Emergency Warnings Declared For Australia Wildfire
Parts of southern Australia were under threat of a severe wildfire, with Victoria State facing its worst conditions in nearly five years, according to the Associated Press.
Emergency warnings were declared for nine blazes that were burning out of control in Victoria State, where homes were lost near Gisbourne.
Weather temperatures were tipped to reach 40 C (104 F) on Sunday.
Avian Flu Variant Stalks Egypt
In a new study, Matthew Scotch, a researcher at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, tracks the spread of an H5N1 variant in Egypt – a country recently identified as a major epicenter for the virus. In results recently appearing in the journal BMC Genomics, Scotch tracks the spread of H5N1 cases using a technique known as phylogeography.
The authors hope that studies of this kind will significantly enhance efforts by public health officials to identify viral outbreaks, limit their spread, coordinate vaccination efforts, reduce mortality and better inform the public of risks.
“Egypt represents an epicenter for H5N1, and there are new variants that have emerged since it was first discovered there in 2006,” Scotch says. “We used phylogeography and influenza genome sequences to model diffusion and evolution of the virus.”
Phylogeography was born out of the fields of biogeography and phylogenetics, or molecular evolution. By combining viral sequence data and geographical information over time, as well as evaluating features associated with viral carriers, researchers can better understand how viruses spread across a landscape through animal and human populations.
Phylogeography has already been established as a powerful technique for investigating viral dispersal for human diseases, including dengue fever, rabies, influenza and HIV. Recent application of phylogeographic methods to the study of avian influenza promises to significantly improve fine-grained mapping of viral origin and spread.
Avian flu H5N1 is a form of influenza A – an RNA virus – first identified in Hong Kong in 1997. The initial cases of H5N1 were apparently not transmitted efficiently among birds. In 2002 however, new isolates of H5N1 appeared, causing acute disease in ducks, resulting in neurological dysfunction and death.
Infected birds transmit H5N1 to one another through nasal secretions, saliva, feces and blood. Other animals, including humans, may become infected with the virus through direct contact with avian bodily fluids or through contaminated surfaces.
Human cases of H5N1 often result from contact with infected poultry, particularly in live bird markets and farms, which are believed to be major reservoirs for the virus. Avian H5N1 however, is also carried by migratory species of birds, which further spread H5N1 to other parts of the world.
Jordanian Man Dies From MERS Virus
A man has died in Jordan after being infected with the MERS virus, the kingdom’s first fatality from the respiratory disease in more than a year, news reports said Saturday.
Another man was reported to have died of the H1N1 virus, or swine flu.
“Two men in their eighties have died in Jordan, one from the coronavirus MERS and the other from H1N1,” the daily Al-Rai cited health ministry official Bassam Hajawi as saying.
It quoted him as saying the ministry had “raised precautionary and alert levels across the kingdom”.
Saudi Arabia is by far the worst affected country from MERS – Middle East Respiratory Syndrome – accounting for 59 deaths out of 180 confirmed cases.
It has also struck in the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.
The death in Jordan was the country’s third, after two previous fatalities in 2012.
Experts are struggling to understand MERS, for which there is no vaccine.
It is considered a deadlier but less-transmissible cousin of the SARS virus that erupted in Asia in 2003 and infected 8,273 people, nine percent of whom died.
Last August, researchers pointed to Arabian camels as possible hosts of the virus.
Cases have also been reported in Europe in Britain, France, Germany, Italy, mainly in people who had visited the Middle East.
Hajawi was quoted on Saturday as saying it was not known how the Jordanian man became infected.
“It is possible he contracted the virus while abroad, two months before the symptoms appeared,” he said, adding that the patient also had leukemia.
On January 29, Saudi Arabia announced a new MERS death, bringing to 59 the number of people who have died from the coronavirus there.
The health ministry said the 60-year-old Saudi national died in hospital in the Riyadh region, adding that he had suffered from chronic disease.
At the end of last month, the World Health Organization said it had been informed of 180 cases of MERS infection worldwide, including 77 deaths.
Like SARS, MERS appears to cause a lung infection, with patients suffering from a temperature, cough and breathing difficulties.
But it differs in that it also causes rapid kidney failure and the extremely high death rate has caused serious concern.
Of the swine flu case, the Jordanian health ministry official said 25 cases had been treated successfully in the country this winter.
He added that the man who died had also suffered from cardiac problems. H1N1 has claimed the lives of 29 Jordanians down the years.
Mexican Gov’t Reports 421 Flu Deaths In 2014
A total of 421 people died from influenza between Jan. 1 and Feb. 7 in Mexico, the Health Secretariat said.
Of the total deaths registered during the period, 390 were from the AH1N1 strain, two from the AH3N2 virus, one from type B influenza and the remaining 28 deaths from other strains of the virus.
Laboratory tests have confirmed 3,679 influenza cases since Jan. 1, of which 3,114 were of the AH1N1 strain, 193 of the AH3N2 type, 57 of the type B influenza virus and 315 of other strains, the secretariat said.
Two deaths were registered between Jan. 31 and Feb. 7, compared with 23 the previous week and 156 between Jan. 5 and Jan. 11, the deadliest week of the 2014 flu season, the secretariat said.
The infection and death figures will be adjusted as laboratory results are received, the Health Secretariat said.
Adults between the ages of 35 and 55 who suffer from chronic diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, are hardest hit by the seasonal flu outbreak, health officials said.
The AH1N1 flu virus responsible for the 2009 pandemic is now a seasonal virus, the secretariat said.
The AH1N1 influenza strain was detected in Mexico between March and April 2009.
Around 1,300 people died and more than 70,000 were infected by AH1N1 in Mexico, where a health alert was kept in place until June 29, 2010.
Plane Makes Emergency Landing At Rochester Airport, USA
A Delta Airlines flight made an emergency landing Thursday night at the Rochester International Airport due to an engine problem. The plane landed without incident, and all 50 passengers and crew members exited without injury.
According to a press release from the Rochester Fire Department, a flight from Des Moines, Iowa to Minneapolis was diverted to Rochester just before 7 p.m. when its crew noticed an abnormal temperature reading on one of the two engines of the Canadair Regional Jet.
Emergency responders arrived at the scene shortly before the plane landed. No signs of fire were present and the plane taxied to a terminal under its own power, where passengers deplaned.
Delta made arrangements for another plane to complete the flight, according to the press release.