Breaking News -- Earthquakes, Famines, Pestilence and Disasters
WHO: Ebola Responsible for More Than 4,800 Deaths
The Yeshiva World News
The World Health Organization says Ebola is now believed to have killed more than 4,800 people globally and that the spread of the lethal virus remains “persistent and widespread” in West Africa.
In a new update issued on Wednesday, WHO said there have been 9,936 probable, suspected and confirmed cases of Ebola, mostly in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia. It said transmission remains “intense” in the capital cities and that cases continue to be underreported.
WHO noted a lack of available beds in Ebola clinics is forcing many families to care for sick relatives at home, risking further spread of the virus. Liberia had the worst bed shortage, with only 23 percent of patients hospitalized in a clinic. WHO estimated 4,388 beds are still needed in West Africa.
Global Surge Of Great Earthquakes From 2004-2014
by Newsroom America Staff
(Newsroom America) -- The past ten years have been a remarkable time for great earthquakes with 18 quakes of Mw8.0 or greater since December 2004, which is a rate of more than twice that seen from 1900 to mid-2004.
Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost and massive damage has resulted from these great earthquakes. But as devastating as such events can be, these recent great quakes have come with a silver lining: They coincide with unprecedented advances in technological and scientific capacity for learning from them.
“We previously had very limited information about how ruptures grow into great earthquakes and interact with regions around them,” said seismologist Thorne Lay of the University of California at Santa Cruz.
“So we are using the recorded data for these recent events to guide our understanding of future earthquakes. We've gained a new level of appreciation for how one earthquake can influence events in other zones.”
High on the list of areas ripe for a great quake is Cascadia, the Pacific Northwest, where the risk for great quakes had long been under appreciated. Evidence began surfacing about 20 years ago that there had been a great quake in the region in the year 1700. Since then the view of the great quake risk in Cascadia has shifted dramatically.
“We don't know many details about what happened in 1700,” said Lay. There were no instruments back then to observe and record it. And so the best way to try to understand the danger and what could happen in Cascadia is to study the recent events elsewhere.
Over the past decade Lay and his colleagues have been able to gather fine details about these giant earthquakes using data from an expanded global networks of seismometers, GPS stations, tsunami gauges, and new satellite imaging capabilities such as GRACE, InSAR, and LandSAT interferometry.
Among the broader conclusions they have come to is that great quakes are very complicated and idiosyncratic.
“What we've seen is that we can have multiple faults activated,” said Lay. “We've seen it off Sumatra and off Japan. Once earthquakes get going they can activate faulting in areas that were thought not physically feasible.”
The great Sumatra-Andaman earthquake of Dec. 26, 2004, for instance, unzipped a 1,300 kilometer long segment of the subduction zone and unleashed one of history's most destructive, deadly tsunamis. Much of the rupture was along a region with very limited plate convergence.
In Japan, the Kuril Islands, and the Solomon Islands, great mega-thrust ruptures have ruptured portions of the subduction zones that were thought too warm or weak to experience earthquakes.
“These earthquakes ruptured right through areas that had been considered to have low risk,” said Lay. “We thought that would not happen. But it did, so we have to adjust our understanding.”
Perhaps the best recent analogy to Cascadia is off the coast of Iquique, Chile, said Lay. There had been a great quake in 1877, and a conspicuous gap in quakes ever since.
Like the 1700 Cascadia earthquake, there is little data for the 1877 event, which killed more than 2,500 people. In both subduction zones, the converging plates are thought to be accumulating strain which could be released in a very large and violent rupture.
On April 1 of this year, some of that strain was released offshore of Iquique. There was a Mw8.1 rupture in the northern portion of the seismic gap. But it involved slip over less than 20 percent of the region that seismologists believe to have accumulated strain since 1877.
“We have no idea why only a portion of the 1877 zone ruptured,” said Lay. “But clearly, 80 percent of that zone is still unruptured. We don't have a good basis for assessment of how the rest will fail. It’s the same for Cascadia. We don't know if it always goes all at once or sometimes in sequences of smaller events, with alternating pattern. It is prudent to prepare for the worst case of failure of the entire region in a single event, but it may not happen that way every time.”
WHO revises global tuberculosis estimate up by 500,000
The World Health Organization has revised up its estimate of how many people have tuberculosis by almost 500,000.
In 2013 nine million people had developed TB around the world, up from 8.6 million in 2012, the WHO said.
However, the number of people dying from TB continued to decline, it added.
TB campaigners said that one of the biggest problems in tackling the deadly disease was gauging how many people were affected.
About 1.5 million people had died in 2013 from TB, including 360,000 people who had been HIV positive, the WHO said in its Global Tuberculosis Report 2014. And in 2012, there had been 1.3 million tuberculosis deaths.
The WHO said its report underlined that a "staggering number of lives are being lost to a curable disease and confirms that TB is the second biggest killer disease from a single infectious agent".
One of the main factors in revising up the number of cases had been improved national data collection, the organisation added.
In the long-term, the mortality rate from TB had fallen, dropping by 45% since 1990, the WHO said.
Since then, the number of people developing the disease had declined by about 1.5% per year. But about three million people with TB had remained undiagnosed in 2013, the WHO added.
One of the biggest issues facing organisations tackling the disease was the number of undiagnosed cases, said tuberculosis charity TB Alert.
"The fact that three million people are missing out on treatment every year explains why there are still so many avoidable deaths from tuberculosis," said TB Alert chief executive Mike Mandelbaum.
"By strengthening health systems, especially in high-incidence countries, we can turn the tide of this global epidemic and finally move into sight of eradicating this disease," he added.
The WHO report also said:
Most of the people who developed TB in 2013 were in South East Asia and the Western Pacific
India accounted for 24% of cases alone
China saw 11% of total cases
A further quarter were in the Africa, which had the highest rates of cases and deaths relative to the population
The WHO said that insufficient funding was hampering efforts to combat the disease. An estimated $8bn (£5bn) was needed each year, but there was an annual shortfall of $2bn, it said.
Drug resistant 'epidemics'
Tuberculosis that is resistant to drugs, which is harder to treat and cure, had accounted for 3.5% of new cases in 2013, the WHO said.
Globally, 5% of TB cases were estimated to be drug resistant. But in some parts of the world, including Eastern Europe and Central Asia, there were "severe epidemics", the WHO said.
For example, in Belarus, 35% of new cases were drug resistant.
"Improved diagnostic tools and access mean that we are detecting and treating more cases," said Dr Karin Weyer, WHO coordinator for laboratories, diagnostics and drug resistance.
"But the gap between detecting and actually getting people started on treatment is widening and we urgently need increased commitment and funding to test and treat every case," she added.
Extensively drug-resistant TB, which is even more difficult to treat than drug-resistant TB, had been reported in 100 countries, the WHO said.
Aid network Medecins Sans Frontieres said that the rise of drug resistant TB, especially in the former Soviet Union, was of "critical concern".
"Access to proper treatment is drastically low: only one person in five with multidrug-resistant TB receives treatment; the rest are left to die, increasing the risk to their families and communities and fuelling the epidemic," said Medecins Sans Frontieres TB advisor Dr Grania Brigden.
"This dismal news must serve as a wake-up call for governments, donors and drug companies," she added.
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