H1N1 Virus Spreading Across Canada And The United States
Cases of the H1N1 virus, also known as swine flu, across Canada and the U.S. are increasing at the approach of the peak flu season of February. The Centers for Disease Control reports that in the U.S., the flu season has hit southeastern states Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma and Texas the hardest so far, and it is expected to spread across the nation in the coming weeks.
Swine flu has not just affected the southern part of the United States. According the seasonal map issued by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), many states are seeing widespread flu activity. In Wisconsin, 81 people have been admitted to a hospital over a period of a week with a majority of the cases attributed to the H1N1 virus. The biggest concern is the increase in the number of H1N1 incidences, which has doubled in the past two weeks, according to a Jan. 2 WBay report. A death from swine flu was just reported in Santa Clara, CA, as well.
In Michigan, emergency departments are filled with hundreds of patients with flu-like symptoms. However, infants on life support because of the H1N1 virus are causing the most concern.
North of the border in Toronto, the Montreal Gazette reports that 36 percent of 210 confirmed cases of influenza were H1N1. One swine flu victim has died. This is an increase of 33 percent from this point last year in Canada’s largest city.
Out west in Alberta, there are 965 lab-confirmed cases of H1N1; 270 of those patients have had to be hospitalized. As of January 2, five people have died from the flu in Alberta. This has led the province to open five mass immunization clinics in four communities.
Infectious diseases expert Dr. Alison McGeer tells CTV News that the amount of flu activity in Alberta this year is actually not that much higher than previous years. However, this is the first time that H1N1 has been the predominant strain of flu since the 2009 pandemic. This comes two months after it was reported that the pandemic 5 years ago might have killed 203,000 people worldwide – more than 10 times higher than first estimated. The results were based on lab tests by an international group of scientists.
No statistics have been released in terms of the number of people getting flu shots in America. However, in Canada, a Harris-Decima poll found only about 44 percent of Canadians have either had a shot already or intend to get one this season. This is not much higher than last year’s number of 41 percent. Nevertheless, the high number of Canadians not getting a vaccine is creating a concern.
Swine flu spreads fast because it is highly contagious. When an infected coughs or sneezes, tiny droplets of the virus are released into the air. Anyone who comes into contact with these droplets or touches a surface recently touched by an infected person can catch H1N1.
While the seasonal flu affects older people, H1N1 affects the younger population, and particularly children. This is the biggest difference between this year’s flu season and past flu seasons. The CDC has sent a health notice to clinicians, reiterating its call for everyone aged 6 months and older to receive a flu vaccine.
MAGNITUDE 3.5 – OKLAHOMA, USA
Subject To Change
Depth: 13 km
Distances: 464 km N of Dallas, United States / pop: 1,197,816 / local time: 14:35:32.0 2014-01-04
163 km NW of Oklahoma City, United States / pop: 579,999 / local time: 14:35:32.0 2014-01-04
2 km N of Cherokee, United States / pop: 1,498 / local time: 14:35:32.0 2014-01-04
MAGNITUDE 5.1 – SOUTHWESTERN SAKHA, RUSSIA
Subject To Change
Depth: 12 km
Distances: 292km (181mi) E of Chul’man, Russia
308km (191mi) E of Neryungri, Russia
331km (206mi) SE of Aldan, Russia
354km (220mi) ENE of Tynda, Russia
1824km (1133mi) NE of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia
Australia Saw Hottest Year On Record In 2013
Australia experienced its hottest year on record in 2013, officials have said.
Temperatures were 1.2C above the long term average, the warmest since records began in 1910, the Bureau of Meteorology said in its annual report.
The year also saw a record-warm winter that led into the most devastating fires in Sydney since 1968, it said.
The warming in Australia was consistent with global climate trends, where rising temperatures were influenced by greenhouse gases, it added.
According to the bureau, all but one of the last 10 years have had warmer-than-average temperatures in Australia.
“The Australian region warming is very similar to that seen at the global scale, and the past year emphasises that the warming trend continues,” the bureau said in its annual climate statement.
The report listed significant climate events in 2013, including “the most destructive fires in the Sydney region since at least 1968”, which were affected by “a record-warm and dry winter and an early spring”.
Neil Plummer, from the bureau, told broadcaster ABC: “Most of the warming has occurred since around 1950, and that’s consistent with the global pattern.”
He said that figures from the bureau, and other bureaus around the word, provided a “body of evidence that we’re all seeing a warming over Australia and a warming world”.
The news will likely add to criticism from environmentalists that the new conservative government is not doing enough to tackle climate change, the BBC’s Jon Donnison in Sydney reports.
Ministers recently cut funding for a number of organisations carrying out research into global warming, and the government has also pledged to abolish a carbon tax which makes the country’s biggest polluters pay for the amount of greenhouse cases they produce, our correspondent adds.
Heatwave Kills Seven In Argentina
A heatwave affecting Argentina has left at least seven people dead – most of them elderly – in the past week, officials say.
The heat has been compounded by power cuts, which have prevented many people from using air conditioning.
In Santiago del Estero and other northern provinces temperatures have soared to over 45C (113F).
Meteorologists say it has been the worst heatwave in the region since records began in 1906.
The victims of the extreme weather lived in Santiago del Estero, located 1,100km (680 miles) north of Buenos Aires.
Hundreds of people in the province have required medical help and doctors have warned people to stay indoors during the hottest hours.
Argentina’s ageing power grid has been struggling to keep up with increased demand for air-conditioning.
Ice cream parlours and other businesses have lost their stocks due to the power cuts
Authorities are blaming the energy shortages on the hot weather. But the opposition accuses the government of mismanaging the crisis.
Many people are protesting about the lack of services, says the BBC’s Irene Caselli in Buenos Aires. Some parts of the city have been without power for two weeks.
Residents have set fire to rubbish bags and tyres on the roads, causing traffic jams as many left the capital for the new year festivities.
Buenos Aires Mayor Mauricio Macri, a former ally of President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner, said private energy suppliers could not take all the blame.
“The main responsibility is with the federal government,” he said. “The government must make sure there is an investment programme, which has not happened in the last decade.”
Northern Ireland floods Warning: Sandbag Collection In East Belfast
About 3,000 sandbags have been handed out in east Belfast on Saturday in preparation for potential flooding.
Heavy rain and strong winds have been predicted by the Met Office for Sunday and Monday, and a flood alert remains in place.
The sandbag collection point at Inverary Community Centre is due to reopen at 10:00 GMT on Sunday.
The high tide on Sunday afternoon is expected to be greater than usual.
Emergency measures were put in place on Friday, amid warnings of a possible tidal surge affecting Belfast.
Walls of sandbags were put in place in parts of central and east Belfast, but the tide peaked without major flooding.
Cardiff Flight Forced To Make Emergency Landing In Paris
A flight from Geneva to Cardiff was forced to make an emergency landing in Paris after suffering “a minor technical fault”.
A passenger on Flybe’s BE1832 flight on Saturday told BBC Wales it was a rough landing but the crew remained calm.
Firefighters rushed to the Bombardier DHC-8-400 aircraft on the runway at Paris Orly Airport, and dowsed it in water using hoses.
All 68 passengers were unhurt and are expected to be flown to Cardiff later.
A spokeswoman for Flybe confirmed that the flight “experienced a minor technical fault and diverted to Paris Orly”.
“Flybe would like to apologise for any inconvenience caused.”
The Cardiff-bound flight had left Geneva Airport at 15:30 GMT.
But passenger Luke Broadley said the captain made an announcement about 45 minutes into their journey warning there was a technical problem and the plane would be landing.
The landing was unstable, but not particularly scary, Mr Broadley said, and he praised staff for their efforts.
Passengers were later told the problem was a “hydraulic issue” and the airline would arrange for a plane from Birmingham to bring them back to Cardiff later on Saturday.
Flybe’s flight information on its website says the flight was delayed until 20:50 GMT.
Goa Building Collapse Kills Six And Traps Dozens
The five-storey building was under construction at the time of the collapse and it is not known how many people are trapped
At least six people have been killed and dozens more are trapped after a building collapsed in the Indian state of Goa.
Police Superintendent Shekhar Prabhudesai said authorities are still trying to determine how many people were on site when the five-storey structure, which was under construction, crumpled in Canacona, about 44 miles (70km) from the state capital of Panaji.
Rescuers are digging through the debris in the coastal village in search of survivors.
Witnesses said about 40 workers were on site.
“It was like an earthquake when the building fell,” said Ramesh Naik. “You could not see what exactly had happened because of the dust.”
Rescue workers using cranes and bulldozers, shovels and bare hands, struggled to shift concrete slabs and other debris to free the workers as hundreds of onlookers stood watching the rescue efforts.
Ambulances took at least three seriously injured workers to a hospital for treatment.
The cause of the collapse is not yet known.
“We will immediately arrest the builder, the contractor and municipal officials involved in sanctioning this construction site,” Goa Chief Minister Manohar Parrikar said.
“I am personally monitoring the situation,” he added.
Building collapses are common in India, as massive demand for housing and lax regulations often encourage builders to cut corners by using substandard materials or add unauthorised extra floors.
16 Dead As Snow Batters Eastern US
Brutal weather claims several lives as wind-chill readings plunge as low as -23C in parts of the US
At least 16 people have died due to blizzard-like conditions battering the eastern half of the US, leaving nearly two feet of snow.
Around 1,900 flights have been cancelled across the country as howling wind and sub-zero temperatures wreaked chaos.
Governors in New York and New Jersey declared states of emergency and urged residents to stay at home, while hundreds of schools were shut down in Boston and New York.
New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said: “This is nothing to be trifled with. People should seriously consider staying in their homes.”
The deaths include those caused by difficult traffic conditions in Michigan, Kentucky, Indiana and Illinois.
A massive pile of salt fell on a worker at a Philadelphia storage facility, killing him. And authorities say a woman with Alzheimer’s disease froze to death after she wandered away from her rural New York home.
Forecasters say temperatures were plummeting to well below freezing, and wind chill readings could hit minus 10F (-23C).
Another wave of cold air was already blasting through the Midwest after moving down from Canada.
Outreach teams were searching streets in New York City and Boston for homeless people at risk of freezing to death.
Meanwhile, some major highways in New York state were shut down overnight, and some commuter trains around New York City were operating on a reduced schedule.
Amtrak planned to run trains on all of its Northeast lines on Friday but operate on a modified schedule, spokeswoman Christina Leeds said.
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie ordered non-essential state workers to stay at home, with state offices and courthouses closed.
The heavy weather began on Thursday, just a day after New York Mayor Bill de Blasio was sworn in to lead the nation’s largest city and a few days before Boston Mayor Thomas Menino ends 20 years in office.
Mr De Blasio, who in 2010 criticised predecessor Mayor Michael Bloomberg for his handling of a post-Christmas storm, said 1,700 snowplows and 450 salt spreaders were hitting the streets in New York City.
“We have to get it right, no question about it,” he said.
“We are focused like a laser on protecting this city.”
The snowstorm worked its way east from the Midwest, where it dropped up to 17 inches of snow in parts of Chicago and prompted the cancellation of hundreds of flights at both of the city’s airports.