China’s deadly floods leave 40 million people displaced

China Rainstorms

CHINA — Relentless heavy rains that began pummeling China last month is flooding more areas along the Yangtze River and causing anxiety further along the 2.3-km Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant. Already, 40 million people have been uprooted. Now, the dam 300 km west of Wuhan is threatening to burst and flood the first city to be hammered by the novel coronavirus. More than 400 rivers have overflowed and authorities estimate the economic toll has already reached 64.4 billion yuan ($9.2 billion).  –AN

The 1,000-kilometer river is a major waterway in China, is facing grim flooding risks over the next three days for parts of Shanxi, Henan, Shandong, Anhui, and Jiangsu provinces. Massive flooding upstream on the Yangtze River has also caused concern that the Three Gorges Dam, the largest hydroelectric power station in the world, is being pushed to the limit under the strain of massive flows of water. Many regions along the Yangtze River have flooded in the past week due to torrential rains this monsoon season. At the moment, at least 400 Yangtze tributary rivers have overflowed, with at least a hundred dead and 15 million people evacuated from their homes in July alone. Rainfall totals in China are about 12% higher than the last monsoon season. The economic damage is already in the billions of dollars, according to government estimates the previous week.   We noted last week rising floodwaters on the Yangtze River had caused fears the Three Gorges Dam has failed to prevent flooding downstream.  –Zero Hedge

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Health Watch: Squirrel tests positive for the bubonic plague in Colorado

Bubonic Plague

Public health officials have announced that a squirrel in Colorado has tested positive for the bubonic plague. The town of Morrison, Colorado, in Jefferson County, which is just west of Denver, made the startling announcement saying that the squirrel is the first case of plague in the county. “Plague is an infectious disease caused by the bacteria Yersinia pestis, and can be contracted by humans and household animals if proper precautions are not taken,” officials from Jefferson County Public Health (JCPH) said in a statement released to the public.

It is possible for humans to be infected with the bubonic plague through bites from infected fleas and by direct contact with blood or tissues of infected animals such as a cough or a bite. Jefferson County Public Health said that cats are highly susceptible to the plague from things like flea bites, a rodent scratch or bite, and ingesting an infected rodent. Cats can die if not treated quickly with antibiotics after contact with the plague.

Officials also said that dogs are not as susceptible to the plague as cats are but still may pick up and carry plague-infected rodent fleas. Any pet owner who suspects that their pet is ill should contact a veterinarian immediately. “Symptoms of plague may include sudden onset of high fever, chills, headache, nausea and extreme pain and swelling of lymph nodes, occurring within two to seven days after exposure. Plague can be effectively treated with antibiotics when diagnosed early. Anyone experiencing these symptoms should consult a physician,” said JCPH.

Risk for contracting the bubonic plague is extremely low as long as the proper precautions are taken and JCPH published a list of them including eliminating all sources of food, shelter and access for wild animals around the home, not feeding wild animals, maintaining a litter and trash-free yard to reduce wild animal habitats, having people and pets should avoid all contact with sick or dead wild animals and rodents, using precaution when handling sick pets and having them examined by a veterinarian, consulting with a veterinarian about flea and tick control for pets and keeping pets from roaming freely outside the home where they may prey on wild animals and bring the disease home with them.   –ABC News

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Earth-Sun ideal combination for intelligent life, once thought commonplace in the universe – now determined by science to be ‘extremely extremely’ rare

Earth Sun

A new study suggests that there are around 700 quintillion planets in the universe, but only one like Earth. It’s a revelation that’s both beautiful and terrifying at the same time. Astrophysicist Erik Zackrisson from Uppsala University in Sweden arrived at this staggering figure — a 7 followed by 20 zeros  — with the aid of a computer model that simulated the universe’s evolution following the Big Bang. Zackrisson’s model combined information about known exoplanets with our understanding of the early universe and the laws of physics to recreate the past 13.8 billion years.

Zackrisson found that Earth appears to have been dealt a fairly lucky hand. In a galaxy like the Milky Way, for example, most of the planets Zackrisson’s model generated looked very different than Earth — they were larger, older and very unlikely to support life. The study can be found on the pre-print server arXiv, and has been submitted to The Astrophysical Journal.  –Discovery

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Mystery as Argentine sailors infected with virus after 35 days at sea: could virus already be aerosolized across the planet?


Buenos Aires (AFP) – Argentina is trying to solve a medical mystery after 57 sailors were infected with the coronavirus after 35 days at sea, despite the entire crew testing negative before leaving port. The Echizen Maru fishing trawler returned to port after some of its crew began exhibiting symptoms typical of COVID-19, the health ministry for the southern Tierra del Fuego province said Monday. According to the ministry, 57 sailors, out of 61 crew members, were diagnosed with the virus after undergoing a new test. However, all of the crew members had undergone 14 days of mandatory quarantine at a hotel in the city of Ushuaia. Prior to that, they had negative results, the ministry said in a statement.

Two of the other sailors have tested negative, and two others are awaiting test results, the province’s emergency operations committee said. Two sailors were hospitalized. “It’s hard to establish how this crew was infected, considering that for 35 days, they had no contact with dry land and that supplies were only brought in from the port of Ushuaia,” said Alejandra Alfaro, the director of primary health care in Tierra del Fuego. A team was examining “the chronology of symptoms in the crew to establish the chronology of contagion,” she said.

“The head of the infectious diseases department at Ushuaia Regional Hospital, Leandro Ballatore, said he believed this is a case that escapes all description in publications, because an incubation period this long has not been described anywhere. We cannot yet explain how the symptoms appeared,” said Ballatore. The crew was placed in isolation on board the ship and returned to the port of Ushuaia. Argentina exceeded 100,000 total cases on Sunday, and the death toll rose to 1,859. The majority of infections are in the Buenos Aires area.  –Yahoo

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Deadly elephant virus could jump to humans, experts warn after mystery bug killed hundreds of animals in Africa

Elephants 2

SCIENTISTS are investigating the disease that is killing hundreds of African elephants as it could transfer to humans. The new mysterious virus has killed up to 400 elephants in the Okavango Delta, Botswana since May. Wildlife experts believe an unknown pathogen – a novel elephant virus – could be behind the mass deaths. Aerial shots have shown the massive carcasses strewn across the area near watering holes in an unprecedented die-off that isn’t affecting other animals. Hundreds of elephants have been spotted looking confused, wandering around in circles and then falling onto their faces before dying, Daily Express reports. Local reports say that elephants of all ages and both sexes have died. Several live elephants are reportedly weak which suggests that more will die in the coming weeks.

Dr Niall McCann, the director of National Park Rescue, said: “This is a mass die-off on a level that hasn’t been seen in a very, very long time. Outside of drought, I don’t know of a die-off that has been this significant.” He added “We are currently living with a zoonotic spillover event. “The absolute worst case is that this could turn into another one. It is incredibly important to rule out the prospect of this crossing over into people. Yes, it is a conservation disaster – but it also has the potential to be a public health crisis.

“The whole environment needs to be sampled — the vegetation, water and soil. All the tissue of the carcass, the muscle, blood, brain, spleen. Samples taken from the elephant carcasses have been sent to Zimbabwe to determine the cause of death. Scientists have urged the government to test the animals to ensure they do not pose a risk to human life. The lack of urgency is of real concern and does not reflect the actions of a responsible custodian,” said Mary Rice, executive director of the Environmental Investigation Agency in London. Conservationists think that the death toll will be higher as carcasses can be difficult to spot. Cyanide poisoning, often used by poachers in Zimbabwe, could be a possible cause of death but scavenging animals do not appear to be dying at the carcasses.

Botswana is home to more than 130,000 elephants – approximately a third of Africa’s remaining savanna elephants. There are about 18,000 elephants in the Okavango Delta. Poaching and anthrax have been ruled as possible causes and there has been no drought, another mass killer of elephants. Experts are waiting for more results from South Africa next week before sharing findings with the public. Oduetse Kaboto, a senior official in the environment and tourism ministry, said: “We have to wait for another set of results and reconcile the two to see if they are saying the same thing before we come to a definitive conclusion.

“We are hoping the second set of results will come in next week and that’s when we should be able to communicate to the public the cause of deaths.” Dr Cyril Taolo, acting director for Botswana’s department of wildlife and national parks, said: “We are aware of the elephants that are dying. “Out of the 350 animals we have confirmed 280 of those animals. We are still in the process of confirming the rest.” The Botswana wildlife department said the government contacted officials in neighboring Zimbabwe, Angola, Namibia and Zambia but they had not seen similar elephant deaths.  –The Sun

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Mysterious pneumonia more deadly than the coronavirus sweeps across Asia


A deadly ‘unknown pneumonia’ that has a higher death rate than Covid-19 is understood to have broken out in Kazakhstan, Chinese officials warned. The Chinese embassy, which quoted local media reports, said Atyrau and Aktobe counties as well as Skymkent city had seen a spike in cases of the illness since mid-June. Kazakhstan’s Health Ministry said it had recorded more than 32,000 cases of pneumonia and 451 deaths from the illness between June 29 and July 5 alone. The embassy said the central Asian nation had 1,772 deaths in the first half of the year, including 628 las month – some of whom were Chinese nationals.

It then described the sickness as an “unknown pneumonia” even though officials in Kazakhstan did not say whether there was anything unusual about it. A spokesman for the embassy said: “The death rate of this disease is much higher than the novel coronavirus. “The country’s health departments are conducting comparative research into the pneumonia virus, but have yet to identify the virus.” Diplomats urged Chinese nationals to take the same precautions as with Covid-19. They urged Chinese nationals not to leave their homes unless necessary, wearing a face mask, practicing social distancing and washing hands regularly.

Saule Kisikova, the health care department chief in Nur-Sultan – the country’s capital – told state media hundreds were being struck down by the disease. He added: “Some 300 people diagnosed with pneumonia are being hospitalized every day.” It is believed the mortality rate from the pneumonia increased four times in June, compared to the same month last year. The outbreak comes after Chinese officials in the city of Bayannur have identified a case of bubonic plague and have sounded the alarm. According to reports, the case was reported on Saturday in a hospital in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region of Bayannur.  –Daily Star

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Health Watch: ‘Black Death’ Bubonic Plague may hit again, China on high alert


On Sunday, a city in northern China was on high alert after a case of Bubonic plague was reported on Saturday. The case was reported in the city of Bayannur located in the northwest of Beijing. According to state-run Xinhua news agency, By Sunday, authorities in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous region had issued a 3 level warning citywide for the prevention and control of the plague. The suspect was reported by a hospital in Bayannur on Saturday. And the local health authority also announced that the warning will continue until the end of 2020 as there will be a risk of spreading. “At present, there is a risk of a human plague epidemic spreading in this city. Public should improve its self-protection awareness and ability, and report abnormal health conditions promptly,” according to China Daily, a state-run newspaper.

On 1 July, Xinhua news agency reported that two suspected cases of the Bubonic plague were recorded in Khovd province in Western Mongolia and were confirmed by labs. The confirmed cases were a 27-year-old resident and his 17-year-old brother who were treated at different hospitals. The brothers had eaten marmot meat. After their case, the health officials urged people not to eat meat. So far, a total of 146 people who had been in contact with them have been isolated and are being treated at local hospitals.

Bubonic plague is one of the three types of plague caused by bacterium Yersinia Pestis. It is a rare but serious bacterial disease that is spread by fleas living on wild rodents such as marmots. According to the WHO, it can kill an adult in less than 24 hours if not treated in time. One to seven days after exposure to the bacteria, flu-like symptoms start to develop. The various symptoms of the disease include fever, headaches, fatigue, cough, and vomiting. Swollen and painful lymph nodes occur in the area closest to where the bacteria entered the skin.

The Black Death, also known as the Pestilence and the Great Mortality, the Bubonic Plague was the disease that caused Black Death, was the deadliest pandemic recorded in human history. The Black Death resulted in the deaths of up to 25–200 million people in Eurasia and North Africa, peaking in Europe from 1347 to 1351. During the Late Middle Ages, The Black Death was the second disaster affecting Europe and 30% to 60% of Europe’s populations have been killed.  –The Policy Times

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