Today’s compendium begins, once again, with that latest on the health crisis consuming a continent, opening with this from the Guardian:
Ebola outbreak: Congo becomes fifth country with confirmed cases
- Health minister says up to 15 people may have died but virus is not linked to epidemic that has spread through west Africa
The World Health Organisation has sent protective equipment for medical staff to the Democratic Republic of the Congo after it became the fifth African country this year to suffer a deadly outbreak of Ebola.
“The ministry of health has declared an outbreak and we are treating it as such,” Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesman, told Reuters in Geneva on Monday.
Congo declared on Sunday that Ebola had been identified in its northern Équateur province after two patients tested positive for the virus, but the health minister, Felix Kabange Numbi, denied any link to the epidemic raging in west Africa.
Officials believe Ebola has killed 13 other people in the region, including five health workers. Kabange said 11 were ill and in isolation and 80 contacts were being traced, and the Djera area would be placed under quarantine. Djera is about 750 miles (1,200km) from Congo’s capital, Kinshasa, and 375 miles from the provincial capital, Mbandaka.
From Deutsche Welle, a graphic representation:
And the accompanying story from Deutsche Welle:
Ebola outbreak in DRC: same virus, but different
- New cases of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo are spreading fears that the virus will spread further across Africa. Yet, the variety found in Central Africa might be of a different kind.
The Ebola River is a small stream running through the forests of the Equateur province in the northwest of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. It is in this region that the deadly disease was first recognized by Belgian scientists, who named the worm-looking virus after the river in 1976. Now, the virus has once again returned to the Equateur province with two confirmed cases of people who died from Ebola.
“In this region especially, the Ebola virus is circulating and has caused some smaller and larger outbreaks in the past”, says Dr. Schmidt-Chanasit, head of the viral diagnostic unit at Hamburg’s Bernhard-Nocht-Institute. “So this outbreak, most probably, is not associated with the outbreak in West Africa.
“Case fatality rate is much lower when we compare this to West Africa – it’s around 20 percent,” says Schmidt-Chansit. “So it might be possible that this is a different strain of the Ebola virus that is less pathogenic.”
The London Daily Mail covers a controversial policy:
Quarantined at gunpoint, desperate and hungry, the ordeal of the West African towns in quarantine because of Ebola epidemic
- Volunteers are being paid four pounds a day to sterilize and bury bodies of Ebola victims in Kenema, Sierra Leone
- Rigorous quarantine measures being used to stop the virus spreading, as those affected reaches 2,615 worldwide
- In Liberia, soldiers have created weapon-guarded blockades to ensure thousands of residents stay in quarantine
- Some 20,000 have been left desperate for food as they wait for rationed deliveries to arrive from the government
- The enforced quarantines have created ghost towns around the area, as authorities try to stop spread of the virus
CBC News offers a critique:
Ebola outbreak: Why Liberia’s quarantine in West Point slum will fail
- A relic of the Middle Ages, quarantines do more harm than good
Medical experts say that mass quarantine is rarely if ever effective in stemming the spread of a contagion like Ebola, and the move by Liberia to cordon off a sprawling slum is likely to do more harm than good.
“It’s a measure that basically goes back to the Middle Ages. It’s a reflection really of ignorance and panic,” said Dr. Richard Schabas, formerly chief medical officer for Ontario and now in that role in Hastings and Prince Edward counties.
“Mass quarantine of this kind really has no place at all in disease control”
More from the Independent:
Ebola is inspiring irrational fears that are potentially more damaging than the disease itself
- We need to look beyond the stigma that attaches to those who have been infected
The bigger danger is the irrational fear which has infected families, communities, towns and cities across West Africa. As the virus has spread so have wild rumours about its cause, which have been variously attributed to witchcraft, a Western plot, and a conspiracy by African governments said to have introduced the disease in order to extract multi-million pound payments in aid from the West.
Irrational fear is posing as a great a threat to the countries affected as the virus itself. In Liberia and Sierra Leone, the two worst affected countries, hospitals and clinics have closed, leaving patients with other diseases such as malaria with nowhere to go for treatment. The official toll of 1,427 deaths and 2,615 cases in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone is certain to understate the real total, as many people with ebola in rural areas will have died and been buried without their ever reaching hospital. But even the real figure is likely to dwarfed by collateral deaths caused by the collapse of the countries’ health systems.
A clinic and quarantine centre in Liberia’s capital, Monrovia, was attacked a week ago and 29 suspected ebola cases fled while an angry mob looted medical items, instruments and soiled bedding. They were heard chanting that ebola was a hoax by the Liberian president to get money.
And from the New York Times, a video report on those charged with burying the victims:
The Gravediggers of Ebola | Virus Outbreak 2014
In Sierra Leone, a group of young men take on the dirtiest work of the Ebola outbreak: finding and burying the dead. Produced by: Ben C. Solomon
From the World Health Organization, another side of the crisis:
Unprecedented number of medical staff infected with Ebola
The outbreak of Ebola virus disease in west Africa is unprecedented in many ways, including the high proportion of doctors, nurses, and other health care workers who have been infected.
To date, more than 240 health care workers have developed the disease in Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone, and more than 120 have died.
Ebola has taken the lives of prominent doctors in Sierra Leone and Liberia, depriving these countries not only of experienced and dedicated medical care but also of inspiring national heroes.
Several factors help explain the high proportion of infected medical staff. These factors include shortages of personal protective equipment or its improper use, far too few medical staff for such a large outbreak, and the compassion that causes medical staff to work in isolation wards far beyond the number of hours recommended as safe.
The Associated Press covers a casualty:
Liberia: Doctor given experimental Ebola drug dies
A Liberian doctor who received one of the last known doses of an experimental Ebola drug has died, officials said Monday, as Canada said it has yet to send out doses of a potential vaccine that the government is donating.
Ebola has left more than 1,400 people dead across West Africa, underscoring the urgency for developing potential ways to stop and treat the disease. However, health experts warn these options have not undergone the rigorous testing that usually takes place before drugs and vaccines are approved.
The experimental vaccines are at still at a Canadian laboratory, said Patrick Gaebel, spokesman for the Public Health Agency of Canada, who declined to speculate how many weeks it could be before those are given to volunteers.
Jiji Press lends a hand:
Japan to Offer Relief Goods to Ebola-Hit Liberia
Japan will provide emergency relief goods worth 30 million yen, including tents and blankets, to Liberia in response to a request from the West African country hit by Ebola hemorrhagic fever, the Foreign Ministry said Monday.
The relief goods will be sent through the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the ministry said.
In Liberia, the number of people who were confirmed or suspected to have the Ebola virus stood at 1,802 as of Wednesday while the death toll came to 624, according to the World Health Organization.
And CBC News covers another Japanese contribution:
Ebola outbreak: Japan offers anti-influenza drug for treatment
- Ebola and influenza viruses are the same general type
Japan said Monday it is ready to provide a Japanese-developed anti-influenza drug as a possible treatment for the rapidly expanding Ebola outbreak.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters that Japan can offer favipiravir, developed by a subsidiary of Fujifilm Holdings Corp., at any time at the request of the World Health Organization.
The drug, with the brand name Avigan, was developed by Fujifilm subsidiary Toyama Chemical Co. to treat new and re-emerging influenza viruses, and has not been proven to be effective against Ebola.
Meanwhile, the Times of India covers prevention:
Mumbai airport to screen Indians coming from Ebola-hit Liberia
Elaborate precautionary arrangements have been put in place at the Mumbai airport here to screen the 112 stranded Indians, who are expected to arrive on Tuesday by various flights from and around the Ebola-hit Liberia, authorities said here on Monday.
“As part of the tentative plan, the aircraft will be first taken to a remote bay and all passengers will be screened at the step-ladder exit after the arrival of flights at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA),” Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) said here.
Besides, while the passengers without any symptoms will be cleared and shifted to terminal for immigration and customs clearance, those coming from Liberia with symptoms suggestive of EVD, will be directly shifted to designated hospital in ambulance from the bay, it said.
From the Guardian, another cause for anxiety, this time Down Under [in both senses]:
‘Sex superbug’ fears over powerful new drug resistant strain of gonorrhoea
- Sexual health clinics on alert after patient treated in Cairns found to have the highest level of drug resistance reported in Australia
Concerns are mounting over a powerful new form of gonorrhoea after a patient was found to have the highest level of drug resistance to the disease ever reported in Australia.
It is understood the patient, a tourist from central Europe, contracted the “sex superbug” in Sydney and was eventually treated in Cairns.
The discovery of the case in Australia, which resulted in a health alert in July, has also prompted warnings in New Zealand, where sexual health clinics are on high alert amid fears the new strain will spread there.
While in Pakistan, the Express Tribune covers another threat:
Health and safety: KMC to survey 2,000 houses to check for Congo
At least 2,000 houses surrounding the house of a man who died due to the Congo virus on Thursday are being surveyed to check for possible threats of the virus being present in the area.
Muhammad Kashif was a 24-year-old butcher and a resident of Azizabad who contracted the virus and passed away at a private hospital.
This is the first reported case of the Congo virus in the province this year and it has forced the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation (KMC) to initiate an epidemiologic and demographic survey to gather details of the area the patient resided in.
On to another environmental threat, this time from BBC News:
‘Widespread methane leakage’ from ocean floor off US coast
Researchers say they have found more than 500 bubbling methane vents on the seafloor off the US east coast.
The unexpected discovery indicates there are large volumes of the gas contained in a type of sludgy ice called methane hydrate. There are concerns that these new seeps could be making a hitherto unnoticed contribution to global warming.
The scientists say there could be about 30,000 of these hidden methane vents worldwide.
From the Guardian again, more methane:
Labour attempts to strengthen regulation of UK fracking industry
- Opposition party to table amendments to Lords infrastructure bill that would tighten rules for companies drilling for shale gas
The Labour party believes the rules covering fracking – or hydraulic fracturing – for gas are not tight enough and will attempt to strengthen regulation of the controversial drilling method by tabling a series of amendments to the infrastructure bill in the House of Lords on Tuesday.
The Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc) says there are adequate safeguards covering drilling for shale gas under existing rules or voluntary agreements. However, Tom Greatrex, the shadow energy minister, believes current agreements do not go far enough.
The opposition wants to see well-by-well disclosure of the fracking fluid being pumped into the well, baseline monitoring of methane levels in the groundwater and environmental impact assessments for all fracking sites.
And from Vocativ, the new methane frontier:
What’s the North Pole Worth, Anyways? We Did the Math
- It’s more valuable than the entire U.S. economy. No wonder the battle for Arctic is fierce
Natural resources are like catnip for power-hungry governments, which is why rich countries have battled over the North Pole for decades. Beneath the frozen tundra bordered by Canada, Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States lies some 30 percent of the world’s undiscovered natural gas and 15 percent of its untapped oil.
And each of those countries is hell-bent on getting the biggest slice of the pie. Perhaps the most hotly contested area is the Lomonosov Ridge, which spans 1,800 miles and divides the Amerasian and Eurasian basins. Both Canada and Russia claim that resource-rich ridge is a natural extension of their continental shelves. Meanwhile, Russia’s 2001 claim to the ridge was rejected by the United Nations (the governing body that decides such matters), but that didn’t stop the country from planting its flag on the North Pole in 2007.
It is the Canucks, though, who have made the most recent play for the North Pole. In December, Canada filed an application with the U.N. arguing that the North Pole falls within Canadian territory, and this month it launched two ice-breaking vessels to gather more scientific data to support its claim. The Canadian government has reportedly spent nearly $200 million in expeditions as part of its quest for Arctic sovereignty.
More from Yale Environment 360:
A New Frontier for Fracking: Drilling Near the Arctic Circle
Hydraulic fracturing is about to move into the Canadian Arctic, with companies exploring the region’s rich shale oil deposits. But many indigenous people and conservationists have serious concerns about the impact of fracking in more fragile northern environments.
by ed struzik
Among the dozens of rivers that flow unfettered through the Canadian North, the Natla and the Keele may be the most picturesque and culturally important. They are especially significant to the Dene people of the Sahtu region, which straddles the Arctic Circle in the Northwest Territories. Both of the rivers flow crystal clear out of the Mackenzie Mountains along the Yukon/Northwest Territories border before coming together in their final course to the Mackenzie River.
For hundreds — if not thousands — of years, the Mountain Dene people have been traveling upstream to salt licks that draw caribou, moose, and mountain sheep down from the high country in the early fall. For the Dene, it is the best opportunity to stock up on wild game, fish, and berries for the long winter.
Water woes from Want China Times:
Drought affects half a million in Xinjiang
A prolonged drought in northwest China’s Xinjiang has left about 200,000 people in need of emergency aid, including drinking water, said the region’s civil affairs department Saturday.
In seven counties of the Kazakh Autonomous Prefecture of Ili in northern Xinjiang, more than half a million people and 3.46 million head of livestock have been affected. Some 7,700 cattle have died. Rainfall since May in the Ili valley has been about 50% less than in previous years.
Herders are concerned how their livestock will survive the winter due to the destruction of fodder by the drought. Over 4.3 million mu (287,000 hectares) of crops and 22.8 million mu of pastures have suffered, with direct economic losses of 4.3 billion yuan (US$700 million).
More water woes, this time from Yale Environment 360:
Mideast Water Wars: In Iraq, A Battle for Control of Water
Conflicts over water have long haunted the Middle East. Yet in the current fighting in Iraq, the major dams on the Tigris and Euphrates rivers are seen not just as strategic targets but as powerful weapons of war.
There is a water war going on in the Middle East this summer. Behind the headline stories of brutal slaughter as Sunni militants carve out a religious state covering Iraq and Syria, there lies a battle for the water supplies that sustain these desert nations.
Blood is being spilled to capture the giant dams that control the region’s two great rivers, the Tigris and Euphrates. These structures hold back vast volumes of water. With their engineers fleeing as the Islamic State (ISIS) advances, the danger is that the result could be catastrophe — either deliberate or accidental.
“Managing water works along the Tigris and Euphrates requires a highly specialized skill set, but there is no indication that the Islamic State possesses it,” says Russell Sticklor, a water researcher for the CGIAR, a global agricultural research partnership, who has followed events closely.
After the jump, a radical solution to save the world’s wildlife, saving China’s cranes, an ecological/economic crisis in Southern Europe, the latest chapter of Fukushimapocalypse Now!, an American nuclear mystery, and life-saving cannabis news. . . Continue reading