World Travel Watch: Dengue Fever in Brazil, Strikes Across Europe and More

World Travel Watch: Larry Habegger rounds up global travel news

02.24.10 | 11:16 AM ET

World Travel Watch is a weekly report designed to help you make informed judgments about travel. Conditions can change overnight, so always make your own inquiries before you leave home. The U.S. State Department and embassies or consulates are good places to start.

Brazil: Dengue Fever Epidemic in Five States

Dengue fever has reached epidemic levels in five states, in part because of the mass movement of people around the country for Carnival. Affected states are Acre, Goias, Mato Grosso, Mato Grosso do Sul and Roraima. The disease is transmitted by mosquitoes that pick up the virus by feeding on infected persons and then spread it when they bite others. As infected people move about they risk exposing others to the disease, or as healthy people move into areas where the disease is more prevalent they open themselves to exposure. There is no cure or preventive other than avoiding mosquito bites. The number of cases in Brazil fell more than 34 percent last year, but 298 people died from the more serious dengue hemorrhagic fever.

Europe: Economic Crunch Prompts Strikes Across Continent

Strikes hit both the public and private sectors of several countries as the financial crisis put increasing pressure on workers and businesses, and some walkouts will carry on into March. Lufthansa pilots struck, French air traffic controllers walked out for four days, Greek unions blockaded the Athens stock market and prepared to shut down much of the country Feb. 24. Tens of thousands of Spanish workers protesting the government’s proposal to raise the retirement age by two years to 67 marched in Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and other cities, and more marches are planned through mid-March. British Airways cabin crews voted to strike possibly as early as March 1 but did not announce a date, and transportation workers in Prague plan to strike March 1, shutting down the train and bus networks.

Madeira: Portuguese Island Suffers Floods and Mudslides, Bounces Back

Torrential rains caused flash floods and mudslides that killed at least 42 people in this Portuguese island’s capital city, Funchal, Feb. 20. While the wreckage was severe and will take days to clean up, authorities pleaded with tourists not to cancel their trips to the island off the coast of West Africa, claiming that the situation would be back to normal within a week. Infrastructure needs to be repaired but already by Feb. 23 parts of the city’s historical center that had been closed off were reopened.

Mexico: U.S. State Department Adds Durango and Coahuila to Alert List

In a revised travel alert, the U.S. State Department added places in the states of Durango and Coahuila to a list of areas along the U.S.-Mexico border where it recommends visitors delay nonessential travel. The cities of Durango and Gomez Palacio in Durango state and the area known as “La Laguna” in Coahuila state have seen dramatic increases in violence. Four U.S. citizens were murdered in Gomez Palacio in late 2009 and early 2010, and these crimes remain unsolved. Most violence in the region is a product of the illicit drug trade.

Syria: U.S. State Department Lifts Travel Warning

The U.S. State Department lifted its travel warning Feb. 20 that had been in place since Sept. 2006. The warning raised concerns about threats to security in Syria and advised visitors to remain vigilant. The lifting of the warning marks both an improvement in the security situation and a thawing of relations between the two countries, but it does not mean that the country is now crime free. As recently as December two Western women were physically and sexually assaulted in the Old City of Damascus. As in any major city, a keen awareness of your surroundings is a good way to avoid becoming a crime victim.

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