CDC requires 21 day monitoring for all passengers traveling from Ebola-infected countries

October 2014 AFRICA - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Wednesday that all travelers will be monitored for 21 days after arriving in the U.S. from the three West Africans countries where Ebola is spreading. Starting Monday, each traveler from Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea will be given a “care kit” that includes a thermometer and instructions for how to use it as well as a description of possible Ebola symptoms and what to do if any of them develop. Such travelers, who most likely will include health-care workers assisting in the Ebola fight and journalists, will be required to take their temperatures twice daily for 21 days and report the result to the state health department where they reside.
“These new measure will give an additional level of safety,” said Dr. Tom Frieden, CDC director in a national media briefing. “We have to keep our guard up.” About 150 people are believed to travel to the U.S. daily from the three West African countries. The travelers already are having their temperatures taken when they leave Africa and when they arrive at certain U.S. airports. –Dallas News
By the numbers: The latest statistics coming from the WHO about the Ebola outbreak in West Africa is decidedly grim. Number of cases worldwide in the current outbreak: 9,936 (Climbed 720 in five days) Number of deaths: 4,877 (Climbed 322 in five days).
Study shows people will flee Ebola countries: A new study underscores the potential danger of airplane passengers infected with Ebola leaving West Africa: If there were no exit screening in place, researchers estimate that three people with the disease might fly out of the region each month. The hardest-hit West African nations have been checking passengers since summer, but the new work is a reminder of how much easier it could be for the virus to travel outside the outbreak region if those measures weren’t in place — and that screening can’t catch every case. Since the Ebola outbreak was first identified in March, there have been only two known exported cases involving flights, one before and one after screening began in Liberia. A Liberian-American flew to Nigeria in July and sparked a small outbreak there, which has since been contained. The second man, Liberian Thomas Eric Duncan, passed a screening when he left for the U.S. last month; he didn’t have a fever or symptoms until days after arriving in Dallas.
For the study, researchers used international flight data and Ebola case tallies to calculate that — without screening — three infected people a month could fly out of the region. They noted that screening isn’t foolproof: It can take up to three weeks for people exposed to Ebola to develop symptoms, so it is likely some cases will slip through. The out-of-control epidemic has killed an estimated 4,500 people. “As the outbreak grows, we will be seeing more international exportations of Ebola,” said Dr. Kamran Kahn of St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, the study’s senior author. He added that disaster could strike if people with Ebola fly to less developed countries. “What might happen if cases were to wind up in a slum in Nairobi or Mumbai?” –Big Story
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Troubling omen: Ebola cases rise sharply in Western Sierra Leone – 20 dying a day, problems collecting corpses

October 2014FREETOWN, Sierra LeoneAfter emerging months ago in eastern Sierra Leone, Ebola is now hitting the western edges of the country where the capital is located with dozens of people falling sick each day, the government said Tuesday. So many people are dying that removing bodies is reportedly a problem. Forty-nine confirmed cases of Ebola emerged in just one day, Monday, in two Ebola zones in and around the capital, the National Ebola Response Center, or NERC, said. Lawmaker Claude Kamanda who represents a western area said more than 20 deaths are being reported daily. Kamanda told the local Politico newspaper that authorities are experiencing challenges collecting corpses from both quarantined and non-quarantined homes. Authorities say the uncontrolled movement of people from the interior to Waterloo which is the gateway to Freetown, the capital, has fueled the increase of Ebola cases in the west. There is a strong feeling that people are violating the quarantines elsewhere and coming to Freetown through Waterloo.
There are 851 total confirmed Ebola cases in the two zones, called Western Area Urban and Western Area Rural, the NERC said. In numbers of cases, they may soon surpass a former epicenter of the outbreak in the country, the eastern districts of Kenema and Kailahun where there have been a total of 1,012 confirmed cases. No new cases were reported Monday in Kenema and Kailahun but a World Health Organization spokeswoman said it is too early to declare that the epidemic has burned itself out in the east. “There was a drop in new cases in Kenema and Kailahun and fingers were crossed but there has been a bit of a flare up thanks to a couple of unsafe burials,” said Margaret Harris, WHO’s spokeswoman in Sierra Leone. “So it’s too early to say we have a real decline … definitely too early to say it’s been beaten there.” A local newspaper suggested Tuesday that authorities quarantine Waterloo. The World Food Program over the weekend delivered emergency food rations to people there.
“The growing fear has left the public with no choice but to call on the Government for Waterloo to be quarantined as was done to other places including Kailahun, Kenema, Bombali, Port Loko and Moyamba Districts,” the Exclusive newspaper said. Many residents of the capital note that Ebola has followed the same route across the country as rebels who in 1991 started a savage war in Kailahun district. The war ended in Freetown a decade later where the final battle was fought. Now the enemy is a disease, and the president is putting in place a more military-style response. President Ernest Bai Koroma last week appointed Defense Minister Alfred Palo Conteh as CEO of the National Ebola Response Center, whose headquarters are being placed at the former War Crimes Tribunal for Sierra Leone in the west end of Freetown together with the United Nations Mission for Ebola Emergency Response.
The west African nations of Sierra Leone, Liberia and Guinea — where the outbreak first emerged 10 months ago — have been hit hard by Ebola with more than 4,500 deaths, according to WHO estimates. A few cases have also emerged in the United States and Spain, and on Tuesday the east African nation of Rwanda was singling out travelers from the U.S. and Spain for special screening. A Rwandan Ministry of Health document says all passengers from the U.S. and Spain will have their temperatures taken upon arrival. If the passenger has a fever he or she is denied entry. If there is no fever, the visitors still must report their health condition daily to authorities. The U.S. Embassy in Rwanda on Tuesday urged Americans who may have a fever or who have traveled to Ebola countries “to weigh carefully whether travel to Rwanda at this time is prudent.” –HP
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Colombia-Ecuador border quake sparks fear of possible volcanic eruptions – volcanoes awakening after 160,000 years?

Columbia Equador Border Quake
October 2014 COLOMBIA - Authorities in southwestern Colombia have raised alert levels on Tuesday after a 5.6 magnitude earthquake hit the border region, sparking concerns that two nearby volcanoes might erupt in a matter of days. Colombia’s Geological Service have changed the alert level of two volcanoes from yellow to orange. The two volcanoes are Cerro Negro de Mayasquer and Chiles, both active on Colombia’s southern border to Ecuador. The orange alert level is defined by the Geological Service as “probable eruption in term of days to weeks.” The earthquake that hit the border region causes a scare on both side of the border.
Officials in the Colombian town of Cumbal, near the quake’s epicenter, were quoted as saying by The Associated Press that they formed an emergency committee to survey possible damage. But so far, there were no reports of injuries in the town of 36,000 residents, the majority of them members of an indigenous tribe. “It was really strong, every house” felt it, Jose Diomedes Juezpesan, the town’s top official, told AP. If the volcanoes are to erupt, it will mostly affect the state Nariño. Local state governments have started to take security measures in order prevent tragedies. Nariño government officials have recommended suspending school classes, delivered a special communication system to indigenous communities in the area and offered the indigenous communities tents if the evacuate their premise while the volcanoes are on high alert. Neither one of the volcanoes have erupted in the past 160,000 years. –Columbia Reports
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Officials in Indonesia warn Mt. Sinabung’s volcanic eruption could continue almost indefinitely

October 2014 INDONESIA - An observation team says that Mount Sinabung in Karo regency, North Sumatra, is likely to continue erupting for quite some time following an increase in seismic activity on Monday. As of 12 p.m. Monday, Mt. Sinabung had 148 temblors comprising 83 short-period quakes, 34 low-frequency and 31 mixed tremors. Observation team member Arif Cahyo said Mt. Sinabung’s tectonic quakes showed that a large volume of magma was present, indicating that the volcano would continue to erupt for a long time. “We cannot determine how long Mt. Sinabung will continue to erupt, but if we observe the increase in seismic activity, it will definite be a long time,” Arif told The Jakarta Post on Monday. Arif said that Mt. Sinabung was still erupting and emitting pyroclastic flows and volcanic ash sporadically. He said the volcano had emitted pyroclastic clouds twice on Sunday and three times on Monday. “Until Monday noon, the volcano discharged pyroclastic flows three times that drifted as far as 2,500 meters to the south, while volcanic ash drifted up to 1,500 meters to the east,” said Arif, who voiced fear that Berastagi city would be covered by ash that had been drifting east for the past two days.
Two weeks ago, the wind carried volcanic ash east, paralyzing trading activities as many shops were forced to close. A week later, the wind shifted to the west in the direction of the three districts of Payung, Tiganderket and Kuta Buluh. Currently, pyroclastic clouds are drifting to the east in the direction of Berastagi city. Arif said his office had yet to recommend that the volcanic’s status be raised from alert level 3 (caution) as it considered the situation relatively safe for residents living beyond a 3-km radius of the volcano peak. Sinabung has been erupting for the past year and has shown so signs of stopping. Fourteen people have been killed and tens of thousands of residents forced to take shelter elsewhere. North Sumatra Governor Gatot Pujo Nugroho said his administration had proposed to the central government that the current eruptions be categorized as a national disaster, as demanded by a number of provincial legislators. However, Gatot said the proposal had not been approved by the central government as a number of criteria had not been meet, such as the number of fatalities and material losses caused by the eruptions.
“The provincial administration has conveyed the proposal, but the central government has not approved it,” Gatot told the media when he attended security preparations for the new president’s inaugural celebration at Merdeka Square in Medan on Monday. The prolonged eruptions have taken away the livelihoods of people living around the volcano, which started erupting in September last year. The supply of agricultural products in the regency, which is known for its oranges, has sharply decreased as volcanic ash has blanketed thousands of hectares of farmland. –Jakarta Post
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Thousands of undersea volcanoes revealed in new map of ocean floor

October 2014GEOLOGY - Scientists have created the highest resolution map yet of the ocean floor, revealing thousands of underwater mountains and extinct volcanoes that were previously unknown. In a study published Thursday in Science, researchers say the new map is at least twice as accurate as the previous version assembled nearly 20 years ago even though it can only resolve features that are a mile high and bigger. “You might think, that’s not so much better, but instead of seeing 5,000 old volcanoes down there, now we can see 10,000,” said David Sandwell, a geophysics professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego who led the study. Scientists know remarkably little about the deep-sea floor. Sandwell thinks of it almost as a separate planet in our solar system that we have only begun to explore. “We have maps of Mars that have 100 to 10,000 times more resolution than maps of the deep ocean,” he said.
To create the new map, the researchers used data collected by two satellite observatories: the European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2, and the Jason-1, operated by NASA and the French space agency CNES. Both spacecraft have instruments that can measure the topography of the ocean surface within a fraction of an inch. Large mountains and volcanoes on the ocean floor affect the height of the water at the ocean’s surface, so measuring the surface can give a good idea of what is going on below. “You have to go through a bit of math and physics to get there, but, for example, a 1.2-mile-high volcano will produce a very low amplitude bump on the ocean surface of about 10 centimeters over 12.5 miles,” Sandwell said. “This is how we are measuring what is on the bottom.”In the Science study, the researchers noted two of the most obvious features that the higher resolution map allowed them to see: a previously hidden ridge in the South Atlantic that is almost 500 miles long, and another ridge in the Gulf of Mexico that is as wide as Texas.
Asked whether we would ever be able to see the bottom of the seafloor with resolution as high as those images of Mars, a planet more than 100 million miles away, Sandwell responded: “Not in our lifetimes.” It’s not that it’s impossible to map the ocean in much greater detail, it’s just that it’s expensive and time-consuming, he explained. Instruments carried on ships can resolve the features of the ocean floor to within 32 feet, giving researchers about 500 times better spatial resolution than what the satellites can provide. “To do that mapping would take somewhere between 100 and 200 ship years,” he said. “If you had 10 ships you could do it in 10 years, but no one is willing to pay for that. It would cost about the same as a Mars mission.” –LA Times
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The Earth’s magnetic field could flip within our lifetime

October 2014GEOLOGY - Earth’s magnetic field is constantly shifting, and roughly every 200,000 to 300,000 years it flips north and south completely. We’re currently overdue for a switcheroo—and scientists now say it could happen in a time as short as 100 years, potentially altering life in unexpected ways. It was long thought that these reversals took as many as 7,000 years to completely switch, according to a 2004 study funded by the National Science Foundation. But over the past few years, other scientists have suggested that the shifts have occurred at speeds previously unimagined. And a brand-new study published in the Geophysical Journal International by a team of scientists from Europe and the U.S. sheds even more light on these speedy changes—suggesting that the last 180-degree flip only took about 100 years. How did they discern changes in the magnetic field that date back hundreds of thousands of years? By testing layers of ash deposited by volcanic eruptions over the course of 10,000 years, found in a lakebed near Rome. According to a release from Berkeley, the magnetic field directions are “frozen” into these layers of ash, which could be reliably dated to find out when the reversals occurred and how long they took to complete. “We don’t know whether the next reversal will occur as suddenly as this one did, but we also don’t know that it won’t,” said Berkely’s Paul Renne, one of the study’s authors.
We’ve known for a long time that the Earth’s magnetic field is shifting, We know, for example, that the North Pole has moved 600 miles in the last 200 or so years. We also know that, as observed by three ESA satellites this summer, the Earth’s magnetic field is weakening in some areas and strengthening in others. We also know that the shifting currents are already necessitating some changes in our human world: Airports that name their runways after compass directions have recently been forced to rename and repaint due to the shift. So it’s no surprise that a flip may be imminent—more so that a true, full reversal could happen so quickly. And, as the study suggests, how it could actually change the way we live on Earth. For example, a weakened field means less protection for humans against harmful rays that cause cancer, meaning that the cancer rate would likely increase. And the infrastructural impact of a flipped field could be massive, too, causing problems with the electricity grid and other sensitive systems. –GIZMODO
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Ebola doctors at breaking point – a major wave of infections is about to wash everything away

October 2014AFRICAAt 3:30 a.m. in the world’s biggest Ebola treatment center, Daniel Lucey found the outbreak reduced to its essentials: patients lying on mattresses on the floor and vomiting in the dark, visible only by the wavering flashlight beam of a single volunteer doctor.  “I don’t see a light at the end of the tunnel,” said Lucey, a physician and professor from Georgetown University who is halfway through a five-week tour in Liberia with Medecins Sans Frontieres, the medical charity known in English as Doctors Without Borders. “The epidemic is still getting worse,” he said by phone between shifts. That’s an increasingly urgent challenge for MSF and the global health community. As fear spreads in the U.S. over transmission of the virus to two nurses in a modern Dallas hospital, the main fight against the outbreak is still being waged by volunteers like Lucey half a world away.
MSF has been the first — and often only — line of defense against Ebola in West Africa. The group raised the alarm on March 31, months ahead of the World Health Organization. Now, after treating almost a third of the roughly 9,000 confirmed Ebola cases in Africa — and faced with a WHO warning of perhaps 10,000 new infections a week by December — MSF is reaching its limits. “They are at the breaking point,” said Vinh-Kim Nguyen, a professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Montreal who has volunteered for a West African tour with MSF in a few weeks. MSF has already seen 21 workers infected and 12 people die, and “there’s a sense that there’s a major wave of infections that’s about to wash everything away,” Nguyen said. –Bloomberg
South Korean aid workers exposed to Ebola: South Korean aid workers in West Africa have been exposed to the deadly Ebola virus due to a lack of protective wear and medical equipment, a lawmaker claimed Tuesday. A total of 102 South Korean aid workers have been living in West African countries, including Senegal and Cameroon, without proper protection from the epidemic, Rep. Kim Jae-won of the ruling Saenuri Party said, citing data from the government’s official development assistance body, the Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). –Yonhap News
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