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 World Health Organization (WHO) has called for disruption to be minimised in malaria prevention and treatment services during the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes after new modelling analysis demonstrated that severe disruptions to the accessibility of antimalarial medicines and insecticide-treated net (ITN) campaigns could lead to a doubling in the number of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa this year, compared to 2018.
The analysis considers nine scenarios for potential disruptions in providing access to core malaria control tools during the pandemic in 41 countries, and the resulting increases that may be seen in cases and deaths. Under the worst-case scenario, in which all ITN campaigns are suspended and there is a 75% reduction in access to effective antimalarial medicines, the estimated tally of malaria deaths in sub-Saharan Africa in 2020 would reach 769,000, twice the number of deaths reported in the region in 2018. This would represent a return to malaria mortality levels last seen 20 years ago.
According to the World malaria report 2019, sub-Saharan Africa accounted for approximately 93% of all malaria cases and 94% of deaths in 2018. More than two-thirds of deaths were among children under the age of five.
As previously reported, World Malaria Day was marked on 25 April 2020, which highlighted global efforts being made to control malaria.
Source: WHO, 23 April 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that the Lassa fever outbreak in Nigeria has improved, with only a few sporadic cases now being reported. The disease trend has been steadily declining since week ending 16 February 2020, when a peak of 115 confirmed cases and 18 deaths were reported. In the week ending 19 April 2020, a total of six new confirmed cases with no deaths were reported, compared to 10 confirmed cases the previous week.
Further information and advice on viral haemorrhagic fevers (VHF), including Lassa fever, is available on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published 2018 annual epidemiological reports for:
- Lymphogranuloma venereum (LGV) - 2,389 cases of LGV were reported in 22 countries, with four countries (France, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK) accounting for 85% of all notified cases.
- Shiga toxin/verocytotoxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC/VTEC) infection – 30 EU/EEA countries reported 8,658 confirmed cases of infection, with the highest notification rates in Denmark, Ireland, Malta, Norway and Sweden.
- Hantavirus infection - 29 countries reported 1,826 cases of infection, with Finland, Sweden and Germany accounting for 81% of all reported cases.
- Malaria – 8,349 malaria cases were reported in the EU/EEA in 2018. Among 7,338 cases with known importation status, 99.8% were travel-related. Fourteen confirmed cases were reported as acquired in the EU.
- Lassa fever – No cases of Lassa fever or other viral haemorrhagic fevers caused by arenaviruses were reported in the EU/EEA in 2018.
Source: ECDC, 30 April 2020
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published a report presenting the results of the ninth round of the external quality assessment (EQA-9) scheme for typing of Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica organised for public health national reference laboratories (PH NRLs) in ECDC’s Food- and Waterborne Diseases and Zoonoses network (FWD-Net).
Salmonellosis was the second-most commonly reported zoonotic disease in the EU in 2017, with a notification rate of 19.7 cases per 100,000 of the population. From 2008 to 2017, a decreasing trend of confirmed salmonellosis cases was observed for 25 countries that consistently reported during the period. However, from 2013 to 2017, the overall EU/EEA trend did not show any significant increase or decrease.
Source: ECDC, 27 April 2020
On 5 May 2020, the World Health Organization (WHO) Global Hand Hygiene Day takes place. The theme this year is ‘Save lives: clean your hands’ and the calls to action are:
- Nurses: ‘Clean and safe care starts with you.’
- Midwives: ‘Your hands make all the difference for mothers and babies.’
- Policy makers: ‘Increase nurse staffing levels to prevent infection and improve quality of care. Create the means to empower nurses and midwives.’
- IPC leaders: ‘Empower nurses and midwives in providing clean care.’
- Patients and families: ‘Safer care for you, with you.’
More information and resources on Global Hand Hygiene Day are on the WHO website.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published the results of its two pilot assessments on the risks posed to humans by residues of multiple pesticides in food. The reports are the culmination of a multi-year collaboration between EFSA and the Dutch National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM).
The first assessment considers chronic effects on the thyroid system and the second examines other acute effects on the nervous system. The documents were finalised following a two-month consultation period during which the EFSA received feedback from a variety of stakeholders, including national institutions, academia, non-governmental organisations and commercial associations.
The overall conclusion for both assessments is that consumer risk from dietary cumulative exposure is, with varying degrees of certainty, below the threshold that triggers regulatory action for all the population groups covered.
Assessments covering the effects of pesticides on other organs and body functions will follow in the coming years.
Source: EFSA, 29 April 2020
Thirty-seven new plant species have been identified as hosts of the Xylella fastidiosa (X. fastidiosa) pathogen. Most were naturally (not artificially) infected, and were found both in EU countries (France, Italy, Portugal and Spain) and non-EU countries (USA and Iran). The new hosts include common ornamental, wild and commercial plants such as fleabane (Erigeron sp.), Helichrysum stoechas, pistachio (Pistacia vera), and persimmon (Diospyros kaki).
The newly identified hosts are included in the latest update of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Xylella ssp. host plant database, which now comprises 595 plant species, including 343 where the infection has been identified by at least two detection methods under natural or experimental conditions.
The update was completed following a comprehensive search of the latest scientific literature and notifications to the EU’s plant health interception service Europhyt, as well results from EFSA’s own horizon-scanning activities.
Some existing data on X. fastidiosa strains and geographical coordinates have been updated or modified to increase the accuracy and consistency of the database.
Source: EFSA, 28 April 2020
The Scottish Environmental Incident Surveillance System (SEISS) recorded the following incident in the past week:
- On 27 April 2020, BBC News reported that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) attended a fire which took hold in reed beds on the River Tay between Dundee and Perth. Large plumes of smoke were reported rising from the river bank near the village of Errol for most of the day on 27 April. Police asked people to remain indoors and to keep their windows closed while the smoke travelled. It is believed the fire started at approximately 11.30am and quickly spread along the riverbank. The Tay reed beds are an important home for wildlife, including marsh harriers, water rails and bearded tits.
More detailed information can be found on the SEISS website.