Category Archives: Health

Outbreak Reported In Madagascar

Compliments of OutBreak News Today 

In early December 2016, the Ministry of Health (MoH) in Madagascar alerted WHO of a suspected plague outbreak in Befotaka district, Atsimo Atsinanana region in the south-eastern part of the country. The district is outside the area known to be endemic area in Madagascar. No plague cases have been reported in this area since 1950.

Bipolar staining of a plague smear prepared from lymph aspirated from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient./CDC
Bipolar staining of a plague smear prepared from lymph aspirated from an adenopathic lymph node, or bubo, of a plague patient./CDC

As of 27 December 2016, 62 cases (6 confirmed, 5 probable, 51 suspected) including 26 deaths (case fatality rate of 42%) have been reported in two adjacent districts in two neighboring regions of the country. 28 cases, including 10 deaths have been reported from Befotaka District in Atsimo-Atsinanana Region and 34 cases including 16 deaths have been reported from Iakora district in Ihorombe Region.

Of the 11 samples tested, 5 were positive for plague on rapid diagnostic test and 6 are now confirmed at Institut Pasteur laboratory. Of the total reported cases, 5 are classified as pneumonic plague cases and the remaining as bubonic plague.

Retrospective investigations carried out in those two districts showed that it is possible that the outbreak might have started in mid-August 2016. The investigation in neighboring villages is still ongoing. On 29 December, an investigation carried out within 25 km of the initial foci in Befotaka district has reported three deaths and is being investigated further for possible linkage to the outbreak.

The affected zone is located in a very remote and hard to reach and highly insecure area (classified as red zone due to local banditry). Despite arrangements made with the local authorities, insecurity slows down the investigations and response activities. In addition, a helicopter has been made available but its use has been limited due to bad weather and financial limitations.

A 15 member multidisciplinary team from MoH, Institute Pasteur including public health professional, epidemiologist, entomologist and laboratory professional visited the affected area for epidemiological investigation and response activities.

Key response activities already implemented include:

  • Epidemiological investigations including active case finding and rapid diagnostic testing
  • Training of community health workers on community-based surveillance and early detection of cases
  • Clinical Management of suspected cases
  • Identification, follow up and chemoprophylaxis of contacts
  • Vector and reservoir control through the use of Kartman boxes
  • Sensitization of the population
  • Strengthening the community based surveillance
  • Free treatment of other diagnosed disease such as malaria
  • Strengthening early detection in neighbouring districts
  • Laboratory confirmation

Based on the available information to date, the risk of international spread appears unlikely, especially as it is occurring in very remote area. However, the difficulty to reach the affected area hampered prompt investigation and therefore at this stage the real magnitude of the outbreak is still to be defined and the risk of further spread in the area and sustained transmission cannot be formally ruled out. WHO continues supporting ongoing investigation and response activities.

Haiti Death Toll Rises to 1,000

By : Jodeph Guyler Delva

Haiti started burying some of its dead in mass graves in the wake of Hurricane Matthew, a government official said on Sunday, as cholera spread in the devastated southwest and the death toll from the storm rose to 1,000 people.

The powerful hurricane, the fiercest Caribbean storm in nearly a decade, slammed into Haiti on Tuesday with 145 mile-per-hour (233 kph) winds and torrential rains that left 1.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance, the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said.

A Reuters tally of numbers from local officials showed that 1,000 people were killed by the storm in Haiti, which has a population of about 10 million and is the poorest country in the Americas.

The official death toll from the central civil protection agency is 336, a slower count because officials must visit each village to confirm the numbers.

Authorities had to start burying the dead in mass graves in Jeremie because the bodies were starting to decompose, said Kedner Frenel, the most senior central government official in the Grand’Anse region on Haiti’s western peninsula.

Frenel said 522 people were killed in Grand’Anse alone. A tally of deaths reported by mayors from 15 of 18 municipalities in Sud Department on the south side of the peninsula showed 386 people there. In the rest of the country, 92 people were killed, the same tally showed.

Frenel said there was great concern about cholera spreading, and that authorities were focused on getting water, food and medication to the thousands of people living in shelters.

Cholera causes severe diarrhea and can kill within hours if untreated. It is spread through contaminated water and has a short incubation period, which leads to rapid outbreaks.

Our Support For Those Effected By Train Crash in New Jersey

By: Jonathan Dienst 

At least one person died and more than 70 were hurt when an NJ Transit train crashed into the station in Hoboken at the height of Thursday’s morning rush, leaving twisted piles of metal and cables and causing part of the highly trafficked terminal to collapse.

Sources familiar with the investigation told NBC 4 New York a woman in her 30s who was on a platform in the station died. There were conflicting reports about other possible fatalities as emergency crew worked to extricate victims from the mangled wreckage. Hospital officials initially reported two more deaths, though later clarified they had only received wounded patients.

Preliminary reports suggest the 8:45 a.m. crash – involving train No. 1614 on the Pascack Valley Line from Spring Valley – was accidental or caused by operator error, according to five law enforcement officials. They stressed it was early in the investigation, though.

People pulled concrete off bleeding victims and passengers kicked out windows and crawled out amid crying and screaming after the arriving NJ Transit train smashed through a barrier at the end of its track and ground to a halt in a covered waiting area. Pictures on social media showed at least one of the NJ Transit cars partially inside the station, with some of the supporting beams that hold up the canopy over the tracks caved in around it.

Photos showed emergency crews standing on piles of rubble, peering into the mangled wreckage of the train in a frantic search for survivors. Early correspondence on emergency radio conveyed the gravity of the situation.

Egypt Airplane Missing

Compliments of CNN

Searchers scouring the heavily traveled waters of the Mediterranean Sea for EgyptAir Flight 804 on Thursday have found the plane’s wreckage, airline Vice Chairman Ahmed Adel told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour.

The debris was about 150 nautical miles north of the Egyptian coast, Adel said. He did not elaborate on the location or condition of the wreckage but said the search and rescue operation was “turning into a search and recovery” mission.
Earlier, a spokesman for Greece’s Hellenic National Defense General Staff had said crew aboard an Egyptian search aircraft had spotted two floating objects 210 nautical miles southeast of Crete. It’s unclear whether those objects are part of the wreckage described by Adel.
The Airbus A320 carrying 66 passengers and crew disappeared early Thursday over the Mediterranean Sea as it flew from Paris to Cairo.
Speculation has centered on the possibility of a terrorist attack.
“Planes today just don’t fall out of the sky,” CNN aviation analyst Miles O’Brien said.
Egyptian Civil Aviation Minister Sharif Fathi said technical failures and terror are both possible explanations.
“But if you analyze this situation properly, the possibility of having a different action aboard, of having a terror attack, is higher than having a technical problem,” Fathi said.

Latest developments

— Debris believed from EgyptAir Flight 804 found near the Greek island of Karpathos includes life jackets and plastic materials, the airline said.
— Maintenance checks on the plane had been done on time and “no snags were reported,” Adel told Amanpour.
— Checks of the passenger manifest have so far resulted in no hits on terror watch lists, officials with knowledge of the investigation told CNN.
— U.S. government officials are operating on an initial theory that the plane was taken down by a bomb, two U.S. officials told CNN on Thursday. Officials said the theory could change, with one senior administration official cautioning it is not yet supported by a “smoking gun.”

Fort McMurray wildfire remains out of control after city evacuated

Compliments of CBC

A huge wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., destroyed an entire neighbourhood and burned homes and businesses in several others Tuesday, and continues to rage out of control.

By late afternoon, the entire city of 60,000 had been ordered evacuated. Residents by the thousands fled the fire and for hours caused gridlock on Highway 63, even overwhelming oilsands work camps, where beds and meals were offered. Police were patrolling the highway with cans of gas, after fuel supplies ran out in Fort McMurray, Wandering River and Grasslands.

Fire chief Darby Allen said the entire neighbourhood of Beacon Hill “appears to have been lost” and the fire burned many homes in other parts of the city.

No buildings were lost in the city’s downtown area, Allen said. Despite the devastation, there were no reports of deaths or serious injuries.

As of 10:30 p.m. MT, officials reported the neighbourhoods of Abasand, Wood Buffalo, Dickensfield, and Waterways saw only some damage.

No estimates were available on the number of homes and businesses that were destroyed.

Witnesses reported the Flying-J gas station exploded, while the Super 8 Motel and a Denny’s restaurant were gutted.

Officials said about 17,000 residents escaped the city to the north, while another 35,000 drove south, at least half that number headed for Edmonton, 430 kilometres away.

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Earthquake Hits Japan

Compliments of Independent 

A powerful earthquake has struck southern Japan, killing at least two people and injuring hundreds of others.

The quake hit at 9.26 pm and was centered seven miles east from the town of Mashiki in the Kumamoto prefecture, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency,

Initial reports placed the quake at a magnitude 6.4, but this was later downgraded to 6.2 by the US Geological Survey.

A number of “strong” aftershocks have also been reported.

One person was killed after being crushed by a collapsing building, and the other by a fire that broke out after the quake.

At least 400 people are being treated at local hospitals, public broadcaster NHK said. Others are feared trapped under fallen structures.

“We will do our utmost and carry on with life-saving and rescue operations throughout the night,” Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told reporters.

japan-mashiki.jpg
The earthquake hit close to the town of Mashiki, in the Kumamoto district (Google)

Around 20 houses have collapsed, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK.

A fire also broke out in Mashiki, which has a population of around 34,000 people, and local television showed footage of firefighters tackling a blaze at a building.

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China Test Water Supplies And The Results Are Stifling

Compliments of NY Times 

More than 80 percent of the water from underground wells used by farms, factories and households across the heavily populated plains of China is unfit for drinking or bathing because of contamination from industry and farming, according to new statisticsthat were reported by Chinese media on Monday, raising new alarm about pollution in the world’s most populous country.

After years of focus on China’s hazy skies as a measure of environmental blight, the new data from 2,103 underground wells struck a nerve among Chinese citizens who have become increasingly sensitive about health threats from pollution. Most Chinese cities draw on deep reservoirs that were not part of this study, but many villages and small towns in the countryside depend on the shallower wells of the kind that were tested for the report.

“From my point of view, this shows how water is the biggest environmental issue in China,” said Dabo Guan, a professor at the University of East Anglia in Britain who has been studying water pollution and scarcity in China.

“People in the cities, they see air pollution every day, so it creates huge pressure from the public. But in the cities, people don’t see how bad the water pollution is,” Professor Guan said. “They don’t have the same sense.”

The latest statistics are far from the first about the damage done to China’s underground water reservoirs and basins by runoff from farming and industry. Still, the numbers, which were issued recently but given extensive coverage by the Chinese news media only on Monday, revived concern.

“Does China have any clean underground water?” asked an online commentary by National Business Daily, which had earlier brought widespread notice to the data. “The recently published truth is alarming.”

Exactly how much of the alarm was justified was unclear.

Ma Jun, an environmentalist who is a director of the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs in Beijing, noted that the survey measured water sources relatively close to the surface, and that many cities get their water from reservoirs that are hundreds or even thousands of feet deeper.

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Porter Ranch Gas Leak Permanently Capped

Compliments of L.A. Times 

State officials on Thursday announced that the leaking natural gas well in Porter Ranch that spewed plumes of methane and other compounds into the atmosphere has been sealed.

“We have good news. The Division of Oil and Gas has confirmed that the leak in the Aliso Canyon storage field is permanently sealed,” Jason Marshall, chief deputy director of the state Department of Conservation, said at a news conference at a Southern California Gas Co. office in Chatsworth.

The news put an end to four months of foul air that sickened many residents and forced thousands of people to relocate to temporary housing far from the leaking well. Crewsreached the leak last week and injected heavy fluids and then cement to seal it.

Dennis Arriola, president and chief executive of Southern California Gas, said the company would develop a plan to mitigate the damage the leaking well did to the environment and will support “forward-looking” regulations.

“To the residents of Porter Ranch and the surrounding communities, I want to tell you I recognize the disruption that this gas leak has caused to your lives,” Arriola said. “I know there is nothing that I can say that will change the past, but I know that measurable actions actually speak louder than words.”

The company said in a statement that the leaking well had been taken out of service. A local assistance center that will help residents and businesses recover from the leak will open Friday morning at the Mason Recreation Center in Chatsworth.

Residents who moved out of their homes were notified by phone, text and email Thursday morning that they have eight days to vacate their temporary housing that the gas company has been paying for. By early Thursday, residents of 1,800 households had returned to their homes, said Gillian Wright, vice president of customer service for the utility.

An estimated 4,000 reimbursement checks were to be issued on Thursday to residents who incurred expenses related to the gas leak, she said.

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Earthquake Hits Taiwan

Taiwan Needs Our Help

On Saturday, February 6th, a magnitude-6.4 earthquake hit southern Taiwan at3:57AM, causing 13 apartment buildings in the city of Tainan to collapse.
Latest reports estimate at least 34 people are dead, over 500 injured, and many still trapped in the rubble.

Tzu Chi volunteers in Tainan mobilized swiftly, setting up 15 service centers to help those affected by this tragic disaster, and support emergency rescue teams with hot meals as they labor day and night searching for survivors.

We need your help in this critical time.

Tzu Chi Foundation was born in Taiwan, but helps people around the world. Now is a time when we can show our love, by supporting the relief efforts at the heart of where this global humanitarian organization began.

Common Species of Mosquito May Be Carrying Zika Virus.

By Ophelia Eden

Scientists believe the virus is now being carried by a more common species of mosquito. A confined species of mosquito called the Aedes Aegypt mosquito (who primarily are confined to the tropics) was thought to be the sole carrier of the virus.

However, new data from the Oswaldo Cruz Foundation in Recife, Pernambuco State, suggests a more common species called the Culex mosquito may also be transmitting the virus. The Zika virus can cause fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. In some cases the virus can also cause Guillain Barre syndrome, a disease where the immune system attacks the nervous system, or microcephaly ( a condition where children are born with abnormally small heads) in babies who were carried by infected mothers.

The ratio of Culex mosquitoes to the Aedes species is over 20 times. Culex Mosquitoes can be found in the Americas, parts of Africa, and parts of Asia. Increasing the chances of a worldwide outbreak. At this time there is no known vaccine or cure for the virus, however scientists are stepping up the efforts to develop one.

Source: Sky News