09 November 2021
Volume: 55 Issue: 45
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
- Polio in Guinea-Bisseau
- Information for yellow fever vaccination centres in the UK
- WHO highlights need for vaccine to prevent GBS
- WHO issues compendium of data and evidence-related tools for use in TB planning and programming
- World Pneumonia Day
- Avian influenza prevention zone
- Radioactivity in Food and the Environment Report 2018
- COP26 Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use announced
- Environmental incident – SEISS report (fire)
HPS Weekly Report
09 Nov 2021
Volume 55 No. 45
Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
International travel continues to be impacted due to COVID-19, and a number of variant strains have emerged globally, with information on such travel available for people living in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
As of 1 November 2021, there are no countries or territories on the UK’s international travel red list, however the policy is continuing in Scotland, as in the rest of the UK, and some managed quarantine capacity will stay in place in order to react to any change in assessment that would see a country added to the red list. The travel lists do not indicate which destinations are currently allowing UK travellers to enter their country, nor if the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) advises against travel to these countries. Information relating to this can be checked on the relevant FCDO foreign travel advice country pages.
Currently, anyone entering Scotland who is over 18 years and fully vaccinated can take a lateral flow test bought from a private provider, instead of a PCR test, on the second day after their arrival, and will also be required to complete a passenger locator form. Travellers who receive a positive lateral flow test result must isolate and book a confirmatory PCR test immediately.
Testing and quarantine rules may differ in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland, therefore travellers must ensure they comply with the rules appropriate to the UK nation they will be arriving in and reside in, if different.
Country specific COVID-19 risk
The fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) country pages have been updated to include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, which identifies the risk of exposure to COVID-19 for UK travellers. This information will be listed in the ‘Alerts’ section on each country page of fitfortravel and the 'Emerging Health Risks' section of every TRAVAX country page. This risk-rating, previously categorised as either high, moderate or low risk, has been changed, with each country now rated as having either a:
- high risk of exposure to COVID-19 for UK travellers
- risk of exposure to COVID-19 for UK travellers
For all countries, travellers should be aware that the risk of COVID-19 may change at short notice. Countries categorised as having a high risk of exposure to COVID-19 either have a high risk of exposure for travellers to COVID-19, or a high risk of emerging or known variants of coronavirus. Travellers should be advised to avoid non-essential travel to high risk countries, even if fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
As of 5 November 2021, the following countries have a FCDO advisory warning against travel and have therefore been classified as having a high risk of exposure to COVID-19:
- Democratic People's Republic of Korea
- Papua New Guinea
- Timor Leste
Advice for travellers
Prior to booking any international travel, travellers must first check if the country they are travelling to is currently accepting UK travellers.
- The FCDO foreign travel advice country pages have up-to-date information on entry rules, in response to coronavirus (COVID-19), under the ‘Entry Requirements’ section.
- Travellers should be aware that some countries or territories may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination status for entry. Guidance for demonstrating COVID-19 vaccination status is available for those living in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is advised that travellers are aware of all travel restrictions, self-isolation rules and precautions they should take, in order to reduce their risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) before, during and after travel, as detailed on the fitfortravel COVID-19 health considerations for travel page.
Source: TRAVAX, 2 November 2021
Polio in Guinea-Bisseau
On 26 October 2021, the Global Polio Eradication Initiative reported three cases of polio in Guinea-Bissau, two in the capital city of Bissau, and one in the neighbouring region of Biombo. These are the first reported cases in the country and have been linked to the ongoing polio outbreak in Nigeria.
Advice for travellers
- Poliomyelitis is spread mainly through person to person contact via the faecal-oral route.
- Travellers should be offered a booster dose of poliomyelitis vaccine if it has been more than ten years since their last dose.
Further information on polio can be found on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 2 November 2021
Information for yellow fever vaccination centres in the UK
In accordance with recommendations made in a report by the Commission on Human Medicines Expert Working Group, the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) and Public Health Scotland (PHS) have produced a yellow fever pre-vaccination checklist, a tool designed to:
- help healthcare professionals risk assess a person’s suitability for yellow fever vaccination, although it does not replace the broader individual risk assessment in the travel health consultation
- be completed by the person travelling in advance of, or during, the consultation, but must be carefully reviewed by the advising healthcare professional as part of a shared decision-making process for yellow fever vaccination
Health professionals should refer to Yellow fever: the green book, chapter 35 for current guidance on the administration of yellow fever vaccine in the UK.
Source: TRAVAX, 2 November 2021
WHO highlights need for vaccine to prevent GBS
The World Health Organization (WHO) and the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine have published a report revealing the global impact of Group B streptococcus (GBS), a common bacterium that can be transmitted in the womb, during birth, or in the early weeks of life. The report details the annual burden of GBS in numbers for the year 2020, including:
- 19,700,000 pregnant women colonised with GBS
- 518,000 GBS-associated preterm births
- 390,000 infant GBS cases
- 91,000 newborn deaths
- 46,000 plus stillbirths
- 40,000 infants living with neurological impairment following GBS-associated infections
The report calls for the development of maternal vaccines against GBS to reduce this toll, emphasising they could be highly cost-effective, with significant health benefits, in all regions of the world.
Source: WHO, 2 November 2021
WHO issues compendium of data and evidence-related tools for use in TB planning and programming
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published a new compendium of data and evidence-related tools for use in Tuberculous (TB) planning and programming. Over the past two decades, there has been a considerable increase in the number of aides to generate, analyse and use data and evidence, to support discussion and decision-making by National TB Programmes (NTPs) and their partners. The WHO reports that as more data are generated and data analysis tools evolve and increase in number, it can be challenging to understand how, why and when these tools should be implemented.
This compendium is designed to help NTPs make best use of the available tools for policy, planning and programmatic action, and summarises information about the key tools related to data and evidence available for use in TB planning and programming, and how they can be applied.
Source: WHO, 3 November 2021
World Pneumonia Day
Established in 2009, World Pneumonia Day is marked every year on 12 November, which aims to:
- raise awareness about pneumonia
- promote interventions to protect against, prevent and treat pneumonia
- highlight proven approaches and solutions in need of additional resources and attention
- generate action, including continued donor investment, to combat pneumonia and other common, sometimes deadly, childhood diseases
This year, the Every Breath Counts coalition, comprising of UN agencies, businesses and donors, are calling on high-burden countries to take integrated, multi-sectoral action to reduce air pollution-related pneumonia deaths. The Stop Pneumonia Initiative, which co-ordinates World Pneumonia Day, report that air pollution is the leading risk factor for death from pneumonia across all age groups, with almost a third of all pneumonia deaths attributable to polluted air, killing around 749,200 people in 2019. Household air pollution contributed to 423,000 of these deaths while outdoor air pollution contributed to 326,000.
Further information and resources on World Pneumonia Day are available on the Stop Pneumonia website.
Avian influenza prevention zone
Following a number of detections of avian influenza (bird flu) in wild birds, the Chief Veterinary Officers from England, Scotland and Wales have declared an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone (AIPZ) across the whole of Great Britain, in order to mitigate the risk of the disease spreading amongst poultry and captive birds. In Scotland, a flock of kept birds in the Angus constituency have tested positive for avian influenza (H5N1).
From 3 November 2021, it has been a legal requirement for all bird keepers in Great Britain to follow strict biosecurity measures to help protect their flocks. Keepers with more than 500 birds will need to restrict access for non-essential people on their sites, workers will need to change clothing and footwear before entering bird enclosures, and site vehicles will need to be cleaned and disinfected regularly to limit the risk of the disease spreading. Backyard owners with smaller numbers of poultry, including chickens, ducks and geese, must also take steps to limit the risk of the disease spreading to their animals.
The Scottish Government has advised that the risk to public health from the virus is very low, and the UK food standards agencies inform that avian influenzas poses a very low food safety risk to UK consumers, as it does not affect the consumption of poultry products, including eggs.
Sources: Scottish Government, 3 November 2021 and Scottish Government, 3 November 2021
Radioactivity in Food and the Environment Report 2018
The latest Radioactivity in Food and the Environment Report (RIFE 26) was published on 4 November 2021 and shows that levels and concentrations of man-made radioactivity measured in the environment during 2020 were well within international dose limits.
The RIFE programme monitors the environment and the diet of people who live or work near nuclear sites. The annual RIFE report is a joint publication between all six agencies across the UK responsible for ensuring that doses from authorised releases of radioactivity remain within strict international limits, bringing together all results from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), the Environment Agency (EA), Food Standards Agency (FSA), Food Standards Scotland (FSS), Natural Resources Wales (NRW), and the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA).
In Scotland, SEPA is responsible for radiological monitoring that is carried out and has a duty to ensure that no member of the public receives a dose in excess of the statutory dose limit of one millisievert (1 mSv) per year from permitted discharges. Monitoring shows that the highest dose for a member of the public in Scotland reported in RIFE was approximately 3% of the legal limit at 0.027mSv. This compares to a UK average radiation exposure from all sources of 2.3mSv, of which 84% is due to natural background sources.
Radioactivity occurs naturally in the earth’s crust and it can be found in food, water and air. Exposure to man-made radioactivity includes medical procedures and treatments, and discharges from nuclear and non-nuclear establishments.
Source: SEPA, 4 November 2021
COP26 Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use announced
On 2 November 2021, the Glasgow Declaration on Forests and Land Use was announced at the twenty-sixth UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26). Signed by 100 countries, representing 85% of the globe’s forested land, the declaration issues a pledge to end or reduce deforestation by 2030. Among the signatories are Brazil and Indonesia, two nations with the world’s largest tropical forests.
The Scottish Government has announced their intention for Scotland’s rainforest to be restored and expanded as a natural solution to the climate emergency, with the west of the country being home to one of the remaining rainforest sites in Europe. Each year, Scotland’s forests and woodlands absorb around 6.2 million tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2), equivalent to almost 10% of the country’s gross greenhouse gas emissions.
The Scottish Government is engaging with the Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforests to determine how best to fulfil this commitment.
Environmental incident – SEISS report (fire)
The Scottish Environmental Incident Surveillance System (SEISS) has recorded the following incident:
- On 1 November 2021, the BBC reported that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) sent ten fire engines and seven support units to the scene of a fire at a car breaker yard in Denny, near Falkirk. The SFRS found a well-developed blaze in a building and worked through the night to bring it under control. There were no reported casualties.
More detailed information can be found on the SEISS website.