On 9 June 2020, Health Protection Scotland (HPS), part of Public Health Scotland (PHS), published its annual surveillance report describing overseas outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease in 2019.
This report presents information from the surveillance system that HPS uses to collect and disseminate information on potential outbreaks of infectious intestinal disease believed to have been acquired abroad, which is defined as two or more confirmed cases of infection, or at least one confirmed case where others are alleged to have been ill.
The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to affect almost all countries across the world. Most European countries imposed strict lockdown measures early in 2020 to contain and control the outbreak. In Europe, the initial peak of COVID-19 cases has passed and many countries, including the UK, are now either planning to ease their lockdown measures or have already begun to do so.
The pandemic led to unprecedented international border closures, with some travel restrictions being imposed without notice. Over the coming months these restrictions may lift, although they will remain subject to change. Full details of travel restrictions by country can be found on the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) information pages.
As lockdown restrictions ease in the UK, many will be considering travel over the summer months, or reviewing pre-existing travel bookings. The fitfortravel website has published information on COVID-19 health considerations for travel, highlighting issues travellers should consider when deciding whether or not to pursue travel this summer. The Exceptional Travel Advisory Notice issued by the FCO advising British nationals against all but essential travel worldwide remains in place.
On 22 May 2020, the UK Government home office announced self-isolation (quarantine) plans for all arrivals into the UK, including returning British nationals, commencing on 8 June 2020. These measures will be under review and should be checked both prior to travel and before returning home on the UK Government website.
Information relating to travel and COVID-19 is available on the TRAVAX (for healthcare practitioners) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Information on COVID-19 for the general public is available on the NHS Inform (Scotland) and the NHS.UK (rest of the UK) websites.
Information and resources on COVID-19 for health professionals is available on the Health Protection Scotland (HPS) (Scotland) and Public Health England (PHE) (rest of the UK) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 26 May 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported a new outbreak of Ebola virus disease (EVD) in Mbandaka, Équateur Province, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). This is a different area from the large outbreak that has been ongoing in the east of the country since 2018.
On 18 May 2020, a 27-year-old woman died in hospital in Wangata, a commune of the city of Mbandaka. Three other people from the same community in the Air Congo Quarter of Wangata became ill and died of a similar disease in the following days. The last death occurred on 30 May 2020, with this patient testing positive for EVD. A health worker and his wife were subsequently admitted to hospital with symptoms of EVD and they have also tested positive.
As of 1 June 2020, there have been six reported cases of EVD, three confirmed and three probable, including four deaths. Two patients remain in hospital.
Advice to travellers
When EVD outbreaks occur, generally the risk of travellers becoming infected or developing the disease is extremely low.
Travellers returning from an Ebola outbreak area should seek rapid medical attention if they develop flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, diarrhoea or general malaise, within 21 days after return. They should call NHS24 (Scotland) or NHS111 (England and Wales) or contact their GP by telephone. While EVD is unlikely, the returning traveller should mention any potential exposure to the virus, including dates and itinerary of travel.
Further information and advice is available on the TRAVAX (for health professionals) and fitfortravel (for the general public) websites.
Source: TRAVAX, 2 June 2020
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that a record number of countries are now monitoring and reporting on antibiotic resistance, marking a major step forward in the global fight against drug resistance. However, the data they provide reveals that a number of bacterial infections are increasingly resistant to the medicines available to treat them.
Since the WHO Global Antimicrobial Resistance and Use Surveillance System (GLASS) report in 2018, participation has grown exponentially. The system now aggregates data from more than 64,000 surveillance sites. with more than two million patients enrolled from 66 countries across the world. In 2018 the number of surveillance sites was 729 across 22 countries.
More countries are also reporting on the recently approved indicator on antimicrobial resistance (AMR) as part of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) monitoring. High rates of resistance among antimicrobials frequently used to treat common infections, such as urinary tract infections (UTIs) or some forms of diarrhoea, indicate that effective ways to tackle these diseases are decreasing. For instance, the rate of resistance to ciprofloxacin, an antimicrobial frequently used to treat UTIs, varied from 8.4% to 92.9% in 33 reporting countries.
The WHO express concern that this trend will be further fuelled by potentially inappropriate use of antibiotics during the COVID-19 pandemic, and by declining investment and innovation in the development of new antimicrobial treatments.
Source: WHO, 1 June 2020
On 29 May 2020, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a report which found that EU member states, together with the UK, cut greenhouse gas emissions by 23.2% between 1990 and 2018. During this period, the EU’s contribution to global emissions is estimated to have decreased from 15% to 8%.
The key messages from the report are:
- Greenhouse gas emissions continue to decrease in absolute terms, per capita and per euro generated in the economy.
- Most sectors reduced emissions in the past three decades, with the exception of transportation where demand outpaces climate-policy benefits.
- Many factors and policies have contributed to lower greenhouse emissions, but much faster emission reductions will be needed to achieve climate neutrality by 2050.
- Integrated policies and sustainable green investments are essential in achieving long-term climate objectives.
Source: EEA, 29 May 2020
On 3 June 2020, the European Environment Agency (EEA) published a report that found emissions from new cars registered in the EU, the UK and Iceland increased in 2018. The rise was mainly due to the growing share of petrol cars in new registrations, in particular in the sport utility vehicle (SUV) segment, and the limited market uptake of zero-and low-emission vehicles, including electric cars. The 2018 data on new registrations can be explored through a new EEA data dashboard.
After a steady decline from 2010 to 2016, average emissions from new cars increased by 0.4g CO2/km in 2017 and by 2.3g CO2/km in 2018, to reach 120.8 g CO2/km. While this is 7% below the 2018 target of 130g CO2/km, a 27% gap must still be filled to reach the target of 95g CO2/km that applies from 2020 onwards.
Similarly, average emissions of new vans had decreased by 24g CO2/km between 2012 and 2017, but increased from 156.1g CO2/km in 2017 to 157.9g CO2/km in 2018. While this is 10% below the 2018 target of 175g CO2/km, average emissions were still 7% above the 2020 target.
Source: EEA, 3 June 2020
A report prepared for the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), investigates the sources and pathways of synthetic fibre and vehicle tyre wear contamination into the marine environment.
The study is one of the first to identify tyre particles as a major and additional source of microplastics. Scientists have previously discovered microplastics originating from microbeads in cosmetics and the degradation of larger items, such as carrier bags and plastic bottles, in marine environments globally.
The study shows that tyre particles can be transported directly to the ocean through the atmosphere or be carried by rainwater into rivers and sewers, where they can pass through the water treatment process. The report estimates this could place around 100million m² of the UK’s river network, and more than 50million m² of estuarine and coastal waters, at risk of contamination by tyre particles.
Source: UK Government, 27 May 2020
The Scottish Environmental Incident Surveillance System (SEISS) recorded the following incidents in the past week:
- On 1 June 2020, the BBC reported that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) dealt with a fire at a plastics recycling centre in Shawhead, near Dumfries, on 31 May 2020. At its peak, up to 45 SFRS crew members and nine appliances were in attendance. There were no reports of any injuries and three appliances remained on site the following morning for damping down. At the height of the blaze, dark clouds of smoke could be seen for miles around the local area. The recycling plant uses waste plastic to make a host of products including agricultural equipment such as sheep pens and lambing shelters.
- On 29 May 2020, the BBC reported that the Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) were dealing with a number of wildfires across Scotland. One of these incidents, in Eastfields, Fauldhouse, West Lothian, covered an area of 100 square metres. SFRS crews also dealt with a 30 square metre fire on heath land between Armadale and Bathgate, also in West Lothian, while a blaze covering an area of 600 by 300 metres was reported in Coalburn, South Lanarkshire.
More detailed information can be found on the SEISS website.