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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

How Terrifying Is the New Ebola Virus Outbreak in West Africa?(video)

by tap taru  |  in Viruses at  1:05 PM

A colorized image of the Ebola virus Found at Cynthia Goldsmith/CDC

Two US aid workers in Liberia recently became the latest victims of an Ebola epidemic that health experts are calling "out of control" and the deadliest outbreak of the virus in history. The disease has a high fatality rate. There have been over 1,000 suspected and confirmed cases across Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, and Sierra Leone since March, and over 660 people have died. Health workers are having trouble aiding victims, the New York Times reports, due to being shut out by fearful communities. Here's what you need to know about this outbreak.

When and where did it start?

On March 25, 2014, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced that 86 suspected cases of Ebola had been reported to the World Health Organization across four southeastern districts in Guinea. At that time, cases were also being investigated in Liberia and Sierra Leone. By April 1, Liberia was reporting eight suspected cases and two deaths. On May 26, a case of Ebola was confirmed in Sierra Leone. Since then, the disease has continued to spread across the region. Guinea has had the highest suspected death toll so far, with 314 fatal cases as of July 20. 

Since March, the latest Ebola outbreak has already spread to three neighboring countries CDC

Have there been Ebola outbreaks of this size before?

No, health workers are reporting that this is the deadliest. According to data compiled by the BBC and the World Health Organization, the outbreak that comes closest occurred in 1976, when over 400 people died. Many of those cases occurred in then-Zaire (now Democratic Republic of Congo) cropping up near the Ebola river (for which the disease is named). Since then, there have been several outbreaks across Africa, but none of this scale.

How does Ebola spread?

Ebola can infect humans and animals, and spreads through bodily fluids. Scientists believe that fruit bats are the natural carriers of the virus. According to the World Health Organization, African pig farms often play host to bats, allowing the disease to spread from the bats to pork. Eating "bushmeat"—or the meat from wild animals, such as gorillas, monkeys, or bats—can put you at risk for exposure. Recently, the government of the Cote d'Ivoire (otherwise known as Ivory Coast)—which borders two of the countries enduing the outbreak—prohibited the sale of bush meat. But the government does not have the means to enforce the ban, and it's still easy to come by. Funerals for victims of Ebola can also be a source of transmission, with friends and family members potentially coming into contact with the blood and other fluids of the deceased. (Within some African cultures, mourners hug and kiss the bodies, making exposure even more likely.)

How fatal is Ebola?

One of the problems with treating the virus is that in its earliest stages it mimics a number of other diseases endemic to Africa. Usually within eight to 10 days of infection, according to the CDC, patients experience a fever, a headache, and muscle fatigue. Some people get better, but most—up to 90 percent—get worse. In a victim's last days, he or she will begin to hemorrhage blood, internally and externally, as the disease lays waste to internal organs. There are no drugs approved for treating Ebola. For the infected, the only hope is that the virus will pass. According to the CDC, the only treatments available fall under the category of "supportive therapy"—providing patients with water, maintaining blood pressure, and treating for complicating infections—with the hope that a patient's immune system can fight off the virus. Lab researchers have had some luck using drug cocktails to block the disease in animals shortly after exposure, but they haven't yet tested these treatments on humans.

How easily is Ebola transmitted?

Doctors Without Borders calls Ebola "highly infectious," and medical staff treating patients must wear full protective suits to avoid contracting the disease themselves. The Ebola virus is so contagious that researchers can only work with it in specially outfitted labs that boast the highest levels of biocontainment. However, David Heymann, professor of infectious disease epidemiology at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, tells CNN that Ebola can be controlled when the right precautions are taken: "It's not rocket science to control these outbreaks but instead basic epidemiology: infection control, hygiene practices, contact-tracing, and safe burial practices."

Is there a vaccine?

There's no vaccine for Ebola. What is so vexing for researchers is that the virus keeps emerging in new forms. Scientists can't predict what form the virus will take when it strikes next; a vaccine would have to inoculate a person against all of the variants. But Ebola is adaptive and hard to pin down. Even if a vaccine were developed, researchers worry the virus could adapt and overcome it.

Why are health workers having trouble containing the virus this time?

Marc Poncin, the emergency coordinator in Guinea for Doctors Without Borders, told the New York Times that "we're not stopping the epidemic." According to health officials, locals are fearful of aid workers and are threatening violence against them to keep them from entering communities and monitoring the virus, providing supportive therapy, and isolating patients. This has led to difficulties in placing victims into quarantine. In Sierra Leone, for example, the family of a woman who had tested positive for Ebola removed her from the hospital so she could be treated using traditional medicine. The woman has since died.

Where is the virus headed next?

Nigeria is the latest country to report a case of Ebola, with an infected man dying there after arriving from Liberia. (On Sunday, Liberia closed most of its borders.) Nigeria is taking preemptive steps to stop the spread of the virus, including shutting down the hospital where the man died, monitoring people who were on his plane, and putting border checkpoints on high alert.

How dangerous would Ebola be if it arrived in the United States?

Not as dangerous. Dr. Jonathan Epstein, a veterinary epidemiologist and Ebola expert with EcoHealth Alliance, recently told Mother Jones that infections likely wouldn't be widespread in the United States, because it has better systems in place for controlling outbreaks.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

U.S. doctor Kent Brantly contracts Ebola in Liberia

by tap taru  |  in Human Health at  12:03 PM

A 33-year-old American doctor working for a relief organization in Liberia's capital has tested positive for the tropical disease Ebola, according to a statement from Samaritan's Purse.

Dr. Kent Brantly, medical director at one of the country's two treatment centers run by the organization, recognized his own symptoms and confined himself to an isolation ward.

It was not immediately clear how he caught Ebola. The relief group's Melissa Strickland said that he had followed strict safety protocols when treating patients.

"It's too early to try to explain it. We will have an intensive and thorough investigation," she said.

Across Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, at least 660 people have died from the illness, according to the World Health Organisation, as poor, ill-equipped African governments have struggled to cope with the virus.

Ebola kills up to 90 percent of those who catch it, although the fatality rate of the current outbreak is lower at around 60 percent. Highly contagious, patients suffer from vomiting and diarrhea as well as internal and external bleeding.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

River In China Mysteriously Turns Bloody Red Overnight

by tap taru  |  in World News at  11:09 AM

A waterway in eastern China has mysteriously turned a blood red color.
Residents in Zhejiang province said the river looked normal at 5 a.m. Beijing time on Thursday morning. Within an hour, the entire river turned crimson. Residents also said a strange smell wafted through the air.
“The really weird thing is that we have been able to catch fish because the water is normally so clear,” one local villager commented on China’s microblogging site Weibo.

Inspectors from the Wenzhou Environmental Protection Bureau said they have not found the cause of the incident, although water samples seem to indicate the suspicious color was a result of illegal dumping in the river.
“We suspect that somebody dumped artificial coloring in the water because he thought the typhoon yesterday would cause heavy rain, and nobody would notice [the color],” Jianfeng Xiao, Chief of the bureau told China News.
“It turned out there wasn’t heavy rainfall yesterday, so the evidence is left behind,” Xiao said.
Xiao said there is a paper manufacturer, a food coloring company and clothing-maker a long the river. The bureau is still investigating the incident.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Air Algerie flight AH5017 missing with 116 people on board

by tap taru  |  in World News at  8:12 PM

An Air Algerie airliner with 116 people on board disappeared 50 minutes into a Thursday morning flight from Burkina Faso to Algeria.

Swiftair, the Spanish operator of the Boeing MD-83 aircraft, said Flight AH5017 took off from Ouagadougou, the capital of Burkina Faso, at 1.17am and was due to land in Algiers at 5.10am.

There were 110 passengers, two pilots and four cabin crew on board. News of the disappearance was only made public several hours after air traffic controllers lost contact with the aeroplane.

“At this time the emergency personnel and company employees are working to find out what has happened, and as more information becomes available about what happened, new bulletins will be published,” Swiftair said in a statement.

Algeria’s official news agency confirmed the disappearance and said Air Algerie had “launched its emergency plan”.

Air Algerie’s last major accident was in March 2003, when a Boeing 737 crashed during a domestic flight from Tamanrasset to Ghardaia, killing all but one of the 103 people on board, according to data from the Aviation Safety Network.

Civilian aviation safety has been in the spotlight following the shooting down of a Malaysian airliner over eastern Ukraine last week. US and EU regulators on Tuesday warned against flying to Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport because of the Gaza conflict, while on Wednesday a crash involving a Taiwanese airliner left 48 people dead.

Swiftair, established in 1986 and based in Madrid, began flying passenger charter flights in 2002, according to its website. It has a fleet of more than 30 aircraft, including two MD-83s, and employs more than 400 people.

It has an aviation company in Greece and a handling company in Morocco.

Where Have the Sunspots Gone? Spotless Sun Reveals 'Big Quiet' Event

by tap taru  |  in Sun at  2:19 PM

Suddenly, the sun is eerily quiet: Where did the sunspots go?

The sun has gone quiet. Almost too quiet. A few weeks ago it was teeming with sunspots, as you would expect since we are supposed to be in the middle of solar maximum-the time in the sun's 11-year cycle when it is the most active.
But now, there is hardly a sunspot in sight. In an image taken Friday by NASA's Solar Dynamics Observatory, there is a tiny smidgen of brown just right of center where a small sunspot appears to be developing. But just one day before, there was nothing. It was a totally spotless day.
So what's going on here? Is the "All Quiet Event" as solar physicist Tony Phillips dubbed it, a big deal, or not?
"It is weird, but it's not super weird," said Phillips, who writes about solar activity on his web site "To have a spotless day during solar maximum is odd, but then again, this solar maximum we are in has been very wimpy."
Phillips notes that this is the weakest solar maximum to have been observed in the space age, and it is shaking out to be the weakest one in the past 100 years, so the spotless day was not so totally out of left field.
"It all underlines that solar physicists really don't know what the heck is happening on the sun," Phillips said. "We just don't know how to predict the sun, that is the take away message of this event."
Sunspots are interesting to solar observers because they are the region of the sun where solar activity such as solar flares (giant flashes of light) and coronal mass ejections (when material from the sun goes shooting off into space) originate.
They are caused by highly concentrated magnetic fields that are slightly cooler than the surrounding surface of the sun, which is why they appear dark to us. Those intense magnetic fields can get twisted up and tangled, which causes a lot of energy to build up. Solar flares and coronal mass ejections occur when that energy is released in a very explosive way.
Alex Young, a heliophysicist at Goddard Space Flight Center, said it is hard to say what is and isn't unusual when it comes to the sun.
"We've only been observing the sun in lots of detail in the last 50 years," he said. "That's not that long considering it's been around for 4.5 billion years."
And it's not like astronomers have never seen the sun this quiet before. Three years ago, on Aug. 14, 2011 it was completely free of sunspots. And, as Phillips points out, that year turned out to have relatively high solar activity overall with several X-class flares. So in that case, the spotless sun was just a "temporary intermission," as he writes on his .
Whether this quiet period will be similarly short-lived or if it will last longer remains to be seen.

"You just can't predict the sun," Phillips said.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Former MEGADETH Drummer NICK MENZA Films UFO From His Front Yard (Video)

by tap taru  |  in UFO Files at  2:26 PM

Former MEGADETH drummer Nick Menza has captured video footage of what he claims was an unidentified flying object (UFO) outside of his Studio City, California home on Monday, July 14. Check out the clip below.

Says Menza: "I was standing in my front yard with my two boys and this is what we saw. [It had] the shape of a triangular object with rounded tips glowing yellow and white. [I am] not sure what it is, but it looked totally awesome."

During a recent appearance on "Rock 'N' SeXXXy UnCensored", the Internet radio show hosted by adult film star Amber LynnMenza spoke about his forthcoming book, which is being written with J. Marshall Craig, best known for his critically acclaimed work as a writer for Eric Burdon's "Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood"THE ROLLING STONES keyboardistChuck Leavell's "Between Rock And A Home Place" and the West Coast hip-hop history"Guilty By Association"Menza said: "My book is about me and my life. It includes all kinds of stuff, from my childhood up until just as of recently. And I'm actually adding another chapter to it, probably, because it's taking so long to finalize everything — legal stuff, the cover artwork, the picture that's gonna be used… we're not really sure yet."

He continued: "I don't know what I can tell you about it. There's a lot of funny things in it. It's all true stuff. There's some government conspiracies and alien coverups and all kinds of stuff in there. Now that I'm into space exploration and research stuff — that's kind of what I'm into right now. I've always been into aliens and stuff like that. We are are the aliens and that's why we're here. All the evolution of everything is from alien technology.

"Before, back in the Stone Ages, like when we were just regular humans, we didn't have brains in us and then the aliens came down and they intervened and they put brains in our heads and now we're all smart and we're starting to figure things out, ascending to the next level and a higher level of conscious awareness and that sort of stuff."

Originally announced as "Megalife"Nick's book will now be titled "Menzalife". He explained: "It got changed just as of recently, because I can't use 'Megalife'; someone's already using that name and it's trademarked. No big deal. It's still the same content inside. It's gonna be for sale at the stores and stuff like that. A publisher is gonna put it out. I don't have a deal as of yet, but the book is really cool."

Menza's first performance was at the age of two on stage at the Montreux Jazz Festivalwhen legendary jazz percussionist Jack DeJohnette (Miles DavisSonny RollinsJoe Henderson) placed Nick on his kit. Thirty years later, he was stepping out on stage in front of thousands of screaming fans every night.

Menza, son of legendary jazz saxophonist Don Menza, was at the top of his game whenMEGADETH started a world tour in support of its album, "Cryptic Writings", but began to suffer knee problems and escalating pain. Doctors diagnosed him with a tumor. Surgery waylaid the drummer briefly, but he was relieved to learn the tumor was benign and was eager to rejoin his bandmates, who had continued their tour with a replacement drummer. But deteriorating relations within the band exploded and Menza was replaced permanently.

Chinese city Yumen Under Quarantine after bubonic plague Black Death

by tap taru  |  in World News at  11:01 AM

A Chinese city has been sealed off and 151 people have been placed in quarantine since last week after a man died of bubonic plague, state media said.
The 30,000 residents of Yumen, in the north-western province of Gansu, are not being allowed to leave, and police at roadblocks on the perimeter of the city are telling motorists to find alternative routes, China Central Television (CCTV) said.
A 38-year-old man died last Wednesday, the report said, after he had been in contact with a dead marmot, a small furry animal related to the squirrel. No further plague cases have been reported.
CCTV said officials were not allowing anyone to leave. The China Daily newspaper said four quarantine sectors had been set up in the city.
"The city has enough rice, flour and oil to supply all its residents for up to one month," CCTV added. "Local residents and those in quarantine are all in stable condition." No further cases have been reported.
Bubonic plague is a bacterial infection best known for the Black Death, a virulent epidemic that killed tens of millions of people in 14th-century Europe. Primarily an animal illness, it is extremely rare in humans.
The US Centres for Disease Control (CDC) says modern antibiotics are effective in treating plague, but that without prompt treatment the disease can cause serious illness or death.

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