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Wed, 22 Jan 2020 18:28
Yahoo News - Latest News &Headlines
As New Virus Spreads From China, Scientists See Grim RemindersLess than a month after the first few cases of a new respiratory illness were reported in Wuhan, China, travelers have carried the virus to at least four other countries, including the United States. More than 400 people have been infected, at least 17 have died -- and the world is bracing itself for what might come next.On Wednesday, experts at the World Health Organization will meet to decide whether to declare the outbreak a "public health emergency of international concern," a label given to "serious public health events that endanger international public health" and "potentially require a coordinated international response."Public health officials around the world are on alert because the new infection is caused by a coronavirus, from the same family that caused outbreaks of SARS and MERS, killing hundreds of people in dozens of countries.The WHO has already advised governments to be prepared for the disease, to be vigilant and ready to test anyone with symptoms like cough and fever who has traveled to affected regions. Air travel is expected to surge as the Lunar New Year approaches this weekend.Several countries have already begun screening travelers from China for fever and cough. Airports in Los Angeles, New York and San Francisco last week started to screen arriving flights from Wuhan, and airports in Atlanta and Chicago will begin doing so this week.But important questions about the outbreak are still unanswered, and WHO's expert committee now must grapple with significant unknowns."We don't know how many people are infected," said Tarik Jasarevic, a spokesman for the WHO. "The more you test, the more you will find people who are infected. We don't know if there are asymptomatic cases. If they are asymptomatic, are they contagious?"Broad studies to test for evidence of infection, past and present, would give a true picture of how many people have been exposed to the virus."Testing is possible because China immediately shared the genetic sequence of the virus, and we have to give them credit for that," Jasarevic said.The virus causes a pneumonialike illness, with coughing and fever in some people but not all. The severity matters: If there are cases with mild illness or no symptoms at all, they may go undetected, and those people will keep working, shopping and traveling, possibly infecting others.A milder illness has the potential to spread farther and cause longer-lasting outbreaks than one with more obvious symptoms, according to Dr. Mark R. Denison, an infectious disease specialist at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine who studies coronaviruses.Compared to SARS and MERS, the Wuhan illness so far does seem less severe, he said.SARS, which began in live-animal markets in China in 2002, quickly spread to dozens of countries, infecting more than 8,000 people and killing nearly 800. The virus is thought to have originated in bats and spread to civet cats that were being sold for consumption.The civets spread the virus to humans, who infected one another through respiratory secretions and also exposure to feces.SARS often caused severe illness, so cases were detectable; aggressive public health measures, including quarantines and travel restrictions, helped stamp out the epidemic.But the travel bans, not to mention widespread fear and distrust, took a heavy economic toll on China, and since then international authorities have become hesitant about taking drastic steps to quell outbreaks.MERS cases have been occurring in the Middle East since 2012, mainly in people who have been exposed to camels, which were most likely infected by bats. Human-to-human transmission does occur, and some spread has happened in hospitals.As of November, there had been 2,494 cases of MERS in the past seven years, mostly in Saudi Arabia. The death rate is 34% but may actually be lower if there are mild cases of the disease that have not been detected or counted.Denison described the new Wuhan coronavirus as "sort of a first cousin of SARS," more closely related to it than to MERS, based on its genetic sequence.Researchers do not know just how contagious the Wuhan coronavirus is. The first people to be infected are thought to have contracted it at a market in Wuhan that sold meat, fish and live animals.That market has been shut down and disinfected. Which animal might have been carrying the virus is not yet known.Initially, the illness appeared to spread only from animals to people. Then, experts said there was evidence of "limited" human-to-human transmission. Now, more cases are emerging among people with no known exposure to the animal markets, and in medical staff members caring for infected patients."Now that you have a cluster of 14 health care workers infected, it suggests that the potential for spread is much greater," said Dr. Ian W. Lipkin, director of the Center for Infection and Immunity at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health in New York, who has researched SARS and MERS."I saw film footage of a hospital lobby in Wuhan, and they are wearing full personal protective equipment from head to toe," he said. "They are taking it very seriously. I still don't think this is as bad as SARS, but it's worse than they originally portrayed it."Denison said that with both SARS and MERS, there were episodes in which individual patients became "super-spreaders" who infected many other people, for unknown reasons."That's a wild card we don't know, the capacity to have multiple transmissions from one person," Denison said. "There was no evidence they had dramatically different virus."It is possible, he said, that super-spreaders had received a high dose of the virus and had more of it to transmit. Alternatively, their immune systems might have not been able to control the virus, allowing it to multiply and spread extensively in their bodies, making them more contagious.Although no drugs have been approved specifically to treat coronavirus diseases, Denison said that in animal studies, an antiviral called remdesivir appeared effective. He has been working with other researchers to develop treatments.Jasarevic said that antivirals were being tested against MERS, but that none had been approved yet.How and why viruses that have peacefully coexisted with their animal hosts for a long time strike out for new territory -- us -- is not well understood.Coronaviruses often inhabit bats without harming them, and sometimes move into other animal species and from them to humans.In places that bring multiple animal species together with lots of people -- like the food markets in Wuhan and in other parts of China that sell live mammals and birds, along with meat and fish -- viruses can pass back and forth between species, mutating as they go. Along the way, they may become able to infect humans."Coronaviruses have repeatedly shown an ability to probe across species and cause new animal and human diseases," Denison said.To go successfully from animal hosts to people, the viruses need to adapt in several ways: They must gain the ability to invade human cells, evade the immune system, replicate inside the human body and spread to others.The move is often described as "jumping" into humans, but that is an oversimplification, Denison said."The process it has to go through is more like high hurdles with a thousand hurdles along the way," he said.Still, the new outbreak does not greatly surprise him: "This was a matter of not if, but when."This article originally appeared in The New York Times.(C) 2020 The New York Times Company
As New Virus Spreads From China, Scientists See Grim Reminders
The Wuhan coronavirus has killed 17 people and infected more than 540. Here's everything we know about the outbreak.Chinese authorities have confirmed more than 540 cases of the deadly Wuhan coronavirus, which has spread to other parts of China and other countries.
The Wuhan coronavirus has killed 17 people and infected more than 540. Here's everything we know about the outbreak.
Wuhan, China, is about to be quarantined as the coronavirus outbreak grows. The city has 3 million more residents than New York City.Since December, there have been 544 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus and 17 deaths. Local authorities just issued quarantine orders in Wuhan, China.
Wuhan, China, is about to be quarantined as the coronavirus outbreak grows. The city has 3 million more residents than New York City.
'Unprecedented' locust swarm devastating several countries in Africa fueled by multiple weather factorsUnusually heavy rain is being cited as a factor in one of the worst outbreaks of desert locusts in decades across parts of East Africa and posing what officials say is an "unprecedented" threat to crops in third world countries, according to a recent report issued by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO).The rare outbreak is destroying crops and pastures across eastern Ethiopia and neighboring areas of Somalia, parts of Sudan, Eritrea and northern Kenya as it risks spreading further due to the continuation of favorable ecological conditions for locust breeding until around June.The report states that South Sudan and Uganda are not currently affected, but they are at risk for the species to eventually arrive."This has become a situation of international dimensions that threatens the food security of the entire subregion. FAO is activating fast-track mechanisms that will allow us to move swiftly to support governments in mounting a collective campaign to deal with this crisis," FAO Director-General QU Dongyu said in a statement earlier this week.Dongyu said control efforts are underway, but due to the scale and urgency of the threat, additional financial backing is needed from international donors to help authorities."Communities in Eastern Africa have already been impacted by extended droughts, which have eroded their capacities to grow food and make a living. We need to help them get back on their feet, once the locusts are gone," Dongyu said.The FAO says the devastating swarms potentially contain hundreds of millions of locusts and that the insects can travel distances of more than 90 miles in a single day. If left unchecked, the insect swarms could grow 500 times by June. In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, a Samburu man who works for a county disaster team identifying the location of the locusts, holds one on his hand near the village of Sissia, in Samburu county, Kenya. (AP Photo/Patrick Ngugi) It's been 25 years since people in Kenya and Ethiopia have seen swarms of this magnitude and 70 years since Kenya last encountered such an invasion of locusts.FAO officials warn that the locusts are rapidly heading toward Ethiopia's Rift Valley, known as the country's "breadbasket.""Unusually high rainfall in desert and savanna can definitely lead to blooms of rich vegetation that swarming insects like locusts will readily take advantage of," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Jim Andrews said.Some of the data sites AccuWeather meteorologists track suggest unusually high rainfall, which can create favorable breeding environments for the locusts, occurred on at least a few days in October to November."The climate across the affected areas [typically] varies from favorably moist, which supports forest or savanna, as well as crops in season, to desert, which is fit for limited grazing, as crops grow only where water is available," Andrews said, adding that the region hosts a rather diverse climate. In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, a Samburu boy uses a wooden stick to try to swat a swarm of desert locusts filling the air, as he herds his camel near the village of Sissia, in Samburu county, Kenya. The most serious outbreak of desert locusts in 25 years is spreading across East Africa and posing an unprecedented threat to food security in some of the world's most vulnerable countries, authorities say, with unusual climate conditions partly to blame. (AP Photo/Patrick Ngugi) Andrews said the excessive rainfall could be related to the Indian Ocean Dipole, which set a record-high value during 2019.The Indian Ocean Dipole, which is sometimes referred to as the "Indian Niño" because of its similarity to its Pacific equivalent, El Niño, and refers to the difference in sea-surface temperatures in opposite parts of the Indian Ocean."In a nutshell, the dipole is indicative of unusual sea-surface warmth in the western tropical Indian Ocean while the eastern tropical Indian Ocean has an overall temperature that is normal to below normal," Andrews said.According to Andrews, this dipole has been linked to unusual patterns of rainfall in other parts of the world, including in the Indian subcontinent, and it's one culprit behind Australia's severe drought and devastating fires.CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APPOne of the factors that worsened the situation was the heavy rain unleashed by deadly Cyclone Pawan in early December across Somalia."The already threatening situation was further exacerbated by limited operational capacities in Somalia and by heavy rains and floods from Cyclone Pawan that will allow at least one to two more generations of breeding, causing a substantial increase in locusts over the next six months," the FAO said in the report. In this photo taken Thursday, Jan. 16, 2020, two Samburu men who work for a county disaster team identifying the location of the locusts, are surrounded by a swarm of desert locusts filling the air, near the village of Sissia, in Samburu county, Kenya. (AP Photo/Patrick Ngugi) "In South-West Asia, intensive control operations were in progress along both sides of the Indo-Pakistan border where numerous swarms continued to form," the FAO said.These swarms have been present in India, Iran and Pakistan since June 2019. Officials say recent rounds of heavy rain in Iran have allowed swarms to migrate to southern Iran to lay eggs, which could develop into a new swarm come springtime.Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
'Unprecedented' locust swarm devastating several countries in Africa fueled by multiple weather factors
Scientists pinpointed the oldest meteor crater ever found. When the space rock struck Australia 2.2 billion years ago, it ended a global ice age.Scientists know of 190 impact craters around the world. The record for the oldest was just awarded to a crater in western Australia.
Scientists pinpointed the oldest meteor crater ever found. When the space rock struck Australia 2.2 billion years ago, it ended a global ice age.
Cold snap sends iguanas and Floridians alike into shockWinter in Florida? The winter haven for freeze-fleeing northern residents? How could it be?For three days this week, some Floridians have been forced to deal with the most daunting of Southeastern circumstances: freezing temperatures. After spending much of the first half of the month sweating through temperatures that were routinely more than 5 to 15 F above the historical average, a sharp turn toward the cold sent residents in cities such as Tampa Bay and Miami scrambling for scarves."It was bitterly cold by Florida standards on Wednesday morning," AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Bill Deger said. "Factoring in wind, some weather stations in South Florida observed wind chills in the 20s, leading to wind chill advisories."Wind chill advisories were issued in Miami, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach on Wednesday morning, and Jacksonville and Tallahassee had temperatures lower than Denver, Colorado, Juneau, Alaska, and Great Falls, Montana.While some of the shocking figures to come out of the region have been due to erroneous reports - Miami didn't actually get snow and temperatures didn't actually reach minus-74 in Alligator Alley \- the shocking temperatures have been anything but fake. Just ask the iguanas.Iguanas are not native to Florida and the cold-blooded reptiles struggle to maintain their core body temperature when temperatures drop. The struggle results in the reptiles becoming stiff, immobile and, thus, much more likely to fall out of trees, where they usually sleep.When fully grown, iguanas can be up to 5 feet long and weigh up to 25 pounds. Such large lizards falling from trees can damage sidewalks and could cause injury to unaware humans who don't normally prepare for raining reptiles.To warn the public, the National Weather Service (NWS) office in Miami issued an unofficial falling iguana alert on Tuesday night.> Jan 21 - This isn't something we usually forecast, but don't be surprised if you see Iguanas falling from the trees tonight as lows drop into the 30s and 40s. Brrrr! flwx miami pic.twitter.com/rsbzNMgO01> > -- NWS Miami (@NWSMiami) January 21, 2020Sure enough, iguanas were seen falling out of trees during the overnight hours. By Wednesday morning, as the sunshine warmed up the air, iguanas began emerging from their cold-induced slumber and returning to consciousness. Frank Guzman, the Broward bureau chief for WSVN-TV, captured video of a zombie-like iguana lying on its back unconscious on the sidewalk, and then slowly waking up and staggering to its feet. Frank Guzman, a bureau chief for a local TV station, caught video of an iguana that had fallen unconscious on the sidewalk emerging from its cold-induced stupor on Wednesday, Jan. 22, 2020. (Frank Guzman / WSVN-TV) Robert Molleda, a warning coordination meteorologist with the NWS in Miami, told AccuWeather that issuing such a unique warning was fun for the meteorologists."Despite the fact that it wasn't an official warning, the fact that it's such a unique aspect of the cold temperatures certainly made it take a life of its own on social media," Molleda said. "I don't think we expected the posts to get as much attention as they did. The mention of falling iguanas wasn't meant to be the main takeaway from this event, but it appears it has overshadowed what in reality is a non-record breaking cold spell."Molleda said the iguanas were introduced to Florida from the Caribbean and Central and South America. Recent warm winters have allowed the reptiles to adapt and spread throughout the southern portion of the state, but the iguanas are still susceptible to winter cold snaps like the one to hit Florida this week. A frozen iguana spotted in a Delray Beach, Florida, backyard on Wednesday morning, Jan. 22, 2020. (Twitter / @RoyalGoddess) CLICK HERE FOR THE FREE ACCUWEATHER APPBecause of the invasiveness and destructive habits of iguanas, Molleda said most Floridians have come to despise the reptiles."Iguanas are not viewed favorably by South Floridians, however they're not aggressive and don't attack or harm humans or pets, so people generally view them more as pests than a real threat," Modella said. "However, their droppings can contain the salmonella bacteria." A young iguana found on a road Wednesday morning, Jan. 22, 2020, after falling out of a tree due to cold weather. (Twitter/@EricBlake12) Even though meteorologists had some fun issuing the "warnings," visitors in the supposed Sunshine State are probably ready to see the warm conditions they expected when their trips were booked.Local residents, however, may not be as disappointed, according to Molleda."Contrary to what some people may think, a lot of local South Floridians like the cold weather as it's a change from the typical mild/warm weather," Molleda said. "People break out jackets, boots, and other warm clothing they don't get to wear too often. As far as tourists are concerned, there are probably some varying opinions, with some people looking forward to and expecting 80-degree temperatures probably surprised and disappointed by weather resembling more of where they came from." On Wednesday morning, temperatures in multiple locations dipped under 30 F for the first time in years. In Miami, the low temperature of 39 F on Wednesday morning made for the coldest day since 2010.Iguanas weren't the only animals that dealt with the unseasonable chill. Over on Florida's Gulf Coast, manatees could be seen in aerial footage huddling together in the shallow water near the docks in Apollo Beach, a sight that brought out troves of onlookers.Molleda said the cold spell is a result of a high-pressure area from Canada that traveled down into the United States over the past week, bringing a cold air mass that coupled with a low-pressure area off the Southeast coast on Tuesday to spread the cold air across the eastern half of the country. An iguana falls from a tree in southern Florida as an unseasonable cold snap enveloped the Sunshine State Tuesday night into Wednesday. (WPLG / ABC Newsone) Thankfully, the weather forecasts showed a clear likelihood for this cold spell to arrive, giving the state's residents enough time to dig through their closets to find those rarely-worn winter boots."Weather models were showing a distinct possibility of colder weather as early as last week, and lower temperatures have been in the forecast for several days," Molleda said. "Therefore, I don't think residents were caught by surprise, and many were looking forward to a spell of colder weather after a pretty warm first half of January."Keep checking back on AccuWeather.com and stay tuned to the AccuWeather Network on DirecTV, Frontier and Verizon Fios.
Cold snap sends iguanas and Floridians alike into shock

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