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Safety Updates

Health and Safety Updates

 

Fire Safety

July 13, 2017, 7:00 am 

As we have seen in Oakland, London, Dhaka, Paris, and various other places worldwide, fires can cause complete destruction and loss of life. In occasional situations, the victims were not prepared for a fire and may not have had tips on what to do in the event of a fire. There are certain precautions a person can follow in their dorm, apartment, home, and/or hotel while at home or abroad.


Residential Precautions

Learn about fire safety standards in the destination country. (Fire Safety Foundation)
When planning a trip, try to avoid staying on a higher floor. In developed countries, no higher than the 7th floor and in developing countries, no higher than the 3rd floor.
Upon arrival, check the space for smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, escape ladders (if on a higher floor), etc. Know where these items are in the event they are needed.
Make a plan with roommates or the individuals you are sharing the living space with. Plan for an evacuation and a meeting point.
Walk through the home/apartment/hotel room to inspect all possible exits and escape routes.
When in a hotel or apartment, count the number of doors from the stairwell(s) or exit(s) to your door. In the event of a fire and you will be crawling towards and exit and can count the doors on your way to the exit.
Make sure windows can be opened easily in the event of a fire. Keep the area clear. If the windows have security bars, check to see if there is an emergency release device.
Have the number for emergency services programmed into a phone or memorized.
Have more than one escape planned in the event one exit is blocked or not safe.

Residential Safety Tips

When the alarm sounds, get out immediately. Follow the emergency plan created.
Once out of the home, stay out. Do not return to the building until authorities give further instructions.
Try to choose the evacuation/escape route that is the safest. Be cognizant of any locks or chains on doors. Test door handles or other surfaces with the back of your hand. If it is extremely hot to the touch, try another escape route.
“In some cases, smoke or fire may prevent you from exiting your home or apartment building. To prepare for an emergency like this, practice ‘sealing yourself in for safety’ as part of your home fire escape plan. Close all doors between you and the fire. Use duct tape or towels to seal the door cracks and cover air vents to keep smoke from coming in. If possible, open your windows at the top and bottom so fresh air can get in. Call the fire department to report your exact location. Wave a flashlight or light-colored cloth at the window to let the fire department know where you are located.” (National Fire Protection Association)
Stay as low as you can when evacuating. Most people elect to crawl, but crawling is not an option, one should stay as low as possible.
If the exit is inaccessible due to smoke or fire in the hallway, call the fire department to report your exact location and gather in a room with a window to await their arrival.

Venues/Theaters/Warehouse/Nightclub

Homes and other residential areas are not the only places where fires can occur, as we have seen many times before, such as with Kiss nightclub in Santa Maria, Brazil, where more than 240 people were killed. Concert venues, theaters, warehouses, factories, and nightclubs have the potential for fires in addition to residential areas. Keep in mind building codes are not the same everywhere; occupancy rates and safety codes can vary from country to country.

Get a good look of the location and check for multiple exits. The way in is not always the best way out. Be prepared to use the closest, safest exit.
Be cognizant of any locks or chains on doors.
React immediately. If an alarm sounds, smoke or fire is smelled or visible, or another disturbance, exit the building in a quick, orderly fashion.
Once a building the evacuated, stay out. Do not return inside for any reason. If someone from is missing, tell emergency responders immediately.

Wildfires and Seasonal Fires

Recently, Portugal saw wildfires that took the lives of 62 individuals. Human error and weather events can start a large wildfire in a matter of minutes. Strong winds, drought, and other conditions can help the fires spread quickly and make them hard to manage.

Do not burn or start a campfire during extreme droughts or other extreme weather conditions. Most parks and campsites will notify individuals if there is a burn ban in effect.
If you see a wildfire and have not heard evacuation orders or emergency crews, call the emergency number immediately.
If there is a wildfire in the vicinity, stay up to date by monitoring the local news and fire department announcements. Depending on the proximity, prepare for evacuation.

Leave as early as possible. Do not stay or linger once given evacuation orders. Promptly leaving the area helps clear roads for firefighters and crew to fight the fire.

If evacuating, do not drive into the location of the fire. If needing to go that direction, use an alternate route to avoid driving into smoke and fire.

Some countries have websites or Twitter accounts that follow road closures and provide up to date information on road conditions, like DriveBC in British Colombia, Canada.

Do not return until authorities say it is safe to do so.


For more information and resources:

Fire Safety Foundation
National Fire Protection Association

 


London, Crowded Areas, Qatar Diplomatic Dispute and Russia Registration Requirement

June 5, 2017, 7:00 am

This week’s update includes several topics that each have the potential to significantly impact travelers.

London


As many are aware, this weekend tragically saw another violent attack that targeted two areas popular with travelers, the London Bridge and Borough Market.  Our deepest condolences go out to those affected.  With the increase in small-scale attacks involving vehicles and knives, it is important to consider basic safety precautions in crowded places.
Recommendations for crowded areas
  • Exercise caution at all times in crowded public areas, including, but not limited to, concert venues, sporting events, public transit stations, popular tourist sites and large festivals.
  • Minimize time spent in the very middle of large crowds, and also try to avoid standing at the edge of a crowd with your back facing a street or thoroughfare.
  • Be cognizant of your surroundings, if something seems suspicious or makes you feel uncomfortable, leave the area quickly.
  • If walking around a city, try to avoid using headphones and keep your eyes on your surroundings rather than your electronic device(s).
  • If you notice any suspicious behavior or suspect packages, remove yourself from the area and then immediately report it to the authorities.
  • If attending an event, it is advised to wait a few minutes for the crowd to disburse before leaving the area.
  • Be aware of emergency exits – the way in is not always the best way out.
  • Adhere to official directives at all times.
  • Security hoaxes tend to proliferate in the aftermath of high-profile terrorist attacks, especially via Web-based social networks.
    • Security alerts or hoaxes can trigger the short-notice evacuation of transport hubs or public locations, which can cause disruption. Follow all directives issued by the authorities during any security operations and do not act on the basis of unverified information. 

Arab States Cut Diplomatic Ties with Qatar

Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and United Arab Emirates (UAE) on 5 June announced they had severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and closed all land, sea, and air ports to and from Qatar. On 5 June, Saudi Arabian Airlines announced on the suspension of all flights to Qatar, while Qatar Airlines followed by suspending all flights to Saudi Arabia. In addition, starting on 6 June, the following airlines announced they will suspend flights to and from Hamad International Airport (DOH), which serves Qatar's capital, Doha. Flights on 5 June will operate as normal. 
Etihad Airways
  • The last flight from Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) to DOH will depart as EY399 at 02.45 on 6 June.
  • The last flight from DOH to AUH will depart as EY390 at 04.00 on 6 June.
Emirates Airlines
  • The last flight from Dubai International Airport (DXB) to DOH will depart as EK847 at 02.30 on June 6.
  • The last flight from DOH to DXB will depart as EK848 at 03.50 on June 6.
Fly Dubai
  • The last flight from DXB to DOH will depart as FZ019 at 21.25 on 5 June.
  • The last flight from DOH to DXB will depart as FZ020 at 22.40 on 5 June.
There have been no official announcements from Gulf Air (Bahrain) or EgyptAir, though flights are likely to soon be suspended as well. 
 
News Travel Advice
  • Individuals planning to travel between Qatar and one of the affected countries should reconfirm flights with their airlines, monitor related developments closely and maintain flexible itineraries.
  • Anticipate a lack of consular services at Bahraini, Egyptian, Saudi Arabian and the UAE missions in Qatar, as well as at Qatari diplomatic missions in Bahrain, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
 

Russia Accommodation Registration Requirement 

A presidential decree issued on 10 May, has placed a special regime in Russia in connection with the country hosting the FIFA Confederation Cup soccer tournament. The regime will take place from June 01 – July 12, 2017, and affects ALL foreigners arriving in Moscow, St. Petersburg, Kazan, and Sochi, no matter what the documentation type or purpose of travel.
Anyone arriving within the six-week special regime period to the affected cities should be aware of the following points:
  • Registration must now be applied for within 24 hours of arrival.
  • Registration may be applied for at the local FMS office or the local police office.
  • Registration may NOT be processed through a tourist company or an inviting business entity, as was common before.
  • ALL registrations must be where the foreigner will actually live and must be taken care of by the owner of the property.

Hotel
If you will be arriving to one of the affected Russian cities listed above and will stay at a hotel, you will likely see no change in your experience. The hotel will register you as usual. Hotels have always had to register guests within 24 hours under similar conditions.
Hostel
If you will be staying at a hostel, you should check with the hostel to make sure the hostel will provide you with registration. You should be aware that you are expected to be registered within 24 hours of arrival, no matter your hostel's policy.
Private Home/Home Stay/Airbnb
If you will be staying at a private home, home stay, or Airbnb, you should make sure well in advance that your host will provide registration. Some hosts will resist providing the service and some may charge extra fees for the service.
Be aware, different cities and even districts are likely to have some variation in enforcement, requirements, and implementation.




United Kingdom and Western Europe
May 24, 2017, 7:00 am

On the evening of 22 May, in Manchester, UK, a bomb was detonated as concertgoers exited the venue. Tragically, 22 were killed and 59 were injured. In response to this attack, the United Kingdom raised the terror level threat on 23 May from ‘severe’ to ‘critical.’  It is anticipated that this is a temporary measure while the investigation of Monday’s attack continues. Additional military personnel will be positioned at key public places, including at transport hubs such as railway stations and airports. Security will also be stepped up at entertainment venues such as concerts and major sports events.  

To put this change into context, the UK also increased their threat level to critical in 2006 and 2007.  These increases lasted only a few days and were lowered after the UK seized suspects.  The MI5 notes the following on their website under, “How should you respond?”

“Threat levels in themselves do not require specific responses from the public.  They are a tool for security practitioners working across different sectors of the Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) and the police to use in determining what protective security response may be required.
Vigilance is vital regardless of the current national threat level.  It is especially important given the current national threat.  Sharing national threat levels with the general public keeps everyone informed.  It explains the context for various security measures (for example airport security or bag searches) which we may encounter in our daily lives.”

Western Europe
Individuals traveling in Western European countries should also be prepared for increased security following the terrorist attack in Manchester. In particular, heightened security should be expected at high-profile events, such as major concerts, sporting events, or international conferences, and around public spaces and transportation hubs. Travelers should not be unduly alarmed by the heightened presence of security personnel.

Travel Advice

  • Expect a visibly heightened security presence across Western Europe. Anticipate increased security checks at transport hubs such as airports and railway stations. Additional identity checks should also be expected, especially at border crossings; travelers should carry relevant identification documents and allow additional time for journeys.

  • Exercise caution at all times in crowded public areas, to include public transit stations, popular tourist sites, stadiums and arenas.

  • Remain vigilant and, if you notice any suspicious behavior or suspect packages, remove yourself from the area and then immediately report it to the authorities.

  • If attending an event, it is advised to wait a few minutes for the crowd to disburse before leaving the area.

  • Be aware of emergency exits – the way in is not always the best way out.

  • Adhere to official directives at all times.

  • Keep your cell phone charged and loaded with minutes in case of an emergency.  Be ready to respond to any communication from the university.

  • Pre-program emergency contact numbers into your phone, including police, fire and International SOS.

  • In the event of an emergency, keep your family, friends and loved ones updated with how you are doing.

  • Confirm your itinerary before departure. Security alerts or hoaxes can trigger short-notice evacuations of transportation hubs or public areas. It is strongly advised not to act on the basis of unverified information.


It is understandable that these events may have caused travelers to experience more anxiety than usual.  If you would like to speak to a professional about how these experiences have affected you, you can contact International SOS to make arrangements.
 

May Day 2017
April 28, 2017, 7:00 am 

International Workers’ Day, also known as Labor Day, is a celebration of laborers and the working classes that occurs every year on May Day, May 1. In many cultures, May 1 is a traditional spring holiday. Celebrations include dances, singing, bonfires, and cake.

May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various labor and student groups. In various countries worldwide, groups are planning for marches, rallies and protests in the coming days, especially on Monday, May 1.

International SOS has provided the following list of countries that have protests scheduled in the coming days.

Argentina - Buenos Aires on 30 April should avoid a rally at Plaza de Mayo as a precaution. The 'Mothers of Plaza de Mayo' will gather at 13.00 (local time) with at least a thousand other participants to commemorate the resistance against Argentina’s former dictatorship

Brazil - Anticipate significant disruption during nationwide strike on 28 April

Brasilia: from 11.00 at the Esplanada dos Ministerios; security will be increased and traffic restricted in the area
Belo Horizonte (Minas Gerais state): at 09.00 at Praca da Estacao
Cuiaba (Mato Grosso state): at 15.00 at Praca Ipiranga
Curitiba (Parana state): at 09.00 at Praca Nossa Senhora de Salete
Fortaleza (Ceara state): at Praca da Bandeira
Porto Alegre (Rio Grande de Sul state): at 12.00 at the city centre
Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro state): from 15.00 at Cinelandia.
Salvador (Bahia state): at 18.00 at Largo de Santana
Sao Paulo (Sao Paulo state): at 17.00 from Largo da Batata to the house of President Michel Temer in the Alto de Pinheiros area

France

Paris: Union-led Labor Day march starting at 14.30 from Place de la Republique to Place de la Nation. Far-right supporters traditionally gather from 09.00 at Place des Pyramides for a ceremony at the statue of Jeanne d'Arc; however, it is currently unclear whether this gathering will take place.
Nantes: Labor Day march at 10.00 on Place de la Republique.
Villepinte (Seine-Saint-Denis department): From 12.00, Marine Le Pen will hold a campaign rally at the Parc des Expositions, just south of Charles de Gaulle airport (CDG) from 12.00; localized counter-protests are possible.

Israel

Individuals in main urban centers, particularly Jerusalem and Tel Aviv (Tel Aviv district), should expect heightened security and associated disruption during Yom Hazikaron (Memorial Day) on 30 April-1 May and Yom Ha’atzmaut (Independence Day) on 1-2 May. The authorities will deploy additional security personnel to and implement road closures around commemorative event venues. Members should maintain flexible itineraries and reconfirm the status of routes before setting out.

Italy

Individuals in major urban centers on 1 May should avoid Labor Day rallies as a precaution. In Milan (Lombardy region), left-wing groups will hold a protest from 15.00 (local time) at the Piazza Ventiquattro Maggio, while in Florence (Tuscany region), a demonstration will take place at the Piazza dei Ciompi at 10.30 (local time). Precedent suggests that demonstrations have the potential to turn violent. Events linked to Labor Day are also expected in most urban areas

Philippines - Metro Manila: Expect, avoid localized Labor Day protests on 1 May

Protesters are due to gather at Bonifacio Park at 15.00 (local time) and march towards Mendiola Street (both Manila) on the day. Precedents indicate that related rallies may take place at Welcome Rotonda (Quezon City), Monumento Circle (Caloocan), Quezon Memorial Circle (Quezon City) and CM Recto Avenue (Manila). Such gatherings are expected to remain small because of labor-friendly initiatives by the government. Nonetheless, members should avoid all protests as a precaution.

Spain

Members in urban centers on 1 May should avoid Labor Day rallies and anticipate localized travel disruption. Many of the gatherings are being organized by the CCOO and UGT trade unions. In Madrid, a rally will begin at 12.00 (local time) at Neptuno station. In Barcelona, one march will begin at 11.30 (local time) at Ronda Sant Pere before marching to Passeig de Gracia, while another will begin at 11.00 (local time) from Placa de l’Angel. Similar other rallies will take place across the country. Members should avoid all related gatherings mitigate the risk of exposure to incidental unrest

Other countries include: Belarus, Denmark, Morocco, Russia, Haiti, Greece, Russia, and Hungary. To see country specific information, please visit International SOS country specific page.

Travel Advice:
  • Public protests and demonstrations are common, but they can be very dangerous. Even a peaceful protest or demonstration can become violent without warning. Students should never participate in a public demonstration or protest. If these events occur near you, avoid the area.
  • Vacate an area immediately at the first sign that demonstrators or security force personnel are beginning to gather. In the event of violence, return to your accommodation or another secure location as soon as it is safe to do so, and stand fast until the situation normalizes.
  • Anticipate localized travel disruption during protests or strikes in major cities. Allow additional time to complete important journeys.
  • Avoid potential flashpoint locations, including political rallies where localized violence is likely; maintain a network of local contacts and monitor for details on upcoming rallies and associated developments.
  • Avoid the vicinity of government buildings (parliament buildings and known likely protest locations during periods of unrest/tensions).
  • Do not attempt to cross roadblocks and reconfirm the status of routes prior to setting out.
  • Do not watch or take photographs of rallies and demonstrations. Maintain a low profile and quickly but calmly vacate an area at the first sign that demonstrators and/or security force personnel are gathering.
  • Closely monitor any developments, using local sources and International SOS travel security alerts to remain abreast of developments.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478

Sweden Emergency Message

April 7, 2017

The US Embassy in Sweden has issued an Emergency Message: https://se.usembassy.gov/emergency-message-u-s-citizens-incident-stockholm-city-center/

The U.S. Embassy in Stockholm is aware of reports of a security incident at Drottninggatan and Mäster Samuelsgatan near Sergels Torg in Stockholm City Center.? U.S. citizens should avoid this area at this time, heed guidance from local authorities, and maintain security awareness.

Please monitor media and local information sources and factor updated information into personal travel plans and activities. We strongly encourage U.S. citizens in Sweden to directly contact concerned family members in the United States to advise them of?your safety

Recommended Action
Communicate with travelers in the impacted area to confirm they are safe and offer assistance.  Messaging should include the ISOS advisory (below); info on how to contact ISOS in an emergency; and instructions on how to register with ISOS if they have not already done so.  Upcoming travelers may want to adjust their itineraries to avoid travel disruption.

How to Register with International SOS:
·         Go to: www.internationalsos.com
·         UT System Member Log in: 11BSGC000037
·         Click on MyTrips link at center of page and enter travel details
·         Highly recommended to also complete Emergency Record


New Schengen Security Regulations
April 6, 2017, 7:00 am 

Individuals traveling to, from or within the Schengen Area should anticipate delays and increased processing times at the entrance and exit points of the Schengen Area due to new security regulations that will come into force on 7 April 2017.

Previously, border officers performed basic checks, but now will systematically consult national, Interpol and EU police databases during passport checks in addition to the routine checks (e.g., validity and authenticity of passports, person matching the picture on the document, etc.). These new measures apply to individuals (including EU citizens) traveling by air, land, and/or sea.

According to official EU documentation:
EU Member States are obliged to check systemically third-country nationals against all relevant databases upon entry. Such checks will also be carried out upon exit.
The obligation to carry out systemic checks on entry and exit applies to the external borders of the Member States.
Border guards will also check travelers enjoying the right of free movement under EU law in the Schengen Information System (SIS) and other relevant databases.

Travel Advice
  • Individuals, particularly in airports and at railway stations (Eurostar included), should arrive early to allow extra time for the completion of security and identity checks. Be prepared for checks at entry and exit.
  • For more information, please consult the official EU documentation outlining the upcoming regulations.
  • Carry your passport, visa and a color copy of your travel documents when traveling across the EU borders.
  • Follow any directions given by authorities.
  • For more Schengen information, please see their website:  http://www.schengenvisainfo.com/news/
 
Staying Safe on Spring Break
 
By Scott Stewart
With spring break season approaching for our American readers, now is a good time to provide a primer on how to plan a safe vacation for the entire family or for individual children. This information can also be useful to our international subscribers who want to make sure they stay safe during their travels.

Scoping Out a Destination

The key to staying out of harm's way while traveling or working abroad is to know and understand — in advance — some of the idiosyncrasies of each country's bureaucracy and the security risks that exist there. This knowledge should guide one's decision on whether to even travel to a particular destination and is helpful when planning and implementing proper precautions for the environment the traveler will be visiting. Fortunately, finding safety and security information for a destination country is easier than ever in the internet age.
The first step American travelers should take before beginning a trip is to see what the U.S. government says about the destination country. Travelers should read the consular information sheet and check for travel warnings and pertinent public announcements before embarking. This information can be obtained in person at passport agencies inside the United States and at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad. It can also be obtained by calling the U.S. State Department, but the quickest and easiest way to find it is online.
The State Department issues travel warnings for only a handful of countries, and many countries don't have any active public announcements pertaining to them. But the department maintains an information sheet for every country, even those the United States does not have formal diplomatic relations with, such as Iran. The consular information sheet is a useful source that provides details about what documents are needed to enter the destination country in addition to information on crime, security, political stability, in-country medical care, currency regulations and road safety. It also contains contact information for the U.S. Embassy and U.S. consulates in the country (if there are any).
It's a good idea for travelers to print out a copy of the consular information sheet and take it with them on their trip. At the very least, travelers should print out or write down the phone number of the U.S. Embassy — including the after-hours phone number. This number generally rings into the Marine on duty at the embassy's security command center, normally referred to as post one, or to the embassy's duty officer. The paper with the embassy contact numbers should be kept separate from the traveler's wallet so that if the wallet gets lost or stolen, the contact information will not be lost with it. The same advice is applicable to citizens of other countries.
Consular information sheets generally do not provide advice or security recommendations to travelers. They are intended to outline the facts, and travelers are then supposed to use the information to make their own judgments and determine their own courses of action. If, however, the consular information sheet for a destination country actually breaks this protocol and makes a recommendation, the traveler should take that recommendation seriously.
It is also prudent for American travelers to register with the U.S. State Department before leaving the country. This would be helpful if something were to happen while they are abroad or if there is a crisis in the country, but it would also be useful for someone trying to locate them in case of a family emergency in the United States. Registration is free through a secure website and takes only a few minutes. Foreign citizens should also register with their respective embassies if their governments offer similar programs, as Australia does through its Smart Traveler program.

Looking Beyond Consular Reports

To ensure that I'm getting a balanced look at a specific country and to obtain more detailed information, I generally like to find travel advice from several other countries as well, including the United Kingdom, Canada and Australia.
The U.S. State Department's Bureau of Consular Affairs coordinates daily with the British, Canadian and Australian governments, so the four countries will have largely the same big picture of the security environment in a specific country. It is very unlikely that the United States would issue a travel advisory for a particular country that the British government considers perfectly safe, and vice versa.
Granular differences in reports, however, are valuable. The anecdotal cases that foreign governments discuss in their travel sheets may differ from those included in the U.S. consular information sheet, providing additional insight into the security situation in the country. For example, once while compiling a travel brief for a client, I noted in a British advisory that British citizens in a particular city had been victimized by local criminal gangs that had begun to engage in express kidnappings — something the U.S. consular information sheet did not mention. Express kidnappings, or short-term kidnappings meant to drain the contents of the victim's bank account via his or her ATM card, were new to that country. Even though we had seen the tactic used elsewhere in the region, it was helpful to be able to warn our client of the new threat. So in that case, reading the British advisory in addition to the U.S. consular information sheet was well worth my time.
Another great source of granular information is the annual crime and safety report issued by the American regional security officer for a particular country or city. Sometimes these reports are posted on the embassy's website, but they are also available on the website of the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Though some OSAC material is for constituent use only, crime and safety reports can be read by anyone — and no login is required.
It's also important to remember that conditions in a destination country can change. If government travel sites were checked far in advance of the trip, they should be checked again shortly before departure to ensure that no critical changes have occurred.

Considering All the Possibilities

When travelers leave the United States, they are no longer subject to U.S. laws and regulations but to the laws of the country they are visiting. Therefore, travelers need to learn as much as they can about those local laws before they arrive.
Travelers should also keep up with the political situation in their destination country and the region it is in. Many websites, including Stratfor, are excellent sources of political and security information. General information on the country and its government, culture, customs and so on can be found at the library or online through any number of websites, such as the National Geographic Society or the CIA's World Factbook.
Travelers should also familiarize themselves with maps of the areas they will be visiting. This will help them identify key locations such as their hotel or embassy, avoid being victimized by unscrupulous cab drivers and keep them from wandering into dangerous areas.
The destination country may also have informative government websites, such as a site run by the government department of tourism or the country's embassy in the United States. For obvious reasons, these sites should be read carefully. In most cases, the destination country's government will want to be as positive as possible to encourage tourism. Therefore, such sites rarely provide any information on crime and security because they fear it could scare away tourists — and their money. If such sites do acknowledge security problems, it is a strong indicator that the problem is too large to ignore. Therefore, travelers should pay close attention to the warnings.

Thinking About Health

Prior to travel, one should also visit the travel health information site of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This site provides a wealth of information about the vaccinations required for specific countries and regions and gives important tips about avoiding insect-borne diseases such as malaria and dengue fever, as well as food- and water-borne ailments such as cholera and amoebic dysentery. The CDC also issues travel health precautions and warnings in addition to information on sporadic outbreaks of dangerous diseases.
Travelers should consult with their doctor well in advance of their trip as well to ensure that their vaccinations are up to date and that they have time to get all of the required vaccinations before they depart. Doctors can also prescribe anti-malarial medication if needed. Even travelers in good health need to make sure that they have the appropriate vaccinations and should take steps to avoid contracting dysentery and other food- and water-borne illnesses. (It's very hard to have fun on vacation when you're sick and unable to leave the hotel room.) Many times, travel health clinics will not only give vaccinations but will also issue handy medical travel kits that contain adhesive bandages and an assortment of over-the-counter pharmaceuticals such as pain relievers and anti-diarrheal medicines. Sometimes these kits will even contain prescription antibiotics for use in case of severe dysentery.

Is Additional Insurance a Good Idea?

Another thing to consider is insurance. Travelers should check their homeowner's insurance policy or call their insurance agent to determine if their policy will cover losses or theft abroad. It is also prudent to find out if travelers' health insurance will cover them overseas. In many instances, insurance companies will pay for all or a portion of medical coverage overseas, but travelers will often have to pay for the services up front and then get reimbursed by the insurance company after returning home. Travelers should therefore ensure that they have a way to pay for any necessary medical treatment. The U.S. Embassy can provide assistance in the way of emergency loans to pay for medical treatment, but such assistance requires a lot of paperwork.
Travelers should also determine whether their medical insurance will pay for the cost of medical evacuation in the case of a dire medical emergency. For example, a colleague of mine in the State Department had to be evacuated from Khartoum with cerebral malaria because local medical professionals could not stabilize him and did not have adequate facilities to care for him in Sudan.
Travelers going to a destination with very poor in-country medical care or where their insurance will not pay for medical evacuation should seriously consider purchasing a medical insurance policy for the trip that will cover the cost of medical evacuation, which can run up to tens of thousands of dollars. Chances are, a medical evacuation won't happen, but if it did, the cost of not having the coverage would be staggering.
Of course, preparation is merely the first step in making sure that your trip is safe and enjoyable. Stratfor has published two series of analyses, one on travel security and the other on personal security, that can help you determine the next steps.


Inauguration Day Protests

20 January 2017

As the United States prepares to inaugurate its 45th president, many countries have announced planned protests and demonstrations at U.S. Embassies and Consulates beginning 20 January 2017 through the following two to three days. Although it may appear to be exciting to watch or participate in a protest, in some countries it is illegal for U.S. citizens to witness, take pictures, record and/or participate in them while abroad.

It is important to understand that, while most demonstrations remain peaceful, some result in vandalism, assaults and sometimes causalities. Just this week, Argentina and several other countries have experienced protests that started peacefully but turned violent. In Argentina, police used tear gas and fired rubber bullets into the crowds to disburse the crowd and stop the violence.


Travel Advice:
  • Public protests and demonstrations are common, but they can be very dangerous. Even a peaceful protest or demonstration can become violent without warning. Students should never participate in a public rally, demonstration or protest. If these events occur during your program, avoid the area.
  • Vacate an area immediately at the first sign that demonstrators or security force personnel are beginning to gather. In the event of violence, return to your accommodation or another secure location as soon as it is safe to do so, and stand fast until the situation normalizes.
  • Although the police are likely to swiftly contain any disturbances with demonstrations, those caught in the vicinity may face incidental risks.
  • Anticipate localized travel disruption during protests or strikes in major cities. Allow additional time to complete important journeys.
  • Do not attempt to cross roadblocks and reconfirm the status of routes prior to setting out.
  • Do not watch or take photographs of rallies and demonstrations. Maintain a low profile and quickly but calmly vacate the area.
  • It is advised to not express political views on social media.
  • Closely monitor any developments, using local sources and International SOS travel security alerts to remain abreast of developments.
  • Keep your phone charged and on you at all times. In the event of a crisis, UT Austin will send a welfare check that you must reply to. Your family and friends will also be attempting to contact you if they know you were to be in an area where violence has erupted.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.

By Ashley Sassani, UT Global Risk & Safety



Earthquake Safety and Preparedness

14 December 2016

Earthquakes are an everyday occurrence below the Earth’s surface and occur thousands of times per year. Major earthquakes are less common, but are known to cause devastation and causalities. A total of 13,424 earthquakes magnitude 4.0 and up have occurred in 2016.

Preparing for earthquakes involves learning what people should do before, during, and after earthquakes; and preparing to do those things before the next quake.

Earthquake Facts

The largest recorded earthquake in the world was a magnitude 9.5 (Mw) in Chile on May 22, 1960.
Although both are sea waves, a tsunami and a tidal wave are two different unrelated phenomenon. A tidal wave is a shallow water wave caused by the gravitational interactions between the Sun, Moon, and Earth. A tsunami is a sea wave caused by an underwater earthquake or landslide (usually triggered by an earthquake) displacing the ocean water.
The magnitude of an earthquake is a measured value of the earthquake size. The magnitude is the same no matter where you are, or how strong or weak the shaking was in various locations. The intensity of an earthquake is a measure of the shaking created by the earthquake, and this value does vary with location.
The majority of the earthquakes and volcanic eruptions occur along plate boundaries such as the boundary between the Pacific Plate and the North American plate. One of the most active plate boundaries where earthquakes and eruptions are frequent, for example, is around the massive Pacific Plate commonly referred to as the Pacific Ring of Fire.
The top ten seismically active countries are: Japan, Nepal, India, Mexico, Turkey, Ecuador, Philippines, Pakistan, El Salvador, and Indonesia.

The United State Geological Survey (USGS) has facts and more earthquake information on their website, USGS.

Earthquake Safety Tips

If you are planning a trip to an area known to have major earthquakes, have an earthquake readiness plan.
Locate a place in each room of the house that you can go to in case of an earthquake. It should be a spot where nothing is likely to fall on you.
Pay attention to signs at your universities or places of work that indicate what to do in the event of an earthquake.
Consider keeping a supply of canned food, an up-to-date first aid kit, 3 gallons (11.4 liters) of water per person, dust masks and goggles, and a working battery-operated radio and flashlights.
Have emergency supplies in stock.
Know how to turn off your gas and water mains (if applicable).
If Shaking Begins

Drop down; take cover under a desk or table and hold on.
Stay indoors until the shaking stops and it's safe to exit.
Stay away from bookcases or furniture that can fall on you; including mirrors and pictures hanging on walls.
Stay away from windows. In a high-rise building, the fire alarms and sprinklers can go off during a quake.
If you are in bed, hold on and stay there, protecting your head with a pillow.
If you are outdoors, find a clear spot away from buildings, trees, and power lines. Drop to the ground.
If you are in a car, slow down and drive to a clear place. Stay in the car until the shaking stops.

After the Earthquake:

Check for injuries; attend to injuries if needed. Depending on the extent of your injuries, call local emergency services or International SOS.
Check for damage. If your building is badly damaged you should leave it until it has been inspected by a safety professional. Check with local authorities for a safe shelter.
If you smell or hear a gas leak, alert individuals around you and get outside. Report the leak to the fire department/emergency services personnel. Do not use any electrical appliances because a tiny spark could ignite the gas.
If the power is out, unplug major appliances to prevent possible damage when the power is turned back on. If you see sparks, frayed wires, or smell hot insulation, you should vacate the area and call local authorities immediately. Monitor emails as UT Austin tracks natural disasters and will reach out to those in affected regions. Respond as soon as possible if required. Communicate with those who know you are traveling; communication is key in an emergency situation.

Prior planning in earthquake-prone areas will go a long way to mitigate risks.  The key is to stay informed and have a readiness plan in mind.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 

Winter Break Travels

30 November 2016

It’s that time of year where finals are on the mind, and winter break is right around the corner. Some will stay in Austin, some will go home to visit family, others will take that beach vacation and some might go skiing. Whatever your plans are, it is important to keep mitigate your health and safety risks. While most outdoor activities are enjoyable, they can pose significant health and safety risks if you aren’t careful.

Mosquitoes: how to help avoid bites

Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and, most recently, Zika are common illnesses transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. While most of these are found in subtropical locations, many of them are becoming common in multiple areas around the world, including here in the U.S.

Use insect repellents.


Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.
If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.
Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing.
Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.
Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent and/or sunscreen.

When weather permits, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants.  Spray the outside of clothing with insect repellent.
Select accommodations with well-screened windows and doors or air conditioning when possible. If unable to use screens or protect yourself indoors, sleep under a mosquito net.
Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.
Be aware of peak mosquito hours.
See a healthcare provide to discuss any concerns, and be evaluated as soon as any symptoms emerge.

For more mosquito bite information and vaccines, see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

University Health Services also has helpful information, Healthy Horns

Swimming safety

Unfortunately, drowning is one of the most common reasons for deaths abroad. Safety in the water is extremely important no matter if you are in the lake, ocean or river; even some of the most proficient swimmers have experienced an unpleasant water-related incident.

Wear water shoes to protect your feet from being cut on rocks and sediment. Infections can occur if coastal waters enterds a wound (See the CDC website on Vibrio for potential dangers of infecting an open wound).
Inexperienced swimmers should wear a lifejacket/life vest.
Don’t dive headfirst—protect your neck. Check for depth and obstructions before diving, and go in feet first the first time.
At the beach, even in shallow water, wave action can cause a loss of footing.
Keep a lookout for aquatic life. Water plants and animals may be dangerous. Avoid patches of plants. Leave animals alone.
Use the buddy system. Many drownings involve single swimmers. When you swim with a buddy, if one of you has a problem, the other may be able to help, including signaling for assistance from others. At least have someone onshore watching you.
Obey the signs and posted flags – really learn and understand what they mean.


Beach flags
Water Safety Signs

Talking to a local can be important, especially if you notice few people in the water. They are the most knowledgeable about their town and/or country.
Rip Currents pose an extreme threat to any swimmer.

If you are caught in a rip current, stay calm and don’t fight the current.
Swim parallel to the shore until you are out of the current. Once you are free, turn and swim toward shore.
If you can't swim to the shore, float or tread water until you are free of the rip current and then head toward shore.
If you feel you can’t make it to the shore, draw attention to yourself by waving and calling for help.
Stay at least 100 feet away from piers and jetties. Permanent rip currents often exist near these structures.
If someone is in trouble in the water, get help from a lifeguard. If a lifeguard is not available, have someone call emergency responders. Provide the victim with something that floats – a lifejacket, cooler, inflatable ball and yell instructions on how to escape the current.
When at the beach, check conditions before entering the water. Check to see if any warning flags are up or ask a lifeguard about water conditions, beach conditions, or any potential hazards.

Do not leave your personal effects unattended while in the water. Keep a close eye on your personal belongings!

For more information, you can visit the following:

Red Cross Beach Safety
U.S. Lifesaving Association

Ski and Other Snow Activities

While some will be enjoying the beach, others may decide to travel somewhere to enjoy the snow. This may include partaking in activities like skiing or snow-tubing. A beginning skier or snowboarder should get proper instruction from a certified instructor before hitting the slopes.

When skiing or snowboarding downhill, give moving skiers and snowboarders below the right of way. You should be able to see them: they might not see you.
Never ski or snowboard alone.
Follow all posted signs and rules. Avoid closed trails and out-of-bound areas
Obtain proper equipment. Be sure to have your ski or snowboard bindings adjusted correctly at a local ski shop. You can rent good ski or snowboarding equipment at resorts.
Helmets are advised.
Be prepared for weather. Bring a headband or hat with you to the slopes, 60 percent of heat-loss is through the head. Wear gloves or mittens, and have an extra pair on you just in case the first pair gets wet.
Wear sun protection. The sun reflects off the snow and is stronger than you think, even on cloudy days!
Always wear eye protection; it is recommended to wear 100% UV protection goggles or sunglasses. Without protecting your eyes, you are susceptible to getting sunburnt eyes. Most skiers know this as “snow blindness”. It is caused by water or snow reflecting UV light.

For more information how to keep yourself safe while skiing, National Ski Areas Association

More advice

Be cautious of where you are obtaining your food. Ensure it has been cooked and stored properly. Peal fruits and vegetables before eating.
Buckle up and pay attention when crossing streets


If in a heavily trafficked area, it is advisable to not use headphones
Be aware of your surroundings by putting the phone down.

Do not use maps or GPS in an open location. If you must use one, keep it discreet.
Be cautious about revealing personal information and plans when talking to strangers.
Again, do not leave your personal belongings unattended. You increase the chances of having your things stolen if they’re not with you!
Consider prudent choices when it comes to alcohol, altitude, and other scenarios that can inhibit judgement.
Carry cash in more than one pocket, and keep a small amount in a top pocket to hand over to a criminal who confronts you. A dummy wallet – with a small amount of local currency, an expired credit card and some useless receipts – can be useful to satisfy a mugger.
Where possible, obtain small denominations of currency and keep the bulk of cash and cards in a money belt, which should only be accessed in private places.
If someone or something seems suspicious, contact local authorities as soon as possible.
U.S. citizens traveling abroad should consider registering in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. 

The University of Texas does not regulate personal travel/vacation, but we are here for support and to spread knowledge of safety while traveling.

By Ashley Sassani, International Outreach and Regional Risk Coordinator 

Protests and Demonstrations

21 October 2016

Protests can be the result of a multitude of issues that arise – from elections, to student tuition increases, to public transportation concerns. It is important to understand, while most of these demonstrations remain peaceful, some result in vandalism, assaults and sometimes causalities. It is important to avoid areas where protests and demonstrations are taking place, not only for your personal safety, but the safety of others. 

Recently, Ethiopia and South Africa have experienced ongoing protests.

Ethiopia

At least 500 people have died during the anti-government protests over the last 11 months as a result of clashes with security forces in Ethiopia. Violence is not uncommon at political protests in Ethiopia, which are driven largely by anti-government sentiment.  On 09 October 2016 Ethiopia entered a six month state of emergency following a week of renewed unrest in Oromia region in response to a fatal stampede at a festival in Bishoftu (Oromia) on 2 October; the stampede was triggered by a forcible security force response to an anti-government rally. During the following week, protesters blocked roads, destroyed vehicles and set fire to commercial assets with perceived government links, including of foreign-owned factories and businesses.  An internet blackout is also in effect in order to prevent large scale protests from forming. Social media outlets are likely being monitored for anti-government sentiment.

Earlier this month on the outskirts of Addis Ababa, University California – Davis researcher, Sharon Gray, was killed when rocks were thrown by protesters at the passenger van she was traveling in. Sadly, her death highlights the importance of avoiding protests/demonstrations and vacating an area immediately at the first sign of demonstrators.

South Africa

In recent weeks, protests have broken out at several of South Africa’s 26 universities in response to the government’s September announcement that tuition fees for the 2017 academic year could increase by as much as 8%. At some campuses, protests escalated to the point of violence between students and police. Some universities have been forced to suspend classes due to security concerns. 

The movement was re-branded from last year’s “#FeesMustFall” to “#Fees2017.” On September 20, protests turned violent at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, one of South Africa's most expensive universities. Protesting students threw stones at police, who responded by firing stun grenades and arresting 31 students. Elsewhere in the country, violent protests also took place at various universities in KwaZulu-Natal; in addition, students in Cape Town staged protests on multiple campuses, including the Cape Peninsula University of Technology and UCT, where protesters set fire to property and intimidated staff and students who were attempting to attend classes. While these protests have occurred on university campuses, an October 10 dispute between protestors and police spilled over into business districts of Johannesburg. On October 12, protestors at Pretoria’s Tshwane University of Technology burned tires on campus. When police attempted to disperse the crowds, protesters marched into the streets of Pretoria’s central district, forcing some shops to close due to concerns of potential looting. Riot police reportedly fired rubber bullets and stun grenades, and students erected barricades with trash and burning debris.

Even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. It is important to remember political protests are the most common forms of demonstrations. Travelers should be cognizant of any elections occurring in the destination country.  You can view upcoming elections at ElectionGuide.

Travel Advice:

Public protests and demonstrations are common, but they can be very dangerous. Even a peaceful protest or demonstration can become violent without warning. Students should never participate in a public rally, demonstration or protest. If these events occur during your program, avoid the area.
Vacate an area immediately at the first sign that demonstrators or security force personnel are beginning to gather. In the event of violence, return to your accommodation or another secure location as soon as it is safe to do so, and stand fast until the situation normalizes.
Although the police are likely to swiftly contain any disturbances with demonstrations, those caught in the vicinity may face incidental risks.
Anticipate localized travel disruption during protests or strikes in major cities. Allow additional time to complete important journeys.
Do not attempt to cross roadblocks and reconfirm the status of routes prior to setting out.
Do not watch or take photographs of rallies and demonstrations. Maintain a low profile and quickly but calmly vacate the area.
It is advised to not express political views on social media.
Closely monitor any developments, using local sources and International SOS travel security alerts to remain abreast of developments.
Keep your phone charged and on you at all times. In the event of a crisis, UT Austin will send a welfare check that you must reply to. Your family and friends will also be attempting to contact you if they know you were to be in an area where violence has erupted.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.

Worldwide Caution Update

13 September 2016

The Department of State has updated the Worldwide Caution with information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. Current information obtained by the Department of State suggests known terrorist groups continue to plan attacks in many regions. Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that travelers need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness.  

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.

ISIL/ISIS (aka Da’esh) has called on supporters to attack U.S. citizens and partners wherever they are.  In the past year, major terrorist attacks occurred in Belgium, France, Germany, Turkey, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Nigeria, Syria, Iraq, Indonesia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Bangladesh among others.    Authorities believe there is a continued likelihood of attacks against U.S., Western, and partner interests throughout the world, especially in the Middle East, North Africa, Europe, and Asia.

Extremists may use conventional or non-conventional weapons to target official government and private interests.  Recent attacks indicate that extremists remain interested in attacking targets, such as:

High-profile public events
Hotels, clubs, and restaurants
Places of worship
Schools
Shopping malls and markets
Popular tourist attractions
Public transportation systems
Events where Westerners gather in large numbers, including during holidays. 

This updated Worldwide Caution replaces the one dated March 3, 2016. To read the document in its entirety, including regional summaries, please see the U.S. State Department World Wide Caution.

Travel Advice

U.S. citizens should register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program
Be alert to your surroundings: if possible, understand the pattern of life, and be alert for – and ready to respond to changes.
Maintain a low profile. Dress as inconspicuously as possible and avoid ostentatious displays of wealth. Avoid displaying money, wearing jewelry or carrying valuables such as laptop computers or cameras. When walking in the street, keep your bags and briefcases away from passing traffic.
Always carry some form of communication equipment, such as a cellular phone programmed with numbers that would be useful in an emergency (police, embassy, International SOS Assistance Center, etc.).
Understand the basic geography of your destination, and ensure you familiarize yourselves with key routes: avoid high-crime or low-income areas if possible. If you find yourself disorientated, be discreet when consulting a map – or ask for directions from someone in a public, client-facing role, such a shop assistant or police officer.
Avoid disputes, demonstrations, political rallies and commotions on the street. Do not stay to watch or photograph them.
Where possible, obtain small denominations of currency and keep the bulk of cash and cards in a money belt, which should only be accessed in private places.
Ignore verbal ‘bait' from passers-by – do not get into an argument; you may consider avoiding eye contact with strangers depending on cultural norms. If you suspect that you are being followed, enter any busy public place and call for help.
Be cautious about revealing personal information and plans when talking to strangers.
Consider prudent choices when it comes to alcohol, altitude, and other scenarios that can inhibit judgement.
Remain vigilant around large crowds. Travelers are urged to remain cognizant of their surroundings, and to report any suspicious persons, packages or activities to the nearest law enforcement authorities, who are responsible for the safety and security of people in the country.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478


ATM Skimmers and Fraud

07 September 2016

Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) are commonly one of the first stops for a traveler when arriving in an international destination, and are utilized by travelers through the duration of their trip. While these machines dispense the local currency and play a large role in travel, they are also highly exploited by criminals. They make easy, unattended, and profitable targets for those using them.

The majority of the losses from ATMs come from skimming devices installed on the machines to facilitate theft. In 2015, these losses totaled over $2 billion USD; which is expected to rise as skimming devices become more advanced.  A large number of compromised machines are non-bank ATMS (convenience stores, strip malls, or other public sites with heavy traffic, but minimal monitoring). Many skimming attacks occur on the weekends while banks are closed, making these other locations ideal targets.

Skimmers are a piece of hardware that is placed on the machine and reads the cards and pin pad. These malicious tactics enable criminals to receive the information from the hardware via Bluetooth or by a small camera they have placed on the ATM camera. This information is used to duplicate cards and steal money from victim’s accounts. Skimmers are increasing on gas station pumps as well. They are harder to detect because they can be installed inside the pump with little noticeable tampering. 

Advice:

Only use an ATM located inside of a bank branch or hotel lobby rather than one on the street.
Plan ahead – try to use an ATM when the bank is open.
Be aware of the ATM’s surroundings.
Be cautious if accepting help from strangers when using an ATM.
Do not use ATM machines with possible signs of tampering.


Try to identify if the machine has items that may have been installed over or around the pin pad.
When you approach the ATM, lightly pull the card slot. Signs of tampering include loose or detached slot, or the presence of double-sided tape.  A YouTube user recently uploaded a video of his discovery of a skimmer on an ATM in Vienna.

If the card is retained in an ATM, press “Cancel” to terminate the operation and contact the bank immediately.
Be vigilant. Watch your bank activity and immediately report any suspicious activity and fraudulent transactions.
When using an ATM, cover the pin pad with your hand while entering your information. This prevents anyone nearby from watching you, and helps with hiding your information from a skimmer camera.


Summer 2016 Olympic Games: Rio de Janeiro

27 July 2016

The University of Texas does not regulate personal travel/vacation, but we are committed to supporting knowledge and safety while traveling.

The 2016 Summer Olympic and Paralympic games will take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from August 5 – 21 and September 7 – 18, respectively. These events will bring over 10,000 athletes from 200 countries. These athletes will compete in over 300 events in 33 venues in four areas of the city (Barra da Tijua, Copacabana, Deodoro, and Maracana).  In addition to the athletes, the city is expecting 500,000 tourists, 45,000 volunteers, 25,000 media personnel, and thousands of officials, coaches, and foreign delegations.

Infrastructure

Rio’s transportation issues have been brought to the forefront with the Games quickly approaching. Efforts to finish the routes to and from Olympic venues and medical areas are ongoing. Due to the lack of development, there is concern these routes will not be finished by the opening ceremony, leaving people outside of the security perimeters and in traffic areas for longer periods of time.

In April, the collapse of a seaside bike lane in Rio killed two people, raising concerns about the quality of the infrastructure projects across the city. The new subway is projected to being in service just four days prior to the beginning of the Games, leading concerns of whether it will be a safer alternative to driving or using a taxi.

If you do not see many people using a certain road, thoroughfare, sidewalk, bike lane, etc., try to find an alternative as these may be unstable.

Transportation

Roadways

Rio’s terrain causes many chokepoints on the roadways, including multiple intersections and tunnels. If driving a personal vehicle or using private transportation, be aware that random criminal activity can occur. Smash-and-grab robberies from criminals on motorcycles and/or on foot may occur when vehicles stop at lights or in heavy traffic. With the amount of visitors, heavy traffic congestion is expected, leaving passengers vulnerable to these types of crimes. It is encouraged to have tinted windows, keep the windows rolled-up, lock doors and keep valuables out of sight. If confronted with a carjacking or robbery, surrender the vehicle or possessions without hesitation. Previous instances of crimes where the victim offered resistance have resulted in an intensification of violence.

When possible, avoid using the city buses and other means of public transportation in the northern part of the city as these tend to be targets for criminal activity. If used, avoid any overt displays of wealth.

Taxis

If traveling by taxi, you are advised to use only accredited, well-marked taxis. In Rio, taxis are yellow and feature a blue/green stripe with the company name in white, red license plates in front and back and a functioning meter. If the vehicle does not have these features, or if there is another passenger inside, do not get in.  Pre-paid rates within the city are illegal and generally more expensive. If this is offered, it is advised to get out and get another taxi. Trips to and from the airport are an exception; some companies offer a pre-paid rate for airport trips.

Always use an official app or have a hotel call a reputable taxi service rather than hailing off the street.
Always check for proper signage in taxis and other privately hired vehicles.
It is advised as a single passenger to sit behind the driver of a taxi or hired driver, as this decreases the potential for crime by the driver.

For more on International Road Safety, please see Resources for Travelers.

Crime

Street crimes remain the greatest threat to personal security in Rio de Janeiro. Crimes like mugging, petty theft, carjacking, and residential theft are common. A high amount of attentiveness while traveling in Rio should always be exercised as these instances are expected to continue to affect athletes and visitors.

If approached, it is advised to not fight or offer resistance; instead, turn over what the criminal is asking for. Criminals target those with expensive electronics and those wearing jewelry/watches. 

Carry minimal cash and do not display signs of wealth (such as jewelry, designer purses, expensive looking clothing, watches, cameras, phones, etc.). In May 2016, three members of the Spanish Sailing team were robbed at gunpoint for their cell phones and other electronics in the Santa Teresa neighborhood (which is popular for tourists). In June 2016, an Australian Paralympic sailor and official were threatened at gunpoint prior to a meet in Rio while near their hotel.  Most petty thefts are nonviolent and most times are committed by youth. Violence is typically reported when the victim offers resistance.

Beyond favelas, crime is greater in tourist areas, including, hotels, bars, beaches, clubs and other tourist attractions. Always keep your things close to you, and never leave valuables alone. Lock your personal belongings in your hotel safe (make sure the safe can only be opened with your ID or personal code, no key access).

A dummy wallet – with a small amount of local currency, an expired credit card and some useless receipts – can be useful to satisfy a mugger.
Carry minimal cash and watch bank/credit card statements for fraudulent charges.
Make sure your wallet is not in a back pocket as criminals can easily pickpocket in a busy area and, most times, go unnoticed.

Favelas

Because of the demand for hotel rooms and room rates, the favelas (Brazil’s shantytowns) can appear to be a cost-saving alternative to the more tourist hotels in Rio de Janeiro. Even in favela areas with heightened security, hostels, campsites and homestays cannot offer security one would expect from a traditional hotel. Some of these may not offer locks on the doors or windows, leaving travelers and their valuables vulnerable to theft and other crimes.

It is strongly recommended that individuals should stay out and away from the favelas when possible. While tourists generally are not targeted in favela violence, there is a strong concern that confrontations and shootouts between police and gangs in these areas can affect those traveling by or through the areas. A traveler should only enter a favela if there is significant need.

Terrorism

While the threat of terrorism remains low for Brazil, there has been increased focus on the terrorism threat to the Games after officials confirmed the authenticity of a threat made by ISIS on social media in April. Currently, there is no indication that ISIS has an operational presence in Brazil. However, the online strategy remains a persistent source of inspiration for disenfranchised individuals. The greatest threat is likely to be from individuals who operate independently, but are inspired by the propaganda. On 21 July, authorities arrested ten people of a group suspected to be preparing acts of terrorism in Brazil, which underlines this threat.

BBC
CNN

Protests

The authorities are cautioning that there is a potential for unanticipated unrest in areas within close proximity to hotels, transit centers, and other locations.

Anti-government protests fueled by government corruption have resulted in no major political violence up to this point. Most have been minor skirmishes with police, who have used pepper spray and other non-violent tactics to break up the demonstrations. There is a possibility that these political rallies will persist throughout the Games.

Protests against the Olympics have been small and mostly peaceful. The construction of Olympic venues in displaced communities have caused more of the protests. There have not been explicitly anti-Olympic protests in the country to-date.

Travelers are advised to avoid all protests, rallies and demonstrations. While these tend to remain peaceful, they can turn violent quickly. Participation and taking photographs of protests can increase a safety risk and, often times, the individual can be arrested and deported to their home country.

Health Concerns and Mosquito-borne Illnesses

The World Health Organization (WHO) is reminding individuals planning on traveling to Brazil for the Games to get vaccinated against measles and rubella at least two weeks before traveling. It is also recommended that all travelers are up-to-date on routine vaccinations. Due to certain health concerns, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has placed the country on an Alert-Level 2.

Super bacteria have been found in areas where athletes will compete. This bacteria can cause illness and skin infection. It is advised to stay out of the water, especially where there is open sewage draining into the ocean. If you get into the water and experience illness or infection, seek medical attention immediately.

Although Zika has been in the headlines, and poses an extreme threat to those pregnant, planning to become pregnant, or partners of anyone planning to become pregnant, more people have been sickened by Dengue than Zika in Brazil.

Zika, malaria, dengue and yellow fever are mosquito-borne illnesses common in Brazil.  Athletes worldwide are declining their offers to the Olympics citing Zika as their reason for not attending.  

The symptoms of the Zika virus are typically mild, but can be similar to Dengue and Chikungunya. It is important to take precautionary measures to prevent mosquito bites.

For more information, please see our safety update on 19 January 2016 titled, Mosquito-borne Illnesses and How to Protect Yourself While Traveling.

Travel Advice

Do not carry or wear valuable items.
Do not resist robbery attempts.
Carry a copy of your passport with you at all times and keep the physical passport in a hotel safe or secure location. It is suggested to carry proof of health insurance as well.
A dummy wallet – with a small amount of local currency, an expired credit card and some useless receipts – can be useful to satisfy a mugger.
Travel in groups of two or more.
Use well-lit, well-traveled streets. Always plan your route before traveling to your destination.
Do not answer your hotel door until you identify who it is; look out the peephole or call the front desk to confirm the visitor.
Consider prudent choices when it comes to alcohol.
Buckle up and pay attention when crossing streets.
Get proper nutrition and stay hydrated. Take precautions to avoid the risk of your food or drink being compromised.
Reduce exposure to germs by washing hands often.
Use sunscreen.
Be cautious about revealing personal information and plans when talking to strangers.
Consider prudent choices when it comes to alcohol, altitude, and other scenarios that can inhibit judgement.
Carry cash in more than one pocket, and keep a small amount in a top pocket to hand over to a criminal who confronts you. A dummy wallet – with a small amount of local currency, an expired credit card and some useless receipts – can be useful to satisfy a mugger.
Where possible, obtain small denominations of currency and keep the bulk of cash and cards in a money belt, which should only be accessed in private places.
If someone or something seems suspicious, contact local authorities as soon as possible.
U.S. citizens traveling abroad should consider registering in the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program. 

 

Germany: Munich Shooting

22 July 2016

 Sadly, there has been a shooting at a mall in the Olympia shopping center is Moosach district of Munich. Early reports state at least eight people have been killed and an unknown number of people are injured. Witnesses report seeing three gunmen who, according to police, remain at large.

This situation is ongoing, but here is what is known so far:

The city's metro, U-Bahn and bus network have been suspended, as well as taxi services.
Cars on the autobahn into and out of Munich have been asked to leave it to free up the road for emergency vehicles.
Police have evacuated passengers from the Munich Central Station.  Munich’s mainline station has also been closed.
Authorities are urging people to stand fast in a safe place and avoid public places.
Facebook has activated their check in feature.

News sources: 

Munich Police Live Twitter Feed
BBC Live Updates
U.S. Consulate

Travel Advice

Shelter in place. Monitor local news, by radio or television, for updated information.
If you witness any suspicious behavior or activity, remove yourself from the area and report it to the authorities immediately.
Do not act on the basis of unverified information diffused on social networks as security hoaxes are likely to emerge in the coming hours and days.
Maintain communications with family, friends and loved ones to let them know you are safe.
Ensure your phone battery is charged and be prepared to respond to any communication from the university.
Confirm any travel itineraries prior to your trip.
Avoid all protests, rallies, demonstrations, and large public gatherings. Exercise vigilance when in public places, crowded areas, or using mass transportation.
U.S. citizens should register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.




Turkey: Attempted Military Coup Update

19 July 2016

Hundreds of people were killed in Turkey and more than 1,400 wounded as a result of the attempted coup.  In the aftermath, the Turkish government has continued to carry out large-scale security force operations to detain alleged participants and supporters of the coup. Aside from the top brass, the purges have so far resulted in the arrest of more than 3,000 soldiers and some 7,500 police officers, and the firing of another 9,000 officials.  While most suspects have surrendered peacefully, recent incidents are indicative of the kind of risks posed by those who resist arrest. As such, further small-scale, localized violence between suspects and the police should be expected in the coming days and weeks as security force operations continue.

Understanding that the dynamic overall has normalized significantly, here are some of the recent continued issues and overall updates:

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on 18 July rescinded its national security Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) that prohibited US airline carriers from flying to and from airports in Istanbul (IST and SAW) and Ankara (ESB).  This means that, effective 19 July, travelers through 31 August will no longer have to change carriers in order to return to the U.S.
Demonstrations and protests to continue within the coming days. As always, UT Austin instructs all travelers to avoid protests, demonstrations, and rallies, as there is always a chance that—even if started peacefully—such events could quickly escalate into violence.
The U.S. Department of State updated Turkey’s Travel Warning on 16 July and 18 July, stating, “…we suggest U.S. citizens to reconsider travel to Turkey at this time.”  Additionally, the British Embassy has advised citizens to avoid public spaces, the French embassy has already been closed since 13 July due to an unrelated security threat connected with Bastille Day, and the UAE has advised its citizens to avoid unnecessary travel to Turkey.
On 18 July, one man was shot and killed near Antalya Airport while attempting to flee from security forces.  Additionally, unidentified assailants opened fire on a police unit on Cankiri Street in Ankara, and one of the assailants was killed.
The U.S. Embassy Ankara on 17 July posted an update stating, “U.S. Embassy Ankara informs U.S. citizens that the security situation has stabilized after the attempted coup on July 15. U.S. government employees in Turkey are permitted to leave their residences and hotels, but advised to do so during daylight hours given calls for sustained pro-government rallies in public spaces and the possibility that demonstrations and protests could ensue or turn violent with little notice.  Although the majority of roads have returned to normal traveling conditions, the Kizilay and Sihhiye areas in Ankara have remained closed by Turkish National Police.”

For more information:

BBC
NBC News
CNN

Travel advice

In close coordination with on-the-ground partners, business may resume, but try to avoid activity outdoors at night for the time being.
Avoid all protests, rallies, demonstrations, and large gatherings.
Minimize time spent in the vicinity government, security force and foreign diplomatic interests, medial headquarters, places of worship and popular public areas, to include Taksim Square, Istiklal Caddesi, the Sultanahmet District, malls, and large markets.
Minimize your use of public buses or the metro system during this time, and exercise heightened caution in public places including bus and metro stations.
Avoid engaging in controversial or political conversations in public.
Expect heightened security and follow all instructions issued by the security forces.
Carry photographic identification to facilitate passage through any checkpoints.
Report any suspicious behavior or suspicious packages to the authorities immediately.

As always, if you are in need of immediate medical or security-related assistance, please call International SOS at +1-215-942-8478 (providing our membership ID number 11BSGC000037) or UTPD at +1-512-471-4441.

Turkey: Reports of Military Coup

15 July 2016

Gunshots have been heard in the capital Ankara and military aircraft have been reported flying low over the city. Two bridges over the Bosphorus strait in the commercial capital Istanbul have been closed, according to Turkish television, and there are unconfirmed reports of military movements in other cities.

Early reports are stating Twitter, Facebook and YouTube have been blocked. The situation is ongoing and we will post updates as soon as they are available. 

Media sources:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2016/07/15/turkey-low-flying-jets-and-gunfire-heard-in-ankara1/
http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/ankara-turkey-gunshot-military-coup-1.3681441
http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36809083?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_breaking&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=news_central

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.




Nice, France and Europe Safety Updates

15 July 2016

On 14 July, a truck drove through a crowd watching fireworks for Bastille Day (La fête nationale) celebrations (The national holiday is to commemorate the Storming of the Bastille, an important event in the French Revolution). The attacker shot into the crowd before driving into it. According to reports, 84 people have lost their lives and many more injured; sadly, these numbers are expected to continue to rise.
French officials have announced three days of national mourning to begin on Saturday, 16 July.

Travelers in Nice

As the investigation continues, Promenade des Anglais is closed from Hopital Lenval to Avenue de Verdun. Security operations are under way in the north-eastern Saint-Roch area of the city. Hoaxes are likely to multiply and to cause further disruption across the city. The authorities have announced that the state of emergency that was due to end on 26 July, will be extended by three months in the wake of the incident.

Travel Advice

Expect heightened security and follow all instructions issued by the security forces and other authorities.
If you witness any suspicious behavior or activity, remove yourself from the area and report it to the authorities immediately.
Do not act on the basis of unverified information diffused on social networks as security hoaxes are likely to emerge in the coming hours and days.
Maintain communications with family, friends and loved ones to let them know you are safe.
Always carry some form of communication equipment, such as a cellular phone programmed with numbers that would be useful in an emergency (police, embassy, International SOS Assistance Center, etc.).
Ensure your phone battery is charged and be prepared to respond to any communication from the university.
Monitor local news sources for any information.
Confirm any travel itineraries prior to your trip.
Avoid all protests, rallies, demonstrations, and large public gatherings. Exercise vigilance when in public places, crowded areas, or using mass transportation.
Carry photographic identification to facilitate passage through any checkpoints.
U.S. citizens should register for the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.
http://world.utexas.edu/risk/safetyupdates


Jump to Zika information


Istanbul Safety Updates

SPECIAL ADVISORY: Istanbul: Avoid vicinity of Istanbul Ataturk airport following reported explosion
 
Members should avoid the vicinity of Istanbul Ataturk airport (IST) in Istanbul (Istanbul province) following unconfirmed reports of an explosion and subsequent gunfire at around 22.00 (local time).

Advice

  • Avoid the area.
  • Monitor our travel security alerts for further details

Europe Travel Disruptions

Individuals undertaking overland travel in central and Western Europe should anticipate continued disruption in some areas due to the ongoing influx of migrants and refugees from the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa. Travelers should be prepared to adjust their itineraries to account for possible disruption on some cross-border routes and at key rail hubs.

Border updates are as follows:


Austria-Italy

Small-scale pro-refugee protests regularly occur at the Brenner border crossing, prompting Italy to implement heightened security measures during such demonstrations. During a related protest on 7 May, Italian police officers fired tear gas to disperse projectile-throwing demonstrators. The large crowd and the unrest also prompted the suspension of international rail services for an hour at Brenner train station.
Austria has announced that identity checks will be reinforced at border crossings along its border with Italy, particularly at Brenner, from 1 June. Austrian authorities are also considering an option of erecting a fence at the Brenner Pass crossing.

Austria-Germany

Germany has extended stricter border controls with Austria, including vehicle checks, which may cause delays at the Walserberg, Kiefersfelden, and Suben land border crossings.
OeBB (Austrian Rail)'s local cross-border service between Salzburg (Austria) and Freilassing (Germany) is operational. Long-distance trains between Vienna (Austria) and Munich (Germany) are also operating as normal, though travelers must change at Salzburg, where German officials carry out security and identity checks.


Austria-Hungary

Austria has reinstated border controls with Hungary, including erecting a fence either side of a key border crossing. The Austrian authorities have said that the current border controls will continue until further notice.
Although all land border crossing points are open, there has been significant disruption and temporary closures on the A4 highway, which leads to the Nickelsdorf-Hegyeshalom border crossing. The Heiligenkreuz crossing may also be subject to disruption. However, the Klingenbach-Sopron border crossing has so far been largely unaffected.


Belgium-France

Belgium has reinstated controls on its border with France. Belgian authorities have said that 'targeted checks' at strategic border points will continue until further notice.


Belgium-Netherlands


Following the 22 March terrorist attacks in Brussels, the Netherlands has tightened controls on its border with Belgium, stepping up security at national airports and train stations. Delays at land border crossings have also been reported.


Denmark-Germany

Danish authorities have extended border checks at German border until 2 June. The authorities have said that the measures may extend to all internal borders, though the primary focus will be to implement random checks of cars and identification cards at the border with Germany.


Denmark-Sweden

Sweden implemented identity checks for travelers travelling from Denmark via the Oresund crossing. Under the new scheme, all Sweden-bound trains stop at Kastrup station in the Danish capital Copenhagen, where passengers must undergo mandatory identity checks at the terminal's immigration center before changing trains. Meanwhile, direct journeys from Copenhagen's main railway station to Sweden will no longer be available. Sweden's state railway operator SJ halted its passenger services to and from Denmark because it did not have the capacity to carry out mandatory identity checks demanded by the Swedish government. Trains run by Oresundstag remain in operation, but are being scaled back during rush-hour to allow time for identity checks. Regional transport operator Skanetrafiken has warned that the compulsory identity checks add up to an hour to the journey time between Copenhagen and Malmo (Sweden). Checks are also conducted at ferry terminals and at the train station at the Danish capital's Copenhagen Airport (CPH).


Finland-Russia

The Finnish and Russian authorities have imposed temporary restrictions at the Salla-Rajanylitspaikka and Raja-Jooseppi border crossings, which will be reserved for only Belarusian, Finnish and Russian citizens, as well as their families regardless of their nationality. The measure came into force on 10 April and is set to last for 180 days.


Hungary-Serbia

The main Röszke (Hungary)-Horgoš (Serbia) border crossing has reopened with extensive controls and the addition of a 109-mile (175km) razor wire fence.


Macedonia-Greece

Macedonia has extended a state of emergency on its northern and southern borders until 15 June, allowing the army to be involved in border control. It is also building a new 23-mile (37km) border fence to upgrade existing fencing and has completely closed its border with Greece to migrants.
Sporadic clashes have taken place between refugees and the police in the Greek border town of Idomeni, where a large number of migrants are stranded on the Greek side. The police have used tear gas and rubber bullets to prevent attempts to cross the border.
Macedonia has restricted the number of refugees it is allowing to enter from Greece, causing long delays. Short-term travel disruption has in particular been reported in the vicinity of the Idomeni-Gevgeloja border crossing, where migrants have blocked roads to protest the closed borders. Clashes occurred on 10 April between migrants and the security forces; the Macedonian police fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse stone-throwing protesters. Disruption to rail services between the two countries frequently occurs at short notice due to migrants blocking railway tracks in protest.


Other borders

Austria-Czech Republic: The Czech Republic has increased the number of checks on its border with Austria from 14 to 20 crossing points.
Austria-Slovakia: Temporary border controls on both sides may slow transit.
Austria-Slovenia: Austria built a 2.5-mile (3.7km) fence in Spielfeld, along its borders with Slovenia. Extra inspections are being carried out on vehicles at the Spielfeld border crossing.
Belgium: Following the 22 March terrorist attacks in Brussels, Belgium has tightened its border controls with the Netherlands, Germany, and France.
Finland: Passport controls have been reintroduced along its borders with Sweden.
France: The authorities reinstated indefinite border controls following the 13-14 November 2015 terrorist attacks in the capital Paris and the subsequent imposition of a state of emergency. They have further tightened border checks after the 22 March Brussels attacks. An additional 1,600 police have been deployed to border crossings, airports, ports and train stations. Checkpoints have been established on major routes between France and Belgium, with drivers and passengers subject to passport checks. Passengers have been searched on some cross-border trains, with armed guards patrolling the carriages. In addition, the Channel Tunnel crossing between France and the UK is subject to intermittent disruption, due to clashes between migrants and the security forces. On 17 December 2015, up to 1000 migrants armed with iron bars and hammers stormed roads near the Channel Tunnel in Calais (France) in a bid to reach the UK. The security forces used tear gas to disperse them.
Germany: The authorities have reinstated border controls until mid-May, particularly at its borders with Austria.
Hungary-Croatia: International train services between Hungary and Croatia resumed after being suspended until 21 March, including those serving the three main border crossing stations (Gyekenyes, Magyarboly and Murakeresztur). Hungary's land border with Croatia is open to non-migrants, though delays are possible.
Hungary-Romania: The authorities have announced plans to build a fence on its border with Romania. As a result, Romania heightened border controls which have led to delays of up to three hours at Nadlac, the main border crossing with Hungary.
Italy: Additional police officers have been deployed along its border with Austria, and train inspections have been increased.
Netherlands: Controls along the borders with Belgium and Germany have been temporarily reintroduced.
Norway: There are increased security controls on all its borders.
Serbia-Croatia: Croatia reopened its border with Serbia, while rail services between Serbia and Croatia are operating normally.
Slovakia: Slovakia has renewed checks on its borders with Hungary and Austria.
Slovenia-Croatia: Slovenia has erected a fence along its border with Croatia, and troops have joined the border police to patrol the border. Rail traffic between Croatia and Slovenia is operating normally. Vehicles of up to 7.5 tons are allowed to pass through the Harmica border crossing.
Slovenia-Hungary: Hungary has reinstated controls on its border with Slovenia until further notice.
Sweden: Sweden has reinstated border controls until further notice, though border checks will be suspended for two weeks on 4-18 July.

 

Travel advice

  • If due to undertake cross-border overland travel in affected countries over the coming days, reconfirm the status of the relevant border posts prior to setting out as closures are possible with little or no notice.
  • If intending to undertake rail travel in the region, particularly between Austria and Germany or via Eurostar, check the status of trains prior to travel and readjust itineraries if required. We do not hold specific information on train schedules.
  • Individuals travelling by road should be prepared for delays of up to eight hours. Open border crossings may have increased security, which is likely to increase traffic congestion. Where possible, consider alternative transport options, such as travelling by air, for important journeys.
  • Carry photographic identification to cross borders. Members who are not European citizens and require visas should make sure the latter are up to date.
  • Monitor ISOS security alerts and/or local publications for possible disruptions.

As always, if you are ever abroad and find yourself in need of immediate assistance, please contact International SOS anytime 24/7 at 1-215-942-8478.


Mosquito-borne Illnesses and How to Protect Yourself While Traveling


We strongly encourage international travel, and strive to keep travelers informed. Many of our travelers frequent areas where mosquito-borne illnesses are prominent.

Over one million people die each year from a mosquito-borne illness. Malaria, Chikungunya, Dengue, Yellow Fever, West Nile Virus and, most recently, Zika are common illnesses transmitted to humans by mosquitoes. While most of these are found in subtropical locations, many of them are becoming common in many areas around the world.

Mosquito-borne-illness-graphic

 

Zika

The Zika virus, very similar to dengue and chikungunya, is transmitted to humans through the same type of mosquitoes. The mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus are aggressive daytime biters and feed indoors and outdoors, near dwellings.

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has created a searchable website with maps documenting areas with Zika and prevention strategies.
An official CDC Health Advisory has been issued for individuals traveling to the Pacific Islands, Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Mexico. As of January 2016, 14 countries have reported transmission of the Zika virus, with spread to other regions very likely. The World Health Organization issued a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in February 2016.



According to the Centers for Disease Control, the mosquitoes that spread Zika usually do not live at elevations above 6,500 feet (2,000 meters) because of environmental conditions. Travelers whose itineraries are limited to areas above this elevation are at minimal risk of getting Zika from a mosquito.


On February 1, 2016, WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, M.D., confirmed that there may be a causal relationship between Zika infection during pregnancy and microcephaly and declared the epidemic a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.

 

This presentation from International SOS offers facts and prevention strategies: IntlSOS_ZikaAwarenessPresentation.pdf

While dengue can have more severe symptoms, the symptoms of Zika are similar, with the most common symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. These symptoms can last from several days to a week, with severe disease requiring hospitalization.

The CDC has linked serious birth defects to infants born to mothers who have been infected by the disease. These can include microcephaly, which causes a smaller-than-normal head size and is associated with incomplete brain development. There are no vaccines to prevent Zika virus disease.

If infected, protect others from getting sick: During the first week of infection, Zika can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through a mosquito bite. This mosquito can then pass the infection to others.

 

Recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has issued an official CDC Health Advisory for individuals traveling to Central America, South America, the Caribbean and Mexico. As of January 2016, 14 countries have reported transmission of the Zika virus, with spread to other regions very likely.

What is Zika?
Zika virus is a mosquito-borne disease. Discovered in the 1940s, only occasional human cases were reported until 2007 when an outbreak occurred in Micronesia. Since it appeared in Brazil in May 2015, it has been spreading explosively in the Americas. There is growing evidence linking the disease to birth defects and neurological complications, yet there is currently no vaccine, and no cure.
  • Zika virus disease is caused by a virus transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes.
  • People with Zika virus disease usually have a mild fever, skin rash (exanthema) and conjunctivitis. These symptoms normally last for 2-7 days.
  • There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available.
  • The best form of prevention is protection against mosquito bites.
Where is Zika found?

AMERICAS

  • Barbados
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. territory
  • Costa Rica
  • Curacao
  • Dominican Republic
  • Ecuador
  • El Salvador
  • French Guiana
  • Guadeloupe
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Jamaica
  • Martinique
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Paraguay
  • Saint Martin
  • Suriname
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Venezuela

OCEANIA/PACIFIC ISLANDS

  • American Samoa
  • Samoa
  • Tonga

AFRICA

  • Cape Verde
 
How can Zika be prevented?
International SOS offers facts and prevention strategies in this short presentation. International SOS also has a website devoted to information about the Zika virus.
  • No vaccine exists to prevent Zika virus disease (Zika).
  • Prevent Zika by avoiding mosquito bites (see below).
  • Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus bite mostly during the daytime.
  • Mosquitoes that spread Zika virus also spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.
  • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
  • Treat clothing and gear with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated items.
  • Stay in places with air conditioning or that use window and door screens to keep mosquitoes outside.
  • Sleep under a mosquito bed net if you are overseas or outside and are not able to protect yourself from mosquito bites.
  • Use Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)-registered insect repellents. All EPA-registered insect repellents are evaluated for effectiveness.
    • Always follow the product label instructions
    • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
    • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
    • If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
 
What are the symptoms?
  • Fever
  • Skin rashes
  • Conjunctivitis
  • Muscle and joint pain
  • Malaise
  • Headache
These symptoms are usually mild and last for 2 to 7 days.
Those infected may not present any symptoms at all. Only 1 in 5 people who are infected have any symptoms.

What should I do if I think I have Zika?
  • During the first week of infection, Zika virus can be found in the blood and passed from an infected person to another mosquito through mosquito bites. An infected mosquito can then spread the virus to other people.
  • To help prevent others from getting sick, avoid mosquito bites during the first week of illness.
What if I'm pregnant or planning to become pregnant?

“Women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant must determine the level of risk they wish to take with regard to Zika and plan accordingly,” WHO guidance stated.

As there is no current evidence to suggest that Zika virus can be transmitted to infants through breast-feeding, WHO reiterated guidance from the CDC that recommends women continue to breast-feed. The agency, however, warned that Zika virus infection may be transmitted from mothers to full-term infants during childbirth.


Resources
International SOS
U.S. Centers for Disease Control
World Health Organization.

 

Malaria


Nearly one million deaths are credited to Malaria every year. For travelers in tropical and subtropical countries, the risk is increasing. Occurring in most of sub-Saharan Africa, south and Southeast Asia, India, Pakistan, Mexico, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Central and South America, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu and the Solomon Islands, Malaria has the highest risk between dusk and dawn.

While malaria is preventable and curable, young children, pregnant women, and non-immune travelers from malaria-free areas are particularly vulnerable to the disease when they are bitten by an infected mosquito.

Symptoms are typically flu-like – including fever, chills, headache, muscle ashes, a vague feeling of being ill and sometimes diarrhea and coughing. Some symptoms can develop into liver and kidney failure, convulsions, coma and death. The symptoms can develop from seven days to several months after leaving the area where the infection occurred. It is important to finish all preventative medications as the symptoms can return.

 

Dengue (Dengue Fever)

Dengue is endemic throughout the tropics and subtropics and is a leading cause of febrile illness among travelers returning from Latin America, the Caribbean, and Southeast Asia. Dengue occurs in less than 100 countries worldwide, but close to 400 million people are infected yearly. Transmission occurs through the bite of an infected mosquito. Blood borne transmission is also possible through exposure to infected blood, organs, or other tissues.

The geographic distribution of dengue is similar to that of malaria, but dengue is more of a risk in urban and residential areas than malaria. Symptoms of infection, febrile illness (fever with unknown cause), usually begin four to seven days after exposure and can last three to ten days. The fever associated to dengue can last two to seven days. In addition to fever, other symptoms include severe headache, muscle, joint, and bone pain, rash, and hemorrhagic manifestations.

For more in depth information, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Chikungunya

Like other mosquito-borne viruses and diseases, humans contract chikungunya from mosquito bites. Outbreaks of the virus have occurred in countries in Africa, Asia, Europe, and the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  In 2013, chikungunya was found for the first time in the Americas on islands in the Caribbean.

Biting primarily in the daytime, the mosquitoes carrying chikungunya often carry dengue. Symptoms usually begin three to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain. Rarely fatal, the symptoms can persist as severe or disabling. Most infected individuals will feel better within a week, but some can experience joint pains for months.

There are currently no vaccines and the primary treatment is pain medications. The virus is rarely transmitted from mother to child during birth, as well as transmission from breastfeeding.

Yellow Fever

Yellow Fever can be found in the subtropical areas of Africa and South America. It is transmitted to humans by the bite of an infected mosquito. It is rare for travelers from the U.S. to become infected with Yellow Fever, as most countries have regulations and requirements for the yellow fever vaccination that must be met prior to entering the country.

The majority of individuals infected with yellow fever show no or only mild illness. It can take three to six days to develop symptoms after the infected bite. Initially, symptoms include fever, chills, severe headache, back pain, body aches, nausea, and vomiting, fatigue and weakness. In persons who become symptomatic but recover, weakness and fatigue may last several months.

Illness can range from self-limited febrile illness to severe liver disease with bleeding. A diagnosis of yellow fever is based on the symptoms, physical findings, laboratory testing, and travel history. There is no specific care for yellow fever; the care is based on the symptoms of the individual infected. Patients should be protect themselves from additional mosquito exposure in order to prevent transmitting the infection to another mosquito, who can then transmit to another individual.

If recommended, travelers should get vaccinated.

West Nile Virus

The West Nile Virus is most commonly transmitted to humans by infected mosquitoes. 

Most individuals infected will not develop any symptoms. Some people will can develop febrile illness. Approximately one in five people infected with develop a fever with additional symptoms such as headache, body ache, joint pain, vomiting, diarrhea or rash. Less than 1% of individuals infected will develop a serious neurologic illness such as encephalitis or meningitis, which causes inflammation of the brain and/or surrounding tissues.

There is no vaccine or specific antiviral treatment for the West Nile virus.
Protect yourself It is strongly recommended for travelers to practice measures of prevention for mosquito bites:

  • Use insect repellents.

    • Repellents containing DEET, picaridin, IR3535, and some oil of lemon eucalyptus and para-menthane-diol products provide long lasting protection.

    • If you use both sunscreen and insect repellent, apply the sunscreen first and then the repellent.

    • Do not spray insect repellent on the skin under your clothing.

    • Treat clothing with permethrin or purchase permethrin-treated clothing.

  • Always follow the label instructions when using insect repellent and/or sunscreen.

  • When weather permits, wear long sleeve shirts and long pants.  Spray the outside of clothing with insect repellent.

  • Use air conditioning or window/door screens. If unable to use screens or protect yourself indoors, sleep under a mosquito net.

  • Empty standing water from containers such as flowerpots or buckets.

  • Be aware of peak mosquito hours.

  • Select accommodations with well-screened windows and doors or air conditioning when possible. Travelers are advised to use insecticides to get rid of mosquitoes in the areas where mosquitoes are found.

  • See a healthcare provide as soon as symptoms emerge.

For more information on how to protect yourself from insect bites, please visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.

Travelers can visit International SOS for further information and advice regarding travel to the country.

As always, if you are abroad and in need of immediate assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at 215-942-8478 or UTSAPD at 210-458-4911.