Archive | May 12, 2014

Deadly MERS virus reaches Lebanon

MERS Virus Alert

Cases of the deadly Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) are continuing to crop up around the world. This time, CBC Radio-Canada reports that a case has been confirmed in Beirut, Lebanon. After returning from Saudi Arabia, a man checked into a hospital complaining of symptoms like those seen with MERS. Given his travel history to several Gulf nations, including Saudi Arabia, health professionals suspected the infectious virus.

MERS is a coronavirus of the same family as SARS.  According to the Conversation, there are concerns that MERS could be the possible source of the next global pandemic.  A 2003 outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) infected more than 8,000 people and killed almost 800.  The World Health Organization reports that MERS suddenly appeared and started infecting people in September 2012 and may have a higher mortality rate than SARS.

However, CBS News reports that SARS infected healthy and unhealthy people at comparable rates.  Researchers concluded that because this virus seems to affect vulnerable people at a drastically higher rate, it does not have the propensity to become a global pandemic that wildly spreads throughout the world.  It is also easier to identify who is at risk and take appropriate measures to keep them from infection.

There is currently no cure or vaccine for MERS, making it imperative to control the spread. Officials in Lebanon and elsewhere are taking measures to screen international travelers that may be carrying the deadly virus. In Beirut, the health minister ordered that thermal cameras be set up to identify individuals that are possibly exhibiting a fever. The one known Lebanese case was a mild one and the man has since been discharged from the hospital.

2nd Case of Deadly Super MERS Virus Reported in Florida, USA

MERS Virus Alert

Health officials have confirmed a second U.S. case of a mysterious virus that has sickened hundreds in the Middle East.
The latest case is not an American – he is a resident of Saudi Arabia, visiting Florida, who is now in an Orlando hospital.
He was diagnosed with MERS, or Middle East Respiratory Syndrome, Sunday night. It is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death.
Fortunately, the U.S. cases so far have not been severe. The first case, a man in Indiana, was released from a hospital late last week. And the second patient is doing well, officials said. The two cases are not linked, officials said.
“The risk to the public remains very low,” said Dr. Anne Schuchat of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
MERS is a respiratory illness that begins with flu-like fever and cough but can lead to shortness of breath, pneumonia and death.
Most cases have been in Saudi Arabia or elsewhere in the Middle East. But earlier this month a first U.S. case was diagnosed in a man who traveled from Saudi Arabia to Indiana.
That man, an American, was a health-care worker at a hospital in Saudi Arabia’s capital city who flew to the United States on April 24 on a plane that originated in Riyadh, stopped in London and then landed in Chicago. The man took a bus to Munster, Indiana where he became sick and went to a hospital on April 28.
He improved and was released from a Munster hospital on Friday. Tests of people who were around the man have all proved negative, health officials have said.
Health officials now must track down fellow travelers who were around the newest case, and this time it will be more challenging: There were more flights involved.
This man also was a health-care worker at a hospital where MERS cases were being treated, the CDC said. He traveled on May 1 on flights from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, first to London, then to Boston, then to Atlanta, and finally to Orlando. He went to a hospital on May 8 and was placed in isolation.
The first flight was Saudi Airlines flight 113 to London, according to a Public Health England press release. The U.S. government did not identify the flight information for the other legs.
Health officials did not immediately release additional detail about his travels or his week in Florida, except to say he was not at any theme parks and remained in the Orlando area to see family.
The man is at Dr. P. Phillips Hospital in Orlando. He arrived there with relatively mild symptoms, is stable and doing well, but there is no timetable for his release, said Dain Weister, a spokesman for Florida’s health department.
As early as the first flight, the latest case was suffering fever, chills and a slight cough. That doesn’t necessarily mean he infected anyone. Experts think MERS cases are most infectious when they are severely ill, with symptoms like pneumonia and difficulty breathing, Schuchat said.
However, health officials are trying to contact as many as 500 people who were on the three flights within the United States to let them know the situation and watch for symptoms. People on the flight from Jeddah to London also will be contacted, CDC officials said.
MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused some 800 deaths globally in 2003.
The MERS virus has been found in camels, but officials don’t know how it is spreading to humans. It can spread from person to person, but officials believe that happens only after close contact. Not all those exposed to the virus become ill.
But it appears to be unusually lethal – some estimates have suggested it has killed nearly a third of the people it sickened. The estimate has been dropping as health officials have begun diagnosing more and more cases with less severe illness. But the estimated fatality rate for MERS still is far higher than what’s seen with seasonal flu or other routine infections.
Fortunately, it is not as contagious as flu, measles or other diseases. There is no vaccine or cure and there’s no specific treatment except to relieve symptoms.
Overall, 538 people have been reported to have the respiratory illness, including 145 people who have died. So far, all had ties to the Middle East region or to people who traveled there. As many as one-fifth of cases have been in health-care workers, Schuchat said.


Subject To Change

Depth: 10 km

Distances: 718 km SW of Vancouver, Canada / pop: 1,837,969 / local time: 11:51:01.1 2014-05-12
420 km W of Salem, United States / pop: 154,637 / local time: 11:51:01.1 2014-05-12
317 km W of Coquille, United States / pop: 3,866 / local time: 11:51:01.1 2014-05-12
301 km W of Bandon, United States / pop: 3,066 / local time: 11:51:01.1 2014-05-12

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Subject To Change

Depth: 33 km

Distances: 4036 km SW of Santiago, Chile / pop: 4,837,295 / local time: 14:38:41.2 2014-05-12
4742 km SE of Papeete, French Polynesia / pop: 26,357 / local time: 08:38:41.2 2014-05-12
4832 km SW of Buenos Aires, Argentina / pop: 13,076,300 / local time: 15:38:41.2 2014-05-12

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Active Volcano Discovered Beneath Antarctica ‘Will Melt and Destabilise Ice Sheet’ if it Erupts

Marie Byrd Land
The volcano was discovered in Marie Byrd Land.Michael Studinger / NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

An active volcano has been discovered beneath the ice in Antarctica and scientists believe it could seriously exacerbate the problem of global warming.

Scientists at the Washington University in St Louis examined volcanic activity in Marie Byrd Land, a highland region of West Antarctica where many volcanoes are known to exist.

Study author Amanda Lough said the volcano was discovered around 30 miles from Antarctica’s highest volcano, Mount Sidley.

The researchers say an eruption at the volcano was unlikely to break through the surface of the ice, but instead would melt the ice beneath. Their paper said that “high heat flow through the crust in this region may influence the stability of the West Antarctic ice sheet.

“Eruptions at this site are unlikely to penetrate the 1.2 to 2km thick overlying ice, but would generate large volumes of melt water that could significantly affect ice stream flow.”

Published in the journal Nature Geoscience, the researchers found the volcano after setting up lines of seismographs across the area, using vibrations to create images of the ice and underlying rock. During their research, they found several nearby earthquakes and realised they had found a previously undiscovered active volcano.

“We interpret the swarm events as deep long-period earthquakes based on their unusual frequency content. Such earthquakes occur beneath active volcanoes, are caused by deep magmatic activity and, in some cases, precede eruptions,” the study said.

An eruption at the site has the potential to create mass amounts of melt water that would flow towards the sea, increasing the flow of overlaying ice and speeding up the rate of ice sheet loss.

The authors added that their observations provide “strong evidence for ongoing magmatic activity” and show that volcanism is shifting southwards along the Executive Committee Range, a mountain range stretching 80km.

China Red Alert: Biggest storm hits Shenzhen with severe floods

Red Alert

A man carries a girl as he walks along a flooded street in Shenzhen, Guangdong province
Meteorological authorities issued a red alert as the biggest storm ever since 2008 hit Shenzhen, flooded several districts and submerged more than 2000 vehicles, state media reported
Pedestrians wading through a heavily flooded street in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province
Residents standing on a set of steps near partially submerged vehicles in heavily flooded street in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province
Commuters maneuvering their way through a heavily flooded street in Shenzhen, south China’s Guangdong province

District line trains crash between East Putney and Southfields after tracks move, UK

Your Local Guardian: Damage caused after two trains crashed between East Putney and Southfields

Commuters on the District Line might be concerned to learn two trains collided when the tracks moved.

The trains were travelling between East Putney and Southfields stations on May 1 when they caught each other, causing minor damage.

No-one was injured and there are no reports staff or customers were aware of the incident until the damage was discovered during a routine train check at the depot that evening.

The C Stock and new S Stock trains, which travel between Edgware Road and Wimbledon, were temporarily withdrawn from service on the branch while the incident was investigated.

Kevin Bootle, London Underground’s (LU) district line manager, said: “It was found there had been a very slight movement of the tracks in this particular area which caused the trains to come into contact.

“London Underground engineers are now working to modify the track to ensure this incident is not repeated.

“As a precaution other areas of the branch were checked with no other issues found.

“The safety of our customers and staff is our top priority and we apologise for the limited disruption this may have caused.”

Mick Cash, acting general manger of RMT union, said: “We share the sense of relief that no passengers or staff were injured as a result. “However the incident once again shines the spotlight on the cuts to track inspections and maintenance at LU.”

Normal operating hours have been restored.


Subject to change

Depth: 8 km

Distances: Latitude, Longitude  63.673  -23.310 
(1.3 km WSW of Geirfugladrangur)

Earthquake location   12 May 22:15 GMT

Map of earthquake epicentres

Time and magnitude of earthquake   12 May 22:15 GMT

Graph showing earthquake timing and magnitude


Subject to change

Depth: 7 km

Distances: Latitude, Longitude  63.668  -23.298 
(1.2 km SSW of Geirfugladrangur)

Earthquake location   12 May 22:15 GMT

Map of earthquake epicentres

Time and magnitude of earthquake   12 May 22:15 GMT

Graph showing earthquake timing and magnitude


Subject To Change

Depth: 10 km

Distances: 466 km NE of Dubai, United Arab Emirates / pop: 1,137,347 / local time: 20:42:24.2 2014-05-12
222 km SE of Kermān, Iran / pop: 577,514 / local time: 21:12:24.2 2014-05-12
63 km S of Bam, Iran / pop: 99,268 / local time: 21:12:24.2 2014-05-12

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