[News] All Around The World

A posting place for news from places around the globe, outside of the US/Europe.

This also kills otherwise hale people, where as far as I know influenza only kills the infirm. I suspect mortality ends up being >4%.

Mr GT Chris wrote:

Well google tells me the fatality rate of the new virus is two percent, much higher than seasonal flu although lower than SARS. This could be exaggerated by where the majority of cases have occurred so far and the quality of healthcare there. The fatality rate is likely to be lower in Europe I presume.

Anyway, as someone who gets a flu vaccination every year and practices preventative hygiene, I’m also concerned about this outbreak.

Sure, but virulance is a combination of transmissibility and severity. While you could argue that the published fatality rate right now is 2% (I agree that this number is probably a reflection of local healthcare quality and would likely be substantially lower in the USA and Western Europe), it doesn't seem to be a particularly transmissible virus. This is compared to something like Measles, which has a transmission rate exceeding 90%. If someone on an aircraft has Measles, every unvaccinated person on that plane is almost certainly walking off infected. With the latest coronavirus? Probably not.

I'm not saying that it isn't worthwhile to keep an eye on it for more concerning signs, but I do wonder how many people who are running out to buy (fairly pointless) face-masks and are waving their hands in the air about the new doom virus are the same people who skipped their flu shot and declined to vaccinate their kids with MMRV.

Locally, we have a plan in place to handle it just the way we would any other infectious agent. But until it proves to be something more in the vein of SARS or MERS, I think the media coverage is perhaps a little breathless. Quarantined cities make for dramatic news though, so I don't expect it to stop.

Suvanto wrote:

...influenza only kills the infirm.

Uh, no. Traditionally the very young and very old are vulnerable. As are the immunocompromised and those with significant pulmonary comorbidities (e.g. COPD). However, the H1N1 ("Swine flu") strain killed somewhere in the region of 17,000 people in the USA, and was notable for actually being worse in young, healthy individuals with strong immune systems. The 1918 "Spanish Flu" killed indiscriminately, irrespective of age or health status, and killed so many millions of people that to this day we don't have an accurate idea of the actual number of deaths.

Trust me, there's no such thing as "just the Flu".

I feel like "it's just the flu" is a thing said exclusively by people who've never really had a case of it. Even for a healthy person it is pretty debilitating.

thrawn82 wrote:

I feel like "it's just the flu" is a thing said exclusively by people who've never really had a case of it. Even for a healthy person it is pretty debilitating.

Wife and I just got over the flu and it messed us up something fierce. She was bed ridden for three days and I had to go to emergency once I started coughing up blood. Luckily, the blood part was unrelated and had to do with a minor bacterial infection in my lungs and a post-viral cough. The flu SUCKS and if you have it, you're out for a while.

Coldstream wrote:

I really wish people were this concerned about Influenza, which is staggeringly more virulent. Thus far the CDC reports that in the USA alone there have been 13 million influenza illnesses, 120,000 hospitalizations, and 6,600 influenza-related deaths. In contrast, China has had only 4,500 coronavirus infections and 106 coronavirus-related deaths.

Influenza is a known threat with a known virulence level. The CDC isn't screaming about the influenza numbers because they are entirely consistent with previous years. We've also distributed 173 million doses of vaccine for it since September of last year.

The coronavirus, on the other hand, is an unknown threat that was discovered less than a month ago. We currently don't have a vaccine or know how long it would take to develop and then distribute said vaccine. That 2019-nCoV apparently spread from animal-to-human contact is exceptionally concerning because, historically, diseases that make that jump are on the deadlier side (which was why everyone was worried about SARS and MERS).

Coldstream wrote:

Sure, but virulance is a combination of transmissibility and severity. While you could argue that the published fatality rate right now is 2% (I agree that this number is probably a reflection of local healthcare quality and would likely be substantially lower in the USA and Western Europe), it doesn't seem to be a particularly transmissible virus. This is compared to something like Measles, which has a transmission rate exceeding 90%. If someone on an aircraft has Measles, every unvaccinated person on that plane is almost certainly walking off infected. With the latest coronavirus? Probably not.

I'm not saying that it isn't worthwhile to keep an eye on it for more concerning signs, but I do wonder how many people who are running out to buy (fairly pointless) face-masks and are waving their hands in the air about the new doom virus are the same people who skipped their flu shot and declined to vaccinate their kids with MMRV.

Locally, we have a plan in place to handle it just the way we would any other infectious agent. But until it proves to be something more in the vein of SARS or MERS, I think the media coverage is perhaps a little breathless. Quarantined cities make for dramatic news though, so I don't expect it to stop.

Humanity is long overdue for a pandemic. The last one was the Spanish Influenza in 1918 that managed to infect half a billion people globally--a quarter of the world's population back then--with only slow-ass boat travel. 50 million people died.

Now the world's population is four times as large--with most people living in crowded cities--and someone can travel half the globe in a day.

And public health officials are concerned that our healthcare infrastructure isn't quite up to the task of a pandemic. In the states we haven't organized a country-wide vaccination program since we eradicated polio in the 50s. And now we have to deal with HMOs, privatized hospitals, and the fact that there are about 45 million Americans who don't have any health insurance.

That China is quarantining entire cities should give you pause. They are clearly worried about the disease spreading.

More like worried about the perception of not taking action to stop the disease from spreading. They don't want to lose face, but in reality there's really nothing they can do at this point because people are stupid.

Living with the Coronavirus

Chairman_Mao wrote:

More like worried about the perception of not taking action to stop the disease from spreading. They don't want to lose face, but in reality there's really nothing they can do at this point because people are stupid.

I agree with you, in part.

But quarantining cities is also what public health officials would argue for rather than waiting to shut the barn doors after the horse has bolted.

Now the world's population is four times as large--with most people living in crowded cities--and someone can travel half the globe in a day.

And with an ever growing segment of the population, at least in this country (can't speak to others) where people believe basically any vaccine is automatically worse than the thing it's preventing... or is some conspiracy by Big Pharma to make money... or is part of some other ridiculous conspiracy... All of which will only work to undermine any treatments/preventative measures we might take.

OG_slinger wrote:

But quarantining cities is also what public health officials would argue for rather than waiting to shut the barn doors after the horse has bolted.

Except that public health officials outside of China are not arguing for that.

So disease response experts are having trouble figuring out what China’s public health officials plan to do here, how they’ll do it, or why. In an outbreak, by the time you try something as ambitious as quarantining a megacity, it’s already too late to quarantine the megacity.

As a public health tool, quarantine has a deep history. For diseases against which you have no pharmaceutical defense—which was the case for basically every disease for most of human history—what else can you do? Large-scale ones chased and followed every great epidemic from the 12th century European plague to cholera to smallpox to influenza. But once people figured out that pathogens like bacteria and viruses cause disease, other interventions came to supercede if not outright replace quarantine, or what public health experts today call social distancing. “The problem with social distancing is that we have very little evidence that it works,” says Larry Gostin, a professor of global health law at Georgetown University. “At most, it might delay for a short time an outbreak, but it’s very unlikely to stop the progressive spread.”

By the time you quarantine a city—if it is even possible to do so—it would already be too late if the pandemic were really that bad.

Quarantine at that scale is big, flashy, headline-grabbing and dubiously effective or proportionate. Exactly the kind of thing a government does when it wants to look like it's responding to a crisis.

So far, the global health community is concerned by the new coronavirus but isn't raising the alarm. I suppose maybe China knows something we don't and is sitting on apocalyptic piles of bodies, but you would think that would have come out by now.

It got Hong Kong out of the news cycle too.

LeapingGnome wrote:

It got Hong Kong out of the news cycle too.

And, just to be paranoid, I don't think the Chinese government minds a little practice quarantining and isolating a city, or having a plausible excuse to do so again floating around.

Refugees in South Africa: 'Give us a place where we can be safe'

Hundreds of refugees and asylum seekers have been crammed into a church in the centre of the South African city of Cape Town for four months. They are desperate to move to another country, as Vumani Mkhize reports.

The air is thick with the smell of too many people confined in one space.

Blankets, making up temporary beds, are strewn all over.

The cacophony of children's playful laughter rises above the scene, but it cannot mask the plight of the more than 500 refugees and asylum seekers who have sought refuge inside Cape Town's Central Methodist Church.

Last October this group, made up of people from across the continent, staged a sit-in protest outside the offices of the UN's refugee agency (UNHCR), demanding to be resettled outside South Africa.

Armed with an eviction order, police tried to forcibly remove them and images of stun grenades and weeping children desperately clinging to their mothers shocked the nation.

At the time the UNHCR said it had been "encouraging [the protesters] to participate in constructive dialogue to address their grievances".

"South Africa is a generous host country with progressive asylum policies and laws," it added.

In their time of need the church offered the group sanctuary. They have remained there ever since.

Nadine Nkurukiye escaped unrest at home in Burundi and has been living in South Africa for 13 years, but has not been granted asylum.

While in South Africa, a place where she thought she was safe, she was attacked and raped by a man who remains at large.

"There is no help, there is no-one who can show you the way to go," Ms Nkurukiye tells the BBC as she wipes away her tears.

Her voice breaking as she recounts her horrific ordeal, she says her problems are compounded by South Africa's inefficient asylum process, where applicants can spend years waiting for refugee status.

"What I'm only asking is for the UNHCR to help us, to give us a place where we can be safe. Where they can accept us like human beings, because South Africa doesn't treat us like human beings," Ms Nkurukiye says.

Since 2008, there have been numerous outbreaks of xenophobic violence targeting foreign nationals from the rest of the continent in townships across the country.


Brazil: judge dismisses cybercrimes accusations against Glenn Greenwald

I have profoundly mixed feelings about Glenn, but this is good and those charges were total politically motivated horsesh*t to shut down a Bolsonaro administration critic.

A judge in Brazil’s capital has dismissed accusations that the journalist Glenn Greenwald was involved in hacking phones of officials, following weeks of criticism that his prosecution would infringe on constitutional protections for the press.

Prosecutors last month leveled accusations that Greenwald helped a group of six people hack into phones of hundreds of local authorities, saying his actions amounted to criminal association and illegal interception of communications.

Greenwald’s online media outlet The Intercept Brasil has published a series of excerpts from private conversations on a messaging app involving the current justice minister.

The leaked excerpts appeared to show that Sergio Moró, then a judge, improperly coordinated with prosecutors during high-profile corruption investigations – including the case that imprisoned the former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva

Thursday’s decision by the Brasilia-based judge, Ricardo Leite, invoked an earlier ruling by the supreme court Justice Gilmar Mendes, who barred investigations of Greenwald and The Intercept Brasil in relation to the alleged hacking.

Fear in Mexico as twin deaths expose threat to monarch butterflies and their defenders

The annual migration of monarch butterflies from the US and Canada is one of the most resplendent sights in the natural world – a rippling orange-and-black wave containing millions of butterflies fluttering instinctively southward to escape the winter cold.

The spectacle when they reach their destination in central Mexico is perhaps even more astonishing. Patches of alpine forest turn from green to orange as the monarchs roost in the fir trees, the sheer weight of butterflies causing branches to sag to the point of snapping. Tens of thousands of the insects bounce haphazardly overhead, searching replenishment from nearby plants.

To witness this sight is as if to enter a waking dream. “People have a spiritual and emotional connection to monarchs,” said Sonia Altizer, a monarch butterfly researcher at the University of Georgia. “Many people tell me that seeing them was a highlight of their life.”

The recent deaths of two butterfly conservationists in the region has, however, drawn attention to a troubling tangle of disputes, resentments and occasional bouts of harrowing violence that has lingered over the Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve, a sprawling world heritage site situated 60 miles north-west of Mexico City.

Mustachioed and gregarious, Homero Gómez González tirelessly promoted the El Rosario sanctuary, a section of the butterfly reserve that receives the bulk of tourists who come from around the world to see the monarchs. He featured in mesmerizing social media videos – posing with butterflies fluttering around him – and called the creatures “a marvel of nature”.

Gómez, who was 50, disappeared on 13 January after attending a patron saint festival in the municipality of Ocampo; his body was found two weeks later at the bottom of a watering hole. His death has yet to be ruled a murder, although police say he suffered a blunt trauma to the head.

The incident raised fears that gangs, possibly tied to the illegal logging of the butterfly reserve, had targeted Gómez for his advocacy of ecotourism over the felling of trees in this rugged swath of Mexico where communities, often beset by poverty, have traditionally relied upon the harvesting of timber, potatoes and wheat.

Those concerns were further heightened this week after the death of a part-time tour guide from another nearby butterfly sanctuary, called Raúl Hernández Romero. His body was found 1 February with injuries possibly inflicted by a sharp object.

“The panorama for the community, the forest and the monarch butterflies is now very complicated and uncertain,” Amado Gómez González, one of Gómez’s nine siblings, told the Guardian.

“There are now these two crimes and it has spread fear. You find yourself thinking ‘What if this is a group that is coming to try and take the sanctuary away from us?”

Investigations into the two deaths are ongoing. But some conservationists fret they are a byproduct of the violence that has long troubled the state of Michoacán, which stretches from the mountains of central Mexico to the west coast.