The highly pathonegic avian influenza H5N8 has been found in wildfowl on two RSPB reserves in England.
The virus has been detected in dead birds found at Frampton Marsh nature reserve in Lincolnshire and Marshside reserve in Southport, Merseyside.
Following advice from Public Health England the RSPB is not initially closing the reserves. Signage at the affected sites provides guidance to visitors, emphasising the importance of hygiene. Visitors should take care to avoid physical contact with dead or sick birds, which should be reported to site staff or directly to the Defra hotline (03459 33 55 77).
In an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme former Microsoft chief Bill Gates highlighted his concerns about a possible flu pandemic.
Speaking to guest editor Dame Sally Davies, England’s Chief Medical Officer, the billionaire philanthropist said that we are “a bit vulnerable right now” to a fatal flu pandemic.
Bill Gates explained his view :
“There’s a lot of discussion right now about how do we respond in an emergency. How do we make sure that the regulatory and liability and organisational boundaries don’t slow us down there.
I cross my fingers all the time that some epidemic like a big flu doesn’t come along in the next 10 years.
I do think we’ll have much better medical tools, much better response. But we are a bit vulnerable right now if something that spread very quickly like a flu that was quite fatal.
That would be a tragedy and new approaches should allow us to reduce that risk a lot.”
Sally Davies responded :
“Yes I agree. Interestingly we have just been practising a nasty flu in this country and for all we practice a lot we realise we need to do more.”
Dr Davies went on to say that although in the UK the NHS was “pretty well prepared” it would take at least six months from the start of a flu pandemic to get an effective vaccine.
- BBC Radio 4 Today – Bill Gates : We are vulnerable to flu epidemic in next decade [30 Dec 2016]
India has successfully test-fired its longest range nuclear-capable missile, the Agni-V.
This test confirms India’s status amongst the small group of countries with intercontinental missile capabilities.
Agni-V, with a range of more than 5,000 kilometers (3,107 miles), was developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO).
Campi Flegrei is an educational film depicting the complex realty of the volcanic area of Campi Flegrei, near the city of Naples in Italy.
Suggestive images from Solfatara crater and Pisciarelli fumaroles act as background to interviews with researchers of Osservatorio Vesuviano – INGV, the institution which carries out the volcanic surveillance of the Neapolitan volcanic areas.
The film includes details about the complex surveillance network monitoring Campei Flegrei. There are also scenes from the surveillance centre.
This UPStrat-MAFA video production also looks at the links between volcanism and the history of the area which was first inhabited by Greek communities and then by Romans.
The long dormant Campi Flegrei supervolcano in Italy may be waking up.
Scientists have published a study in the journal Nature Communications showing that Campi Flegrei is approaching the CDP (Critical Degassing Pressure). This is a sign that suggests the volcano is approaching a critical state and could erupt in the next few years.
The scientists led by Giovanni Chiodini of the Italian National Institute of Geophysics and Volcanology in Rome warn that a sudden release of hot magmatic gasses is possible in the near future, which could trigger a large eruption. Yet the timing of any possible eruption is unknown and is currently not possible to predict.
Kano State government in northern Nigeria has so far culled 9,000 birds since avian flu reappeared in the state in mid December.
This was confirmed by Dr Shehu Bawa, the Director of Veterinary Services, Ministry of Agriculture and Natural Resources, in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN).
The birds were killed at two poultry farms that had been infected with the disease in the state.
Dr Bawa announced that the ministry was increasing surveillance and disinfection of other farms to check the spread of the disease.
He also urged the Nigeria Government to pay compensation to farmers who lost their birds as this would help prevent the spread of the disease. Farmers are more likely to report outbreaks if know they will receive compensation for any birds that are killed.
The various strains of avian flu continue to spread across Asia.
In China the sale of live poultry has been halted in Suzhou in Jiangsu Province following reports of human H7N9 cases. In Xinjiang Region a large poultry outbreak involving the H5N6 strain has led to the culling of more than 55,000 chickens and other poultry.
Japan has reported its seventh outbreak at a poultry farm in Kumamoto Prefecture. Japan has been battling H5N6 in wild birds and poultry flocks.
Since the recent outbreaks in England and Scotland there have been no further cases of bird flu in poultry in the UK as of 28 December.
However the disease continues to spread across Europe.
The first European occurrence of bird flu was in Hungary in October. On 28 October 2016 the H5N8 virus was detected in a wild bird found dead at Lake Fehér-to.
A leading NASA scientist has warned that Earth is totally unprepared to deal with a serious threat from a surprise asteroid or comet.
Speaking at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union Dr Joseph Nuth warned that while large and potentially dangerous asteroids and comets are extremely rare they could be extinction-level events.
Nuth pointed out that while most attention has focused on asteroids comets can potentially be just as dangerous to the Earth. This is partly because Near-Earth asteroids (NEAs) are far more common, and also because the comets are more difficult to track.
Hong Kong newspaper The Standard reports that World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan Fung Fu-chun has warned that the H7N9 strain of avian flu is particularly worrying as it could be a human flu pandemic strain.
“The biggest challenge for the world is the next influenza pandemic,” Chan said.
H7N9 is unique as it does not make poultry ill but it can be life-threatening for humans. Sick birds can generally provide early warning for imminent outbreaks, Chan told The Standard.