Mumps Diagnosed in Reykjavík Area

doctor nurse hospital health

A case of mumps was diagnosed in Iceland’s capital area in early February. Now, a second person connected to the first case has also been diagnosed with the illness. Mumps is a viral respiratory infection that has been quite rare in Iceland since 1989, though a few outbreaks have occurred since then.

Those who were exposed to the positive mumps cases have been informed by health authorities, according to a notice from the Directorate of Health. Those who were exposed and are unvaccinated were advised to stay away from others to reduce the risk of infection. The gestation period for mumps is about three weeks, so it is possible that other cases will emerge in Iceland.

Vaccination is the most effective protection against mumps and has been routine in Iceland since 1989. Since 2000, a few outbreaks have occurred, mainly in people born between 1985-1987. Older cohorts are generally considered immune due to frequent outbreaks prior to 1984.

Rates of measles rising in Europe

A case of measles was diagnosed in Iceland recently as well, in an adult traveller who had recently arrived from abroad. Chief Epidemiologist Guðrún Aspelund stated that measles infections are on the rise in Europe, which increases the likelihood of an outbreak in Iceland.

Sea Lice Outbreak Claims At Least 1 Million Salmon in Tálknafjörður

Tálknafjörður

An unprecedented outbreak of sea lice in Tálknafjörður has led to the loss, or the need to dispose of, at least one million salmon, affecting local aquaculture firms and prompting the procurement of foreign treatment vessels for the non-medicinal treatment of lice. The Iceland Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) will review the incident with the involved companies to devise future preventive measures, amidst ongoing investigations into the source of the infestation.

One million salmon perished or discarded

At least one million salmon have perished or been discarded due to an uncontrollable outbreak of sea lice in Tálknafjörður in the southern Westfjords. Speaking to Heimildin, Karl Steinar Óskarsson, Head of the Aquaculture Department at the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), stated that “no one had seen a sea lice infestation spread like this before.” The outbreak is currently affecting the fish pens of Arctic fish and Arnarlax in Tálknafjörður.

“That’s why they’re all being discarded. Nobody has seen anything like this before. There is a Norwegian veterinarian who has been working in Iceland because of this and he has never seen anything like this in his 30-year career,” Karl Steinar observed.

Karl Steinar added that there was no confirmed information on how the sea lice got into the fish pens operated by the aquaculture companies. Investigators are examining whether wild salmon transmitted the sea lice. However, nothing can be asserted in that regard at the moment.

Bacterial infection compounding lice problem

A press release published on the Food and Veterinary Authority’s website yesterday noted that upon examining the fish from Tálknafjörður it had been discovered that environmental bacteria were infecting the lice-induced wounds, making them significantly worse.

“These wounds lead to a loss in the fish’s ability to maintain essential ion balance in the body. In Tálknafjörður, this caused a portion of the fish to fall ill in a short amount of time. The fish that are now being discarded will be rendered and, among other uses, will contribute to fur animal feed. The fish will not be used for human consumption.”

MAST stated that it would review the incident with the companies, once operations are concluded, to suggest ways to limit such occurrences in the future.

Proliferation of sea lice in Patreksfjörður

The press release further notes that salmon farming companies in the southern part of the Westfjords have struggled to control the proliferation of sea lice in the fish pens in Patreksfjörður since last spring.

Since then, the Food and Veterinary Authority has recommended the concerned companies procure, as soon as possible, foreign treatment vessels for non-medicinal treatment of lice. This includes freshwater treatment, thermal treatment, and flushing. Such treatments kill the lice with little or no environmental impact.

As noted by MAST, efforts were made by the companies in the fall to bring treatment vessels to Iceland, but it seems that the demand for such vessels required more foresight, as they were in high demand. It was not possible to bring a vessel to the country until mid-October. MAST maintains that such a vessel must be stationed in the Westfjords from May through October every year, which is what the companies aim to do, starting in the spring of 2024.

Over 30 Norovirus Cases at Reykjavík Burger Chain

Health authorities in Reykjavík have received at least 15 reports of illness connected to two locations of the Reykjavík burger chain Hamborgarafabrikkan. One of the locations has since been closed, RÚV reports. The illness seems to be a norovirus infection, according to Óskar Ísfeld Sigurðsson, department head at the Reykjavík Health Authority. Óskar says the total number of people who have gotten ill is between 30 and 40.

The symptoms of norovirus infection are typically vomiting and diarrhoea. The infection can be dangerous for those with underlying illnesses or chronic conditions. A norovirus outbreak occurred at a hotel in East Iceland earlier this month, but there are no indications the two outbreaks are related.

Hamborgarafabrikkan is a popular chain and no such cases have occurred at the restaurant previously.

Cluster Infection in Directorate of Immigration Housing

COVID-19 test tubes

Eight new domestic infections diagnosed over the past two days are traced to a cluster infection in Directorate of Immigration housing in the capital area, RÚV reports. Rögnvaldur Ólafsson, assistant to the Director of the Civil Protection Department confirmed the information. Iceland reported a total of 12 new domestic cases of COVID-19 yesterday, 11 of which were in quarantine at the time of diagnosis.

Rögnvaldur stated that to his knowledge the individuals infected with COVID-19 were asylum seekers. The housing where the infection has occurred is for families, and is located in Hafnarfjörður, in the Reykjavík capital area.

Six of the eight infections were diagnosed yesterday and the other two the previous day. The six diagnosed yesterday had already been placed in quarantine. At least some of those who have tested positive have been moved to the publicly-operated quarantine hotel in Reykjavík.

Rögnvaldur stated that a number of others were in quarantine due to the outbreak but could not confirm how many. Contact tracing is still underway.

Iceland currently has 188 active cases of COVID-19. Thirty-three are in hospital and three in intensive care due to COVID-19, though most of these individuals are no longer actively infectious.

Icelandic Police Struggle to Reach Marginalised Group Exposed to COVID-19

Police officers in masks

A group of active drug users gathered in a house that later caught fire last week, Vísir reports. Two in the group tested positive for COVID-19 after the incident and police are working to find others in the group who may have been exposed. It’s proved a challenging task, as some of the individuals are homeless.

Capital area police have been working to find and contact nearly 20 individuals who could have been exposed to the SARS-CoV-2 virus at the apartment. “We’ve been contacting their groups and trying to meet them, invite them to get tested and try to explain to them what resources are available and then also try to inform them if they have been exposed and should be in quarantine, what that means and so on,” stated Ásgeir Þór Ásgeirsson, Chief Superintendent of the Capital Area Police.

Police have offered housing to those who must quarantine in a newly-opened government quarantine facility, the third to be established in the capital area. The new facility is specifically intended to house marginalised groups such as homeless individuals and those struggling with addiction. Ásgeir stated that police are doing everything they can to reach members of the group and ensure they receive the same service as others.

Healthcare Limited for Marginalised Groups

Guðmundur Ingi Þóroddsson, chairman of prisoner’s association Afstaða is concerned about the situation of active drug users, homeless people, and former prisoners in Iceland, particularly in light of the pandemic. “They have limited access to general health services and there are no treatments available for this group,” he stated, adding that there are indications that drug use has increased, illegal drugs have become more expensive and it has become more difficult for those using drugs to access healthcare. Though he says the opening of the quarantine facility for marginalised groups is a step in the right direction, the state and other municipalities need to follow suit.

COVID-19 in Iceland: Reykjavík Bars May Face Tighter Restrictions

Blaðamannafundur Covid-19 Corona Flensa Almannavarnir Ríkislögreglustjóri

The next few days will reveal whether Iceland’s recent spike in domestic COVID-19 cases is the beginning of a third wave, Chief Epidemiologist Þórólfur Guðnason stated. Iceland reported 19 new domestic cases yesterday and 13 the day before, representing a marked spike from recent weeks. One third of the cases have been linked to a downtown bar, while several others have been linked to the University of Iceland and Reykjavík University.

Stricter Measures Would Be Localised to Capital Area

Þórólfur made the remark at today’s COVID-19 briefing, held by Icelandic authorities in Reykjavík. In light of the rise in case numbers, the Chief Epidemiologist stated he would be recommending stricter restrictions for venues with liquor licences, i.e. restaurants and bars. His suggestions will be sent to the Health Minister today or tomorrow. As all of the new cases have arisen in the capital area, any measures implemented would likely be localised to that region.

A number of the new domestic cases have revealed a new strain of the virus, which arrived in Iceland via two tourists in August who were meant to be in quarantine. Most of the new cases that have arisen are among people around or under 30. One factor that will be considered in determining the level of restrictions imposed will be the severity of cases, stated Þórólfur. The current average age of those infected in the country is relatively young, at 39 years, which is one likely reason that only a single patient with COVID-19 is currently hospitalised.

Most Important to Stay Home if You’re Sick

At the briefing, both Þórólfur and Chief Superintendent Víðir Reynisson underlined the importance of individual preventative measures such as social distancing and handwashing. The most important preventative measure, stated Þórólfur, is staying home if you have any symptoms at all. “These actions are much more likely to be effective than rules and regulations from the government,” he stated. Víðir directed his words to employers, urging them to tell their staff to stay home if they are sick.

Iceland Review live-tweets COVID-19 briefings in English on our Twitter account, linked below.

Coronavirus Contingency Plan Activated

Keflavík Airport

Icelandic authorities have activated a contingency plan for infectious diseases due to the outbreak of the coronavirus. The Chief Epidemiologist for the Directorate of Health along with the Department of Civil Protection and Emergency Management are already working according to the plan, following on-hand contingency plans. A plan for disease prevention at international airports has also been activated specifically for Keflavík International Airport. The Icelandic Tourist Board will assist with ensuring that information about the virus reaches travellers around the country. 

Airport control

The operations at Keflavík airport are focused on detecting diseased individuals as well as those possibly infected. Passengers arriving in Iceland via Keflavík airport will be asked to report whether they have signs of respiratory disease. Passengers who have been in Wuhan, China in the past fourteen days, or have been in contact with individuals who have contracted the disease or are suspected of it are also asked to report. If arriving passengers fulfill any of these three requirements, a medical will take place at the airport. The results from the medical will determine the next course of action, but the quarantine of individuals is a possibility. 

The operations aim to find the diseased or possibly infected, to stop the spread of the disease in Iceland as soon as possible. Past experiences show it to be too costly and ineffective to measure every passenger using a thermometer, as well as placing a questionnaire. 

Health institutions activated

All health institutions in Iceland have been alerted about the new virus. They have been encouraged to update their contingency plans and look into other ways to prepare, such as creating quarantine facilities. Instructions for the public have been issued by the Directorate of Health on their website. The instructions specifically cover how individuals should act if suspicion of infection arises.

Coronavirus

The coronavirus is believed to have originated in a food market in Wuhan, China. The infection has now been confirmed in about 600 people, but the number of infected persons is probably significantly higher. Human to human transmission has been confirmed but does not yet appear to be common. No individual has yet been diagnosed in Europe, but the virus has been detected in a person in the United States that travelled from Wuhan city. There have been unconfirmed reports of infection in Scotland and Finland.

The current contingency plan that has been activated in Iceland is largely based on the 2002 outbreak of SARS

Further information on the Directorate of Health website (in English). Updates on the situation will be posted there, along with further instructions.

Measles Vaccination Initiative Underway

landspitali national university hospital iceland

3000 doses of measles vaccination have been sent to the country to combat the measles outbreak which started recently. A substantial operation is now underway in both the Reykjavík capital area as well as East Iceland to combat the spread of measles, focusing on 6 to 18-month-old children as well as unvaccinated adults.

The vaccination operation is a preventive measure first and foremost. So far, the operation has been a success, according to Óskar Reykdalsson, head of the health centres in the capital area. Around 1000 individuals were vaccinated in the capital area today. “It went well today. We had 19 health centres open today and we received somewhere around 1000 people. It was mostly children, and some amount of unvaccinated adults, but first and foremost children between six to eighteen months old,” Óskar stated.

Public health services have called for all individuals who have not been vaccinated to head immediately to their closest health center. It is expected that the 3000 vaccination doses will all have been used by the end of the weekend. More doses will be sent to the country in the beginning of next week.

Every person who has not been vaccinated should head to a health centre as soon as possible to get vaccinated for measles. Children that are between six to eighteen months old, along with those born after 1970, will have precedence.

The fifth case of measles in the country has already been confirmed as a kindergarten worker in Egilsstaðir, East Iceland, got infected. The person has now been put into isolation.

Further information in Icelandic about the vaccination initiative can be found here. Measles information is also available by calling the phone number 1700.