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Tue, 01 Dec 2020
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Plagues


Attention

India, Pakistan should brace for 'twin invasion' of locusts from Horn of Africa & Iran, UN warns

Locusts
© REUTERS / Njeri Mwangi
A swarm of desert locusts flying over a grazing land in Kenya.
Giant swarms of locusts may descend on both sides of the India-Pakistani border around spring-summer this year, a UN locust monitor said, amid an unprecedented plague already affecting the black continent.

Gargantuan tribes of desert locusts have been terrifying the residents of Yemen and Saudi Arabia and laying waste to countries in the Horn of Africa. UN's Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) calls the outbreak worst in 25 years for the Eastern Africa and worst Kenia in particular faces in 70 years.

After multiplying in the Horn of Africa, the swarms may migrate to Hindustan, where they may deliver a twin strike together with freshly hatched locust from southern Iran, FAO's Senior Locust Forecasting Officer Keith Cressman told IANS news agency on Monday.

"There is a potential risk that the swarms can move from the Horn of Africa, starting in about mid-May until about some time in July to meet those monsoon rains that arrive in Rajasthan in India and Cholistan-Tharparkar in Pakistan," he said.

Fireball

Coronavirus Came From Meteor Which Hit China Last Year, Claims Scientist

coronavirus
Coronavirus was carried into the Earth's atmosphere on a fragment of comet which spewed out "hundreds of trillions" of viral particles. Medics fear the disease, which can be spread before victims show any symptoms, could spark a global pandemic. The emergence of the new strain of coronavirus is thought to be the result of panspermia - infective agents in space which eventually reach the Earth's atmosphere.

Scientists have long held that viruses, bacteria and strands of DNA exists in space carried on comets and meteorites.

They can drift into the Earth's stratosphere before falling to the surface of the planet posing a risk to human health, they say.

Comment: Based on past actual pandemics such as 'the Black Death' about 600 years ago, and the 'Justinian Plague' about 600 years before that, which recorded mortality rates of up to 70% in some localities, this coronavirus is not at the level of 'global pandemic'. We will all know if or when such an event is happening...

One criticism we have of Professor Wickramasinghe's theory is that he may be reaching by trying to pin it on a specific, recent meteor event over China. That strikes us as being too linear, based on what he himself has written in the past - concerning the origins of SARS in 2003, funnily enough - about China being a catchment area for new viral material because of its proximity to the Himalayas and a zone of thin atmosphere...
In a letter to The Lancet, Wickramasinghe explains that a small amount of a virus introduced into the stratosphere could make a first tentative fallout east of the great mountain range of the Himalayas, where the stratosphere is thinnest, followed by sporadic deposits in neighboring areas. Could this explain why new strains of the influenza virus that are capable of engendering epidemics, and which are caused by radical genetic mutations, usually originate in Asia? Wickramasinghe argues that if the virus is only minimally infective, the subsequent course of its global progress will depend on stratospheric transport and mixing, leading to a fallout continuing seasonally over a few years; even if all reasonable attempts are made to contain an infective spread, the appearance of new foci almost anywhere is a possibility.
It seems more plausible to us that, because meteors can and do detonate anywhere, viruses or virus DNA they carry in their particles swirl all the way around the planet and then (tend to) settle to ground level through the 'Chinese opening'. That may only be a general rule, however, as some meteors probably do penetrate all the way through to the troposphere, and certainly some of their meteorites make it all the way to the ground.

However, the primary factor motivating our reporting on the increase in meteor events is not the risk they present from impacting the ground and causing immediate global catastrophe, which is thankfully rare on a civilizational timescale, but because of the far more potent danger they present of delivering new viruses against which there is no defense.

See also:


Biohazard

New outbreaks of bird flu reported in Saudi Arabia and Vietnam

bird flu
© SPA
Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture revealed that a case of highly pathogenic bird flu (H5N8) was recorded at a poultry farm in Riyadh.
Saudi agriculture officials handling a reported case of bird flu at a farm in Riyadh have assured the public that it presents no risk to human health.

The Ministry of Environment, Water and Agriculture revealed that a case of highly pathogenic bird flu (H5N8) had been recorded at a poultry farm in the capital and authorities had taken necessary measures on site to prevent any spread of the virus.

Ministry spokesman, Dr. Abdullah Aba Al-Khail, said that according to the World Health Organization, H5N8 was a strain that only affected birds and could not be transmitted to humans.

He pointed out that it was first registered in the Kingdom at the end of 2017 but was controlled and did not pose a threat to public health.
Aba Al-Khail added that field emergency teams attended the farm immediately after receiving notification of the case and implemented procedures for dealing with the virus.

Comment: Sputnik reports on the outbreak in Vietnam:
In Vietnam, the outbreak of avian influenza's subtype of H5N6 started on 18 January and infected and killed more than 2,000 birds in the country's north. Additionally, 300 birds were killed and disposed of, the OIE said, citing Dr. Dong Pham Van, the head of the Agriculture Ministry's department of animal health.
And just 4 days ago China culled thousands of chickens following a new outbreak.


Attention

"Unprecedented": Locust invasion approaches full-blown crisis across Africa and southwest Asia

locusts
© EPA
Men run through a swarm of desert locusts to chase them away in the bush near Enziu, Kitui County, some 200km east of the capital Nairobi, Kenya.
Locust swarms of biblical proportions are threatening crops across a wide swath of Africa and southwest Asia — spurring alarm among top international officials.

A major concern is famine. The United Nations is warning that mass swarms of desert locusts are endangering food supplies in eastern Africa. In response, officials in Rome mobilized an emergency briefing yesterday in a bid to raise money — noting the situation has a high potential to devolve into a full-blown crisis.

"This is an unprecedented situation that we are facing," said Dominique Burgeon, an emergency services director at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

Comment: RT has collected footage of the devastating locust swarms:





See also:


Bug

Unprecedented swarms of voracious locusts to hit East Africa, Mideast, leaving behind barren earth

locust
© European Press Agency
In just one day, a swarm of locusts the size of Paris could eat the same amount of food as half the population of France
A real plague of pests has been forecast for the region that saw unprecedented rainfall over the last three months of 2019, with the scale of it reaching well beyond the Horn of Africa, where it all started.

A United Nations report, cited in a press conference Friday, warns that petrifyingly large swarms of locusts are expected to hit East Africa, and the timeline is no less frightening - in the next few months, making it the worst infestation in Ethiopia for the past 25 years, and in Kenya in 70 years.

The invasion poses "an unprecedented threat to food security and livelihoods" in the area, says a report by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), adding that the issue is "extremely" acute in Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia, where locusts have already descended in eye-watering numbers - up to 150 million jumping critters per square kilometre (0.39 square miles.)

Comment: Another sign of Earth's environmental imbalance? A symbol of the elites' rapaciousness? Out-breaks seem to be increasing in the last five years


Biohazard

WHO Emergency Committee meet on Wednesday as China confirms sixth coronavirus death

coronavirus china
© Getty
Medical staff transfer patients to Jin Yintan hospital in Wuhan. China has confirmed that the deadly Wuhan coronavirus virus can be transmitted between humans, with medical workers currently among the infected
The World Health Organisation is convening an emergency committee of experts on Wednesday to assess whether the coronavirus outbreak in China constitutes an international emergency, the WHO said on Monday.

The meeting follows the virus spreading from Wuhan, where it has infected nearly 200 people, to more Chinese cities, including the capital Beijing and Shanghai, and a fourth case has been reported beyond China's borders.

Comment: Al Jazeera reports on the sixth death:
Asia steps up defences as China confirms sixth coronavirus death

Nations increase fever checks at airports amid fears of a bigger outbreak of the virus that causes pneumonia.

Asian countries have ramped up measures to block the spread of a new virus as the death toll in China rose to six and the number of cases jumped to almost 300, raising concerns in the middle of a major holiday travel rush.

From Australia to Thailand and as far as Nepal, nations stepped up fever checks of passengers at airports to detect the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)-like coronavirus, which first emerged in the central Chinese city of Wuhan.


Footage from Twitter reportedly shows checks occurring on aircraft in Wuhan: "[A scary sentence] I just returned from Wuhan!"



Zhou Xianwang, mayor of Wuhan, told state broadcaster CCTV on Tuesday that the death toll had risen from four to six.

Fears of a bigger outbreak increased after a prominent expert from China's National Health Commission confirmed late on Monday that the virus can be passed between people.

Zhong Nanshan, head of the National Health Commission, said there was no danger of a repeat of 2002's SARS epidemic that killed nearly 800 people across the world, as long as precautions were taken.

"It took only two weeks to identify the novel coronavirus," state news agency Xinhua quoted Zhong as saying late on Monday.

Earlier, Zhong acknowledged patients may have contracted the new virus without having visited the central city of Wuhan where the infection is thought to have originated in a seafood market.

"Currently, it can be said it is affirmative that there is the phenomenon of human-to-human transmission," he said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV.

China said it would attend a special World Health Organization (WHO) meeting on Wednesday which will determine whether to declare a rare global public health emergency over the disease, which was detected in Thailand, Japan and South Korea among four people who had visited Wuhan.

Outbreak spreads

Almost 80 new cases have been confirmed, bringing the total number of people hit by the virus in China to 291, with the vast majority in Hubei, the province where Wuhan lies, and others in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangdong, according to the National Health Commission.

State media said one case was found in Zhejiang province.

Australia on Tuesday said it would screen passengers on flights from Wuhan amid rising concerns that the virus will spread globally as Chinese travellers take flights abroad for the Lunar New Year holiday that starts this week.

A man showing symptoms of the new disease who had travelled to Wuhan was in isolation as health officials awaited test results, public broadcaster ABC reported on Tuesday

"The outbreak could perhaps not have come at a worse time," said Al Jazeera's Katrina Wu, who is in Beijing.

"This is the peak travel season in China. The government has always boasted that during the Lunar New Year you see two to three billion trips being made across the country and Wuhan is not a small city; it's about 11 million people who will be travelling not only in China, but overseas. It's a major transport hub."

Authorities around the globe, including in the United States and many Asian countries, have stepped up the screening of travellers from Wuhan.

Zhong, the head of the National Health Commission, said two people in Guangdong province in southern China caught the disease from family members who had visited Wuhan.

He added that 14 medical staff helping with coronavirus patients had also been infected.

The Wuhan virus causes a type of pneumonia and belongs to the same family of coronaviruses as SARS. Symptoms include fever and difficulty in breathing, which are similar to many other respiratory diseases and pose complications for screening efforts.

SARS originated in southern China in 2002 and spread to 26 countries across the world over the following months, infecting more than 8,000 people before it was brought under control, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

The WHO, which is due to hold an emergency meeting on the outbreak on Wednesday, has said an animal source appeared most likely to be the primary origin of the Wuhan outbreak

Enhanced screening

South Korea on Monday reported its first case of the new coronavirus - a 35-year-old woman who had flown in from Wuhan.

Thailand and Japan previously confirmed a total of three cases - all of whom had visited the Chinese city.

China festival
© Aly Song/Reuters
The outbreak is spreading as China gears up for the Lunar New Year festival when hundreds of thousands of people visit family or take holidays
WHO has said the jump in new cases was the result of "increased searching and testing for [the virus] among people sick with respiratory illness".

Wuhan authorities said they have installed infrared thermometers at airports, and railway and coach stations across the city. Passengers with fever were being registered, given masks and taken to medical institutions.

Chinese state media moved to calm the mood as discussion swelled on social media about the coronavirus spreading to other Chinese cities.


Weighing in on the matter for the first time, China's President Xi Jinping said on Monday that safeguarding people's lives should be given "top priority" and that the spread of the epidemic "should be resolutely contained", according to CCTV.

Xi said it was necessary to "release information on the epidemic in a timely manner and deepen international cooperation", and ensure people have a "stable and peaceful Spring Festival", the broadcaster said.

See also:


Biohazard

Second patient dies from 'novel' coronavirus in China, 1 confirmed case in Japan, fears outbreak may have spread further

wuhan china
A second person has died from the mystery virus in China amid fears the lethal outbreak may spread globally, officials have said.

The 69-year-old man, known only as Xiong, died in the early hours of January 15 at Jinyintan Hospital in Wuhan city.

Officials at Wuhan Municipal Health Commission said the man was admitted to hospital on December 31 with symptoms of the virus.

His health deteriorated on January 4 before he died, local media claims.

A total of 41 patients in Wuhan have been struck with the virus since December. The first death, on January 9, was a man aged 61.

Comment: See also: Mysterious coronavirus identified by China in record time as cause of pneumonia outbreak


Microscope 2

Mysterious coronavirus identified by China in record time as cause of pneumonia outbreak

Coronavirus
© Rockcafe.info
File photo: Coronavirus.
A mysterious new type of pneumonia linked to a seafood market in Wuhan, China, is caused by a novel coronavirus, Chinese state media reported today (January 9). The reports come a day after the World Health Organization (WHO) stated that multiple known viruses had been ruled out as a cause of the outbreak, and that a coronavirus was the likely cause. The virus had sickened at least 59 people in China as of Sunday, and according to the Associated Press, one suspected case — a woman who fell ill after returning from China — has been identified in South Korea.

Xinhua reports that the virus was identified by the Chinese Academy of Engineering's Xu Jianguo based on tests of samples from 15 patients with the illness. Known coronaviruses include some that cause a cold, as well as the pathogens behind severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS).

Comment: See also:


Biohazard

Mexican TV star dies from parasitic tissue infection after reportedly eating tapeworm-contaminated pork

sebastian ferrat
© AFP / Genome Biology
Instagram / @sebastianferrat ; MRI scans showing a tapeworm in a brain
Actor Sebastian Ferrat, beloved in his native Mexico, has died after a long and horrifying struggle with an infection he reportedly contracted from contaminated pork. Is 2020 the year to give up bacon?

Fans are in deep sorrow as Sebastian Ferrat, 41, died on Sunday after a long battle with a grave illness that local media identified as cysticercosis, a parasitic infection that attacks the brain, muscles, or other tissues. According to reports, the actor, best-known for his roles in various television dramas, contracted the deadly infection after eating spoiled pork.

He reportedly languished in a coma for several months in hospital before finally succumbing to the infection.

Comment: While the incidents noted above by themselves aren't particularly significant, and the risk of contracting an infection of one kind or another are heightened due to unsanitary conditions or when in an unfamiliar country, if we take into account the sheer number of reports of outbreaks and unusual infectious diseases, there does appear to be a trend - here are some stories from just this year:


Biohazard

Indonesia the latest country hit by African Swine Fever outbreak

pig dead

Millions of pigs have been culled across Asia in a bid to curb the spread of the disease
Indonesia is the latest country to confirm African swine fever. The disease was detected in the North Sumatra (far northwest part of the multi-island nation) province, however, an official announcement was not unexpected as reports of increased pig mortality have been coming in from that region since late September.

The United Nation's Food and Ag Organization is coordinating with the country's Livestock and Animal Health Services on containment and control of the virus.

The majority of Indonesians practice Islam, but more than 80 percent of the people living on the tourist island of Bali identify as Hindu and do consume pork.

Comment: This outbreak is showing no signs of slowing and the impact on the food supply is beginning to be felt, and could ultimately be disastrous: