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Mon, 23 Oct 2017
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Health

Dengue fever outbreak passes 100,000 cases in Sri Lanka

© ISHARA S. KODIKARA/AFP/GETTY IMAGES
A worker fogs a neighborhood on the outskirts of Colombo in Sri Lanka in an effort to ward off mosquitoes. The country is facing an outbreak of dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease.
Sri Lanka celebrated its eradication of malaria last year. But now the country faces another mosquito-borne illness: dengue fever. It's also sometimes known as "breakbone fever" because of the severe pain it can cause.

A dengue outbreak has left some Sri Lankan hospitals so full that they're turning away patients, says Gerhard Tauscher, an operations manager with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. He is based in Colombo, the capital of Sri Lanka.

More than 107,000 suspected cases of dengue have been reported so far this year, according to Sri Lanka's ministry of health.

That's almost twice the number of people diagnosed with dengue in Sri Lanka last year. The death toll from this outbreak is about 300 people, the IFRC says.

Arrow Down

Green cronyism gone wild: It looks like the State of California is bailing out Tesla

© Twitter
The California state Assembly passed a $3-billion subsidy program for electric vehicles, dwarfing the existing program. The bill is now in the state Senate. If passed, it will head to Governor Jerry Brown, who has not yet indicated if he'd sign what is ostensibly an effort to put EV sales into high gear, but below the surface appears to be a Tesla bailout.

Tesla will soon hit the limit of the federal tax rebates, which are good for the first 200,000 EVs sold in the US per manufacturer beginning in December 2009 (IRS explanation). In the second quarter after the manufacturer hits the limit, the subsidy gets cut in half, from $7,500 to $3,750; two quarters later, it gets cut to $1,875. Two quarters later, it goes to zero.

Given Tesla's ambitious US sales forecast for its Model 3, it will hit the 200,000 vehicle limit in 2018, after which the phase-out begins. A year later, the subsidies are gone. Losing a $7,500 subsidy on a $35,000 car is a huge deal. No other EV manufacturer is anywhere near their 200,000 limit. Their customers are going to benefit from the subsidy; Tesla buyers won't.

This could crush Tesla sales. Many car buyers are sensitive to these subsidies. For example, after Hong Kong rescinded a tax break for EVs effective in April, Tesla sales in April dropped to zero. The good people of Hong Kong will likely start buying Teslas again, but it shows that subsidies have a devastating impact when they're pulled.

That's what Tesla is facing next year in the US.

In California, the largest EV market in the US, 2.7% of new vehicles sold in the first quarter were EVs, up from 0.4% in 2012, according to the California New Dealers Association. California is Tesla's largest market. Something big needs to be done to help the Bay Area company, which has lost money every single year of its ten years of existence. And taxpayers are going to be shanghaied into doing it.

To make this more palatable, you have to dress this up as something where others benefit too, though the biggest beneficiary would be Tesla because these California subsidies would replace the federal subsidies when they're phased out.

Ambulance

Cholera cases in Yemen pass the 300,000 mark

© Mohammed Huwais/AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni infant suspected of being infected with cholera receives treatment in Sanaa, in June.
A 10-week cholera epidemic has now infected more than 300,000 people in Yemen, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Monday, a health disaster on top of war, economic collapse and near-famine in the impoverished country.

"Disturbing. We're at 300k+ suspected cases with ~7k new cases/day," ICRC regional director Robert Mardini said in a tweet.

The World Health Organization has said there were 297,438 suspected cases and 1,706 deaths by July 7, but it did not publish a daily update on Sunday, when the 300,000 mark looked set to be reached. A WHO spokesman said the figures were still being analyzed by Yemen's health ministry.

Although the daily growth rate in the overall number of cases has halved to just over 2 per cent in recent weeks and the spread of the disease has slowed in the worst-hit regions, outbreaks in other areas have grown rapidly.

Health

Hantavirus outbreak infects 5, kills 3 in Washington state

© CDC/Handout via Reuters
A micrographic study of liver tissue seen from a Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) patient seen in this undated photo obtained by Reuters.
Five people have been stricken with the rare, rodent-born hantavirus illness in Washington state since February, three of whom have died, in the state's worst outbreak of the disease in at last 18 years, public health officials reported on Thursday.

The three fatal cases also mark the highest death toll from hantavirus pulmonary syndrome in Washington state during a single year since the respiratory ailment was first identified in the "Four Corners" region of the US Southwest in 1993.

The disease has been found to be transmitted to humans from deer mice, either through contact with urine, droppings, saliva or nesting materials of infected rodents or by inhaling dust contaminated with the virus.

Bug

WHO warns of spread of untreatable superbug gonorrhoea

At least three people worldwide are infected with totally untreatable "superbug" strains of gonorrhoea which they are likely to be spreading to others through sex, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.

Giving details of studies showing a "very serious situation" with regard to highly drug-resistant forms of the sexually-transmitted disease (STD), WHO experts said it was "only a matter of time" before last-resort gonorrhoea antibiotics would be of no use.
"Gonorrhoea is a very smart bug," said Teodora Wi, a human reproduction specialist at the Geneva-based U.N. health agency. "Every time you introduce a new type of antibiotic to treat it, this bug develops resistance to it."

Biohazard

London Underground steps up cleaning to fight superbugs plaguing the tube

© Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images
Tube network to fight grime with industrial vacuum cleaners and magnetic wands after discovery of threatening bacteria
Industrial vacuum cleaners and magnetic wands will be used in a bid to rid the tube network of eight of the most dangerous superbugs.

Cleaning of the London Underground will be stepped up each night over the summer to remove metal particles, dust, oil and grease from about 50 stations and five tunnels.

An investigation published last month by London Metropolitan University and taxi insurers Staveley Head found 121 types of bacteria and mould on public transport in the capital.

Eight of the most threatening bacteria to human health were discovered on the tube, with the Victoria line deemed the dirtiest route.

Magnify

Ebola virus leaves unique scar inside survivor's eyes

© lmstockwork/Shutterstock
In some Ebola survivors, the virus leaves a unique scar at the back of the eye that can be seen long after they are cured of the disease, according to a new study.

Researchers analyzed information from 82 Ebola survivors in Sierra Leone and 105 people who lived in the area but never had Ebola. All participants took a vision test and had the back of their eyes examined with an ophthalmoscope. Among Ebola survivors, more than a year had passed, on average, between the time they were cured of the disease and the time of the eye exam.

When asked to read letters on an eye chart, the Ebola survivors tended to perform just as well as those who'd never had the disease, meaning their infection didn't seem affect their vision.

But about 15 percent of Ebola survivors had a unique scar on their retina — the light-sensitive tissue at the back of the eye. The people who had never contracted Ebola did not have this particular type of scar, the study found.

Bad Guys

OxFam: Yemen cholera cases pass 100,000, killing one person almost every hour

© AFP

Comment: These abominable living conditions are a direct result of Saudi Arabia's genocide against the Yemini people - with U.S. support.


The number of suspected cases of cholera resulting from a severe outbreak in Yemen has passed 100,000, the World Health Organization says.

A total of 798 deaths associated with the disease have been recorded in 19 out of 22 provinces since 27 April.

The charity Oxfam said the epidemic was killing one person almost every hour.

Yemen's health, water and sanitation systems are collapsing after two years of war between government forces and the rebel Houthi movement.

Cholera is an acute diarrhoeal infection caused by ingestion of food or water contaminated with the bacterium Vibrio cholera.

Ambulance

Man dies after tattoo becomes infected with flesh-eating bacteria from Gulf of Mexico

A 31-year-old man died after he went swimming in the Gulf of Mexico and his tattoo became infected with flesh-eating bacteria that live in ocean water, according to a new report.

The man had recently gotten a tattoo on his right calf. Despite the common advice to avoid swimming for a few weeks after getting a new tattoo, the man went for a swim in the ocean just five days after he received the tattoo, according to the report, published May 27 in the journal BMJ Case Reports.

A few days later, he developed a fever and chills, and his skin became red over his tattoo and on other parts of his legs. Soon after the man arrived at the hospital, the red, painful lesions on his legs turned purple, and he developed large blisters filled with fluid.

Beaker

Scientists investigate pigs in connection with Congo's new Ebola outbreak

It might all just be a big coincidence. But scientists and public health officials are investigating whether pigs are somehow involved in the Ebola outbreak now underway in a remote region of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). If so, it would add a new—but not totally unexpected—chapter to the virus's turbulent history.

Scientists' interest stems from two data points. An epidemiological investigation has indicated that the first person to fall sick was a hunter who had come into contact with a wild boar carcass. And 84 pigs have recently died in eight villages in Nambwa, the epicenter of the current outbreak, according to a report issued yesterday by the DRC's Ministry of Health. Researchers have taken samples from those animals, according to the report, which says a "protocol for investigation of unusual deaths reported in pigs is under development."

"I'm doubtful that the pigs actually carry Ebola, but we have to test them," says epidemiologist Fabian Leendertz of the Robert Koch Institute in Berlin, who has been consulted by the Institute of National Biomedical Research in Kinshasa about the potential link. Indeed, pigs in the DRC frequently die from other pathogens; the country often has outbreaks of African swine fever, which has a very high mortality rate. "Ebola is not even the prime suspect," says Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist from the University of California, Los Angeles, who has worked in the DRC for 15 years and is there now.