Archive | February 21, 2021

Israel shuts down its entire Mediterranean coast as massive oil spill raises health concerns

Oil Spill Alert

Israelis should stay away from Mediterranean beaches, authorities warned on Sunday, after volunteers helping the cleanup of the tar that has smothered 160km of coastline were hospitalized, apparently after inhaling toxic fumes.

The population should “not to go [to the beaches] to swim, or do sports or leisure activity until further notice,” a warning, jointly issued by the Health, Interior and Environmental Protection ministries on Sunday, read. “Exposure to tar could harm public health.”

The announcement comes after several volunteers, out of thousands who’d helped clean up the aftermath of the oil spill on Saturday, felt sick and required hospitalization. Exposure to toxic fumes is believed to be the reason for their condition.

Volunteers will still be allowed to operate on the coast, but only after registering with the Israel Nature and Parks Authority and undergoing special training.

They’ll be fighting the tar together with the military, as Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff, Aviv Kohavi, promised to deploy “thousands of IDF troops” to the Mediterranean coastline.

The spill of dozens of tons of oil occurred during a winter storm last week, with bad weather preventing the Israeli authorities from detecting it in a timely manner and dealing with the tar at sea. The story made headlines in the local media after the corpse of a 17-meter baby fin whale washed up on the Mediterranean shore together with dead turtles, fish and sea creatures.

The results of the whale’s autopsy were announced on Sunday, with “black liquid” discovered in its lungs. However, it was too early to say whether oil was the reason for the death of the sea mammal, Nature and Parks Authority said.

Environmental groups have called the spill the worst disaster to hit Israel in decades, estimating that the recovery from it could take months or even years.

Ten days since the disaster, the Israeli authorities still haven’t found the exact source of the spill. They believe that one of nine ships passing about 50 km from shore could be responsible.

With satellite images and modelling of wave movements used to narrow the search, “there is a more-than-reasonable chance that we will be able to locate the specific ship,” Gila Gamliel, Environmental Protection Minister, said.

If the culprit is found, Israel may go to court, seeking compensation from insurance companies that will be used to deal with the aftermath of the spill, the minister explained.

Courtesy of rt.com

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Russia Reports First Cases of H5N8 Bird Flu in Humans

Russia said it found the world’s first cases of the H5N8 strain of avian influenza in humans though the virus isn’t yet spreading between people.

Authorities have sent information on the seven cases detected in workers at a poultry farm in southern Russia to the World Health Organization, Anna Popova, the country’s public-health chief, said in televised comments on Saturday.

“It is not transmitted from person to person. But only time will tell how soon future mutations will allow it to overcome this barrier,” she said. The discovery of this strain now “gives us all, the whole world, time to prepare for possible mutations and the possibility to react in a timely way and develop test systems and vaccines.”

The affected workers at the poultry farm, where an outbreak among birds was reported in December, had mild cases and have recovered, Popova said.

The swift identification of the strain means work can start on development of testing to detect new infections and on potential vaccines, Rinat Maksyutov, head of the Vektor research center, which made the finding, told state television.

In November, Vektor reported that a new H5N8 flu strain was circulating in 15 Russia regions among poultry and wild birds, but was not considered dangerous to humans, the Interfax news service reported.

In 2012, health officials investigated a strain of bird flu that killed hundreds of wild ducks in southern Russia’s Krasnodar region for potential risks to humans.

More than 2 million ducks and other poultry were slaughtered in France as of the end of January due to outbreaks of avian flu or as a preventative measure, the country’s agriculture ministry reported.

There have been 862 laboratory-confirmed cases of human infection with the H5N1 strain of avian flu including 455 deaths since 2003 in 17 countries, the WHO said in a Dec. 9 report. Six of 14 cases of H5N6 avian flu in humans reported since 2014 were fatal, the WHO said in a post dated Nov. 2016.

“Though human infections with A(H5) viruses are rare and generally occur in individuals exposed to sick or dead infected birds (or their environments), they can lead to severe illness or death in humans,” the WHO said on its website.

Courtesy of bnnbloomberg.ca

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