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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:

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:

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

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.


Fun in the Sun

08 July 2016

It’s the best time of year for heading to the river, lake, and/or beach, even while abroad. If you’re like me, this is the time of year you enjoy the most because you can spend the whole day outside enjoying all types of outdoor activities and aquatic entertainment. While most outdoor activities are thoroughly enjoyable, they can pose significant health and safety risks if you aren’t careful.

Hydrate, hydrate and hydrate some more

It is imperative to your health to prevent dehydration, even if you’re not on vacation. Most people need at least 64 ounces of water each day, but this can increase depending on physical activity, exposure to heat, alcohol consumption, etc. “Maintaining adequate hydration will help you concentrate and reach your peak performance.”  - University Health Services

Keep the following in mind:

  • Increase overall water consumption and be sure to drink regularly, even if you do not feel thirsty.
  • Reduce the amount of your caffeine intake. To process caffeine, your body needs water, thus caffeine acts as a dehydrator.

While it may seem inconvenient to be finding the facilities regularly, hydration is great for the body and your day will be more enjoyable!

Sunscreen

Important at home, important while traveling. I have learned my lesson (at least 20 times) by not using sufficient amounts of sunscreen. Dealing with being uncomfortable and/or in pain while traveling is something we don’t want! Find the brand you are most comfortable using and read the directions – most will include their suggestion on how frequently you need to apply. If going into the water, or if you might sweat, read the label to get waterproof/sweat proof.

Not protecting yourself from harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays, you risk one bad sunscreen (ouch) or long term issues and diseases, such as melanoma.

Reflection from the snow, sand, and water increases UV ray exposure, a particularly important consideration for beach and water activities. You can limit your dangerous exposure and help prevent burns and long term damage by covering exposed areas when possible, wearing hats, and using sunscreen.

Sunscreening tips:

  • Apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before being in the sun (for best results) so that it can be absorbed by the skin and is less likely to wash off when you perspire.
  • Remember to reapply sunscreen after swimming or strenuous exercise.
  • Apply sunscreen often throughout the day if you work outdoors.
  • Wear hats and protective clothing (on a personal note – I pack an extra t-shirt in my bag. If I start feeling like I’m getting too much sun, I put it on to protect my shoulders from excess burn).

Sunglasses are equally as important. 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.

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 ends 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.
  • 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:

Mosquitoes: how to help avoid bites

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.

  • 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.

More advice

  • Be cautious of where you are obtaining your food. Ensure it has been cooked and stored properly.
  • Buckle up and pay attention when crossing streets (seriously, the phone can wait)!
  • 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 

 


Istanbul update: Ataturk airport reopens

30.06.16

On Tuesday, June, 28, three attackers killed 43 people and injured more than 230 others when they opened fire and detonated explosives in the Ataturk (IST) airport. Each attacker was in a different area of the airport, causing chaos and high numbers of injuries and deaths. 

Amid the debris, crews have worked diligently to reopen the airport, which was successful yesterday morning, Wednesday, June 29, as the terminals reopened (as a point of reference, Brussels took 12 days to reopen). 

International SOS reports that the airport is experiencing heavy congestion, significant delays, and numerous cancellations, so it is strongly recommended that you call your airline to confirm the status of flights before heading to the airport.

Our heartfelt condolences go out to the friends and family of the victims, as well as the entire country of Turkey.

News sources:

Travel Advice:

  • Avoid the vicinity of the Ataturk airport if you have no flights scheduled there at this point. Expect heightened security in and around the airport.
  • Contact your individual airlines to confirm your itinerary and/or discuss rerouting options if traveling soon.
  • Exercise vigilance at all times and minimize time spent in the vicinity of potential targets, such as 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.
  • Avoid all protests, rallies, demonstrations, and large public gatherings.
  • 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.
  • 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 any kind of assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at +1-215-942-8478 (providing our membership ID number 11BSGC000037) or UTPD at +1-512-471-4441.


Istanbul: Avoid vicinity of Ataturk airport following reported explosions and gunfire

According to early reports, explosions and gunfire has claimed 28 lives and has injured more than 60. The international departure terminal is said to have experienced the brunt of the attack. It is imperative that travelers avoid this area.

For more information/news:

Travel advice

  • Avoid the vicinity of the Ataturk airport. Expect heightened security in and around the airport.
  • Confirm your itinerary if traveling soon.
  • Exercise vigilance at all times and minimize time spent in the vicinity of potential targets, such as 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.
  • Avoid all protests, rallies, demonstrations, and large public gatherings.
  • 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.
  • 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 any kind of assistance (medical or security related) please call International SOS at +1-215-942-8478 (providing our membership ID number 11BSGC000037) or UTPD at +1-512-471-4441.


Europe: Demonstrations/Rallies, Athletic Events and Flooding

16 June 2016

As you may have noticed, there seem to be a lot of demonstrations/rallies/protests, as well as the Euro Cup and other athletic events, and natural disasters, such as flooding, across Europe right now. The following information is intended to help you in a situation that you may face.

Demonstrations/Rallies

  • Media has reported the police were using tear gas to control protests on 14 June in the vicinity of Invalides in France.
  • Anti-Immigrant rallies and protests continue in many countries throughout Europe.
  • Many Pride rallies will have heightened security after the horrid attack in Orlando, so if you find yourself in the vicinity, expect delays and extra police presence.
  • Demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence.  You should avoid areas of demonstrations, and exercise caution if in the vicinity of any large gatherings, protests, or demonstrations.

Athletic events

  • Athletic events, such as the Euro Cup, pose interesting levels of possible threats. These are targets for militant groups, and unruly fans, or even overly excited fans, can pose risks as well.
  • Despite a pledge by the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) to disqualify teams, particularly Russia and England, from Euro 2016 if their supporters are violent, there remains a credible risk of unrest between organized groups of supporters, or supporters and the police.
  • Thursday, June 16, 2016, there was an altercation in a fanzone in Lyon while spectators watched the match on a large screen. This resulted in one Belgian spectator being stabbed. This is the first serious incident, but demonstrates how a peaceful moment can turn violent quickly.  
  • Key flashpoint areas for unrest include zones around and within stadiums, together with central areas of host cities.

Flooding

  • Flooding can cause road closures. It is very important not to cross any barricades in place, in a vehicle or on foot. Remember “turn around, don’t drown.”
  • Railway services can also be disrupted, so you should reconfirm your itinerary prior to departure. Allow extra time for your journey.

In a push to assist travelers, France has released a terror alert app. This app is free for iPhone and Android download. You can enter your locations, such as home and class location, and receive alerts about terrorist attacks or ongoing issues (no protests or natural disasters are available on the app yet, but hopes are for the fall) in the area. This is not mandatory, but possibly a good tool if you’re in the area.

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.
  • Avoid potential flashpoint locations, including sports protests/demonstrations where localized violence is likely; maintain a network of local contacts and monitor for details on upcoming rallies and associated developments.
  • 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.
  • 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 +1-215-942-8478 or UTPD at +1-512-471-4441.


Ramadan, Istanbul and South Africa Security Message

07 June 2016

Holy month of Ramadan

Ramadan is observed by Muslims worldwide as a month of fasting to commemorate the first revelation of the Quran to Muhammad according to Islamic belief. “It is the period when Muslims fast every day from sunrise to sunset, and is one of the five pillars - or duties - of Islam. Not only do Muslims abstain from food and drink, it is also a time of deep contemplation and prayer to Allah, and also charitable generosity.”  Overall, individuals taking part in Ramadan will fast for nearly 17 hours!

The month is set to being on or around 06 June, depending on the sighting of the new moon which will tell when the ninth month (Islamic calendar) begins. In the UK, and many other countries, confirmation of the new moon comes from Saudi Arabia’s Supreme Court. 

For more information about this history and practice of Ramadan, please see the following:

The primary travel security issue travelers will face is the increased risk posed by road traffic accidents, particularly at dusk, when a combination of exhaustion, hunger, and impatience can lead to a significant deterioration of driving standards.  In addition, members in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia should take enhanced precautions against petty crime, as criminals find more incentives and opportunities to operate during such festive periods, when there is an increased exchange of cash and goods and a greater number of large gatherings.

While there is no history of a significant escalation of attacks by Islamist militants during Ramadan, this timeframe is an attractive target for some extremist organizations. There are a few recent examples of significant militant activity during Ramadan, and propaganda messages by militant groups routinely call for attacks during the period, such as the 21 May video message from the spokesman for ISIL (ISIS) sought to provoke and inspire attacks by its followers on the United States and Europe. 

Militants are likely to be motivated operationally by the perceived reduced effectiveness of security personnel, and spiritually by the celebratory nature of the holy month. Increased militancy during the holy month is therefore possible in some areas. Heightened security measures near mosques, especially during evening prayers, is a normal precaution during Ramadan and should not cause undue alarm. Because of this, travelers may encounter heightened security measures, especially in the vicinity of Western diplomatic missions, foreign banks, markets, and government buildings. Travelers should remain vigilant of their surroundings and report any suspicious activity.

During Ramadan, travelers should:

  • Non-Muslims are also expected to refrain from eating, drinking or smoking in public during daylight hours, especially in more strictly observant countries, such as Bahrain, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, and the United Arab Emirates, and to a lesser extent in Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia. Travelers should restrict such activity to private spaces such as hotel rooms or areas that have been clearly designated for the consumption of food. Infractions can be considered a serious matter in some countries, and violators could face legal action. 
  • Avoid all public gatherings and crowded areas; anticipate heightened security in the vicinity of Western embassies, transport hubs, and government and military buildings.
  • Avoid overt displays of wealth to mitigate the increased risk posed by petty crime; remain vigilant of surroundings and report any suspicious behavior to the authorities.
  • Exercise extra caution when driving due to the heightened risk of road traffic accidents during Ramadan, particularly in the hours preceding the breaking of the fast (Iftar) as people rush to get home.

Istanbul Bus Bombing

On June 7, 2016, at least 11 people were killed and 36 people were injured, including three who remain in critical condition. Security forces have cordoned off the area as clean-up operations are under way. The explosion occurred near a metro stop on Vezniciler Street, close to a touristic area and Beyazit Square; gunshots were also reported in its wake. At least 11 people have been killed and around 36 others injured in the blast.

Reports indicate that the explosion was caused by a bomb that had been detonated remotely. The incident is the third significant bomb attack in Istanbul this year, but is the first in the city to use a vehicle-borne explosive, a tactic used in two attacks in the capital Ankara earlier this year.

Although no group has claimed responsibility, there are several militant actors with the intent to stage an attack in Istanbul, including ethnic-Kurdish groups and the extremist Islamic State (IS) group. ISIL (ISIS) previously carried out a suicide bombing at Sultanahmet Square on 12 January and Istiklal Avenue on 19 March, killing at least 15 people and injuring more than 50 others.

South Africa

On June 4, 2016, the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in South Africa released a security message for U.S. citizens warning of the threat to shopping areas and malls.

“The U.S. Diplomatic Mission to South Africa informs U.S. citizens that the U.S. Government has received information that terrorist groups are planning to carry out near-term attacks against places where U.S. citizens congregate in South Africa, such as upscale shopping areas and malls in Johannesburg and Cape Town. This information comes against the backdrop of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant’s public call for its adherents to carry out terrorist attacks globally during the upcoming month of Ramadan.” 

U.S. Embassy and Consulates in South Africa:  https://za.usembassy.gov/security-message-u-s-citizens-threats-shopping-areas-malls/

 

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.
  • Exercise vigilance when in public places, crowded areas, or using mass transportation.
  • 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.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in emergency situations, and be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

 


Europe Travel Alert: France and Poland

31 May 2016

The U.S. State Department has released a Europe Travel Alert, focusing on upcoming events in France and Poland:

“As part of the State Department’s continuous efforts to provide Americans travelling abroad with information about relevant events, we are alerting U.S. citizens to the risk of potential terrorist attacks throughout Europe, targeting major events, tourist sites, restaurants, commercial centers and transportation. 

The large number of tourists visiting Europe in the summer months will present greater targets for terrorists planning attacks in public locations, especially at large events. This U.S. State Department Travel Alert expires August 31, 2016.

France will host the European Soccer Championship from June 10 – July 10. Euro Cup stadiums, fan zones, and unaffiliated entertainment venues broadcasting the tournaments in France and across Europe represent potential targets for terrorists, as do other large-scale sporting events and public gathering places throughout Europe. France has extended its state of emergency through July 26 to cover the period of the soccer championship, as well as the Tour de France cycling race which will be held from July 2- 24.  

The Catholic Church’s World Youth Day event is expected to draw up to 2.5 million visitors to Krakow, Poland, between July 26 and July 31. U.S. citizens should be aware that local infrastructure may be strained due to the large number of visitors. Poland will impose border controls at all of its national borders from July 4 to August 2, and visitors to Poland during this period should be prepared to show their passport and undergo stricter security screening throughout Poland. 

More information to help prepare for travel to World Youth Day can be found at https://pl.usembassy.gov/world-youth-day-2016/ and https://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/go/youthday.html.

… European authorities continue to take steps to assure public safety and disrupt terrorist plots. We work closely with our allies and will continue to share information with our European partners that will help identify and counter terrorist threats.”  

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.
  • Exercise vigilance when in public places, crowded areas, or using mass transportation.
  • 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.
  • Follow the instructions of local authorities, especially in emergency situations, and be prepared for additional security screening and unexpected disruptions.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.


Earthquakes

25 May 2016

Earthquakes are an everyday occurrence below the Earth’s surface and occur thousands of times per day. Major earthquakes are less common, but are known to cause devastation and causalities. 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

  1. The largest recorded earthquake in the world was a magnitude 9.5 (Mw) in Chile on May 22, 1960.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

 


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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 


May Day Protests

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 and cake.

May Day has long been a focal point for demonstrations by various labor and student groups. 

In 2015, the May Day protests were a series of international protests involving tens of thousands of people that took place worldwide on May Day (1 May 2015) over austerity measures and poor working conditions. As we quickly approach May 1, 2016, many countries are assumed to experience May Day protests. Since May 1 is on a Sunday, a day of rest for many, the protests may be the following working day.

The 2015 protests began peacefully, but some escalated quickly into clashes with police and violence, such as Istanbul.

This year, many places are gearing up for potential violent protests, like Indonesia. These demonstrations are not limited to international cities; Seattle is expecting peaceful demonstrations, but are mitigating the risk of violence. 

While most protests remain peaceful and nonviolent, some have the potential of turning violent quickly. It is always advised travelers avoid the vicinity of a protest or demonstration.

International SOS has sent an advisory for Paris and Barcelona for May 1:

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 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.
  • Avoid all protests due to the potential for localized unrest. Although the police are likely to swiftly contain any disturbances, 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.
  • 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.

International SOS has provided the following list of countries that have May Day protests scheduled:

Albania, Algeria, Andorra, Angola, Anguilla (UK), Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Aruba (Netherlands), Austria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Bolivia, Bonaire (Netherlands), Bosnia and Herzegovina, Botswana, Brazil, Bulgaria, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Canada, Cape Verde, Central African Republic, Chad, Chile, China, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Congo (DRC), Costa Rica, Côte d'Ivoire, Croatia, Cuba, Curacao (Netherlands), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, East Timor, Ecuador, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Estonia, Ethiopia, Finland, France, French Guiana (France), French Polynesia (France), Gabon, Gambia, Germany, Ghana, Gibraltar (UK), Greece, Grenada, Guadeloupe (France), Guam (US), Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Hungary, Iceland, India, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kosovo, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, Latvia, Lebanon, Lesotho, Libya, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Martinique (France), Mauritania, Mauritius, Mayotte (France), Mexico, Moldova, Monaco, Montenegro, Montserrat (UK), Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nepal, Netherlands Antilles (Netherlands), New Caledonia (France), New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, North Korea, Norway, Pakistan, Palestinian Territories, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Poland, Portugal, Réunion (France), Romania, Russia, Rwanda, Saba (Netherlands), San Marino, São Tomé and Príncipe, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, Somalia, South Africa, South Korea, South Sudan, Spain, Sri Lanka, St Eustatius (Netherlands), St Lucia, St Maarten (Netherlands), St Martin (France), Suriname, Swaziland, Sweden, Switzerland, Syria, Taiwan, Tajikistan, Tanzania, Thailand, Togo, Tunisia, Turkey, Turkmenistan, Uganda, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Vietnam, Wallis and Futuna (France), Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe 


Passover

Passover is the major Jewish holiday that commemorates the liberation of the Israelites from Egyptian slavery, last seven or eight days. This year, Passover begins on Friday, April 22 and ends Friday, April 30.

International SOS has released the following information regarding safety and security of individuals in Israel during this time.

Individuals are advised to continue exercising caution following an alert issued by the Israeli government warning of an increased threat from terrorism during the Jewish Passover holiday. The alert comes as Jerusalem has experienced a relative lull in security incidents in March after a prolonged period of stabbing and car-ramming attacks. Individuals should keep a low profile and minimize time spent in flashpoint areas.

More details

The advisory issued by the government's counter-terrorism department warned of an increased threat to Israelis both at home and abroad. Despite a decrease in the number of attacks in March, and the fact that most of those attacks are aimed at security personnel, travelers should continue to exercise caution at public transport hubs, including bus stops and light rail stations, where stabbing or car-ramming attacks against civilians have taken place. Individuals in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv in particular should expect an increased police and military presence.

The Passover holiday is likely to see increased attendance at key Jewish religious sites, including at the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif complex in Jerusalem, where tension remains high over perceived attempts by extremist Jewish groups to violate rules preventing them from praying at the site. Scuffles could break out in the area should any such attempts recur during the Jewish holiday.

Travel advice

  • Be cognizant of your surroundings. Remain alert and leave an area at the first sign of unrest.
  • Exercise caution when using public transport, especially when waiting at bus stops, light rail stations or in other crowded public areas.
  • Avoid places of worship and related gatherings as a security precaution.
  • Do not discuss the current situation with strangers as this may provoke a hostile reaction.
  • Monitor emails and local news sources for security alerts on any developments in Israel.

Jerusalem

  • Individuals in East Jerusalem should exercise caution and maintain flexible itineraries.
  • Minimize time spent near potential flashpoint areas, such as the Temple Mount/al-Haram al-Sharif complex, and other parts of the Old City, particularly Damascus Gate.
  • Avoid overt displays of religious identity or affiliation as a precaution.
  • Expect tight security and carry photographic identification at all times for security checkpoints and spot-checks; comply with all instructions issued by the security forces.
  • Monitor local news and avoid all protests. Tension between protesters and security forces can rapidly escalate. Leave an area at the first sign of unrest.
  • Avoid using public transport and minimize time spent in the vicinity of bus and light railway stops.

Regions bordering Gaza

  • During periods when the frequency of rocket attacks is heightened, travel to locations within 25 miles (40km) of the border with Gaza should be for essential purposes only. Monitor events closely during your stay in these areas.
  • In the event of rocket fire, follow the advice and instructions from the emergency services and civil authorities. You should understand the immediate actions to take on hearing air raid warnings, and the location of the nearest air raid shelters.

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.


Brussels travel

Today in Brussels a series of explosions occurred, approximately at 9:20 local time. Two explosions occurred at the city’s international airport, Zaventem (BRU), and another at Maelbeek metro station on Rue de la Loi near the European Union headquarters. Sadly, there at least 34 dead and 170 injured, which has the potential to change once the situation has been stabilized and individuals are assisted by emergency personnel and medical services.

At this time, the city’s STIB public transport network has closed and evacuated all stations, including the Central train station and Brussels-Midi station. Rail services have been reported to be suspended.

All flights at BRU (Zaventen) airport are cancelled today. Verify with the Brussels airport website for any updates regarding flights.

After today’s attacks, the authorities have raised the terror alert in Belgium to a level 4, the highest level.

Travel Advice

  • Individuals currently in Brussels should minimize movement and follow official directives. The authorities have set up the following emergency contact number: + 32 25064711.
  • Individuals currently at the airport should stay in a safe location and follow official instructions.
  • Individuals due to travel to Zaventem Airport or Belgium should defer their trips until the situation is stabilized.
  • Individuals in affected areas should remain at a safe location and maintain communication with UT Austin and their emergency contacts.
  • Monitor all travel security alerts for further updates.

Combined with the recent horrific attacks in Turkey, this highlights the need for travelers to keep a low profile, maintain situational awareness, and report any suspicious activity to authorities immediately.  If traveling for holidays including spring breaks, Holy Week, Nowruz, etc., any concerned travelers should contact International SOS or emergencyabroad@austin.utexas.edu for advice or assistance.

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.


Nowruz 

Nowruz (Nevruz) is a festival commonly recognized as the Kurdish and Persian New Year and a celebration marking the beginning of spring. Over 75 million people in many countries worldwide, including Iran, Afghanistan, Russia, and Turkey, will be enjoying the festivities and celebrating the New Year.

Public Nowruz (Nevruz) observances typically involve roadside bonfires in addition to large celebrations. Nowruz has political as well as social connotations, and in some recent years has been a flashpoint for spontaneous demonstrations. 

Travel Advice

  • Avoid all Nowruz-related gatherings as a standard security precaution.
  • The potential presence of large crowds and attendant security measures during Nowruz gatherings are likely to cause localized travel delays. Plan journeys avoiding all such events to minimize inconvenience, and keep phones charged so that you are able to maintain communication with others.

For individuals traveling in Turkey:

U.S. Embassy Ankara released a security message informing U.S. citizens that in light of recent events and the upcoming Nowruz (Nevruz) holidays, citizens should be mindful of their security precautions. Nowruz celebrations are anticipated in various locations throughout Turkey on March 17-21. Local authorities have banned large gatherings during select dates over this period citing security concerns. Celebrations in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Adana are expected to take place Sunday, March 21. The celebration in Diyarbakir, traditionally the site of the largest Nowruz (Nevruz) festivities, is currently scheduled for March 21. The entire period is expected to see festivities that could be large and/or spontaneous.

Demonstrations and large events intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and escalate into violence. Avoid political gatherings, protests, and demonstrations and to exercise caution if you are in the vicinity. Review your personal security plans, remain aware of your surroundings and local events, monitor local news stations for updates, and follow local authority instructions

International SOS Travel Advice for individuals in Istanbul:

Members in the commercial capital Istanbul should avoid a Nowruz (Persian New Year, or spring festival)-related gathering on 20 March in the Bakirkoy Pazar area. The event has been organized by the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Additional gatherings are likely elsewhere in the city on Nowruz, which is predominantly celebrated by the country's Kurdish population.

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.

As we say in my home, Nowruz Mubarak! 


Spring Break Safety

11 March 2016

It’s the time of year when millions of college-age students flock to the beaches of the U.S., while others may plan an international adventure. Everyone plans for a great vacation without thinking of the potential safety and security issues that can arise.

It is important, no matter where this Spring Break takes you, to remain safe and have the knowledge of what to avoid, how to avoid it, and what to do in an emergency situation.

Some travel advice from the U.S. State Department:

  • Of course, the most obvious, don’t purchase, use or import/export drugs.
  • Obey the local laws.
  • Take warning flags on beaches seriously.
  • Only used licensed and regulated taxis.
  • Avoid participating in demonstrations and other political activities.
  • Be conscientious.

Other travel advice:

  • Buckle up and pay attention when crossing streets (seriously, the phone can wait)!
  • Get proper nutrition.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • 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

Avoid mosquito bites:  Mosquito-borne illnesses

  • 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 any symptoms emerge.

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

Have a great Spring Break!  


Worldwide Caution Update

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.

The Department of State has updated the Worldwide Caution dated July 29, 2015, to include regional assessments. For more information please see, http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/worldwide-caution.html

Europe  

Credible information indicates terrorist groups and their affiliates continue to plot attacks in Europe. 

European authorities continue to warn of the possibility of attacks conducted by lone individuals inspired by extremist organizations that could occur with little to no warning.  Extremists have targeted large sporting events, theatres, open markets, aviation services, transportation systems, and public venues where people congregate; authorities believe there is a high likelihood terror attacks in Europe will continue. Governments in Europe are taking action to guard against terrorist attacks; however, all European countries remain potentially vulnerable.

Middle East and North Africa

Credible information indicates terrorist groups also seek to continue attacks against U.S. interests in the Middle East and North Africa.  The U.S. government remains highly concerned about possible attacks against U.S. citizens, facilities, businesses, and perceived U.S. and Western interests. 

U.S.-designated terrorist groups operating in Lebanon include Hizballah, ISIL, ANF, Hamas, and the Abdullah Azzam Brigades (AAB).  U.S. citizens have been the target of terrorist attacks in Lebanon in the past, and the threat of anti-Western terrorist activity remains.

In Iraq, ISIL controls significant territory in northern, western, and central Iraq, and continues to attack Iraqi security forces and civilians in those areas.

In Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria, groups affiliated with ISIL, Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM), and other terrorist groups have conducted attacks against both foreign and local targets. 

In Yemen, the security situation has deteriorated greatly since 2014, necessitating the suspension of operations of the U.S. Embassy in February 2015.  Al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) and ISIL remain threats to U.S. citizens in Yemen.

Africa

Al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) and al-Murabitun remain active in northern Mali and Niger, and recently conducted major attacks in Mali and Burkina Faso in which U.S. citizens were killed.  Terrorist groups have stepped up their rhetoric, calling for additional attacks or kidnapping attempts on Westerners and others, particularly those linked to support for international military intervention.  

The terrorist group AQIM has declared its intention to attack Western targets in the Sahel (an area that stretches across the African continent between the Atlantic Ocean and the Red Sea to include Senegal, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Chad, Sudan, and Eritrea).  It has claimed responsibility for kidnappings, attempted kidnappings, and the murder of several Westerners throughout the region.

Al-Shabaab assassinations, suicide bombings, hostage taking, and indiscriminate attacks in civilian-populated areas are frequent in Somalia.  Al-Shabaab retains its demonstrated capability to carry out attacks in government-controlled territory in Somalia and in neighboring countries such as Kenya and Djibouti.

Boko Haram, an extremist group based in northeast Nigeria, has claimed responsibility for dozens of attacks, mainly in northern Nigeria.  Boko Haram also has targeted women and children for kidnapping, Haram has carried out attacks in Cameroon’s Far North Region, western Chad, and southern Niger, targeting foreign expatriates, tourists, and government leaders. While claiming their allegiance to ISIL, Boko Haram has killed more individuals than ISIL.

South Asia

The U.S. government assesses terrorist groups in South Asia may be planning attacks in the region, possibly against U.S. facilities, citizens, and interests.  The presence of al-Qa’ida, Taliban elements, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba, indigenous sectarian groups, and other terrorist organizations, many of which are on the U.S. government's list of designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations, poses a potential danger to U.S. citizens in the region.

Although the Government of Pakistan maintains heightened security measures, particularly in the major cities, terrorist attacks have occurred against civilian, government, and foreign targets.  Attacks have included armed assaults on heavily guarded sites, including Pakistani military installations and airports.  Terrorists and criminal groups also have resorted to kidnapping for ransom.

No province in Afghanistan should be considered immune from violence and crime, and the strong possibility exists throughout the country for hostile acts, either targeted or random, against U.S. and other foreign nationals at any time.  Taliban and other extremist organizations remain active in every province of the country and frequently target both Afghan government and foreign interests.

India continues to experience terrorist and insurgent activities which may affect U.S. citizens directly or indirectly.  Anti-Western terrorist groups active in India include Islamist extremist groups such as Harkat-ul-Jihad-i-Islami, Harakat ul-Mujahidin, Indian Mujahideen, Jaish-e-Mohammed, and Lashkar-e Tayyiba.  Past attacks have targeted public places, including some frequented by Westerners, such as luxury and other hotels, trains, train stations, markets, cinemas, mosques, and restaurants in large urban areas.

Since September 2015, Bangladesh has experienced a series of increasingly sophisticated violent attacks.  These include the murders of two foreign nationals, as well as bombs and other attacks against gatherings of religious groups and security forces.  ISIL publicly claimed credit for many of these attacks.  Additionally, groups claiming to represent al-Qa’ida in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) asserted responsibility for a series of threats and terrorist attacks targeting writers, publishers, and others in the media, including the murder of a U.S. citizen blogger. 

Central Asia

Supporters of terrorist groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, al-Qa’ida, and the Islamic Jihad Union remain active in Central Asia.  These groups have expressed anti-U.S. sentiments and may attempt to target U.S. government interests.

East Asia and Pacific

Information from credible sources suggests that there is a continued risk of armed terrorist and criminal groups operating and planning attacks against foreigners, including U.S. citizens, in the East Asian and Pacific region.  Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) and the Abu Sayyaf Group, have cells operating throughout Southeast Asia and JI is linked to al-Qa’ida and other regional terrorist groups.  

There is a risk of travel to the southern Philippines, specifically related to kidnapping threats in the Sulu Archipelago and the ongoing threat of violence on the island of Mindanao, particularly in Central Mindanao. Foreigners in the Eastern Sabah province of Malaysia are also targets for kidnappings for ransom.  Criminal or terrorist bands may attempt to intercept boats ferrying tourists in the area as well.

Indonesian counterterrorism efforts have prevented terrorists from conducting large-scale attacks in recent years.  The January 14, 2016, attack in central Jakarta, however, shows that extremists in Indonesia still have the ability to carry out small-scale violent attacks. 

 

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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

 


Protests and Demonstrations

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.

Travel Advice:

  • Public protests and demonstrations are common abroad, 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 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.
  • 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 during the election period 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.

Political protests are the most common forms of demonstrations. Travelers should be cognizant of any elections occurring in the destination country. Upcoming elections include Central African Republic, Uganda, Niger, Bolivia, and Jamaica.  Haiti has recently appointed a provisional president resulting in demonstrations.

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.

 


Papal Visit to Mexico

During Pope Francis’ upcoming trip to Mexico, travelers should expect heightened security and related disruption through the duration of the visit.  Locations of the visit include Mexico City, Morelia, and Ciudad Juarez.

The pope's itinerary includes visits to the below destinations (all local time):

  • 12 February: Arrival at 19.30 at Mexico City International Airport (MEX)
  • 13 February: At 09.30 at the National Palace, at 11.30 at the cathedral and at 17.00 at Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe (all Mexico City)
  • 14 February: At 10.30 at Unidad de Estudios in Ecatepec (Mexico state), at 16.30 at Federico Gomez Children's Hospital and at 18.00 at National Auditorium (both Mexico City)
  • 15 February: At 10.15 at Centro Deportivo in San Cristóbal de las Casas (Chiapas state), at 15.00 at the cathedral, at 16.15 at Victor Manuel Reyna Stadium in Tuxtla Gutiérrez (Chiapas) and arrival at Mexico City airport at 20.00
  • 16 February: At 15.15 at the cathedral and at 16.30 at José Maria Morelos Pavón Stadium (both Morelia, Michoacán state); arrival at Mexico City airport at 20.00
  • 17 February: Arrival at Abraham González International Airport (CJS) in Ciudad Juárez (Chihuahua state) at 10.00, Cereso prison at 10.30, Colegio de Bachilleres del Estado de Chihuahua at 12.00, the fairgrounds of Ciudad Juárez at 16.00 and departure from Abraham González International Airport at 19.00

Around 5,000 security force personnel will be deployed to Morelia and about 2,000 to Ciudad Juárez during the papal visit.

International SOS Travel Advice

  • Travelers should carefully plan all aspects of their itinerary and be confident in their accommodation, transport, communication and security arrangements prior to travel. Measures include travelling with a private vehicle and trusted driver and undertaking movement in daylight hours only. Journey plans should allow sufficient time for delays, such as a breakdown.
  • The authorities are likely to impose road closures and traffic restrictions on routes being used by the papal convoy. Allow plenty of time to complete journeys if scheduled to pass through any of the areas on the pope's itinerary. Where possible, plan alternative routes to minimize inconvenience and reconfirm the status of routes prior to setting out.
  • Operations may be suspended at airports during the arrival and departure of the papal party. ISOS does not hold information on specific flights. Liaise with the relevant airport or carrier if intending to fly on days when the pope is using the facility.
  • Expect a visibly heightened security presence in the vicinity of the aforementioned locations during the visit. Comply with official directives and carry personal identification documents to ease passage through any checkpoints.
  • This advice is not exhaustive; consult ISOS Standing Travel Advice for Mexico.

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.

 


Zika Virus and Carnival

Many destinations in South and Central America and the Caribbean are experiencing an outbreak of Zika virus that has prompted the World Health Organization to announce an International Public Health Emergency. Specific areas where this virus transmission are ongoing are often difficult to determine and are likely to continue changing over time. As more information becomes available, travel notices and safety updates, as this, will be updated.  

Global Risk and Safety will continue to monitor various sources and notify travelers in these regions of any changes to the Restricted Regions listing. If the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention upgrades the Travel Health notices to a Travel Health Notice: Warning Level 3, the region affected will become a University of Texas at Austin Restricted Region.

The International Oversight Committee strongly recommends that travelers refer to the Zika Virus page on the University Health Services website, and that they consult with a healthcare provider about any concerns.

Additional resources include the following:

Symptoms

The symptoms of the Zika virus are typically mild, but can be similar to Dengue and Chikungunya. Any traveler showing symptoms should seek medical attention:

  • If you develop a fever with a rash, joint pain, or red eyes (pinkeye) seek medical attention as these are the common symptoms. Tell medical staff about your travel.
  • Take medicine, such as acetaminophen or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain. Do not take aspirin, products containing aspirin, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen.
  • Get lots of rest and drink plenty of liquids.
  • Prevent additional mosquito bites to avoid spreading the disease.
    • If diagnosed with Zika it is important to avoid bites from other mosquitoes, as this is the most common form of transmission.

Special Concerns for pregnant women

  • The CDC recommends extra precautions as the virus is linked to an increase in microcephaly in infants.
  • The link is strong enough to trigger the CDC to recommend that pregnant women consider postponing travel to areas where Zika transmission is ongoing. Women trying to get pregnant should consult their healthcare provider before traveling to these areas and consider using a reliable method of contraception while in a Zika-risk area.
  • Pregnant women returning from Zika-affected areas should notify their prenatal healthcare provider of their travel history.

Prevention

  • Plan and take actions to prevent mosquito bites. These precautions can prevent any illness transmitted by mosquitos.
    • Wear long-sleeved shirts and long pants.
    • 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.
      •  If you are also using sunscreen, apply sunscreen before applying insect repellent.
      • Consult the CDC website for avoiding bites for additional repellent recommendations.
    • Reapply insect repellent as directed.
  • Do not spray repellent on the skin under clothing.
  • Contraceptive is suggested as tests have shown Zika can be transmitted through sexual contact. It is advised to avoid the semen of male partners returning from Zika-infected areas and individuals should contact their healthcare provider to determine how long this is necessary.

Carnival

Carnival begins on Friday, February 5, 2016 and concludes on Mardi Gras (or “Fat Tuesday”). Millions of tourists will visit Brazil’s coastal cities, including Rio de Janeiro to participate in these festivities. This time of year is summer in Brazil and unfortunately, its peak breeding season for mosquitoes. Few visitors are likely to wear protective clothing on the beach or to Carnival street parties, making them vulnerable to insect bites, making a Zika Carnival outbreak possible.

A combination of millions of people in the streets with the current outbreak can result in the further spread across Brazil, and the possibility of those returning to their home country with the virus is heightened. Currently, the Brazilian government is taking measures to ensure the residents are in compliance with clearing areas that can be a breeding ground.

There isn’t only concern for countries in the Caribbean, Central and South America, as the virus has been detected in the United States. Individuals should follow mosquito preventatives listed below any time outdoors, not just while traveling, but at all times.

For more information about Carnival, please see the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Carnival information site.

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 and Safety

 


Mosquito-borne Illnesses and How to Protect Yourself While Traveling

The well-being of UT students, faculty, and staff is the primary concern of Global Risk and Safety, as well as the University of Texas. 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.

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.

For more information, please see the University of Texas at Austin University Health Services Malaria Vaccine information sheet.

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.

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 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. 

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.

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 UTPD at 512-471-4441.

By Ashley Sassani, UT Global Risk and Safety 


Istanbul: Fatal Bombing in Sultanahmet Square

At approximately 10:20 am (local time), a suspected suicide bomber discharged a bomb in the area of Sultanahmet Square in the Fatih district of Istanbul, killing at least 10 and injuring approximately 15. The blast occurred between the Hagia Sophia and Blue Mosque, which are popular attractions for culture and history in Istanbul.

International SOS has provided the following:

Investigations into the nature of the explosion are ongoing, though it could have been a suicide bomb attack. The security forces have reportedly blocked access to Sultanahmet Square, and travelers are advised to avoid the area, including Sultanahmet Tram station, and anticipate a heightened security force presence across the city.

An explosion targeting foreigners in a touristic hub is unprecedented in Istanbul in recent years. While no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack, it is in line with the modus operandi used by the extremist Islamic State (IS) group.

Travel Advice Summary

  • Exercise caution in Istanbul over the coming hours. Expect heightened security throughout the city and allow additional time for travel.
  • Exercise heightened caution and avoid the vicinity of touristic sites, public places, including metro stations, as well as security force and government assets and personnel.
  • Follow all instructions issued by the security forces, and carry identification to facilitate passage through any checkpoints.

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 UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 


Disruption Possible for Travel in Europe

Travelers should anticipate increased travel disruptions in Europe due to the increased border controls prompted by the continued influx of refugees into European nations. These border controls are susceptible to more modifications, and have led to the increase of substantial disruptions in travel within some of these regions. 

If traveling in western and central Europe, it is urged that travelers contact the train company being used, or monitor travel alerts for any disruptions. If needed, travelers are also reminded their itineraries may need to be adjusted to account for disruption on cross-border routes and key train hubs. 

International SOS has provided border crossing and country specific information regarding border changes within Europe:

Austria-Germany border

  • Germany enacted strict border controls with Austria that will be in effect until mid-February 2016.
  • OeBB (Austrian Rail)’s local cross-border service between Salzburg and Freilassing is again in operation as of 25 November. Long distance trains between Munich and Vienna resumed 27 November, though travelers must change trains at Salzburg, where German officials will carry out security and identity checks. Travelers are to contact OeBB for specific itinerary information and alternative routes.

Austria-Hungary border

  • Austria has reinstated border controls with Hungary including erecting a 2.5 mile fence on either side of a key border crossing; these controls will continue until further notice.
  • 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 experience disruption. The Klingenbach-Sopron border crossing, however, has so far been largely unaffected.

Hungary-Serbia border

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

Other borders

  • Austria-Czech Republic: As of 08 October, 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 cause slow transit.
  • Austria-Slovenia:  On 05 November, Austria began to build a fence along its borders with Slovenia.
  • Denmark-Germany: Beginning 04 January, Denmark has introduced temporary border checks, including random checks of cars crossing the border from Germany. These border checks are effective until 14 January 2016.
  • Denmark-Sweden:  On 04 January, Sweden implemented identity checks for those traveling from Denmark via the Oresund crossing, causing delays of up to 50 minutes for trains and buses crossing the 4.9 mile Oresund Bridge. All Sweden-bound trains stop at Kastrup station in Copenhagen, where passengers must undergo mandatory identity checks at the terminal’s immigration center prior to switching trains. These mandatory checks can add an hour or more to travel time. Direct travel from Copenhagen’s main railway station to Sweden are no longer available.
  • Finland:  Beginning 19 September, passport controls have been reintroduced along the border with Sweden.
  • France: The Channel Tunnel crossing is subject to intermittent disruption due to clashes between migrants and security forces. Border controls have been reinstated indefinitely. Checkpoints have been established on major routes between France and Belgium, with drivers and passengers subject to passport checks.
  • Germany:  Border controls have been reinstated until mid-February, particularly at the borders with Austria.
  • Hungary-Croatia: Hungary’s land border with Croatia is closed to migrants, though legal travel can continue through official border crossings.  Delays are possible due to police and border enforcement action at the border with Croatia. Train services between Hungary and Croatia are suspended at the Gyékényes and Magyarbóly border stations until further notice.
  • Hungary-Romania:  Hungary has announced plans to build a fence along its border with Romania.  As a result, Romania heightened its border controls, which has resulted in delays of up to three hours at Nadlac, the main border crossing with Hungary.
  • Italy: Additional police officers have been deployed along the border with Austria and inspections on trains are being intensified.
  • Greece:  The EU border agency Frontex began deploying 300 officers and 15 vessels on 29 December to help with the influx of migrants.
  • Macedonia-Greece: Rail service between Greece and Macedonia has resumed.  Macedonia has extended a state of emergency on its northern and southern borders until 15 June 2016, allowing the army to be involved in border control.  Additionally, the Macedonian government is building a fence along its southern border with Greece to prevent illegal crossings and to channel the flow of migrants through the official checkpoints.
  • Malta:  The country lifted the increased border controls it had temporarily reintroduced in November.
  • Netherlands: Border controls with Belgium and Germany have been temporarily reintroduced.
  • Norway:  Norway has reinstated identity checks on all ferries and buses from Sweden, Denmark, and Germany, and increased controls along all its borders.
  • Serbia-Croatia:  Croatia has reopened its border with Serbia, and rail services between Serbia and Croatia are operating normally.  However, the EU border agency Frontex has increased its presence at border crossings along the Serbia-Croatia border.
  • Slovakia:  Slovakia has renewed checks on its borders with Hungary and Austria.
  • Slovenia-Croatia: Slovenia has erected a fence along its border with Croatia.  All rail traffic between Croatia and Slovenia has been suspended since 16 October, and troops have joined the border police to patrol the border.  Vehicles of up to 7.5 tons are allowed to pass through the Harmica border crossing.
  • Slovenia-Hungary:  Hungary temporarily reinstated controls on 17 October along its border with Slovenia until further notice.
  • Sweden: Temporary border controls have been reinstated, until further notice.

Travel Advice:

  • If traveling cross-border, over land, travelers should reconfirm the status of relevant border posts as closures are possible with little or no notice.
  • If intending to travel by rail, more specifically between Austria and Germany or via Eurostar, check the status of the train(s) prior to travel as travelers may need to adjust their itineraries.
  • Traveling by road can have delays up to 8 hours. When possible, an alternative form of travel should be considered.
  • Always carry photographic identification. Individuals who are not European citizens, and require visas, should ensure all materials 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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

By Ashley Sassani, UT Global Risk & Safety

 

 


Safe Travel Tips for the Holiday Season

16 December 2015

Many individuals will being taking advantage of the holiday season to travel, whether it be to visit friends or family, or leisure travel. No matter the reason, it is always best to travel prepared. International SOS recommends the following to help reduce risk and ensure safer travels:

  1. Do your research. Verify there are no regulations regarding your destination. If there are any medical considerations, be aware of the culture and risk environment at your destination, as well as who to contact in the event of an emergency.
  2. Ensure reliable communications.  Having the ability to receive and send information is integral to ensuring safety while traveling. It is suggested to keep a fully charged party on your person at all times; if you are traveling abroad, make sure your phone plan has activated international use. Sign up to receive alerts from news sources of you destination, and/or your emergency service provider. It is also advised to register with your country’s travel advisory service, for example the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program provided by the U.S. State Department, for U.S. citizens traveling abroad.
  3. Be a Hard Target. Crimes of opportunity, such as document theft and pick pocketing often increases during the holiday season. To help minimize risk of crimes of opportunity, it is suggested:
    • Maintain a low profile. Don’t wear expensive jewelry or show signs of wealth and refrain from carrying large amounts of cash.
    • Be cognizant of ATM locations. Use ones only on the street or inside banks, or shopping malls, preferably only during daylight hours.
    • Maintain possession of personal belongings. Do not keep all personal belongings, such as passport/visa, cash and credit cards in one place. Take particular care of personal belongings in crowded areas, including public transport, airplanes, train stations and tourist sites.
  4. Mitigate Road Safety Risks. It is not advisable to self-drive in unfamiliar areas. Road conditions can be considerably more dangerous this time of year due to an increase in traffic, snow and ice presence on the roads, and a higher prevalence of driving under the influence.
  5. Maintain Flexible Itineraries. This time of year, disruptions in transit can halt journeys and can extend wait times. The most common delays are caused by weather related disruptions. 

Maintaining healthy habits for the duration of a trip can seem trivial, but can have major impacts on travel experiences.  The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend the following to ensure travelers stay as healthy as possible to enjoy their trip(s):

  1. Wash hands often. Keep your hands clean by washing with warm water and using soap. Use a tissue when you cough or sneeze; if no tissue is available, use your upper sleeve or elbow, not your hands.
  2. Stay warm. If traveling to a colder climate, keep clothes dry and dress warm in several layers.
  3. Manage Stress. Many find traveling to be extremely stressful, but this can lead to illness. Make sure to get enough sleep. Expect delays and arrive early to help prevent stress.
  4. Get checkups and vaccinations prior to traveling. Talk to your healthcare provider and look on the CDC’s website for Traveler’s Health for suggested vaccinations prior to departure.

 

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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

By Ashley Sassani, UT Global Risk & Safety

 

 


Worldwide Travel Alert, EU Immigration Situation and Beijing Smog

10 December 2015

Worldwide travel alert 

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.

U.S. citizens are urged to exercise attentiveness in public places and/or using public transportation. The State Department encourages individuals to be aware of their surrounding and avoid large crowds and/or crowded places. Particular caution should be exercised during the holiday season and at holiday events or festivals.

It is important to maintain a current emergency response plan at all times, and to be aware that phone and computer networks may be inoperable during and after a significant event.  A free tool to help travelers prepare is the “Emergency App” sponsored by the Red Cross, includes checklists for what to do before, during and after multiple types of emergencies.

Travelers are not discouraged from traveling, but should expect to experience longer lines and wait times.  International SOS created a Travel Risk Map to help inform travelers about risks associated with potential vacation destinations.

This Department of State Worldwide Travel Alert remains active until February 24, 2016.

 

European Immigration and its impact on travel

The flood of asylum seekers in Europe has received wide coverage by media, not only for humanitarian concerns, but other issues and/or concerns that have ascended.

One of the biggest issues affecting those in Europe is transportation – land, rail and maritime. The transportation issue continues to unfold with a multitude of delays and issues for those traveling within Europe. Some Schengen member states have reinstated internal border checks, causing more delays for commuters. These border checks also aid to the congestion and traffic disruptions for those driving in these regions. Travelers are reminded to always have their passport and/or visa in their possession and readily available.

U.S. citizens are not required to apply for a visa if the trip in the Schengen area is less than three months; and can travel freely within the EU member states after initial customs procedures at entry.

Overall, the crime rate amongst these areas has not risen, and violent crimes are uncommon. The number of crimes among asylum seekers is relatively low, seeing the majority of the crimes to be petty like pickpocketing. The biggest crime is human trafficking, which has been seen to lead to money laundering and document fraud. Travelers should always keep their personal belongings, especially identification in a safe place, and not in an area on their person where it can be stolen, nor in a bag left unattended.

Political violence, protests, and demonstrations have been shown by the media in many European countries accepting immigrants or asylum seekers. These are by groups opposing immigration, or done by the immigrants themselves. In these situations, travelers are urged to stay away from these events as there is occasional violence. If caught in the middle of a protest, find a safe place to wait for it to end.

While there have been acts of terrorism in the region, these acts are not common. Travelers are reminded to act with vigilance. Any suspicious behavior, packages, or activities should be reported to law enforcement authorities.

Travelers are highly encouraged to travel abroad, but are reminded there can be delays in travel, including trains and sea vessels. U.S. citizens are to keep their passport nearby when traveling through the Schengen regions and to remain conscious of their surroundings while enjoying their travels. 

 

Beijing: First ever red alert

For the first time, Beijing officials have risen the pollution alert to “red” from a surge of air pollution. Although the smog has been worse previously, the highest alert possible was issued at 7 am local time on December 8 and will last until 12pm local time on December 10.  Flight and road travel are likely to be disrupted during this time as visibility is minimum and car use is limited. 

According to meteorologists, there is a possibility of this surge from December 14 – 16 in Beijing, Hebei, and Tianjin.

Travel advice for the impacted areas:

  • Members planning to fly to or from airports in the affected areas should contact the relevant airline for information on flight schedules and factor potential delays into itineraries.
  • Driving conditions are likely to be difficult while poor visibility persists. Also cars with odd and even number plates will banned from driving on alternate days. Road journeys may take longer than usual; allow additional time to reach destinations.
  • Comply with any directives issued by the local authorities or emergency services.
  • Smog can cause minor health problems, such as eye and nasal irritation and coughs.
  • Smog can aggravate chronic cardiac diseases and respiratory problems, such as asthma. Air pollution may have a greater impact on the health of children and elderly people.
  • Travelers in an area affected by smoke or haze should reduce their exposure to air pollution.
  • While indoors, travelers should keep windows and doors closed, and keep air conditioners in 'recirculate' mode.
  • Travelers may consider using a respirator (N95 mask) while outdoors.  Consult with a doctor for an individual recommendation.
  • Monitor ISOS travel security alerts for further updates and contact your nearest Assistance Centre for itinerary- and profile-specific advice.

 

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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

By Ashley Sassani, UT Global Risk & Safety

 

PARIS SITUATION UPDATE

18 November 2015

UT Austin continues to be in contact with students to offer support and recommend security precautions. European governments' ongoing actions are a positive indicator of shared intelligence and the ability to thwart future attacks.  We are working with individual students, programs and families to support students as The University believes strongly in the importance of international cultural exchange.  

Travelers should remember that the goal of terrorism is to promote fear.  Students should try to stay calm and seek counseling support via International SOS at +1-215-942-8478 (collect calls accepted) or their local program.

We also understand that each individual has a unique threshold for their personal safety standards, so anyone wishing to discuss options about coming home should connect with their study abroad program coordinators; rest assured that we will do all we can to facilitate return if necessary. Program Coordinators can be reached by calling 512-471-6490.

Travel Advice:

  • Be aware of your surroundings, and respect local sensitivities over recent developments.
  • Check in with your academic program daily.
  • There remains potential for short-notice travel restrictions and evacuations of transport hubs or other sensitive locations as a result of fresh security alerts. Consequently, be flexible in your itineraries.
  • Consider carefully any information relayed on social media and ensure appropriate corroboration through reliable sources.
  • Register for International SOS and U.S. Department of State (STEP) security alerts online and heed recommendations.
  • Allow ample time for travel and for check-in procedures, especially if traveling by air or through a border crossing.
  • Ensure you have travel documents (i.e., passport and visa) on you at all times for use in any identity checks.

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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

UT AUSTIN MESSAGE OF SUPPORT FOR STUDENTS IN EUROPE

17 November 2015

As a reminder to all travelers in Europe, please continue to connect with your family, friends, and colleagues in the coming days so that they know you are well.  Many people are concerned about you, especially because of the horrendous attacks in Paris, and eagerly await your updates.  This is especially important given that the University will not be emailing all parents as a group due to privacy concerns and regulations.

If you need any security advice or referrals for medical or counseling support, please do not hesitate to take advantage of the International SOS resources at your disposal.  Specifics on the latest security information for Western Europe may also be found on the ISOS website.  Additionally, if you are not signed up to get ISOS email alerts you should go to the website to enroll:

+215-942-8478 (collect calls accepted)

https://www.internationalsos.com/

UT Member #11BSGC000037

Use the member login on at the top of the page

If you run into a situation that does not feel right, or see something suspicious, remove yourself from the situation and report it to the local authorities immediately.  After alerting local authorities, report it to International SOS.  You are always welcome to email the following account as well if you ever need to talk:  emergencyabroad@austin.utexas.edu.

As another reminder, the University recommends that all travelers avoid protests, large gatherings, and any potentially threatening situations.  There were reports on Friday that showed several people who, after hearing gunfire and/or emergency vehicles, went outside to videotape what was happening.  Do not do this; your safety is paramount, so please remain safely indoors in any such emergency until authorities give the all clear.

Along similar lines, pay close attention to all security alerts you receive from the Embassy and International SOS in the coming days and weeks.  As most of you are likely aware, there have now been several reports of additional attacks that have all been proven to be false.  The University does not feel there is a greater threat to Europe than to most areas of the world, but wants to ensure you receive and read vital information in case any other crises or attacks were to occur.

At this point, you can expect to see increased security measures throughout most of Europe.  This will result in longer processing times at airports and border crossings.  Please carry your visa and passport information with you in case you are asked to show identification, and please do your best to comply with any directions from security personnel.  If curfews are implemented, follow all directive guidance.

UT Austin is not currently curtailing or cancelling any programming, but rest assured that we are continuing to closely monitor the situation and are regularly consulting with State Department representatives and partner universities.  We are choosing to focus on the value of continuing these international cultural exchanges rather than lending any credence to such despicable acts of terrorism.  Our goal is to instead provide you all the support you need to be able to complete your programs successfully.  Your safety remains paramount, though, so if you feel the need to come home, please contact your study abroad program coordinators so that they can explain your options and assist you with the process. 

If you have questions about your academic program, specifically the class schedule for this week, please contact your local program coordinator or study abroad coordinator here in Austin.  Likewise, if you experience any difficulties with your housing or transportation as a result of these events and increased security and need assistance, please reach out to us for support.

Sciences Po Statement:  http://www.sciencespo.fr/en/news/news/sciences-po-stands-attacks/1655

IFE Statement:  http://www.ife-edu.eu/The-Current-Situation-in-Paris    

U.S. Department of State Worldwide Cautoin:  http://travel.state.gov/content/passports/en/alertswarnings/worldwide-caution.html

 

UNIVERSITY STATEMENT ON SITUATION IN PARIS

14 November 2015

UPDATE: 

UT Austin is pleased to report that all students and faculty known to be in Paris and other parts of France are safe and accounted for. Thanks to all the students and faculty who helped locate friends and colleagues. Any student or faculty member needing assistance or just someone to talk to should call the ISOS number at 215-942-8478 or UTPD at 512-471-4441.

13 November 2015

The University of Texas at Austin is monitoring the situation in Paris. We have contacted students, partner universities and programs. Students, faculty, staff and  parents with concerns should call UTPD at 512.471.4441 or reference resources on this website: http://world.utexas.edu/risk/emergency

 

ISOS Headlines – Americas: Brazil, Mexico, Peru

25 September 2015

Below are three recent International SOS headlines for locations in the Americas. Travelers to these regions should pay close attention to the Travel Advice sections and continue to maintain situational awareness while traveling.

Brazil: Rio de Janeiro: Robberies in upscale areas underscore need for security precautions

A spate of street and beach robberies on 19-20 September in the upscale Barra de Tijuca, Botafogo, Copacabana and Ipanema areas of Rio de Janeiro (Rio de Janeiro state) underline the need to take stringent security precautions to mitigate the risks posed by crime. In response to the incidents, local residents on 20 September stopped a public bus travelling to Copacabana from the northern Manguinhos favela (shanty town), attacking passengers they alleged were prolific thieves.

Upscale neighborhoods of Rio de Janeiro are periodically targeted for so-called arrastão (trawler) robberies, wherein a large group of criminals create disorder in a public area, such as a beach, and intimidate and rob those present. The most common sites for arrastões and other crimes that may target foreigners are the popular Copacabana and Arpoador (Ipanema) beaches, as well as areas surrounding bars and nightclubs, especially after dark.

While Brazil remains a MEDIUM travel risk destination, the risks associated with travel to deprived urban areas of major cities are rated as HIGH and travel to such locations should be avoided. However, the recent spate of robberies underscores that affluent and tourist areas are not immune from crime, even during daylight hours. Members visiting upscale areas should avoid walking along beaches after dark, when the risk of sexual assault and armed robbery increases, and refrain from carrying valuables such as passports, jewelry and expensive electronic equipment. For city-specific travel advice, visit our website.

Travel Advice Summary

  • Crime poses a significant risk to travelers. Observe stringent security precautions at all times and be aware of the local geography, taking care to avoid high-risk districts. Avoid large crowds and leave an area at the first sign of any disturbance.
  • Criminals are commonly armed and are liable to resort to violence if resisted; if targeted, avoid doing anything to resist or antagonize assailants.
  • The 20 September bus attack highlights that public transport is not sufficiently secure for foreigners. Use only official taxis or hire a private vehicle and driver.
  • Accommodation should provide basic security countermeasures; mainstream-brand chains with enhanced security standards are recommended. Avoid walking in city streets after dark, especially if alone. If you are walking, take only brightly-lit, busy streets. Avoid walking through isolated stretches of beach at any time of the day.

Mexico: Urban centers: Avoid protests linked to anniversary of students' disappearance on 26 September due to risk of unrest

Travelers in the capital Mexico City and other urban centers should anticipate and avoid protests ahead of and on 26 September linked to the first anniversary of the disappearance of 43 students from Iguala (Guerrero state). The missing students' parents late on 23 September commenced a hunger strike at the Zócalo (main square) in Mexico City, which will conclude with protests involving the participation of various political groups on 26 September. Activists in the capital on that day will march from four different points – Auditorio Nacional, Calzada Zaragoza, Indios Verdes and Tasqueña – and congregate on the Zócalo.

The Zócalo, Paseo de la Reforma, the Angel of Independence monument and the Monument to the Revolution are common gathering points for such demonstrations in Mexico City. Rallies are also likely in cities throughout Guerrero state, including Acapulco and the state capital Chilpancingo.

Activists on 23 September blocked entrances to Tixtla (Guerrero) and occupied several buildings including the city hall after at least 13 people, including 11 police officers, were injured when clashes erupted during a related gathering on the previous day in the town. Protesters set fire to a vehicle and threw stones and Molotov cocktails at the police when the latter attempted to prevent demonstrators from marching towards Chilpancingo (Guerrero). The security forces subsequently used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Disturbances were also reported during similar protests in Chilpancingo on 20 and 23 September.

Travel Advice

  • Liaise with local contacts for information on related protests. All events are likely to be well-attended and should be avoided due to a credible risk of unrest.
  • Likely protest flashpoints include central plazas, government buildings – particularly education ministry facilities – and critical transport infrastructure, including major roads and airports.
  • Members undertaking overland journeys, including to international airports, should reconfirm the status of routes prior to setting out.
  • Do not attempt to cross roadblocks as this may elicit a hostile response from protesters.
  • The above advice is not exhaustive; consult the Standing Travel Advice for Mexico.

Peru: Madre de Dios department: Normal travel can continue following illegal detention of tourists; exercise basic security precautions

At least 35 local nationals and foreign tourists were illegally detained on 23 September by around 200 residents of Boca Manu, a community in Manu National Park (Madre de Dios department). The tour group, which reportedly included Australian, Dutch, Spanish and US nationals, was later released unharmed at around 15.00 (local time) on the following day. Community members temporarily took the tourists captive as a bargaining tool in a dispute with the federal government over the construction of a highway through the region.

Travel Briefing

Such incidents are uncommon in Madre de Dios, a largely undeveloped area in the Amazon basin. The region is sparsely populated apart from a few relatively small urban centres; crimes targeting foreigners and disruptive social unrest are less prevalent than in larger cities such as the capital Lima and Arequipa (Arequipa department).

Nevertheless, the illegal detention of the foreign tourists in Boca Manu underscores that no area is immune. Although normal travel may continue, travelers should remain vigilant and carefully plan all aspects of their itinerary prior to travel. Members should be confident in their accommodation, transport, communication and security arrangements, particularly before entering remote areas where the authorities' ability to operate may be limited or delayed.

Travel Advice Summary

  • Normal travel to Madre de Dios department may continue.
  • Although the recent incident is unusual for the area, exercise vigilance and basic security precautions as no area is immune to criminality or social unrest.
  • Carefully plan all aspects of itineraries and ensure confidence in accommodation, transport, communication and security arrangements prior to travel, particularly in remote areas.
  • Monitor our travel security alerts on Peru for further information.

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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 


8.3-magnitude earthquake in Chile; Affects Americas, New Zealand, Pacific Islands

17 September 2015

Last night just before 8pm local time, a strong 8.3-magnitude earthquake struck off the cost of Chile forcing about 1 million people to evacuate along the coast after tsunami warnings were issued. At least ten people were killed in the earthquake, which has been followed by more than 70 aftershocks, several of which have had magnitudes greater than six. Structural damage to buildings, landslides and resultant roadblocks has been reported. Some of the country's interior roads have also reportedly been affected by landslides, and communication networks have been disrupted. Around 3,000 people have reportedly been affected by disruption to water supplies, while around 100,000 people have been affected by disruption to electricity, primarily in Illapel, Salamanca and other areas of Region IV in Chile. Global Risk & Safety worked immediately to identify any travelers in the region, to assess risk factors and to provide support.

Tsunami Warnings were issued for: Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Hawaii, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, New Zealand, French Polynesia, American Samoa, Cook Islands, Fiji, Japan, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, New Caledonia, Samoa, the Solomon Islands, Tonga, Vanuatu, and Wallis and Futuna. According to International SOS (ISOS), normal travel can continue in the Americas, but New Zealand and the Pacific Islands are still under a Tsunami Warning.

ISOS Travel Advice for Chile

  • Follow all directives issued by the emergency services. Communicate with all staff and confirm their status.
  • Further aftershocks of varying magnitudes are possible in the coming hours and days and could pose risks to life and property. Be alert to the dangers posed by any structural damage to buildings and bridges; do not re-enter damaged buildings.
  • Contact the relevant airline to ascertain the status of your flight. Residual delays to flights are possible in the coming hours and days.
  • Anticipate possible disruption to travel and essential services in earthquake-affected areas. Routes may be blocked by debris or subject to closure by the authorities with little or no notice. Liaise with local contacts to ascertain that intended routes are clear before setting out. Ensure that your vehicle is appropriate for the terrain, and always carry adequate communications systems, full spares and enough fuel to complete your return journey.
  • Monitor the National Office of Emergency of the Interior Ministry (ONEMI)'s website and our travel security alerts for further updates.

ISOS Travel Advice for New Zealand and the Pacific Islands

  • Follow all directives issued by the emergency services, especially in coastal areas.
  • Avoid low-lying coastal areas and beaches in affected areas in the coming hours or until the tsunami threat has passed.
  • Monitor our travel security alerts for further updates.

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 UTDP at 512-471-4441.

 


Train assault in India reminder to observe safety precautions

14 September 2015

A U.S. national traveling on a train from India’s capital city Delhi to Jaipur was recently assaulted, underscoring the need to maintain situational awareness and observe basic security precautions while traveling. According to International SOS (ISOS), the victim disembarked the train in the wrong city after two fellow passengers convinced him he had arrived in Jaipur. The victim was struck on the head, but was not robbed.

About train travel in India, ISOS writes, “Incidents of crime occur frequently on trains and around railway stations. Incidents can involve criminals striking up a conversation with a fellow passenger and offering them spiked food and drinks, though more elaborate confidence tricks by organized criminal gangs and armed robberies are also known to occur.” Similarly, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) warns that theft of personal property is common on trains and buses, and that theft of U.S. passports is a particular concern on overnight trains and in train stations.

ISOS: India train travel advice

  • Where possible, travel longer distances by air. Where air travel is not a viable option, travel by rail is preferable to long car journeys. If travelling by rail, use first- and second-class air-conditioned coaches only to ensure comfort, mitigate the risk of opportunistic petty crime, and in the case of female travelers, the risk of harassment.
  • Take sensible security precautions to mitigate the risks posed by crime. Such measures include not accepting any food/drinks from fellow passengers, maintaining a high level of information security (do not give out personal information or discuss your plans with strangers), and telling fellow passengers that a local contact will arrive at the destination station to receive them, even if that is not the case.

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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 


Turkey: U.S. consulate shooting and police station bombing in Istanbul

10 August 2015

UT travelers in Turkey are advised to anticipate heightened security and increased spot-checks as security forces conduct investigations related to today’s outbreak of violence in Istanbul. At around 1:00 am local time, a bomb blast followed by a shootout at a police station in Istanbul’s Sultanbeyli neighborhood injured several people. Later, assailants opened fire at the U.S. consulate in the Sariyer district, though no casualties were reported. Meanwhile, four police officers were killed by a roadside bomb in the southeastern province in Sirnak.

According to International SOS (ISOS), it is unclear at this time whether the shooting at the US consulate was carried out in co-ordination with the Sultanbeyli bombing.

ISOS Travel Advice Summary

  • Avoid the vicinity of the US consulate and the surrounding area until the situation becomes clearer.
  • Members with meetings at the US consulate or in need of consular services should contact the consulate by phone before their visit.
  • Anticipate heightened security and increased spot-checks as the security forces conduct investigations; allow additional travel time and carry personal identification to ease movement through checkpoints.
  • There is a credible risk of terrorist attacks in major cities, including Istanbul and the capital Ankara. Government and security personnel or facilities, and Western interests are potential targets for attack. Be alert to suspicious behaviour and report any suspect packages to the authorities.
  • Monitor our travel security alerts on Turkey for additional updates (www.internationalsos.com; UT Member ID: 11BSGC000037).

The U.S. Consulate General in Istanbul plans to reopen on August 11th. 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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

By Gabriela Rios, UT Global Risk & Safety

 


Updated Worldwide Caution

31 July 2015

The Department of State has updated its Worldwide Caution to provide information on the continuing threat of terrorist actions and violence against U.S. citizens and interests throughout the world. Recent terrorist attacks, whether by those affiliated with terrorist entities, copycats, or individual perpetrators, serve as a reminder that U.S. citizens need to maintain a high level of vigilance and take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated January 9, 2015.

The Department of State remains concerned about the continued threat of terrorist attacks, demonstrations, and other violent actions against U.S. citizens and interests overseas. The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) published this informative annotated version of the Worldwide Caution.

All UT faculty, staff, and students currently abroad or planning travel abroad are strongly encouraged to read this. 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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 


Asia Update – Storms, Ash, and Stampede

10 July 2015

As a precaution, Global Risk and Safety would like to alert travelers about multiple situations ongoing in Asia. Travelers in these vicinities are encouraged to contact friends and family to let them know they are safe. More...

 


 

General Safety and Security Alert for Travelers

30 June 2015

Worldwide caution still in effect

All travelers are urged to maintain awareness of their surroundings and to report any suspicious persons, packages, or activities.   It is also important to maintain a current emergency response plan at all times, and to be aware that phone and computer networks might be inoperable after a significant event.  As a reminder, the Department of State issued a Worldwide Caution in January that remains active. More...

 


Mid-East, North Africa, Asia & Pacific: Remain alert during planned broadcast of cartoons of Muslim prophet

19 June 2015

Travelers in the Middle East, Africa, Asia, and the Pacific, should monitor developments related to the planned broadcast of controversial cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammed on Dutch television on 20 June, 24 June, and 3 July. Below is some regional guidance offered by International SOS (ISOS). UT travelers are strongly encouraged to visit the ISOS website (UT Member ID: 11BSGC000037) for country-specific travel advice. More...

 


Hurricane Season 2015

16 June 2015

The Department of State has issued a Travel Alert for U.S. citizens about the upcoming Hurricane Season in the Atlantic and Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The alert includes information about season predictions, travel advice, and regional resources. Travelers to these regions should read the full text of the alert. More...

 


 

Holy month of Ramadan begins 18 June

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan begins 18 June and is expected to end around 17 July, with a three-day public holiday celebrating Eid-al-Fitr. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking, and smoking during daylight hours. Businesses in areas with large Muslim populations often reduce working hours and close restaurants during the day in observation of this sacred time. Travelers should expect disruption to business activity and respect cultural sensitivities. More...

 


South Korea: MERS-CoV UPDATE

Updated: 12 June 2015

The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recently posted a Security Message for U.S. Citizens to report that the list of MERS-affected hospitals has expanded. The full list can be found on this U.S. Embassy webpage: Latest Update on Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV). More...

 


 

South Korea:  MERS-CoV Precautions

June 5, 2015

South Korea now has more than 40 confirmed MERS cases stemming from a gentleman who recently returned from the Middle East.  MERS spreads through direct contact with infected camels and/or close personal contact with an infected person.  Most transmission can be avoided by practicing proper hygiene, washing hands frequently, covering one's mouth when coughing, avoiding touching one's face with unwashed hands, and keeping a distance from anyone coughing or sneezing.  The most common symptoms include fever, coughing, and respiratory distress.  If experiencing these symptoms, please seek medical attention. More...

 


 

Mexico:  Avoid Political Gatherings and Polling Stations in Run-up to June 7 Elections

June 2, 2015

As a security precaution, International SOS recommends avoiding political gatherings and polling stations until after the June 7 elections, as there is an increased risk of violence and unrest. Elections include federal legislative mid-terms, as well as state and local elections in the Federal District and the states of Baja California SurCampecheColimaGuanajuatoGuerreroJaliscoMexicoMichoacánMorelosNuevo LeónQuerétaroSan Luis PotosíSonoraTabasco, and Yucatán. More...

 


 

Alcohol Abroad

May 6, 2015

The Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) released a report noting that alcohol poisoning has been identified as the cause of a recent string of 23 deaths and an additional 10 illnesses in Nigeria.  For this reason, they issued cautions about consuming alcohol abroad, as many risks associated with consuming alcohol abroad are not prevalent in the U.S.  Read the full article here: Shaken: The Don’ts of Alcohol AbroadMore...

 


Nepal Update

April 30, 2015

Due to the ongoing crisis in Nepal and its impact on infrastructure, International SOS recommends deferring all travel to the region. For this reason, the International Oversight Committee (IOC) has raised the overall risk rating for Nepal to Category 2 - High Risk. All travel to UT Restricted Regions must be reviewed and approved by the IOC. More...

 


ISOS Special Advisory: Nepal

April 27, 2015

UT is closely monitoring as events continue to unfold in Nepal and parts of India after the recent 7.9 earthquake. Below is the recent Special Advisory publised by International SOS, followed by the most current Travel Advice.

SPECIAL ADVISORY: Defer all travel after large earthquake causes extensive damage, significantly disrupts travel, essential services

Members should continue to defer all travel to Nepal after a magnitude 7.9 earthquake struck on 25 April around 50 miles (80km) north-west of the capital Kathmandu, killing more than 3,000 people and injuring up to 6,500. At least 60 aftershocks measuring more than 4.0 in magnitude have occurred in the region; the strongest registered at 6.7 magnitude and occurred around 40 miles (65km) east of Kathmandu at around 12.54 (local time) on 26 April. Further tremors are possible in the coming days, posing a threat to life and property. More...

 


 

New South Wales, Australia: Expect residual disruption in Sydney, elsewhere following cyclonic storm

April 23, 2015

A severe storm moved across southeast Australia on Tuesday and Wednesday, downing trees and causing flash flooding. More than 200,000 homes lost power during the storm, and several routes remain partially closed due to flooding and fallen trees. According to International SOS, "The authorities have declared 12 areas around Sydney and Newcastle (New South Wales) to be natural disaster zones, namely Cessnock, Dungog, Gosford, Great Lakes, Lake Macquarie, Maitland, Newcastle City, Pittwater, Port Stephens, Singleton, Warringah and Wyong. At least four people were killed in storm-related incidents in Hunter." More...

 


 

Mexico and spring break travel risks

6 March 2015

Recently, the Texas Department of Public Safety issued a warning to students planning spring break travel to Mexico:

DPS also urges Texans to avoid travel to Mexico. The Mexican government has made great strides battling the cartels, and the department commends their continued commitment to that effort. DPS also has a responsibility to inform the public about safety and travel risks and threats, and based on the unpredictable nature of cartel violence and other criminal elements, the department urges individuals to avoid travel to Mexico at this time.

There is an active U.S. Department of State Mexico Travel Warning, which includes information about the risks of travel by state. In Matamoros, which is the closest border city to South Padre Island, the specific risks include: gun battles, attacks with explosive devices, and kidnapping. Specific risks are also detailed for Acapulco, Puerto Vallarta, and Mazatlan. More...

 


 

Safety Update: Italy

The UT International Office is closely monitoring reports of an ISIS threat against Italy. The health and safety of UT travelers remains our highest priority, and we are in regular contact with our study abroad partners in the region.  We will update this post with developments, if necessary.

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, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 


Mexico: Increased activity at Popocatepetl and Colima volcanoes

16 February 2015

This weekend, volcanic activity increased at the Popocatépetl (Mexico, Morelos and Puebla states) and Colima (Colima and Jalisco states) volcanoes. According to International SOS, operations at Puebla’s Hermanos Serdán International Airport (PBC) were temporarily disrupted on Sunday, and Jalisco Civil Protection and Firefighter Unit (UEPC) advised the public to remain alert to ashfall in the vicinity of the Colima volcano. More...

 


Updated Worldwide Caution

An updated Worldwide Caution has been issued by the U.S. Department of State. This replaces the Worldwide Caution dated October 10, 2014, to provide updated information on the continuing threat of terrorist activities against U.S. citizens and interests worldwide. UT travelers are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance, to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness, and to keep in regular contact with family and friends.

Please read the full contents by clicking here:  Worldwide Caution

If you are abroad and find yourself in need of immediate assistance, please contact International SOS anytime 24/7 at 1-215-942-8478, or call UTPD at 512-471-4441.

 


France: Ongoing hostage situations; rallies

9 January 2015

Events in and around Paris continue to unfold this morning with two separate hostage situations related to Wednesdays attack on the satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo and to Thursdays shooting of a policewoman. More...

 


France shooting: Update

8 January 2015

This morning, International SOS released an updated Special Advisory titled “Police officer killed in shooting in south-western suburb; anticipate increased security.” According to ISOS, a police officer was killed and another person was injured when two unidentified men opened fire on them on Avenue Pierre Brossolette in Châtillon. One of the assailants was arrested by the security forces soon afterwards. More...

 


Safety Update: France - Avoid area around Boulevard Richard Lenoir following fatal shooting

7 January 2015

Earlier today, three armed men killed at least 12 people at a satirical magazine office in Paris today. Police are currently searching for the three gunmen who are believed to be at-large in the north-eastern suburbs of the city. According to International SOS (ISOS), travelers should avoid the area around Boulevard Richard Lenoir and anticipate heightened security. More...

 


Travel Alert: Worldwide

6 January  2015

On December 19th, the U.S. Department of State issued the Worldwide Travel Alert below following the cafe bombing in Sydney, Australia that took place on December 15th. UT travelers who are currently abroad are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. More...

 


Safe Holiday Season Travel

4 December 2014

Are you planning a trip abroad this holiday season? The winter holidays are one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, and many people take advantage of the extended vacation to embark on international travel.  Before you leave for the airport, here’s something to keep in mind. More...

 


 

South Pacific Tropical Cyclone Season: 2014-2015

10 October 2014

The State Department has issued a Travel Alert warning U.S. citizens traveling in the South Pacific region about the ongoing threat of cyclones affecting the area. The season begins on November 1st and ends on April 30th. Travelers to the region should read the full text of the alert. More...

 


 

China: Avoid ongoing protests in Hong Kong

30 September 2014

UT would like to remind all travelers not to get involved in protests while abroad. Protests in Hong Kong are expected to increase over the next week, particularly on 1-2 October, which are public holidays; related demonstrations will also boost the number of participants. More...

 


Jordan: Coalition strikes against ISIS

24 September 2014

On September 23, 2014 the U.S. Embassy in Jordan published a Security Message for U.S. Citizens regarding the coalition strikes against the Islamic State (ISIS, or ISIL) in Syria. As Jordan is a member of that coalition, the Embassy advises maintaining a heightened level of vigilance while traveling, but states it “has no specific information on increased potential for threats against U.S. Citizens.” However, according to International SOS, “There is an underlying risk both of small-scale opportunistic and large-scale terrorist attack by Islamist extremists.” More...

 


Update: Ebola outbreak in West Africa – NEW CDC RECOMMENDATIONS

9 September 2014

As recommended by the Ebola prevention guidelines published by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), UT-Austin strongly urges anyone who has traveled within the past 21 days to countries where Ebola outbreaks are occurring to conduct a short risk assessment.

More...

 


Be prepared for travel disruption: Bárðarbunga volcano activity in Iceland

26 August 2014

The current level of seismic activity at the Bárðarbunga volcano means flight disruption in Iceland's airspace may occur at short notice if an eruption and associated ash emission occur. More...

 


UPDATE: Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

4 August 2014

Summary

The ongoing Ebola outbreak in West Africa hit the news again last week after a spike in the number of cases. The shocking numbers recently published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (1323 cases and 729 deaths as of July 27th) affirm headlines calling this the largest Ebola outbreak in history. These headlines are intimidating, but it is important to remember that it is a rare disease that is not easily contracted. More...

 


 

UPDATE: Israeli-Palestinian conflict intensifies

25 July 2014

On July 21, the U.S. Department of State updated an existing Travel Warning for Israel, which recommended that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to Israel and the West Bank and reaffirmed the longstanding advisory to U.S. citizens against any travel to the Gaza Strip. Immediately following the issuance of the Travel Warning, a rocket landed near Ben Gurion International Airport on July 22, ultimately causing the FAA to issue a 24-hour ban on U.S. carrier flights to Israel. That ban was extended for another 24 hours on July 23. The situation in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza remains very fluid.  More...

 


 

Israeli-Palestinian conflict intensifies

8 July 2014

Israeli and Palestinian hostilities have sharply escalated on Tuesday. The Israeli army has said it will launch an offensive operation against the Gaza Strip in response to a surge in rocket attacks on Monday. 1,500 reservists have been called-up with the potential to recall 40,000 additional reservists for a possible ground invasion. You can read more media coverage here and here. We are monitoring the situation very closely, and are in contact with our students in the region. More...

 


Holy month of Ramadan begins

3 July 2014

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan began last week. During Ramadan, Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours. Travelers in regions with large Muslim populations may notice businesses operating at reduced hours, and that restaurants and cafes are closed during the day. While it is not typically required for non-Muslims to observe Ramadan, eating, drinking, or smoking in public can be considered insensitive, and may incur some form of government sanction in some countries. The period is expected to end around 28-29 July, with a three-day public holiday celebrating Eid-al-Fitr. More...

 


 

Brazil 2014 FIFA World Cup

6 June 2014

“…11 of the 30 most violent cities in the world are in Brazil; these include seven of the 12 cities that will be hosting matches of the FIFA Football World Cup.” – International SOS

Brazil takes football seriously. There have been 19 FIFA World Cup (FWC) tournaments since 1930, and Brazil is the only nation that competed in all 19, taking home the win 5 times. This year, Brazil will host the 2014 World Cup for the first time in 64 years. The FWC will be hosted in 12 cities across Brazil starting on June 12th. More...

 


 

Hurricane Season 2014

30 May 2014

The Department of State has issued a Travel Alert for U.S. citizens about the upcoming Hurricane Season in the Atlantic and Pacific, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The alert includes information about season predictions, travel advice, and resources. More...

 


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

14 May 2014

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS-CoV) is a viral respiratory illness first reported in Saudi Arabia in 2012. Most people with the infection develop severe acute respiratory illness that includes fever, cough, and shortness of breath. MERS-CoV cases surged in April. According to International SOS (ISOS), as of May 10th, so far “520 cases have been reported worldwide, including at least 148 deaths.” Officials do not know where the virus came from or exactly how it spreads, and at this time there is no vaccine. More...

 


Ebola Outbreak in West Africa

5 May 2014

“This is one of the most challenging Ebola outbreaks that we have ever faced.”
- Assistant Director-General Dr. Keija Fukuda, World Health Organization (WHO)

For just over one month, medical and health organizations worldwide have been tracking an Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Ebola is a rare and extremely contagious virus with a high mortality rate. Symptoms include fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting, and appear anywhere from 2 to 21 days after exposure. Visit this Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) site for more information about signs and symptoms. More...

 


Passport Security

17 April 2014

The investigation surrounding the disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has revealed that two passengers were traveling on stolen passports, exposing a lack of passport security screening in airports. Most readers have heard of stolen identification cards; Austin culture is imbued with a rich nightlife which is often only accessed with proof of age. The implications of stolen passports are much broader. According to the Overseas Security Advisory Council, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble states that “in every major terrorist attack…you can find fraudulent travel documents tied or linked in some way,” and called passport fraud “the biggest threat facing the world.” More...

 


India: Travel Risks and Safety Concerns

17 March 2014

Many recent headlines about India have focused on the brutal 2012 gang-rape of a woman on a bus in Delhi, and recently on the rape of a Danish woman who was sightseeing in the nation’s capital. According to Human Rights Watch, there has been an increase in reports of sexual assault in recent years, and Business Insider has listed India as the most dangerous country for women to travel. While the focus on women’s safety is important, all travelers to the region should be aware of the various health and safety risks, and how to mitigate them. More...

 


Spring Break in Mexico: Understanding the risks

5 March 2014

“Nothing in the behavior of Mexican cartels indicates that they would consciously keep tourists out of the line of fire.”
 – Stratfor Global Intelligence

Mexico remains the top international destination for students on Spring Break. Each year, UT Austin seeks to remind students about the risks of travel into Mexico, but according to Stratfor Global Intelligence, students often don’t read about the risks before they travel. Stratfor warns that “as a result, many regular visitors to Mexican resort areas believe they are safe from transnational criminal organizations, more commonly known as cartels.” Additionally, Stratfor writes that “there is a misconception that cartels want to avoid interfering with the profitable tourism industry, or that they only target Mexican citizens. This simply is not true.” More...

 


“All That You Should Leave Behind”

27 February 2014

When it’s time to start packing for your trip abroad, it can be overwhelming trying to decide what to take. What some people forget to think about is what not to take. The TSA Prohibited Items page is a great way to find out what not to take on the plane as you leave the U.S., but what about what you shouldn’t have when you arrive in your destination? Luckily, the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) recently published the following essay to help travelers start thinking about what they should leave behind. Read the article...

 


Carnival Safety Update

21 February 2014

If you’re in South America this semester, you’re probably very aware that it’s Carnival season!  In fact, many countries around the world hold festivities to mark the period before the Catholic observance of Lent. Carnival typically involves a public celebration or parade combining some elements of a circus, mask, and public street party. People often dress up or masquerade during the celebrations, which marks an overturning of daily life. The largest celebrations will be in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where almost 500 parades will take place all over the city, drawing close to 5 million people between February 28 and March 4. More...

 


US Department of State and International SOS Issue Travel Alerts for Egypt

6 February 2014

On January 30, the US Department of State updated its Egypt Travel Alert, cautioning US citizens about the risks of traveling to Egypt posed by the country’s continuing political and social unrest.  Subsequently, International SOS released travel alerts for Egypt, cautioning travelers about the increased risk of unrest during the trial of former president Morsi and other key dates likely to have increased activism.  Both the US Department of State and International SOS strongly advise travelers to avoid all demonstrations and to exercise caution in areas susceptible to protest. More...

 


Are the 2014 Sochi Olympic Games Safe?  US Department of State Issues Travel Alert for the Games

30 January 2014

Recent suicide bombings at a train station and on a trolley bus in Russia heightened worries regarding the safety of the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, which will take place February 7 – March 16. Moreover, uneasiness over the treatment of LGBT athletes and fans persists since a law banning “LGBT propaganda” passed in June 2013.  Addressing these concerns and others, the US Department of State issued a Travel Alert on January 10 (that was revised on January 24) advising U.S. citizens attending the games to “remain attentive about their personal security at all times.” More...

 


Israel: Travel Risks and Safety Concerns

17 January 2014

Israel has been making major headlines over the last several weeks, with the death of former Prime Minister and controversial public figure Ariel Sharon, major protests by African immigrants, and the ongoing peace talks between Israel and Palestine pushed by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.  Additionally, there have been more clashes between Israeli settlers and Palestinians in the West Bank and between Lebanon and the Israeli army.  Meanwhile, Israel stays cautious about spillover effects and political repercussions from the major political upheavals in bordering countries Egypt and Syria. More...

 


Panama: Dengue transmission reaches epidemic levels

7 January 2014

On Friday, January 3, International SOS sent out a medical alert warning that Dengue transmission has reached epidemic levels in Panama.  It states, "Panama City Metropolitan Region and the province of Bocas del Toro are most affected. The disease is spread by mosquitoes, and is present in both rural and urban areas. Dengue can cause a range of symptoms and has no particular treatment. Some people, especially those who have been infected before, get a more severe form that can lead to fatal complications." More...

 


 

Staying Healthy & Safe This Holiday Travel Season

11 December 2013

Are you planning a trip abroad this holiday season? The winter holidays are one of the busiest travel seasons of the year, and many people take advantage of the extended vacation to embark on international travel.  As you plan out your activities and scope out the best restaurants and museums, make sure to spend some time researching and planning for your health and safety, too. More...

 


Crime Trends and Safety in Latin America

2 December 2013

From the snowcapped mountains of the Patagonia and the jungles of the Amazon to the historical wonders of Machu Picchu and Tikal to the many rich and diverse cultures throughout the region, it is no wonder that Latin America is a popular destination for UT students, whether studying abroad, conducting research, or just traveling for pleasure.  While thousands of U.S. citizens and others throughout the world travel to Latin America without incident, UT travelers should be aware of common trends in crime and the associated risks, and heed appropriate cautions.  More...

 


Restricted Regions – F.A.Q. for Individual Students

11 October 2013

It’s October, and many students are preparing for travel abroad this winter or next spring. Students traveling for any UT-related purpose to a UT Restricted Region need to request International Oversight Committee review. More...

 


 

Turkey: New State Department Travel Warning

6 September 2013

A new U.S. Department of State Travel Warning has been issued for Turkey, to warn U.S. citizens that "the U.S. Consulate General in Adana has been authorized to draw down its non-emergency staff and family members because of threats against U.S. government facilities and personnel." The Department of State recommends that U.S. citizens defer non-essential travel to southeastern Turkey. More...

 


Planning for a safe trip

30 August 2013

A few weeks ago, the U.S. Department of State issued a short-term worldwide travel alert about the "continued potential threat for terrorist attacks." That alert expires this weekend, but it’s important for travelers to continue to maintain awareness of ongoing travel risks.  More...

 


Quarterly updates to Restricted Regions List

14 August 2013

The UT Restricted Regions List undergoes a thorough quarterly review (although the list may be updated year-round, as conditions warrant). When planning your travel abroad, it is always important to check online for the most current Restricted Regions List. More...

 


Brazil: Security operations in northern Rio de Janeiro; reprisals by criminal gangs possible

7 August 2013

Violence in Rio de Janeiro is usually associated with what International SOS (ISOS) calls "deprived urban areas," or slums. Known as "favelas" in Portuguese, these areas are rated as HIGH risk regions. According to ISOS, security forces frequently conduct raids targeting favelas in an attempt to crack down on organized criminal gangs and evict drugs and arms traffickers. These raids entail a persistent risk of firefights between the two sides as well as reprisal attacks by gang members. More...

 


Update: U.S. diplomatic mission closures extended until 10 August

5 August 2013

The U.S. Department of State has announced that many of the diplomatic missions closed over the weekend will remain so through 10 August. These include Amman (Jordan), Cairo (Egypt), Riyadh, Dhahran, and Jeddah (all Saudi Arabia), Doha (Qatar), Kuwait City (Kuwait), Manama (Bahrain), Muscat (Oman), Tripoli (Libya), Antananarivo (Madagascar), Bujumbura (Burundi), Djibouti City (Djibouti), Khartoum (Sudan), Kigali (Rwanda), Port Louis (Mauritius), Abu Dhabi and Dubai (United Arab Emirates (UAE)), Sanaa (Yemen), and Dhaka (Bangladesh). More...

 


Travel Alert: Worldwide

2 August 2013

The U.S. Department of State has issued the Worldwide Travel Alert below about the continued potential for terrorist attacks, particularly in the Middle East and North Africa. UT travelers who are currently abroad are reminded to maintain a high level of vigilance and to take appropriate steps to increase their security awareness. If you are currently abroad and find yourself in need of immediate assistance please contact International SOS anytime 24/7 at 1-215-942-8226 (main line) or 1-215-942-8478 (dedicated scholastic hotline), or call UTPD at 512-471-4441. More...

 


Embassy closures due to unspecified security threat: Middle East, North Africa, Asia

2 August 2013

The U.S. Department of State has announced that a number of U.S. embassies and consulates that are normally open for business on Sundays – mostly in the Middle East, North Africa, and Asia – will be closed on 4 August as a precaution due to an unspecified security threat.

Accordingly, all U.S. diplomatic missions in Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Mauritania, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen will be closed on the day. Some closures may be extended beyond Sunday. More...

 


Updated Travel Warning for Mexico

16 July 2013

On 12 July, the U.S. Department of State updated the Travel Warning for Mexico "to consolidate and update information about the security situation and to advise the public of additional restrictions on the travel of U.S. government (USG) personnel." State-by-state assessments of security conditions throughout Mexico are given to help understand regional threats. More...

 


Holy month of Ramadan begins

8 July 2013

The Islamic holy month of Ramadan is expected to commence on 8 or 9 July (depending on the sighting of the moon). Muslims abstain from eating, drinking and smoking during daylight hours during Ramadan. Travelers in regions with large Muslim populations may notice businesses operating at reduced hours, and that restaurants and cafes are closed during the day. More...


Egypt: Clashes ahead of 30 June protests highlight need to review travel plans

27 June 2013

Travelers to Egypt ahead of the first anniversary of President Mohammed Morsi's inauguration on 30 June are advised to review their travel plans, in view of a rise in social unrest. According to International SOS, one person was killed and more than 200 were injured on 26 June in clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents in Mansoura (Dakahlia governorate). A rally by thousands of supporters of Islamist political parties turned violent as it was intercepted by secular protesters; the police fired tear gas but were unable to effectively contain the unrest. More...

 


Brazil: Nationwide protests cause travel disruption, potential for violence

18 June 2013

The U.S. Department of State Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) reports that on Monday, 11 Brazilian cities were impacted by some of the largest protests seen in 20 years. A recent report stated that, “while the protesters represented multiple causes, they were primarily focused on a rise in bus fare, public expenditure around the Confederations and 2014 World Cup, excessive use of force by police, inequity, nepotism, and corruption in Brazil.” Crowds varied in each city, from 3,000 in Brasilia to 65,000 in Sao Paulo, and nearly 100,000 in Rio de Janeiro. More...

 


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV)

11 June 2013

A novel coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV) has been identified in several Middle East and European countries. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “coronaviruses are common worldwide. They usually cause colds.” However, since its discovery in 2012, MERS-CoV has infected over 50 people and has resulted in over 30 deaths. More...

 


New Travel Alert: Turkey

6 June 2013

On 4 June the U.S. Department of State issued a new Travel Alert for Turkey about the the continuing public demonstrations taking place throughout the country. There have been numerous reports of violence, injuries, and at least two confirmed deaths resulting from or related to clashes between protestors and Turkish law enforcement authorities.  U.S. citizens are urged to remain alert to local security developments and to be vigilant regarding their personal security. More...

 


Emergency Message for U.S. Citizens: Protests throughout Turkey

Update: 3 June 2013

The U.S. Embassy informs U.S. citizens that public demonstrations are taking place throughout Turkey at varying times and with little notice.   Violent altercations have occurred in Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, Adana, Mersin, and elsewhere.  The continuing protests in Istanbul are centered on the Taksim and Besiktas areas, but others may occur elsewhere in the city as well.  More...

 


Flooding, heavy rainfall to persist in central Europe

3 June 2013

Reports on 3 June (Telegraph, Spiegel, Al Jazeera), indicate that thousands of people have been evacuated from several parts of central Europe due to heavy rainfall and consequent flooding, particularly in the Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland and Austria. Significant disruption to overland travel is expected to persist as further rainfall is forecast in the coming days in the region. More...

 


Protests, unrest in Turkey

3 June 2013

Protests last week against plans for commercial redevelopment of a park in Istanbul escalated into violent demonstrations in several Turkish cities over a range of social issues this weekend.  Clashes between demonstrators and the police increased, resulting in alleged injuries from tear-gas canisters and water cannon. More...

 


Hurricane Season 2013

31 May 2013

The Department of State alerts U.S. citizens to the upcoming Hurricane Season in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The alert includes information abo