31 August 2021
Volume: 55 Issue: 35
- Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
- International measures to stop the spread of wild polio virus: update
- ECDC publishes influenza virus characterisation report
- ECDC publishes zoonotic influenza and seasonal influenza annual epidemiological reports
- WHO issues rapid communication on updated guidance on the management of TB in children and adolescents
- WHO report on call for significant reduction in the use of antimicrobial drugs in global food systems
- FSS issues advice to consumers not to eat pork scratching products linked to Salmonella poisoning
- SEPA engages modelling techniques to help Scotland better prepare for flooding
- New group to advise Scottish government on environmental crises
- EEA publishes briefing on the waste challenges of renewable energy technologies
HPS Weekly Report
31 Aug 2021
Volume 55 No. 35
Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic update
International travel continues to be severely restricted due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, with information on such travel available for people living in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Travelling abroad carries a risk of exporting and importing new cases and variants of COVID-19, therefore travellers are still advised to consider whether their trip abroad is necessary before booking travel. The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) continues to advise against travel to red list countries.
A traffic light system which categorises countries on to a red, amber or green list, based on their COVID-19 risk, is in place for travellers arriving into the UK, although it should be noted that the traffic light system does not indicate which countries are currently allowing UK travellers to enter their country.
Currently, anyone entering Scotland from countries on the international travel green list will not be required to quarantine on arrival, but will have to complete a passenger locator form, take an initial PCR test for COVID-19 before travel, then another within two days of arriving in Scotland. Isolation is only required if the COVID-19 test taken on day two after arriving back in Scotland is positive or NHSScotland Test and Protect makes contact to inform of the need to isolate due to travel with someone who had tested positive for COVID-19. On 30 August 2021, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland updated their rules for returning to the UK from some red, amber and green list countries.
On return to the UK, travellers should be aware that testing and quarantine rules differ for Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Prior to their journey, travellers must ensure they are able to comply with the rules appropriate to the UK nation they will be arriving in and reside in, if different.
Country specific COVID-19 risk
The fitfortravel (for the general public) and TRAVAX (for health professionals) country pages have been updated to include a COVID-19 country specific risk-rating, with every country being identified as high, moderate or low risk and each rating accompanied by appropriate travel advice. This information will be listed in the ‘Alerts’ section on each country page of fitfortravel and the 'Emerging Health Risks' section of every TRAVAX country page. This risk-rating is based on a robust public health assessment of the COVID-19 risks for travellers to each country and is regularly reviewed.
Since 24 August 2021, the COVID-19 risk to UK travellers has been increased for the following countries or territories:
- Saint Lucia
Advice for travellers
Prior to booking any international travel, travellers must first check if the country they are travelling to is currently accepting UK travellers.
- Each country or territory on the FCDO foreign travel advice page provides up-to-date information on their entry rules, in response to coronavirus (COVID-19), under the ‘Entry Requirements’ section.
- Travellers should be aware that some countries or territories may require proof of COVID-19 vaccination status for entry. Guidance for demonstrating COVID-19 vaccination status is available for those living in Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
It is advised that travellers are aware of all travel restrictions, self-isolation rules and precautions they should take, in order to reduce their risk of exposure to coronavirus (COVID-19) before, during and after travel, as detailed on the fitfortravel website.
Source: TRAVAX, 29 July 2021
International measures to stop the spread of wild polio virus: update
On 4 August 2021, the 29th meeting of the Emergency Committee under the International Health Regulations (IHR) (2005) regarding the international spread of wild poliovirus, was convened by the World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General, Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The committee agreed that the situation still constitutes a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC) and recommended the extension of the temporary recommendations.
Under IHR (2005), proof of polio vaccination recorded on an International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis (ICVP), given four weeks to 12 months before departure, may be required on exit from the following countries:
The global situation with polio virus is ongoing, vaccination recommendations and documentation requirements can be checked on the TRAVAX individual country pages (for health professionals) or the fitfortravel destination pages (for the general public).
Advice for travellers
Travellers should be encouraged to take strict precautions with food, water and personal hygiene. Further information on this can be found on the TRAVAX and fitfortravel poliomyelitis pages.
In order to comply with the latest WHO temporary recommendations, and also to avoid travellers receiving live oral polio vaccine unnecessarily when departing polio-infected countries, authorities in the UK have made the following vaccination recommendations:
- Travellers should consider receiving a booster dose of a polio-containing vaccine if they have not had one in the past 12 months, and will be visiting one of the polio-infected or potentially exporting countries for longer than four weeks. This advice supersedes the current advice in Public Health England’s Green Book.
- Travellers should acquire this booster dose within 12 months of the date they plan to leave the polio-infected country.
- Travellers visiting one of these countries for less than four weeks should ensure they are up-to-date with routine polio vaccination, including ten yearly boosters.
- Travellers should carry proof of vaccination. For the countries listed above, proof of vaccination should be documented on the standard ICVP.
International Certificate of Vaccination or Prophylaxis
The ICVP is the yellow booklet normally used for yellow fever vaccination. Failure to produce an ICVP when departing a polio-endemic country may result in the traveller being vaccinated on their departure, often using live oral polio vaccine (OPV). This may cause problems for individuals with weakened immune systems, including pregnancy, who should not receive the live oral polio vaccine.
In Scotland, paper ICVPs can be obtained from Public Health Scotland (PHS) by contacting the TRAVAX administration team by email at email@example.com, and providing them with your full name and postal address.
In the rest of UK, paper ICVP’s should be obtained from National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Source: TRAVAX, 30 August 2021
ECDC publishes influenza virus characterisation report
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) periodically publishes influenza characterisation reports, giving an overview of circulating influenza viruses. These reports provide details on current vaccine strains, summarise the development of viruses since the last report and closely follow the main developments for the ongoing influenza season.
On 23 August 2021, the ECDC published the ninth virus characterisation period report for the 2020 to 2021 influenza season. As of week 28 of 2021, 943 influenza detections across the World Health Organization (WHO) European Region had been reported, of which 51% were type A viruses, with A(H3N2) and A(H1N1)pdm09 being approximately equally represented, and 49% were type B viruses, with 16 having been ascribed to a lineage, 13 being B/Victoria and three B/Yamagata. These figures represent a 99.4% drop in detections compared with the same period in 2020.
Source: ECDC, 23 August 2021
ECDC publishes zoonotic influenza and seasonal influenza annual epidemiological reports
The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) has published its annual zoonotic influenza epidemiological report for 2020.
No human cases of avian influenza were reported in the EU and EEA for 2020. Sporadic human cases of avian influenza A(H5N1), A(H5N6), A(H5N8) and A(H9N2) infection were reported. In 2020, outbreaks and detections of highly pathogenic avian influenza viruses, mainly A(H5) of clade 220.127.116.11, continued to affect poultry, wild and captured birds worldwide. Influenza virus A(H1N1)v, A(H1N2)v and A(H3N2)v of swine origin caused sporadic human cases in Brazil, Canada, China, Germany, the Netherland, and the USA. Slightly more human cases were identified, possibly due to greater awareness, combined with more targeted testing in those with respiratory symptoms during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The ECDC also published its annual seasonal influenza epidemiological report for 2020 to 2021. For the EU and EEA, influenza activity remained at, or below, inter-seasonal levels throughout the 2020 to 2021 season, possibly due to the impact of the various public health and social measures implemented to reduce transmission of SARS-CoV-2.
Sources: ECDC, 26 August 2021 and ECDC, 26 August 2021
WHO issues rapid communication on updated guidance on the management of TB in children and adolescents
The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Tuberculosis Programme has issued a rapid communication, updating the guidance on the management of tuberculosis (TB) in children and adolescents, including new recommendations on diagnostic options, treatment regimens, treatment decision algorithms, and optimal models of care for the delivery of services.
The rapid communication aims to inform staff from ministries of health and care providers across public and private sectors, technical partners and other stakeholders about the key findings, considerations and changes related to the diagnosis, treatment and care of TB in children and adolescents, in order to allow for planning at country level, ahead of the release of updated guidelines and an associated operational handbook.
Source: WHO, 26 August 2021
WHO report on call for significant reduction in the use of antimicrobial drugs in global food systems
The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported on a call-to-action from the Global Leaders Group on Antimicrobial Resistance, which urges all countries to significantly reduce the levels of antimicrobial drugs used in global food systems. The group, including heads of state, government ministers, and leaders from the private sector and civil society, was established in November 2020 with the aim of accelerating global political momentum, leadership, and action on antimicrobial resistance (AMR).
A priority call-to-action of the group is for antimicrobial drugs to be used more responsibly in food systems, and a marked reduction in the use of drugs that are of greatest importance in treating diseases in humans, animals and plants.
There are several other key calls-to-action:
- Ending the use of antimicrobial drugs to promote growth in animals that are of critical importance to human medicine.
- Limiting the amount of antimicrobial drugs administered to prevent infection in healthy animals and plants, and ensuring that all use is performed with regulatory oversight.
- Eliminating or significantly reducing over-the-counter sales of antimicrobial drugs that are important for medical or veterinary purposes.
- Reducing the overall need for antimicrobial drugs by improving infection prevention and control, hygiene, biosecurity and vaccination programmes in agriculture and aquaculture.
- Ensuring access to quality and affordable antimicrobials for animal and human health, and promoting innovation of evidence-based and sustainable alternatives to antimicrobials in food systems.
Source: WHO, 24 August 2021
FSS issues advice to consumers not to eat pork scratching products linked to Salmonella poisoning
Food Standards Scotland (FSS) and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) are advising consumers not to eat several pork scratching products purchased since February 2021, which have been linked to Salmonella poisoning. Testing has found a link to 176 reported cases of Salmonella across the UK between September 2020 and 21 August 2021.
Production was voluntarily halted at the factory linked to the outbreak once a possible connection was established in August 2021, and full details of the brands affected are detailed in the recall alert. To reduce the risk of any further illness, consumers should not eat the products listed in the recall alert and should follow the health advice within it.
Source: FSS, 21 August 2021
SEPA engages modelling techniques to help Scotland better prepare for flooding
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) is introducing new flood hazard mapping, in order to provide a clearer indication of surface water flood risk now and in the future, with the aim of enabling people, communities and businesses to better understand the risks, and act to reduce the impact of surface water flooding.
The introduction of the new mapping will support delivery of SEPA’s flooding services strategy, due to be published in autumn 2021. The project will involve an initial pilot stage, which will trial high resolution modelling and mapping methodologies, and a range of model assumptions and parameters across four pilot areas in Aberdeen, Glasgow, Peebles and Torridon. When the pilot stage ends in early 2022, an agreed approach will be rolled out across Scotland and the mapping will be produced in a sequence of 11 geographical phases.
Source: SEPA, 23 August 2021
New group to advise Scottish government on environmental crises
A new group of scientists, climate, and nature professionals has been formed, tasked with advising the Scottish Government on environmental issues. The council will be co-chaired by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and Professor Sir Ian Boyd, former chief scientific adviser to the UK Government on environment, food and rural affairs.
The group will meet regularly to discuss a range of environmental issues, such as biodiversity, marine resources, waste, and the nature-based aspects of climate change and just transition to net-zero, before presenting their proposed work areas and future plans in a report at COP26.
EEA publishes briefing on the waste challenges of renewable energy technologies
The European Environment Agency (EEA) has published a briefing on the infrastructure developments required if a rapid transition to renewable energy is to be made in Europe. Requirements include introducing measures such as stronger eco-design stipulations, increased emphasis on repair and upgrading, and material-specific recycling targets to address waste and resource challenges. The briefing highlights that circular economy approaches, such as repair and upgrading of equipment and recycling of end-of-life infrastructure, can underpin the sustainability credentials of Europe’s renewable energy transition.
The briefing contains several key messages.
- Waste arising from the development and use of renewable energy infrastructure is resource-rich and includes rare earth elements, as well as other valuable materials such as steel, copper and glass.
- The fast pace of technological development means that equipment can be subject to relatively rapid obsolescence and can generate complex waste streams, which presents technical and logistical challenges for managing this infrastructure at the end-of-life stage.
- Recovering materials and reintroducing them into the production cycle faces challenges, including complex logistics, design that does not consider end-of-life or recyclability, and the presence of hazardous substances.
- Policy makers and industry can address waste and resource challenges associated with the shift to renewable energy technologies through circular economy approaches, such as eco-design, material-specific recycling targets and extended producer responsibility schemes.
Source: EEA, 24 August 2021