The U.S. State Department has issued several travel warnings in the last month, some a surprise, some less so. It also issued a Worldwide Caution on April 10, telling Americans to stay constantly alert because of terrorist threats. To read the full text, go to http://www.lat.ms/1mSrbaF. Warnings issued on specific countries include:
Ukraine: The State Department issued a warning for Ukraine on March 21 but updated it April 16. It asks U.S. citizens to "defer all nonessential travel to" Ukraine, which gained its independence in 1991 from the then-Soviet Union. The State Department says that U.S. travelers should also avoid the "Crimean Peninsula and eastern regions of Kharkiv, Donetsk and Lugansk due to the presence of Russian military forces." To read the full warning: http://www.lat.ms/1rxYgZH.
El Salvador: On April 25, the State Department updated its warning on El Salvador, the smallest of seven Central American countries, because of "crime and violence levels [that] remain critically high." U.S. citizens are not necessarily targeted, the warning notes, but from mid-February to mid-April, 10 people a day have been killed, "the highest homicide rate since 2011.... Since January 2010, 31 U.S. citizens have been murdered in El Salvador, including a 9-year-old child in December 2013. During the same time period, 335 U.S. citizens reported having their passports stolen, while many others were victims of violent crimes." The warning includes information on the big problems with gang violence within the small country. To read the full warning: http://www.lat.ms/1hIMhYj.
Kenya: A tourist favorite partly because of its wildlife preserves, Kenya says U.S. citizens "should evaluate their personal security situation in light of continuing and recently heightened threats from terrorism and the high rate of violent crime in some areas." The April 4 warning is a follow-up to a Sept. 27 warning and notes that the "U.S. government continues to receive information about potential terrorist threats aimed at U.S., Western and Kenyan interests in Kenya, including in the Nairobi area and in the coastal cities of Mombasa and Diani." To read the full warning: http://www.lat.ms/1h7A8Iw.
Colombia: Although noting that the situation has improved in this South American country, the State Department issued an April 14 warning that notes that "violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural areas and parts of large cities." Americans have not been targeted, it notes, but the warning urges travelers to stay alert for "terrorist and criminal activities" throughout the country," adding that kidnapping continues to be a problem in rural areas. To read the full warning: http://www.lat.ms/S2OMLZ.
Democratic Republic of Congo: In an April 23 warning, the State Department says that U.S. citizens need to be aware of the "risks of traveling to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Congo-Kinshasa)" and outlines places that travelers should be aware of. The warning comes on the heels of the April 15 ambush of Emmanuel de Mérode, director of the eastern Congo's Virunga National Park since 2008. The park, aUNESCO World Heritage site, is home to a population of increasingly rare mountain gorillas and also supplies of oil and other minerals. "Armed groups, bandits and elements of the Congolese military remain security concerns" in the eastern part of the country. The warning also details health risks. To read the full warning, which does not mention the De Mérode ambush, go to http://www.lat.ms/1tW41V7.
The Centers for Disease Control reminds travelers that measles has not been eradicated and has cropped up in the Philippines, where 20,000 cases were reported from Jan. 1-March 20. By mid-April, 17 U.S. travelers have returned home from the island nation with the disease, which the Measles and Rubella Initiative calls "one of the most contagious diseases ever known and is an important cause of death and disability among young children worldwide," adding that the disease still kills 330 people a day. The World Health Organization says that since the beginning of the year, 3,500 cases of measles have cropped up in Vietnam. To learn more: http://www.measlesrubellainitiative.org; the CDC at http://www.lat.ms/1kmsPAA; and WHO at http://www.lat.ms/1fmpwuu.
You generally think of pythons (if you think of them at all) in the tropics and subtropics, but in Austria? Not so much. But last week the police were summoned to help a motorist who had found a 10-foot-long specimen near a highway about 60 miles west of Vienna. The snake wasn't running wild, though; it was in a sack. Police are seeking its owner.
Sources: U.S. State Department, Centers for Disease Control, Measles and Rubella Initiative, World Health Organization, Associated Press.