for themselves or did they execute a command from their superiors? This is important when determining the offences committed by the alleged perpetrators.

The JIT wishes to emphasise that it continues to seek additional information and evidence, including information from insider witnesses. Ukrainian law provides for lower sentences, and in certain circumstances relief from criminal liability, for those who cooperate with the investigation.

Intercepted telephone conversations

Furthermore, the website www.jitmh17.com now includes a number of intercepted telephone conversations. The JIT is now asking for information about certain people who participated in these conversations. People who can identify these voices are requested to report this to the JIT.

The JIT will be actively involved in the investigation in the coming period and for that reason the JIT agreement was extended yesterday, until 1 January 2018.

Pilot error results in AirAsia flight bound for Malaysia to land in Melbourne!

AirAsia flight bound for Malaysia landed in Melbourne after pilot error

A flight to Malaysia from Sydney was diverted to Melbourne after its pilot entered incorrect coordinates of the plane’s starting position, an Australian aviation investigation report has found.

Carrying 212 passengers, the AirAsia flight bound for Kuala Lumpur on March 10, 2015, was flying in the wrong direction after takeoff from Sydney, because the pilot had manually entered the wrong coordinates of the plane’s position into the flight’s onboard navigation systems.
It was the first of several errors the flight crew made that day, according to the report (PDF) the Australian Transport Safety Bureau published Wednesday.
Faulty earmuffs prompted the captain and the first officer to swap their preflight duties. The captain usually conducts an external inspection, while the first officer remains in the cockpit to complete preparation procedures.
When manually entering the coordinates of the plane’s position, the pilot incorrectly entered the longitude from a sign outside the cockpit window as 01519.8 east (15 degrees 19.8 minutes east) instead of 15109.8 east (151 degrees 9.8 minutes east), the report said.
“This resulted in a positional error in excess of 11,000 kilometers (6,835 miles), which adversely affected the aircraft’s navigation systems and some alerting systems,” the report said.
The crew had “a number of opportunities to identify and correct the error,” the report said, but didn’t notice the problem until after the plane became airborne and started tracking in the wrong direction. Several message alerts and sounds suggested the error before takeoff, but the crew ignored them, according to the report.
Once the captain and the first officer realized the mistake, they tried to fix the system. But it was too late.
“Attempts to troubleshoot and rectify the problem resulted in further degradation of the navigation system, as well as to the aircraft’s flight guidance and flight control system,” the report said.
As systems failed further, the crew asked to return to Sydney and conduct a landing without the use of navigation systems. However, weather conditions in Sydney forced the plane to land in Melbourne instead.
The plane spent three hours on the ground in Melbourne before eventually departing for the Malaysian capital.
In a statement obtained by CNN, AirAsia X said all aircraft have been equipped with upgraded flight management systems since the incident.
“AirAsia X would like to stress that we have in place robust management systems to monitor and prevent similar incidents from reoccurring,” a representative said.
“We also wish to reiterate that we have regularly passed safety and security audits conducted by various international regulators. … We remain committed to ensuring our compliance to all safety and security regulations.”
Source: By Bianca Britton, for CNN on 7 September 2016

Southwest Plane Engine Blows Apart at 10,000 feet

Passengers post pictures of plane’s engine ‘blown apart’

@smillerddd3 tweeted pictures of the plane's engine

A plane in the US had to make an emergency landing after a major problem with one of its two engines.

The Southwest Airlines flight was travelling from New Orleans to Orlando when passengers noticed a problem with the engine.

Pictures posted online appear to show that part of the engine had blown apart.

A Southwest spokesperson said there was no explosion.

Stephanie Miller was onboard Flight 3472 and spoke to ABC News.

“We heard a loud boom at about 10,000 feet.

“Sounded like an 18 wheeler tire blowing and we started smelling smoke.”

Flight data showed that the plane descended from an altitude of 30,000 feet to 10,000 feet in just over eight minutes.

The flight was diverted to Pensacola in Florida where it landed safely.

None of the 99 passengers or five crew members on board were injured.

The aircraft has now been taken out of service.

Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are now looking into what happened.

Airline consultant Michael Boyd said it’s rare for Southwest or any other major airline to have such serious engine trouble.

“It’s a one-off, almost unheard of.

“Southwest has an outstanding safety record because it spends a lot of money on maintenance.”

Source: BBC on 28 August 2016

Drunk Pilot suspended by Sri Lanka Airlines just before flight from Frankfurt to Colombo

In what may have prevented yet another tragic flight crash, Sri Lanka’s national carrier Sri Lanka Airlines suspended a “visibly drunk” airplane captain who failed a breathalyser test just before he was due to fly 274 passengers and crew from Frankfurt to Colombo, the airline said Sunday.

“Upon receiving the results (of the test) SriLankan Airlines took immediate steps to suspend the services of the said captain and took alternative measures to operate the flight to Colombo,” the airline said in a statement.

An airline source, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Flight UL554 was held up at Frankfurt airport for more than 15 hours on Friday as staff scrambled to find another captain for the Airbus A330, according to France 24.

The crew raised the alarm after noticing that the captain was visibly drunk, the source, who has direct knowledge of the matter, told AFP. The airline said an internal investigation was underway into the incident and it would cooperate with any probe by German authorities.

The cash-strapped airline is due to stop its flights to Frankfurt from October as it slashes routes to European destinations. It is also planning to lease out some of its A330 planes to other airlines in an attempt to raise cash. Suffering from an accumulated $1-billion loss, it is seeking a foreign partner to take over its management.

Source: Zero Hedge on 21 August 2016

Delta Airlines Cyber Attack – all Delta systems are down everywhere – a system failure worldwide, all planes grounded. No passengers being checked in.

Suspected computer bug cripples Delta airline: another case of cyber attacks beating cyber security?

As technology continues to become a constant and dominating global presence, the regularity and crippling effect of cyber attacks will increase

A suspected system wide computer bug has brought the US airline Delta (and resulting other airlines) to its knees.

“Delta experienced a computer outage that has impacted flights scheduled for this morning,” it said in a statement.

Thousands of passengers are stranded.

On Twitter, Delta told passengers: “Our systems are down everywhere.”

The airline has said en route flights are unaffected, but passengers awaiting departure are currently delayed.

The bug has had such an effect that it is not possible to rebook passengers on other airline carriers.

It is a system wide failure.

This is the latest security breach following a year where smart city transportseismic sensorshealthcare providers and a host of other ‘secure’ systems have been hacked (or have proven to be susceptible to hacks).

As technology continues to become a constant and dominating global presence, the regularity and crippling effect of cyber attacks will increase.

The digital economy and computer-controlled transport systems are two examples of how society is becoming more reliant on technology.

As we become more reliant, the effects of malware will become exponentially more severe.

The mayhem following the computer bug at Delta, which has affected many other airlines, is the latest example of this.

Source:  http://www.information-age.com/technology/security/123461807/suspected-computer-bug-cripples-delta-airline-another-case-cyber-attacks-beating-cyber-security



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