New Travel Alert Issued for Japan by U.S. State Department

June 11, 2011 on 3:36 pm | In Japan travel, Travel Safety, US Department of State, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel alert, travel and health, travel news, travel warnings | 2 Comments

The U.S. Department of State issued the following Travel Alert on June 9, 2011:

This Travel Alert updates the Travel Alert for Japan dated May 16, 2011. This Travel Alert expires on August 15, 2011.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant

While the situation at the Fukushima Daiichi plant remains serious and dynamic, the health and safety risks to land areas 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.

Out of an abundance of caution, we continue to recommend that U.S. citizens avoid travel to destinations within the 50-mile evacuation zone of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Plant. U.S. citizens who are still within this zone should evacuate or shelter in place.

On May 16, the U.S. Government updated its recommendation for the principal transport routes between Tokyo and Sendai that run through the 50-mile evacuation zone. These transport routes are currently open to public use. The U.S. Government believes the health and safety risks associated with using these transport routes are low, and that it is safe for U.S. citizens to use the Tohoku Shinkansen railway and Tohoku Expressway to transit through the area. This guidance is based on measurements taken by U.S. Government scientists; more information may be found at the Department of Energy website, http://blog.energy.gov/content/situation-japan/. This updated guidance on the main railway and expressway routes corresponds to that issued by Japanese authorities.

The U.S. Government also advises that ships operating near the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant should follow the U.S. Coast Guard’s recommendations. Information may be found at the U.S. Coast Guard’s website: http://www.navcen.uscg.gov/

Risk of Aftershocks

Japan is one of the most seismically active areas in the world. 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.

American Citizen Services

U.S. citizens in Japan are encouraged to enroll in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). U.S. citizens without internet access may enroll directly at the U.S. Embassy or U.S. Consulates. By enrolling, U.S. citizens make it easier for the Embassy/Consulates to contact them in case of emergency.

For the latest U.S. Government information on the situation in Japan, please visit the Embassy website at http://japan.usembassy.gov. Updated information on travel and security in Japan may also be obtained from the Department of State by calling 1-888-407-4747 toll-free in the United States and Canada or, for callers outside the United States and Canada, a regular toll line at 1 -202-501-4444. For further information, please consult the Country Specific Information for Japan, as well as the Worldwide Caution.

For any emergencies involving U.S. citizens, please contact the American Citizens Services (ACS) Unit of either the U.S. Embassy in Tokyo or one of the U.S. Consulates in Japan listed below:

U.S. Embassy in Tokyo
American Citizen Services
1-10-5 Akasaka, Minato-ku, Tokyo 107-8420
Tel: 03-3224-5000
After Hours: 03-3224-5000
Fax: 03-3224-5856

http://japan.usembassy.gov/

The U.S. Embassy serves U.S. citizens in Tokyo, Chiba, Fukushima, Gunma, Ibaraki, Kanagawa, Nagano, Niigata, Saitama, Shizuoka, Tochigi, Yamagata and Yamanashi.

Consulates:

Osaka-Kobe: 11-5, Nishitenma 2-chome, Kita-ku, Osaka 530-8543; Tel: 06- 6315-5912, Fax: 06-6315-5914; serving Americans in Osaka, Tel: 06-6315-5912, Fax: 06- 6315-5914; serving U.S. citizens in Osaka, Aichi, Ehime, Fukui, Gifu, Hiroshima, Hyogo, Ishikawa, Kagawa, Kochi, Kyoto, Mie, Nara, Okayama, Shimane, Shiga, Tokushima, Tottori, Toyama, and Wakayama prefectures.

http://osaka.usconsulate.gov

Nagoya: Nagoya International Center Bldg. 6th floor, 1-47-1 Nagano, Nakamura-ku, Nagoya 450-0001; Tel (052) 581-4501, Fax: (052) 581-3190; providing emergency consular services only (including death and arrest cases) for Americans living in Aichi, Gifu, and Mie prefectures.

http://nagoya.usconsulate.gov

Fukuoka: 5-26, Ohori 2-chome, Chuo-ku, Fukuoka 810-0052; Tel: 092-751-9331, Fax: 092-713-9222; serving U.S. citizens in Fukuoka, Kagoshima, Kumamoto, Miyazaki, Nagasaki, Oita, Saga and Yamaguchi prefectures.

http://fukuoka.usconsulate.gov

Sapporo: Kita 1-jo, Nishi 28-chome, Chuo-ku, Sapporo 064-0821; Tel: 011- 641-1115, Fax: 011-643-1283; serving U.S. citizens in Akita, Aomori, Hokkaido, Iwate and Miyagi prefectures.

http://sapporo.usconsulate.gov

Naha: 2-1-1 Toyama, Urasoe City, Okinawa 901-2104; Phone: 098.876.4211, Fax: 098.876.4243, DSN: 645-7323; serving U.S. citizens in Okinawa and the Amami Oshima Island group

http://naha.usconsulate.gov

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Now It’s The Sprouts – Not Lettuce, Tomatoes or Cucumbers

June 5, 2011 on 11:22 am | In Germany, Germany travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, air travel, things travelers need to know, travel, travel and health, travel news, travel warnings | 6 Comments

According to CNN sprouts grown and packaged in Germany are likely to be the source of the deadly E.coli outbreak in that country. Fatalities have reached 22 and the number of infected has exceeded 2,300 spread across 9 countries in Europe and several other countries outside of Europe.

Our recommendation is to add sprouts to the “avoid” list of tomatoes, cucumbers and lettuce when traveling in Germany – at least until the authorities issue a final determination on the source of the infections.

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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 Medicine and Immunizations

January 19, 2011 on 6:08 pm | In ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, international travel, personal travel, things travelers need to know, travel and health, travel immunizations, travel medicine | 1 Comment

We are preparing for a trip to an exotic location and needed the advice of specialist in travel medicine in terms of the immunizations we might require for the journey. Of course, the first question that comes to mind is. “How do I find an expert in travel medicine and the vaccinations that might be needed for travel in the countries we plan to visit?”

Our research led us to a specialist associated with the International Society of Travel Medicine. He was a great resource and we decided to write an article for the Things Travelers Need to Know section of our ThereAreplaces website to help others out who might be in the same situation. You can find the article here.

Somewhat serendipitously, another contact sent as an article posted on the BBC today that shows why you just might need some authoritative advice from a specialist in travel medicine.

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Legionnaire’s Disease at Two Hotels In Cozumel

January 12, 2011 on 5:19 pm | In Mexico travel, ThereArePlaces.com, Travel Safety, things travelers need to know, travel and health, travel news, travel warnings | Comments Off

The Centers for Disease Control today issued a news brief regarding an outbreak of Legionnaire’s Disease at the Regency Club Vacation Resort and Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa (formerly Reef Club Cozumel).

This warning pertains specifically to the above mentioned hotels, not to Cozumel as a whole. There is no generally elevated risk of Legionnaire’s Disease in Cozumel, the Yucatan Peninsula, or other parts of Mexico.

Following is the text of the news brief:

“Situation Information

An outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease is ongoing at the Regency Club Vacation Resort and Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa (formerly Reef Club Cozumel) on the island of Cozumel, Mexico. Since May 2008, there have been a total of nine confirmed cases of Legionnaires’ disease among tourists from the United States and the Netherlands who have stayed at this resort. Based on findings from a public health investigation in April 2010, disinfection of the resort’s shared potable water system was recommended. Although measures were taken at the resort to disinfect the water system, in December 2010, CDC was notified of the ninth case associated with the resort, suggesting that there is an ongoing source of exposure.

Recommendations for U.S. Travelers

Legionnaires’ disease is a pneumonia caused by inhaling aerosolized water contaminated with Legionella bacteria. Legionnaires’ disease is not transmitted from person to person. Misty water such as that given off by hot tubs, cooling towers, spray misters, showerheads, and faucets is a common source of Legionella.

Travelers at high risk of infection should consider staying at another resort or should avoid exposures to misty water at the Regency Club Vacation Resort and the Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa, especially showering. High risk groups include:

* Current or former smokers
* People aged 50 or older
* People with any of the following chronic health conditions:
o Diabetes
o Chronic lung disease, such as COPD or emphysema
o Weakened immune system that might be caused by cancer, organ transplant, certain prescription drugs
o Other chronic conditions, such as chronic kidney disease, asthma, heart disease, or liver disease
o Rarely, people without any risk factors develop Legionnaires’ disease after exposure to Legionella.

Symptoms begin 2–14 days after exposure and include high fever, cough, and shortness of breath. Many people also have diarrhea, headaches, or muscle aches. Legionnaires’ disease can be a severe and fatal illness but most persons will recover with appropriate antibiotic treatment. Travelers who develop these symptoms during their trip or in the 2 weeks following their trip should see a doctor. Travelers seeing a doctor in the United States should be sure to tell the doctor that they have traveled to Cozumel and stayed at the Regency Club Vacation Resort or Wyndham Cozumel Resort & Spa in Mexico. A milder illness caused by the same type of Legionella bacteria is called Pontiac fever. The symptoms of Pontiac fever usually last for 2–5 days and may also include fever, headaches, and muscle aches; however, there is no pneumonia. Symptoms of Pontiac fever go away without treatment.

More Information

The Legionella bacteria got its name in 1976 when many people who went to a Philadelphia convention of the American Legion suffered from pneumonia (lung infection). Each year, 8,000 to 18,000 people are hospitalized with Legionnaires’ disease in the United States. People get Legionnaires’ disease when they breathe in a mist or vapor (small droplets of water in the air) that has been contaminated with the bacteria.

For more information about Legionella, visit CDC’s Legionellosis Resource Site.

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