The World Health Organization (WHO) continues to produce daily situation reports on the coronavirus disease COVID-19 pandemic, listing all affected countries and the number of confirmed cases.
Currently, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advises against all non-essential travel worldwide for an indefinite period. All other travel advisories, including advice for British nationals trying to return home, can be found on the FCO website.
Information relating to travel and COVID-19 is available on the TRAVAX (for healthcare practitioners) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Information on COVID-19 for the general public is available on the NHS Inform (Scotland) and the NHS.UK (rest of the UK) websites.
Information and resources on COVID-19 for health professionals is available on the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) (Scotland) and Public Health England (PHE) (rest of the UK) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 8 April 2020
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) reports continued transmission of dengue in the French Antilles, with the islands of Guadeloupe, Saint Martin, Saint Barthelemy and Martinque affected so far. In the period 21 February to 8 March 2020, there were 1,519 cases of dengue reported, with an additional 1,234 suspected cases recorded between 8-29 March 2020. There have been no reports of associated deaths.
Dengue is a commonly identified cause of febrile illness in returning travellers. All travellers to endemic regions are potentially at risk of dengue fever and should be aware of this infection. Prevention relies on avoiding mosquito bites at all times.
Travellers developing a fever during or on return from travel are advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
Information and advice on dengue is available from the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
On 23 April 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published its measles annual epidemiological report for 2019.
In 2019, 13,200 cases of measles were reported by 30 EU/EEA member states. The overall notification rate was 25.4 cases per 1,000,000 of the population, which is lower than in 2018 (34.4) and 2017 (35.5), but much higher than the rates observed in 2015-2016 (7.1 – 9.0 cases) before the start of the epidemic in Europe. All countries reported cases and there were 10 deaths due to measles (case-fatality 0.09%).
Age- specific notification rates decreased with increasing age, with unvaccinated children under one-year-old and aged from one to four years most affected. Children under five years of age accounted for 28% of the cases, while adults aged 20 years and over accounted for 49%.
The report highlights that, in order for the measles elimination goal to be reached, many countries need to make sustained improvements in the coverage of their routine childhood immunisation programmes and close the immunity gaps in adolescents and adults who have missed vaccination opportunities in the past.
Source: ECDC, 23 April 2020
On 23 April 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published its mumps epidemiological report for 2017.
In 2017, 13,693 cases of mumps were reported to ECDC by 28 EU/EEA member states, with an overall notification rate of 3.1 cases per 100,000 of the population. There were no deaths reported and hospitalisation or complications due to mumps were rare, affecting 5-7% of cases with data recorded on these outcomes. The Czech Republic, Poland, Spain and the UK accounted for 80% of all notified cases, with new or continuing outbreaks in these countries during the first half of the year responsible for the majority of instances.
Mumps was more common among males than females across all age groups in the EU/EEA, with an overall male-to-female notification rate ratio of 1.35. Those aged between 10-19 years experienced the highest age-specific notification rates and the highest proportion of cases vaccinated with two or more doses of measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine.
Source: ECDC, 23 April 2020
On 24 April 2020, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) published its epidemiological reports for 2018 for syphilis and congenital syphilis.
In 2018, 33,927 confirmed syphilis cases were reported in 29 EU/EEA member states, with a crude notification rate of 7.0 cases per 100,000 of the population. Reported syphilis rates were nine times higher in men than in women and showed a peak for men aged 25-34 years (29 cases per 100,000 of the population). More than two-thirds (69%) of syphilis cases with information on transmission category were reported in men who have sex with men (MSM).
The trend in syphilis rates has been on the rise since 2011 and up to 2017, particularly among men and mainly due to an increase in the number of cases among MSM. In 2018, the increase seems to have halted. Compared with 2017, the number of MSM cases with HIV-negative status increased by 7% in 2018.
In 2018, 60 confirmed congenital syphilis cases were reported in 23 EU/EEA member states, a crude rate of 1.6 cases per 100,000 live births. For the first time since 2013, the number of notified cases of congenital syphilis increased in 2018. This report may include some underreporting, as seven countries did not contribute to the reporting of congenital syphilis, while a further 12 countries reported no cases.
The low rates of congenital syphilis and of reported syphilis among women suggest that most member states have effective programmes for elimination of congenital syphilis. The recent 50% increase over the previous year, however, deserves careful scrutiny. Better indicator data are needed to assess the effectiveness of antenatal screening programmes in all EU/EEA countries.
Source: ECDC, 24 April 2020
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a report on the public health risk posed by Listeria monocytogenes in frozen fruit and vegetables that have been blanched during processing. Blanching before freezing is often carried out by food business operators to prevent enzyme actions which can cause loss of flavour, colour and texture.
The EFSA identifies relevant control activities that food business operators can implement to lower the risks of contamination in frozen vegetables. These range from the cleaning and disinfection of the food producing environment, to water, time and temperature control at different processing steps, and accurate labelling. The report concludes that the risks associated with the consumption of these products is lower than for ready-to-eat foods such as smoked fish, cooked meat, sausages, pâté and soft cheese, which are more often associated with Listeria contamination.
The EFSA also makes recommendations on how to reduce risks at home, including maintaining good hygiene practices such as storing frozen or thawed vegetables in a clean freezer or refrigerator at the appropriate temperature and following the instructions on labelling for safe preparation. In general, risks are much lower if vegetables are cooked properly after defrosting.
This work was triggered by a multi-country outbreak that affected 53 people and caused 10 deaths between 2015 and 2018.
Source: EFSA, 20 April 2020
Allergy UK’s Allergy Awareness Week, which runs from 20 to 26 April 2020, will this year focus on the risk of coronavirus (COVID 19) to people living with allergic conditions, such as asthma and hay fever. During this week, Allergy UK will devote an area of their website towards providing information and guidance to help and support those living with allergic conditions at this time.
The European Environment Agency (EEA) and the Swiss Federal Office for the Environment (FOEN) have published a joint report that explores two key questions related to Europe’s long-term environmental and climate ambitions. The first question examines how to define a ‘safe operating space’ for Europe, where all humanity can continue to develop and thrive, while the second asks whether Europe’s consumption, or environmental footprint, is currently smaller or larger than the estimated ‘safe operating space’.
The report acknowledges that there are different ways to allocate Europe’s operating space in the global context, which inevitably involve normative choices about fairness, equity, international burden sharing, sovereignty and the right for development. Based on these different allocation principles, the study arrives at a minimum European share of 2.7%, a maximum share of 21% and a median share of 7.3% of the global limits.
The report shows that Europe currently exceeds its safe operating space for the nitrogen cycle by a factor of 3.3, the phosphorous cycle by a factor of 2.0, and land system change by a factor of 1.8. Conversely, Europe does live within its limits when it comes to freshwater use, although problems with overconsumption and water scarcity remain locally and regionally.
Source: EEA, 17 April 2020
The Scottish Environmental Incident Surveillance System (SEISS) recorded the following incidents in the past week:
- On 24 April 2020, BBC News reported that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) had been fighting a forest and moorland blaze in Dumfries and Galloway, which broke out on 23 April near the village of Mossdale. At its peak, nine appliances and a helicopter were involved in fighting the fire, along with forestry and estate workers. Fire crews remained at the scene on 24 April, as the operation to bring the situation under control continued. A SFRS spokesperson said there were no reports of casualties and that fire crews were likely to remain at the scene for some time.
- On 21 April 2020, BBC News reported that the SFRS returned to a wildfire at Kilpatrick Hills reservoir for a second day. Firefighters were initially called to the scene at approximately 6.45 pm on 20 April, but SFRS reported that crews left the scene at 10.30pm, as conditions were too dangerous. The fire crews returned on 21 April at 6.00am and worked throughout the day. There are no reported casualties.
- On 20 April 2020, BBC News reported that the SFRS tackled a wildland blaze in Menstrie Glen. Units from Dunblane, Doune, Bridge of Allan, Stirling, and Auchterarder, supported by a command unit from Bo'ness, attended the blaze on 19 April. Crews used beaters and hosereel jets to contain and extinguish the fire. Dunblane Fire Station said its Polaris all-terrain vehicle was also used during the operation, which lasted about six hours.
- On 17 April 2020, BBC News reported that the SFRS tackled a large wildfire near Strathpeffer. In a separate incident, firefighters attended a wildfire on Fyrish Hill, also in Easter Ross. The SFRS said a discarded cigarette was the suspected cause of that fire, which was extinguished on 17 April. There were no reported casualties from either incident.
More detailed information can be found on the SEISS website.