Today’s compendium of headlines about the relationship between Homo sapiens and Planet Earth opens, as usual these days, with the latest of the Ebola front, first with a three-alarm screamer from News Corp Australia:
Peter Piot says ‘perfect storm’ has allowed Ebola to spread in West Africa
PETER Piot, the Belgian scientist who co-discovered the Ebola virus in 1976, on Tuesday said a “perfect storm” in West Africa had given the disease a chance to spread unchecked.
“We have never seen an (Ebola) epidemic on this scale,” Piot was quoted by the French daily paper Liberation as saying. “In the last six months, we have been witnessing what can be described as a ‘perfect storm’ — everything is there for it to snowball,” he said.
The epidemic “is exploding in countries where health services are not functioning, ravaged by decades of civil war.”
The Associated Press raises another alarm:
Ebola has ‘upper hand,’ says US official
The Ebola virus may have the “upper hand” in an outbreak that has killed more than 1,400 people in West Africa but experts can stop the virus’ spread, a top American health official said at the start of his visit to the hardest-hit countries.
Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, was in Liberia on Tuesday, and later plans to stop in Sierra Leone and Guinea. Nigeria also has recorded cases, but officials there have expressed optimism that its spread can be controlled.
“Lots of hard work is happening, lots of good things are happening,” Frieden told a meeting attended by President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf on Monday. “But the virus still has the upper hand.”
Nikkei Asian Review covers economic impacts:
Ebola crisis starting to affect economies across Africa
The worst-ever Ebola outbreak is hurting not just the countries in West Africa where the disease has been found, but the entire continent.
Neighboring countries have banned their citizens from traveling to the Ebola-stricken countries. Some international airlines have suspended some flights. And many countries on other continents have become wary about any travel to Africa, even if it is to countries far away from those with outbreaks.
All this could hurt future business investment in the continent, as disease experts say it will take considerable time to bring an end to the current Ebola outbreak.
Reuters covers the aid front:
WHO says sending supplies for Ebola outbreak in Congo
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said on Monday it has sent protective equipment for medical staff to Democratic Republic of Congo, where authorities have confirmed two cases of Ebola in a remote area.
“The ministry of health has declared an outbreak and we are treating it as such,” WHO spokesman Tarik Jasarevic said in Geneva in response to a query.
The current Ebola epidemic, which has killed at least 1,427 people, has focused on Liberia, Guinea and Sierra Leone with several cases also in Nigeria.
And from Quartz, compounding tragedy:
African survivors of Ebola have to deal with stigma, too
West Africa is still reeling from the worst-ever Ebola epidemic: at least 2,615 people have contracted the virus, and 1,427 have died from it. And while the Westerners who are being repatriated and treated at home are saluted as heroes, many African survivors are met with skepticism and face stigma in their own communities.
Displaying reactions that recall the AIDS epidemics, people are afraid of touching Ebola survivors. As Liberian doctor Melvin Korkor—who contracted Ebola while tending to patients and subsequently recovered from it—says that on his return on Cuttington University campus, where he teaches, he was only greeted from a distance. FrontPage Africa reports that students were afraid he may still be contagious:
“We want to hug our doctor, but fear we would come in contact with the virus [...] I will greet him from a distance.”
“I am happy doctor Korkor has returned, but I am totally not convinced he is Ebola-free. I will shake his hands after 21 days.”
Next, an African Ebola video report from Down Under, with SBS Dateline via Journeyman Pictures:
Ebola Outbreak Becomes International Health Emergency
Ebola’s Epicentre: As the DRC becomes the latest country to be hit by Ebola, the situation at the outbreak’s epicentre in Sierra Leone is increasingly desperate.
The Ebola outbreak is claiming around a hundred victims a week and spreading fast. With the death toll rising daily, we head to the heart of the crisis to reveal the human tragedy behind the headlines.
“I’m doing the right thing, but people are ungrateful for my efforts. People are afraid of me”, says a ‘dead body worker’. He is one of many locals helping foreign NGOs like Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders to tackle the ebola epidemic. Yet it is a scramble to contain and treat the virus in makeshift facilities and as they desperately try to get control of this killer disease, locals remain suspicious. “They were claiming we were taking parts of the corpse to do rituals.” At a government hospital in Kenema a dirty ebola screening tent sits alongside a maternity ward. As chaos reigns, patients are free to wander in and out. Over 20 nurses have died at the contaminated hospital; one doctor warns, “don’t touch the walls”. Volunteers are travelling across Sierra Leone’s vastly dispersed population to educate communities in rural areas about the symptoms and prevention methods. “We have these charts which we use to display to the people and tell them what to do and what not to do.” Yet fear and distrust are spreading as fast as the virus. As one villager says simply, “We are totally afraid. This is the main point”.
The London Telegraph offers yet another fortunate European story:
British Ebola sufferer William Pooley given experimental drug ZMapp and sitting up in bed
- William Pooley being given the same drug that was credited with saving the lives of two American missionaries
The British Ebola sufferer William Pooley is being given the experimental drug ZMapp and is sitting up, talking and reading in his hospital bed, his doctors have revealed.
Mr Pooley, 29, is being given the same drug that was credited with saving the lives of two American missionaries earlier this month and was described today as a “resilient and remarkable young man”.
It had been thought that supplies of ZMapp had run out, but doctors at the Royal Free Hospital managed to get hold of some from abroad and Mr Pooley was given the first dose on Monday. Further doses are expected to be given to him “in due course”.
From TheLocal.it, ditto:
Italian woman cleared of Ebola in Turkey
An Italian woman who was hospitalized in Turkey last week does not have the deadly Ebola virus and will return home soon, Italian media has reported.
The Italian woman became ill on a flight to Turkey’s Istanbul Ataturk Airport on Friday and was taken to hospital for tests.
She has now been cleared of the Ebola virus, which as of Friday had killed an estimated 1,427 people in West Africa. The Italian woman has also been cleared of malaria, Tgcom24 said.
While The Hill covers the American political front:
Pryor cites Ebola scare to attack Cotton
A new ad from Sen. Mark Pryor (D-Ark.) cites the Ebola outbreak in West Africa to hit GOP opponent Rep. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) for cuts to medical and emergency programs.
The 30-second spot opens with news reports of the current outbreak, the worst in the history of the disease. The ad accuses Cotton of voting against preparedness measures that could help prevent the virus from spreading to the U.S.
“Congressman Cotton voted to cut billions from our nation’s medical disaster and emergency programs,” says a narrator. “Instead Cotton voted for tax cuts for billionaires funding his campaign,” adds another voice.
On to another virus and another continent with South China Morning Post:
Number of new HIV cases in Hong Kong set to reach record high for fourth year running
- Government consultant warns number could pass 600 this year for the first time
The number of new cases of HIV infections in Hong Kong is set to hit a record high for the fourth year running, says a government consultant who predicts this year’s figure could pass 600.
Some 304 new cases were diagnosed in the first half of this year, well up on the 262 new cases reported in the same period last year.
“It is worrying. It is likely that the annual figure will surge past 600, which will be the highest figure in Hong Kong history,” Dr Wong Ka-hing, a Department of Health consultant, said on Tuesday.
The accompanying graphic:
And from the New York Times, back to Africa:
AIDS Progress in South Africa Is in Peril
Though few Americans or even South Africans realize it, the nation owes much of its success to a single United States program, the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, or Pepfar, started in 2003 under President George W. Bush. It has poured more than $3 billion into South Africa, largely for training doctors, building clinics and laboratories, and buying drugs.
Now that aid pipeline is drying up as the program shifts its limited budget to poorer countries, so the South African government must find hundreds of millions of dollars, even as its national caseload grows rapidly.
The country has six million infected and 370,000 new infections a year. That is seven times as many new infections as in the United States, which has six times the population. Condom use is dropping, according to a new survey, and teenage girls are becoming infected at alarming rates.
Next up, water woes, first via the Associated Press:
Drought leaves California homes without water
Hundreds of rural San Joaquin Valley residents no longer can get drinking water from their home faucets because California’s extreme drought has dried up their individual wells, government officials and community groups said.
The situation has become so dire that the Tulare County Office of Emergency Services had 12-gallon-per person rations of bottled water delivered on Friday in East Porterville, where at least 182 of the 1,400 households have reported having no or not enough water, according to the Porterville Recorder (http://bit.ly/1rsgwsZ ).
Many people in the unincorporated community about 52 miles north of Bakersfield also have been relying on a county-supplied 5,000-gallon water tank filled with non-potable water for bathing and flushing toilets, The Recorder said.
Motherboard offers a grim prognosis:
There’s a Good Chance the Southwest Will See a 35-Year Megadrought This Century
This probably isn’t what residents of the parched American Southwest want to hear right now, but there’s a good chance that the region is headed for a decades-long megadrought.
As if climatologists’ forecasts for a warming world weren’t dire enough, a new paper published in the American Meteorological Society concludes that current climate models “underestimate the risk of future persistent droughts.”
The study, spearheaded by Cornell’s Toby R. Ault, suggests that there is an 80 percent chance the region will be hit with a decade-long drought by the end of the century, a 20-50 percent chance it will weather a 35 year megadrought, and that the prospect of a severe dry spell afflicting the region for half a century is, I quote, “non-negligible.”
While the Guardian covers water woes in Old Blighty:
Abandoned landfills polluting UK rivers, research finds
- More than 27 tonnes of ammonium leaches from an Oxford wetland into the River Thames every year, reports the Natural Environment Research Council
Abandoned landfill sites throughout the UK routinely leach polluting chemicals into rivers, say scientists.
At Port Meadow, on the outskirts of Oxford, about 27.5 tonnes of ammonium a year find way from landfill into the River Thames. The researchers say it could be happening at thousands of sites around the UK.
In water, ammonium breaks down into nitrogen. The extra nitrogen can trigger excessive plant growth and decay, damaging water quality and starving fish and other aquatic organisms of the oxygen they need to survive.
And ditto from Down Under with RT:
Danger to food chain? Microplastic contaminates found in Sydney Harbor
Scientists in the first study of its kind have found microplastic contamination at the bottom of Sydney Harbor, which may pose a threat to the food chain, Australian media reported.
The research by the Sydney Institute of Marine Science tested 27 sites across the harbor, with researchers finding up to 60 microplastics per 100 milligrams of sediment. This was a higher volume than expected even in the cleanest and best-flushed reaches.
Microplastics are tiny fragments and threads of plastic, which are less than five millimeters long. Professor Emma Johnston from the Sydney Institute, who leads the study, told ABC Australia microplastics represent the “emergence of a new contamination in our harbors.”
After the jump, a call for old school ag, sacrificing grain for oil, mercury troubles, Mexican mining anxieties, Icelandic eruption, California nuclear opposition, and the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!. . . Continue reading