The head of the World Health Organisation (WHO) has declared the monkeypox outbreak a “global health emergency”.
Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told a news conference that despite the WHO committee being unable to come to a consensus, he declared the emergency anyway as the tie-breaking vote.
He added the risk globally is “moderate”, except in Europe where it is “high”.
Dr Ghebreyesus said there had been more than 16,000 cases of monkeypox reported to the WHO from 75 countries, and five deaths.
The declaration by the WHO is designed to trigger an international response to the outbreak, which could unlock funding and vaccine sharing.
The disease has had a foothold in parts of central and west Africa for decades, and was not known to trigger large outbreaks beyond the continent.
However, in May, authorities in the US and western Europe detected dozens of outbreaks.
Monkeypox joins COVID-19, Ebola, and Zika on the list of previously declared global health emergencies.
Courtesy of Sky News
Two people in England have been diagnosed with Lassa Fever, a rare Ebola-like virus that is spread via rat faeces.
A third probable case connected to the same family is being investigated in the East of England, health officials said.
They are the first confirmed cases of the serious disease in the country in more than a decade and there have been only eight in total since 1980.
The UK Health Security Agency, which is in charge of investigating the outbreak, stressed that human-to-human transmission is rare and most people make a full recovery.
It is believed the cases are all within the same family who recently returned from West Africa, where the virus is endemic.
One of the patients has already recovered while the other is being transferred to the Royal Free Hospital in London for specialist care.
The third probable case is being treated at the Bedfordshire Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust.
The agency described Lassa fever as an ‘acute viral haemorrhagic illness caused by Lassa virus’.
It said people usually become infected through exposure to food or household items contaminated with urine or faeces of infected rats. The virus can also be spread through infected bodily fluids.
Dr Susan Hopkins, Chief Medical Advisor at UKHSA said: ‘We can confirm that two cases of Lassa fever have been identified in England, and a further probable case is under investigation. The cases are within the same family and are linked to recent travel to West Africa.
‘Cases of Lassa fever are rare in the UK and it does not spread easily between people. The overall risk to the public is very low. We are contacting the individuals who have had close contact with the cases prior to confirmation of their infection, to provide appropriate assessment, support and advice.
‘UKHSA and the NHS have well established and robust infection control procedures for dealing with cases of imported infectious disease and these will be reinforced.’
The last time the virus was discovered in the UK, in 2009, there was no evidence of any onward transmission, UKHSA said.
People who have caught the virus in West Africa usually live in areas where there are high populations of rodents. Imported cases rarely occur elsewhere in the world.
Courtesy of metro.co.uk
A MIXTURE of the flu and coronavirus, dubbed Flurona, has been detected in Israel.
The first case of Flurona was found in a young pregnant woman in Beilinson Hospital in Petach Tikva. Flurona is a dangerous mixture of coronavirus and influenza. The young woman was unvaccinated and results from the hospital detected the co-presence of both the flu and the Covid 19 pathogens.
Local press in Israel reported the woman was found positive for the two infections during analysis at the hospital in Petach Tikva.
The Israeli Health Ministry is studying the results.
The woman has presented with relatively mild symptoms of the disease.
However, the health ministry in Israel is studying the combination of the two infections to detect if it could cause a more serious illness.
Now experts in Israel have said that several other patients have contracted the two viruses but have not been diagnosed.
Professor Arnon Vizhnitser director of the hospitals’ Gynecology Department said: “Last year, we did not witness flu cases among pregnant or birthing women.
“Today, we are seeing cases of both coronavirus and the flu that are starting to rear their head.
“We are seeing more and more pregnant women with the flu.
“It is definitely a great challenge dealing with a woman who comes in with a fever at childbirth.
“This is especially when you do not know if it’s coronavirus or the flu, so you refer to them the same.
“Most of the illness is respiratory.”
Mr Vizhnitser added that the patient did not experience any unusually serious symptoms.
He added: “She was diagnosed with the flu and coronavirus as soon as she arrived.
“Both tests came back positive, even after we checked again.
“The disease is the same disease; they’re viral and cause difficulty breathing since both attack the upper respiratory tract.”
Courtesy of express.co.uk
There are 40 infected premises across Britain amid warnings that wild birds migrating from mainland Europe during the winter are likely carrying the disease.
Half a million birds have been culled as the country remains only a few weeks into a three-month migratory season.
It comes after an Avian Influenza Prevention Zone was declared across the UK on November 3.
This was extended on November 29 with the requirement that all captive birds be kept indoors.
The UK’s chief veterinary officer, who is leading the response, warned cases are at a ‘phenomenal level’ on Thursday.
Bird flu only infects humans in extremely rare cases, but the situation has ‘huge human, animal and trade implications’, Christine Middlemiss said.
She told the BBC: ‘We can’t wait until another year and have an even bigger outbreak.
‘So, we will be working not just with our own scientists but internationally, to understand more of what we can do about what’s behind it.’
Cautioning the migratory season will last until March, she added: ‘We are going to need to keep up these levels of heightened biosecurity for all that time.’
Immediate research is needed to stop a worse outbreak in future years, Ms Middlemiss added.
Minister George Eustice told the House of Commons today: ‘Each year the UK faces a seasonal risk in incursion of avian influenza associated with migratory wild birds.
‘While we have that each year, I have to say this year we are now seeing the largest-ever outbreak in the UK of avian influenza with 36 confirmed cases.’
The protection zone means keepers must continue taking precautions including regular cleaning and disinfecting clothing, equipment and vehicles and limiting access to non-essential workers and visitors.
Defra has said the new housing measures will be kept under regular review.
Courtesy of metro.co.uk
The Netherlands and Austria are days away from imposing new lockdowns in a bid to stop a surge in Covid-19 cases.
Uneven vaccine coverage and a relaxation of preventive measures have brought Europe to a ‘critical point’ in the pandemic, the World Health Organisation said last week.
Restrictions coming into force tomorrow in the Netherlands are the first by a western European country since the summer.
Bars, restaurants and non-essential stores will be ordered to close at 7pm for at least three weeks starting on Saturday, a Dutch broadcasting organisation said citing government sources.
People will be urged to work from home as much as possible, and audiences will be banned from attending sporting events in the coming weeks.
Schools, theatres and cinemas, however, are set to remain open.
The partial lockdown, due to be announced by prime minister Mark Rutte in a televised press conference scheduled for 6pm, would last longer than the 14 days recommended by the government’s outbreak management team.
Brits are still allowed to visit the Netherlands if they are fully vaccinated, even though Dutch authorities currently classify the UK as a ‘very high risk country’.
Fully vaccinated travellers arriving in the Netherlands must show either a negative PCR test result or a a negative antigen test result, according to Government guidance.
The Dutch authorities have not yet indicated that it plans to further restrict foreign travel but this could change.
Latvia was the first country to reimpose lockdown in Europe to combat the fourth wave of Covid-19.
The country announced a month-long lockdown three weeks ago after an unprecedented surge in infections.
President Vladimir Putin declared a holiday period for Russia from October 30 to curb infections, however, it ended on November 7.
New restrictions on the Netherlands would mean a drastic turn in policy for its government, which until last month thought that a relatively high vaccination rate would mean it could further ease measures towards the end of the year.
However, new Covid-19 cases in the country of 17.5 million have increased rapidly after social distancing measures were dropped in September.
According to the latest figures, they hit a record of around 16,300 in 24 hours.
This has led to pressure on hospitals, forcing them to scale back regular care again to treat patients with the virus.
But the Netherlands is not alone in reintroducing stricter controls.
Austria is also considering locking down millions of people not fully vaccinated against Covid-19 in lockdown in a matter of days.
Officials in Upper Austria province, which has the lowest vaccination rate and the highest infection rate, plan to impose restrictions from Monday if given the green light by the federal government.
Chancellor Alexander Schallenberg pointed out a lockdown for the unvaccinated was ‘probably unavoidable’ and that they faced an ‘uncomfortable’ winter and Christmas.
During a visit to Bregenz in western Austria, he said: ‘I don’t see why two-thirds should lose their freedom because one-third is dithering.
‘For me, it is clear that there should be no lockdown for the vaccinated out of solidarity for the unvaccinated.’
Austrian regional governor Thomas Stelzer also described the situation as ‘dramatic’.
Those who are not vaccinated will have restrictions placed on their daily movements, including bans from restaurants, hotels, hairdressing salons and large public events.
Courtesy of metro.co.uk
A fourth wave of coronavirus is in “full force”, Germany’s health minister has warned, after a 55% rise in cases over the past month.
Europe is “back at the epicentre” of the pandemic, according to World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe director Dr Hans Kluge, and is the only place in the world where COVID is “still increasing”.
Infection rates across the region have risen by 6% in the past week alone, WHO bosses told a Geneva news conference on Thursday.
This has also resulted in an increase in hospital admissions – which have more than doubled in a week – and virus-related deaths – which have increased by 12%, Dr Kluge added.
German health minister Jens Spahn announced on Friday that booster vaccines will now be given to all adults six months after their second dose as a way of tackling the increase.
“A fourth COVID wave is now with us in full force,” he said.
“We are at the start of a very difficult few weeks.”
Despite Germany having vaccinated 67% of its population, it is still experiencing a dramatic surge.
On Friday, health officials reported the highest number of daily infections for a second day in a row (37,120), which far exceeded its previous winter peak of 33,777 from 18 December 2020.
Several countries in central and eastern Europe, including Slovakia, Slovenia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania are also seeing two-week average case rates of over 1 in 1,000.
But many of these infections are happening in unvaccinated people, experts have said.
Slovakia, for example, reported a new record number of daily cases – 6,805 – on Friday and has one of the lowest vaccine rates in the EU.
Its health ministry confirmed that 69% of the new infections were in unvaccinated people.
Professor Andrew Preston, of the University of Bath’s biology and biochemistry department, said Europe’s surge could be down to both poor vaccination rates and a lack of COVID-19 restrictions.
“Some eastern European countries have very low vaccination rates and there you are seeing most of the cases in the unvaccinated,” he told Sky News.
“But in Germany yesterday they had a record number of cases and that probably reflects a pattern of what happens when you unlock with high levels of virus circulating.”
Dr Michael Ryan, of WHO’s health emergency programme, called on European governments to “close the gap” in their vaccine rollouts in response to the spike.
“There may be plenty of vaccine available, but uptake of vaccine has not been equal”, he said on Thursday.
WHO director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus stressed the importance of maintaining some restrictions to reduce cases in Europe.
“Vaccines alone will not end the pandemic,” he said. “Vaccines do not replace the need for public health measures [which] remain important in every country.”
Dr Ryan added that “exhaustion” in “health workers, communities and government” is “leading to complacency”, “gaps in testing, clinical management and vaccination”.
“It is through those gaps” that transmission occurs, he said.
Although some European countries have reintroduced social distancing and face masks in public spaces in recent weeks, Professor Preston says this is only a temporary solution.
“The question is how do we move forward in a world where, even in countries with high vaccination rates, you still see high levels of virus transmission?
“In eastern European countries, reimposing restrictions might help buy time to increase low vaccination rates.
“And in places where there is significant pressure on health services, alleviating that with short term measures seems sensible.
“But because vaccines are not absolute in stopping people becoming infected, we need to decide what level of COVID-induced damage we are prepared to tolerate in order to return to ‘normal’.”
Courtesy of Sky News
Animal health authorities in Japan have culled a record 9.87 million birds, mostly chickens and ducks, to stop the spread of highly pathogenic bird flu.
Japan has been contending with outbreaks of highly pathogenic H5N8 bird flu since November 2020. Recent reporting in the Japan Times and JiJi Press says that the outbreak spread to 18 prefectures, including Chiba and Ibaraki, the country’s main poultry producing areas.
As of Saturday 8 May, veterinary authorities culled around 9.87 million birds as part of biosecurity measures to prevent the spread of the virus. This number is a dramatic increase from the previous record cull of 1.83 million birds in the 2010-2011 outbreak.
The Jiji Press reports that the widespread culls are behind the recent spike in egg prices.
Poultry farmers and backyard keepers are being encouraged to adopt stringent biosecurity measures to prevent further outbreaks of bird flu.
Courtesy of thepoultrysite.com
The National Institute of High Security Animal Diseases, Bhopal, has confirmed avian influenza in samples of birds sent from a poultry farm at Kila Raipur, prompting the administration to order culling of 90,000 birds.
The samples were collected on Wednesday after owner of Suba Singh poultry farm informed the administration about the mysterious death of 1,500 birds.
As the report confirming presence of bird flu arrived on Friday evening, deputy commissioner Varinder Kumar Sharma declared the area within a kilometre of the epicentre as infected zone and 1-10km as surveillance zone.
Ordering culling of 90,000 birds at the farm, he also constituted a nine-member committee to oversee the process and ensure that no bird, unprocessed poultry meat, eggs, feed or any other material was taken out from the poultry farm.
The committee headed by Khanna additional deputy commissioner Sakatar Singh Bal took stock of the situation at the farm on Saturday.
Bal said 20 teams of the animal husbandry department will start the culling operation in two shifts from Sunday. With a target of 4,000-6,000 birds a day, the process should be completed in around three weeks, he added.
Courtesy of hindustantimes.com
Bulgarian veterinary authorities will cull 40,000 laying hens in the southeastern village of Krivo Pole after a bird flu outbreak was confirmed at an industrial farm there, the fifth since the start of the year, the food safety agency said late on Friday.
The agency said the farm had been hit by highly pathogenic avian influenza type A, but did not disclose the strain of the disease.
The predominant strain in Europe at present is H5N8.
Some 160,000 ducks and 154,000 hens have been culled at four other farms in the Balkan country since February as authorities try to contain the spread of the disease.