Major volcanic eruption could make Japan ‘extinct,’ study warns

October 2014EARTH - One major volcanic eruption could make Japan “extinct,” a study by experts at Kobe University warns, although the chances of that happening are relatively slim. The study, by Prof. Yoshiyuki Tatsumi and Associate Prof. Keiko Suzuki, concludes that the chance of a big eruption that would disrupt the lives of everyone in Japan are about 1% over the next 100 years. The researchers based their findings on the cycles and impacts of major eruptions in Japan on the study of the Aira Caldera near what is now the city of Kagoshima on southern Kyushu island. The caldera was created 28,000 years ago and has a diameter of 20 kilometers. If a similar eruption were to take place in the area today, within about two hours the flow of molten rock, lava and ash would cover an area in which seven million now live. A large amount of ash would be carried across the country, shutting down transportation and other key systems, disrupting the lives of nearly 120 million people, or almost everyone in Japan.
“We should be aware,” the researchers warn in their report to be published in November. “It wouldn’t be a surprise if such gigantic eruption were to take place at any moment.” The study pointed out that following the eruption of the Kikai Caldera over 7,000 years ago off what is now the southern tip of Kyushu, it took 1,000 years for human settlement in the area to recover. The study also said approximately 7% of all volcanoes that have erupted over the past 10,000 years are located in Japan. The professors warned that volcanic activity, especially in Kyushu, should be closely studied and monitored. The eruption of Mount Ontake in central Japan in September killed 56 people and left seven still missing. It was the first fatal eruption in 14 years in Japan. –WSJ
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Japan warns of increased activity at volcano near nuclear plant

October 2014JAPAN - Japan warned on Friday that a volcano in southern Japan located roughly 64 km (40 miles) from a nuclear plant was showing signs of increased activity that could possibly lead to a small-scale eruption and warned people to stay away from the summit. The warning comes nearly a month after another volcano, Mt Ontake, erupted suddenly when crowded with hikers, killing 57 people in Japan’s worst volcanic disaster in nearly 90 years. Ioyama, a mountain on the southwestern island of Kyushu, has been shaken by small tremors and other signs of rising volcanic activity recently, including a tremor lasting as long as seven minutes, an official at the Japan Meteorological Agency’s volcano division said. “There is an increase in activity that under certain circumstances could even lead to a small scale eruption, but it is not in danger of an imminent, major eruption,” the official said. The warning level on the mountain has been raised from the lowest possible level, normal, to the second lowest, which means that the area around the crater is dangerous, he added.
Ioyama lies in the volcanically active Kirishima mountain range and is roughly 64 km from the Sendai nuclear plant run by Kyushu Electric Power Co, which the Japanese government wants to restart even though the public remains opposed to nuclear power following the Fukushima crisis. Critics point out that the Sendai plant is located about 50 kms (31 miles) from Mount Sakurajima, an active volcano that erupts frequently. Five giant calderas, crater-like depressions formed by past eruptions, are also in the region, the closest one 40 kms (25 miles) away. The plant still needs to pass operational safety checks as well as gain the approval of local authorities and may not restart till next year. –Reuters
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Lava from Hawaii volcano picks up speed as it nears town

October 2014 HONOLULU - A growing lava stream threatening homes and inching closer to a rural road on Hawaii’s Big Island oozed forward in fits and starts this week, frustrating some residents but giving officials a window of time to prepare. The narrow, leading edge of the lava flow is now just 250 yards from the one-lane country road, which has been closed. Crews are working on an alternate route for remote communities in the Puna district in case the lava crosses a major thoroughfare. The lava sped up over the past few days, advancing nearly 460 yards from Thursday morning to Friday, but it slowed again Friday morning, officials said. The flow’s fitful nature is taking a toll on some Big Island residents, who got a brief reprieve from the advancing molten stream only to have to raise their guard again. “This stop-and-go – it’s going to be very frustrating for our residents,” said Darryl Oliveira, director of Hawaii County Civil Defense. “It raises the anxiety level. It raises the concern.” On the other hand, the sporadic suspensions in activity gave emergency crews time to build another road and deal with a recent tropical storm that swept by the island, Oliveira said. Crews near the leading edge have been wrapping power poles with concrete rings as a layer of protection from the lava’s heat.
The recent acceleration came when the lava reached a gully, allowing it to move more efficiently like rain in a gutter, Oliveira said. “It’s already starting to widen out at the bottom, which might mean that it will slow down again,” he said. No evacuations have been ordered, and the residents of a home that is nearest to the flow already have left voluntarily. Hawaii County Civil Defense crews are planning to go door-to-door Saturday to about a dozen homes to find out how many people might need shelter if the eruption continues, and to find any obstacles like abandoned cars or hazards t hat could be in the lava’s path. Oliveira said he would give residents three to five days’ notice before an evacuation order, and he stressed that the community is not yet at that point. Some long-term locals are used to the uncertainties of living near one of the world’s most active volcanoes. “Because of what they’ve experienced over the course of their lifetimes, they were very accepting … that this is nature’s thing,” Oliveira said. “But on the other hand, we have people who are new to the island who don’t really understand how it’s playing out and what to expect and having a harder time preparing.” –HP
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Budding Nightmare: Toddler who brought Ebola virus to Mali dies – 43 people in isolation who had close contact

October 2014 BAMAKO, Mali Many people in Mali are at high risk of catching Ebola because the toddler who brought the disease to the country was bleeding from her nose as she travelled on a bus from Guinea, the World Health Organization warned Friday. The U.N. agency is treating the situation as an emergency since many people may have had “high-risk exposures” to the 2-year-old girl during her journey through several towns in Mali, including two hours in the capital, Bamako. The girl was travelling with her grandmother. The toddler died in an isolation tent at a hospital in the western city of Kayes on Friday, according to a nurse at the facility, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press. This is the first Ebola case in Mali and may expand to many more. The case highlights how quickly the virus can hop borders and even oceans, just as questions are being asked about what precautions health care workers who treat Ebola patients should take when they return home from the hot zone. Doctors Without Borders insisted Friday, after one of its doctors who worked in Guinea came down with Ebola in New York, that quarantines of returning health workers are not necessary when they do not show symptoms of the disease.
In the Mali case, however, the girl was visibly sick, WHO said, and an initial investigation has identified 43 people, including 10 health workers, she came into close contact with who are being monitored for symptoms and held in isolation. The child was confirmed to have Ebola on Thursday. “The child’s symptomatic state during the bus journey is especially concerning, as it presented multiple opportunities for exposures — including high-risk exposures — involving many people,” the agency said in a statement. The girl first went to a clinic in Mali on Monday and she was initially treated for typhoid, which she tested positive for. When she did not improve, she was tested for Ebola, and she is now being treated in isolation in the western city of Kayes. Mali has long been considered highly vulnerable to Ebola’s spread since it shares a border with the Ebola-hit countries of Guinea and Senegal, and staff from WHO and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention were already there helping to prepare for a case. More WHO staff are being deployed. The Ebola outbreak began in Guinea and has since spread to five other West African countries. The virus has also been imported to Spain and the United States. On Thursday, Craig Spencer, who had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea and returned home to the U.S. about a week before, reported a fever and is now being treated at a New York hospital.
Some countries have banned travelers from the three main Ebola countries — Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone — and the U.S. started health screening of travelers arriving from there. But Doctors Without Borders said having its staffers quarantine themselves after leaving a country with Ebola is going too far if no symptoms are evident. A person infected with Ebola is not contagious until he or she starts showing symptoms. “As long as a returned staff member does not experience any symptoms, normal life can proceed,” Doctors Without Borders said in a statement sent to The Associated Press on Friday. “Self-quarantine is neither warranted nor recommended when a person is not displaying Ebola-like symptoms. Extremely strict procedures are in place for staff dispatched to Ebola affected countries before, during, and after their assignments,” said Sophie Delaunay, the group’s executive director, said in a statement. “Despite the strict protocols, risk cannot be completely eliminated. However, close post-assignment monitoring allows for early detection of cases and for swift isolation and medical management.” The group is investigating how Spencer became infected, it said. –CTV News
Hundreds exposed? A two-year-old Mali girl, who became the first to die of Ebola in the country, could have exposed hundreds of people to the deadly disease. The tot, who has not been identified, had travelled hundreds of kilometers by bus with her grandmother to seek treatment. Health workers are now scrambling to trace hundreds of people she may have come into contact with. In a statement Mali’s government confirmed the death and said: “In this moment of sadness, the government would like to express its condolences to her family and reminds the population that maintain very strict hygiene rules remains the best way to contain this disease.” Ebola has killed 4,900 people mainly in nearby Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. -ITV
Contagious when trip began: On Thursday, Health Minister Ousmane Kone told state television that she had traveled from neighboring Guinea, where more than 900 people have died in an outbreak that has killed nearly 4,900 and infected more than 9,900 others. The girl was admitted to a hospital on Wednesday night, where she tested positive for Ebola. Health officials told the World Health Organization (WHO), according to a report released Friday, that she was accompanied to Mali by her grandmother. The girl’s mother was reported to have died a few weeks earlier, but WHO could not yet confirm that the grandmother went to Kissidougou, in southern Guinea, for the funeral. The pair returned to Mali by public transportation and arrived in the capital, Bamako, where they stayed for two hours before moving on to Kayes. The girl had begun bleeding from the nose before she left Guinea, the report found, “meaning that the child was symptomatic during their travels through Mali” and that “multiple opportunities for exposure occurred when the child was visibly symptomatic.” –Time
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New York and New Jersey among first states to enact mandatory Ebola quarantines

October 2014NEW YORK - Late Friday, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie imposed automatic, 21-day quarantines on anyone who has had contact or possible contact with infected people from Ebola-stricken countries in West Africa. And federal officials might issue formal quarantine guidelines for medical workers who treat Ebola patients in West Africa. The case of Craig Spencer, a doctor just returned to New York from Guinea in West Africa, the epicenter of the disease, spurred the newest spike in concern about the deadly virus’s potential spread in the United States. Spencer did not self-quarantine after arriving back in the country on Oct. 17. He also didn’t display any symptoms until late this week. On Wednesday, he rode the subway from Manhattan to a bowling alley in Brooklyn, then hired a car service to take him home. He woke up Thursday with a high fever and was diagnosed with Ebola that evening. New York City public-health officials are scrambling to clean up the locations Spencer has visited. They also placed his fiancée and two friends in quarantine. The hurried cleanup efforts in New York were in stark contrast with the mood in Washington. Here, public-health officials celebrated the recovery of Nina Pham, a nurse who contracted Ebola after treating Thomas Eric Duncan, the Liberian man who was the first diagnosed case on American soil and who later died; Pham even got to meet President Barack Obama on Friday before returning to Dallas. On Capitol Hill Friday morning, lawmakers held a hearing on the federal government’s response to the virus, but the tone was friendly compared to the grilling Obama administration officials received last week.
But the next steps taken by New York and New Jersey, and the one that the White House is considering, speak to how seriously Obama is taking the threat. “Based on the information and science known today on the Ebola virus, isolating all of [Doctors Without Borders'] or other organizations’ staff returning from West Africa would be an excessive measure to take at this stage. Other organizations such as WHO and CDC are on the same line and don’t recommend that measure,” Tim Shenk, the press officer for Doctors Without Borders, said in a statement. As for how such guidelines might hinder medical personnel recruitment, Shenk said: “At any point during their time in the field, international staff have the choice to return home if they do not feel safe. It’s impossible to predict what impact this case will have on future recruitment, but [Doctors Without Borders] is committed to continuing its struggle against Ebola in West Africa.” Both Eden Wells, a prominent University of Michigan epidemiologist, and Arthur Reingold, the head of epidemiology at the University of California, Berkeley, said a formal quarantine, while unnecessary, is also quite likely. “What we’re seeing in this disease is that it is not community-transmitted like it is in West Africa,” Wells said. “But it does raise some questions, though, about whether a more active quarantine could be instituted for health care workers to reassure the public.”
Reingold added: “The idea that you might have to spend three weeks in quarantine, it’s not necessary. But I’m not sure whether [public-health officials] feel they have to do that.” David Dausey, a Yale-trained epidemiologist who works on controlling pandemics and who is dean of the School of Health Professions and Public Health at Mercyhurst University, disagreed, saying that public-health officials aren’t going far enough. “This is a disease with a 50 to 70 percent mortality rate. We can’t treat this disease like it’s seasonal influenza,” he said. Dausey said more formal quarantine rules were needed. He suggested off-site quarantine for the medial workers most at risk, and self-quarantine for those with less exposure to the virus. -FP
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Patient in New York City tests positive for Ebola – took subway from Manhattan to Brooklyn night before

Dr. Craig Spencer was transported from his apartment on West 147th Street in Harlem to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday. Credit Ozier Muhammad/The New York Times
October 2014 NEW YORKA doctor in New York City who recently returned from treating Ebola patients in Guinea tested positive for the Ebola virus Thursday, becoming the city’s first diagnosed case. The doctor, Craig Spencer, was rushed to Bellevue Hospital on Thursday and placed in isolation while health care workers spread out across the city to trace anyone he might have come into contact with in recent days. A further test will be conducted by the federal Centers for Disease Control to confirm the initial test. While officials have said they expected isolated cases of the disease to arrive in New York eventually, and had been preparing for this moment for months, the first case highlighted the challenges surrounding containment of the virus, especially in a crowded metropolis. Even as the authorities worked to confirm that Mr. Spencer was infected with Ebola, it emerged that he traveled from Manhattan to Brooklyn on the subway on Wednesday night, when he went to a bowling alley and then took a taxi home.
Thomas W. Geisbert of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston helped develop a vaccine that was effective in preventing Ebola in monkeys. A person infected with Ebola cannot spread the disease until they begin to display symptoms, and it cannot be spread through the air. As the person becomes sicker, the viral load in the body builds, and they become more and more contagious.
Dr. Spencer’s travel history and the timing of the onset of his symptoms led health officials to dispatch “disease detectives immediately began to actively trace all of the patient’s contacts to identify anyone who may be at potential risk,” according to a statement released by the department. It was unclear if the city was trying to find people who might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer on the subway. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority directed all questions to the health department, which did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the issue. At Dr. Spencer’s apartment in Harlem, his home was sealed off and workers distributed informational fliers about the disease. It was not clear if anyone was being quarantined. Health authorities declined to say how many people in total might have come into contact with Dr. Spencer while he was symptomatic. Mayor Bill de Blasio, speaking at a press conference Thursday evening before the diagnosis, said Dr. Spencer has given health workers a detailed accounting of his activities over the last few days. “Our understanding is that very few people were in direct contact with him,” Mr. de Blasio said. Dr. Spencer had been working with Doctors Without Borders in Guinea, treating Ebola patients, before returning to New York City on Oct. 14, according to a city official. He told the authorities that he did not believe the protective gear he wore while working with Ebola patients had been breached but had been monitoring his own health. –NY Times
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Biblically grim: Yale team foresees 90,000 deaths in one Liberian county alone by December 15

October 2014 LIBERIAA large influx of international aid is needed, and soon, if West Africa is to avoid tens of thousands of deaths from the widening Ebola crisis, a team of Yale University researchers predict. Using a specially designed mathematical model, the researchers looked at the possible future of the outbreak in just one densely populated county of hard-hit Liberia — Montserrado County, home to the capital city of Monrovia. The researchers said that if international aid isn’t delivered to Liberia in sufficient time and quantity, by Dec. 15 Montserrado County will have more than 170,000 cases of Ebola — 12 percent of its population — and more than 90,000 deaths. However, if the international community ramps up efforts by Oct. 31, almost 98,000 of those cases could be avoided. “Our predictions highlight the rapidly closing window of opportunity for controlling the outbreak and averting a catastrophic toll of new Ebola cases and deaths in the coming months,” study senior author Alison Galvani, professor of epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health, said in a university news release. “Although we might still be within the midst of what will ultimately be viewed as the early phase of the current outbreak, the possibility of averting calamitous repercussions from an initially delayed and insufficient response is quickly eroding,” she added.
What’s needed, according to the Yale team, are better diagnosis, treatment and prevention efforts on the ground in Liberia and in the two other countries affected by Ebola, Guinea and Sierra Leone. Essential elements include more Ebola treatment center beds, a fivefold increase in the rapidity at which new Ebola cases are identified, and the distribution of protective kits to households containing anyone already infected to cut the rate of Ebola’s spread, the researchers said. Even if international interventions were to be delayed until Nov. 15, about 54,000 new cases in Montserrado County might still be averted, the researchers said. According to the latest estimates from the World Health Organization, about 10,000 cases of Ebola have so far been reported in the three affected countries, and more than 4,900 people have died. Time is of the essence, the researchers said, to prevent the outbreak from exploding into something much less containable. “The current global health strategy is woefully inadequate to stop the current volatile Ebola epidemic,” study co-author Dr. Frederick Altice, professor of internal medicine and public health at Yale, said in the news release. “At a minimum, capable logisticians are needed to construct a sufficient number of Ebola treatment units in order to avoid the unnecessary deaths of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people.” The study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, was published online Oct. 23 in The Lancet Infectious Diseases. –Healthy Day
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