E. Coli Outbreak in Germany

June 3, 2011 on 10:24 am | In Germany, Germany travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel alert, travel and health, travel immunizations, travel warnings | 1 Comment

An E.coli outbreak in Germany continues to wreak havoc, as the number of infected has reached thousands and the fatalities have reached at least 18. See this article from Bloomberg Businessweek for more details.

It appears that this is a new strain (or variation) of E.coli that has not been seen before and may be the precursor to other outbreaks of this sort. See this article from the Belfast Telegraph for more details. The mutation appears to cause kidney failure and death in some and kidney damage in others infected with the bacteria

Public health authorities in Germany and elsewhere in Europe are currently suggesting that people in these areas avoid eating uncooked salad greens, tomatoes and cucumbers. Vegetable washing is highly recommended before consuming any other vegetables and hand washing is a must before food preparation.

The geographical origin of the the problem remains unclear, but to this point it appears that the infection is centered in northern Germany, especially around Hamburg. Although cucumbers from Spain were initially singled out as a potential source of the bacteria, it is now clear that cucumbers from Spain were not the source of the health problem.

We recommend that travelers to Germany should avoid consuming salad, cucumbers and tomatoes. At present nine other countries in Europe are on alert and have recommended avoiding these vegetables. At this time, all of those infected with the bacteria appear to have been infected as the result of consuming salad, cucumber or fresh tomatoes in meals prepared in northern Germany.

Note, there is a possibility that the bacteria was introduced to the produce during packing, shipping or preparation. The types of vegetables in question have been shipped from Germany to other countries, so you might want to consider avoiding salad, tomatoes and cucumbers anywhere in Europe during this crisis. Check with local authorities on the recommendations for the areas in which you will be traveling, as conditions related to infections like E.coli can change with alarming speed.

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Travel Troubles in Turkey, Spain, and Greece

May 27, 2011 on 10:15 am | In Greece Travel, Istanbul travel, Spain Travel, Travel Safety, Turkey, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news, travels in Turkey | 1 Comment

Turkey will hold parliamentary elections on June 12 and the Kurdistan Workers party’s (PPK) separatist insurgency is thought to be trying to influence the outcome of the electoral process. On Thursday a small bomb was exploded in an Istanbul location near a police barracks and a shopping mall, injuring eight. No fatalities resulted. See this article in TodaysZaman for more details .

Today, a percussion bomb was exploded near a military barracks in the city of Diyabakir in southeastern Turkey, with no casualties resulting. See this story from Reuters for the details.

Spain continues to experience unrest due to joblessness with demonstrations occurring in most large cities. See this article in Yahoo News for more details. We note that the demonstrations in Spain have not been violent.

Meanwhile in Greece, police pepper-sprayed demonstration doctors (see this article from the AP in the Miami Herald ) who are rallying against the deep cuts to the medical and social systems in Turkey that have resulted from the country’s current economic problem (see this article in Yahoo News for a review of the recent austerity discussions being held by the government.

It seems as if the countries of Europe have experienced more demonstrations in 2011, including more violent demonstrations than have occurred in the last few years. Those planning to vacation in Europe this summer should read the local news for their travel destination and ask hotel staff in the towns and villages where they plan to stay about pending demonstrations. Avoid the areas where demonstrations are planned, perhaps taking a trip out of the city on that day.

The periods surrounding elections in countries experiencing financial or political crises are often marked with demonstration or, in in more extreme cases, by internal terrorism. If a city is a known hotbox for demonstrations, we recommend avoiding it while the crises lasts or the contested election is being held. If you cannot do that, then be sure that you are aware of local conditions, avoid crowds and avoid participating in political discussions about the problems in your destination.

Travel is inherently dangerous. You could be injured or killed driving to your the local grocery store near your home. International travel is no exception in terms of exposure to possible dangers. All travelers need to evaluate the safety of travel for themselves, based on their values and beliefs. Searching the international news on your destination is a good way to begin that evaluation.

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Updated State Department Travel Alert for Japan

May 16, 2011 on 5:40 pm | In Japan travel, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news | 1 Comment

On May 16, the U.S. Department of State, Bureau of Consular Affairs replaced the Travel Alert for Japan that it issued after the recent devastating earthquake with updated recommendations. The text of the Alert can be found herel.

The main changes in the Alert deal with updated recommendations for the safe use of the “…Tohoku Expressway and the Tohoku Shinkansen Railway through the 50-mile evacuation area. Using the same analysis we would use in a similar situation in the United States, the U.S. Government believes it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the railway and expressway for transit through the area. Other portions of this Travel Alert remain unchanged from the Alert published on April 14. This Travel Alert expires on July 15, 2011.”

In respect to the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, the Alert notes “The assessment of technical and subject matter experts across United States Government agencies is that while the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to areas beyond the 50-mile evacuation zone, and particularly to Tokyo, Nagoya (Aichi Prefecture), Yokohama (Kanagawa Prefecture), nearby U.S. military facilities, and the prefectures of Akita, Aomori, Chiba, Gunma, Iwate, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, and Yamanashi, and those portions of Fukushima, Ibaraki, Miyagi and Yamagata prefectures which are outside a 50-mile radius of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant are low and do not pose significant risks to U.S. citizens.” See the complete text of the report for additional details.”

In regards to aftershocks from the March 11 earthquake, the Alert contained this information “Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. Tokyo and areas to the northeast continue to experience strong aftershocks related to the March 11 earthquake. Aftershocks following an earthquake of this magnitude can be expected to continue for more than a year. Identifying potential hazards ahead of time and advance planning can reduce the dangers of serious injury or loss of life from an earthquake. See the Embassy Website for detailed information on earthquake safety: http://japan.usembassy.gov.”

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U.S. State Department Issues New Worldwide Travel Caution

May 3, 2011 on 6:55 pm | In Europe travel, Terrorism and travel, Transportation Security Administration, Travel Safety, air travel security, things travelers need to know, travel, travel alert, travel warnings | 1 Comment

The U. S. State Department has issued a Worldwide Travel Alert based on the potential for terrorists to react to the death of Osama Bin Laden, as the result of what is described in the document as “…recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan.”

Partial text of the report includes this extended quote:

“The U.S. Department of State alerts U.S. citizens traveling and residing abroad to the enhanced potential for anti-American violence given recent counter-terrorism activity in Pakistan. Given the uncertainty and volatility of the current situation, U.S. citizens in areas where recent events could cause anti-American violence are strongly urged to limit their travel outside of their homes and hotels and avoid mass gatherings and demonstrations. U.S. citizens should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of their surroundings at all times. This Travel Alert expires August 1, 2011.

U.S. Embassy operations in affected areas will continue to the extent possible under the constraints of any evolving security situation. U.S. government facilities worldwide remain at a heightened state of alert. These facilities may temporarily close or periodically suspend public services to assess their security posture. In those instances, U.S. Embassies and Consulates will make every effort to provide emergency services to U.S. citizens. U.S. citizens abroad are urged to monitor the local news and maintain contact with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.”

You can find the full text of the document here at the website of the U.S. State Department.

In addition, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration issued this statement on its website regarding airport security following the death of Osama bin Laden:

May 2, 2011

“TSA continually evaluates the latest threats and screening measures which are implemented based on the latest intelligence. As always, passengers may notice a variety of security measures at U.S. airports to include the use of physical bag checks, random gate screening, explosives detection technology, canine teams and behavior detection officers. We ask the traveling public to remain vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the authorities.”

Note that the State Department Travel warning will be in effect until the end of August. The TSA announcement, as is usual, did not mention a specific term, but was used to inform the traveling public that they may experience additional security during the future months.

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Northern Ireland Police Officer Killed

April 2, 2011 on 2:01 pm | In Ireland travel, Northern Ireland travel, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel alert | Comments Off

A young officer in the Police Service of Northern Ireland was killed by a bomb attached underneath his car as he drove to work in Omagh, County Tyrone. Details are provided in an article by the Guardian. Unfortunately, dissident Republican terrorists appear to be determined to disrupt the power sharing agreement between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland. While there were several years of relative peace in Northern Ireland, it appears, potentially, to be drawing near a close as the terrorists have attempted several bombings and shootings in the last year.

We recommend that tourists considering travel to Northern Ireland to exercise caution during their journey, as the danger from Republican terrorists appears to be increasing in frequency and intensity.

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Strike in Belgium for EU Summit on March 24?

March 5, 2011 on 10:02 am | In Belgium travel, ThereArePlaces.com, strikes and travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

The EUobserver is reporting that trade unions in Belgium are considering blocking all access to Brussels (roads and train stations) during the March 24th European summit of the European Union. The summit will be held in the building of the council of the European Union at the Rue del la Loi. See this article at the City of Brussels website for more details about the Safety Zone that will surround this area during the summit.

The plan for the strike has not been formalized and it may not occur. However, if you will be traveling in Belgium on or near the date mentioned, we urge you to pay close attention to local news sources and to avoid the area of the strike does take place.

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France and its Burqa Ban

March 4, 2011 on 11:29 am | In France Travel, ThereArePlaces.com, things travelers need to know, travel alert | Comments Off

Last year, the government of France enacted a law banning face coverings, such as the burqa, worn by some Muslim women. After a six month period for conveying information concerning the ban, the law will go into effect on 11 April. CNN has a detailed story about the law and the fines for violating it. Apparently the law bans only face coverings, although there appears to be some confusion about whether it mandates bare heads. A primer on the types of Muslim veils including helpful illustrations can be found in this article at the BBC.

Our interest in this article is to point out that the week of April 11, 2011 may be a touchy time to travel in France, due to the reaction to the ban by various parties. While we have not yet heard of plans for demonstrations, we suspect that these may occur in major cities, although only a small portion of the Muslim population in France wears the burqa. In addition, The North Africa branch of al Qaeda has weighed in indicating that this ban in France and other like it being considered in Spain and Belgium will bring revenge attacks on the countries involved.

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Greece and Australia Travel Troubles

February 5, 2011 on 8:12 pm | In Australia Travel, Egypt travel, Greece Travel, Jordan traevl, ThereArePlaces.com, things travelers need to know, travel alert | 2 Comments

Those of you planning travel to Greece or Australia need to be aware of problems in these countries that could impact travel in the next week or two.

In Greece, pharmacists, doctors and bus drivers are on strike and if you are planning travel to Greece, you should read this article.

In Australia, Queensland has once again suffered from flooding, this time related to Cyclone Yasi. Read this article if you are currently visiting Australia, or plan to travel there this week.

For the two weeks, we have been transfixed with the plight of the Egyptian people in their brave battle for a government that would respond to their needs for freedom from repression and improved economic conditions.

As a side note, we had reservations for a trip to Egypt and Jordan starting next week. We were heading up a research effort that we hoped would enable us to add Egypt and Jordan to the list of countries that we cover at ThereArePlaces. I guess our team just had the wrong timing and note that the cancellation of our trip was a minor disappointment and pales in comparison to the travails and problems of the Egyptian people. In our next blog, we will describe our experience with the tour providers, hotels and airlines that we had chosen for our adventure. A couple performed very well, but one failed quite miserably. More on that next time.

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Mazatlan Dropped by Disney, Holland America and Princess

January 26, 2011 on 10:12 pm | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

Continuing violence in Mazatlan focused on cruise passengers and crew has caused Disney Cruise Lines, Holland America and Princess Cruises to drop the city as a port of call on their Mexican Riviera itineraries. See this article from Fox News for more information.

Mazatlan now joins former gem of the Mexican Riviera Acapulco as ports no longer served by Disney or Holland America, although Princess Cruise still ports at Acapulco. Indeed, many cruise lines are cutting back their cruises to the Mexican Riviera due to concerns about the drug violence in Mexico. Several lines have already relocated or are planning to relocate their cruise ships based in California that service the Pacific Coast of Mexico.

ThereArePlaces provides coverage of Mazatlan and Acapulco in our guide to the Mexican Riviera for those intrepid travelers who insist on visiting. However we note, both here and in our articles on these two cities, that we currently do not recommend tourists visit either city due to concerns about public safety.

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23 Murders Include 15 Beheaded in Acapulco

January 9, 2011 on 11:49 am | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel, travel alert, travel warnings | Comments Off

Yesterday’s news from Acapulco was that twenty-three people were murdered, including fifteen men who were decapitated. Although the killings did not take place in the tourist zone, the bodies were found next to one of the main roads leading into the tourist zone. This article from AFP provides details

Acapulco is no longer the jewel of Mexico’s Pacific Coast, although it has several attractions that continue to lure some tourists (see ThereArePlaces for details). We do not recommend visiting, but if Acapulco is a destination you are determined to see, be sure to stay inside the tourist zone and avoid wandering the city.

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