Wednesday, February 3, 2016

GLOBAL VOLCANISM: The Latest Report Of Volcanic Eruptions, Activity, Unrest And Awakenings – February 6, 2016! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Popocatepetl volcano.

February 3, 2016 - EARTH - The following constitutes the new activity, unrest and ongoing reports of volcanoes across the globe.


Popocatepetl (Mexico): In the last 24 hours the Popocatepetl had nine explosions and 35 exhalations of low intensity, according to the monitoring system of the volcano, reported Cenapred.

In its latest report, the body of the Ministry of the Interior explained that four of the nine explosions occurred yesterday at 15:33, 20:19, 21:22 22:48 hours and five on Tuesday.

Also said that since Tuesday morning has been a slight emission of water vapor and gas that winds have scattered to the east-northeast.


Photo: CENAPRED.

He recalled that the light of volcanic alert remains at yellow phase two level at which it is contemplated that the explosive activity continues at a low level, falling ash and even possibility of pyroclastic flows and mudflows.

So the Cenapred urged people not to approach the volcano by the danger of falling ballistic fragments and suggested the public be alert to warnings authorities disseminate Civil Protection.

WATCH: Live streaming Popocatepetl volcano.




Copahue (Chile): Ash plume from Copahue yesterday During the past weeks, the El Agrio crater has continued to emit weak, but near-continuous emissions of fine gray ash.

Incandescence remains visible at night.


Ash plume from Copahue

According to SERNAGEOMIN, this current activity, mainly phreatic, is caused by interaction of a small body of new magma interacting with the hydrothermal system at shallow depth.

Seismic activity, although above background, is relatively low as are other monitored parameters (e.g. deformation, SO2 output etc). No larger eruption is expected for the near future.


Barren Island (India)
:  Minor eruptive activity (possibly strombolian) seems to continue on the remote island, at least intermittently.


Steam / ash plume and thermal hot spot at Barren Island on February 1, 2016 (MODIS / VIIRS NASA imagery)

Yesterday and the day before, a weak steam and possibly ash plume was visible on satellite imagery as well as a thermal hot spot.


Turrialba (Costa Rica)
: Weak, passive ash venting occurred yesterday at the western pit crater, showing that volcanic unrest continues.


Ash plume from Costa Rica's Turrialba volcano yesterday



Karymsky (Kamchatka): Several ash plumes reaching estimated 13-16,000 ft (4-5 km) altitude have been reported by Tokyo VAAC during the past days, suggesting that the volcano's intermittent explosions are currently more frequent and relatively intense.


Masaya (Nicaragua): INETER reported ongoing strong seismic and surface activity.

There here are currently two small lava lakes active contained in two pits inside the Santiago crater. Access to Masaya's crater rim, a very popular tourist destination, was closed to the public on Saturday.

An earthquake of magnitude 3 on Friday, felt by many residents, probably accompanied the opening of the second vent in the NE section of the crater.

A third vent is in the process of forming in the SE section of the crater, the latest INETER report stated.



Nevados de Chillán (Central Chile): A series of new explosions with small to moderate ash emissions occurred at the volcano during the end of last week.

This activity formed a second new crater, approx. 25x30 m wide and located 50 m beneath the northeast flank of Arrau crater, as SERNAGEOMIN staff observed on an overflight on 30 January.


Aerial view of Nevados de Chillán volcano's Arrau crater on January 30, 2016 (SERNAGEOMIN)

According to Chilean scientists, the activity is caused by phreatic (steam-driven) explosions in the shallow hydrotermal disturbances, not by fresh magma.

Temperatures in the crater areas were found to be relatively low (approx 120 deg C), which supports this interpretation as well.

It is likely that more explosions occur in the near future and an exclusion zone of 2 km around the crater was put in place.


Heard (Australia, Southern Indian Ocean): An eruption was observed by crew on board the CSIRO research vessel Investigator in late January.


WATCH: A lava flow was seen descending the NW flank of Mawson Peak.




Weak thermal anomalies were also detected on satellite data at the end of January. Whether the activity is still going on or not is impossible to determine - most of the days, the volcano is hidden beneath thick clouds preventing satellite observations.

- Volcano Discovery | El Universal [Translated].



ICE AGE NOW: Global Cooling Continues Relentlessly - Mexico Enduring The COLDEST WINTER IN ITS HISTORY! [VIDEO]

A hat! a hat! I should have worn a hat!


February 3, 2016 - MEXICO - The situation is particularly worrying in the north, where the thermometer reached the -17 ° C mark.

In Mexico City it snowed in January, a phenomenon not seen in the capital since 1967.


31 Jan 2016 - While the storm Jonah was unleashed on the United States, in Mexico temperatures dropped to record lows.

The snow and cold forced the government to declare a state of emergency is declared in 24 of the 32 states in the country.

The National Meteorological System has warned that the worst of winter may be yet to come and that temperatures will fall in the north, northeast, east and center of Mexico.


WATCH: Heavy snowfall in Mexico.




The most affected are the northern states: Chihuahua, Coahuila, Sonora, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, although significant frost and freeze municipalities of Puebla, Zacatecas, San Luis Potosi and Veracruz were also recorded.

On the heights of the "Neovolcanic", the mountain range that crosses Mexico and includes volcanoes Popocatepetl, Nevado de Toluca and Pico de Orizaba, snow dominated the landscape. - Ice Age Now.




EXTREME WEATHER: Tasmania Fighting Fire And Flood Emergencies At The Same Time - 30 Daily Records Broken For Rainfall; Several Highways Closed; Widespread Power Outages! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS]

Floods in Tasmania


February 3, 2016 - TASMANIA, AUSTRALIA - A refuge has been set up at the Triabunna council chambers for those stranded in the area.

The Tasman Highway between Buckland and Orford has been closed due to flooding and landslides, as has the highway a kilometre north of Triabunna.

One holiday-maker, who asked not to be named, said he and his young family were stuck on the other side of the Orford Rivulet, which was now a torrent.

He had been forced to walk into town for supplies, crossing the river via the beach.

"I spoke to the police and they said just to sit tight — the road south is closed and they don't know how long that will be the case for, " he said.

"They told me there was no point trying to get out at his stage."


WATCH: Floods and fires in Tasmania.







UPDATE:
TASMANIA Police are urging motorists to drive to the conditions as flood waters continue to cause more road closures.

Inspector Doug Rossiter, of the South-East Division, said that there were a number of road closures currently in place, including the Tasman Highway between Orford and Runnymede and the Tasman Highway at Bicheno just north of Apsley River. The Tasman Highway north of Swansea at Meredith River is expected to open soon for four-wheel drive vehicles only.

"Please check road closures before you set out and avoid any roads that are flooded or affected by water," he said.

2PM UPDATE: Residents on the East Coast have battened down as they prepare for more storms, which have closed the highway between Hobart and Orford.

Glamorgan Spring Bay Mayor Michael Kent, who has taken refuge at the Gateway Cafe with other Orford locals and tourists, said Tasmania Police had just closed the Tasman Highway at Orford because of a rockfall.

Businesses such as the Orford pub and golf club and the Triabunna IGA have closed due to flooding damage and the road to Spring Beach is also closed.

The East Coast will continue to be hammered with torrential rain, winds and thunder and lightning over the next two days.

"Two weeks ago we were screaming for water and now we've got that much we don't know what to do with it," Cr Kent said.






Gray resident Michelle Kaal said she and daughter Brittany were woken up at 3.30am this morning when their house was shaking.

"The thunder and lightning was really right on top of the house - it was literally shaking with it and there were a couple of lots of lightning that lit up the whole house," she said.

Gray, located just south of St Marys, had around 362mm of rain in just over 48 hours to 9am today and is one of many East Coast towns suffering through record rainfalls.


"We might have to blow up the dinghy in the shed and get some oars to go into town today," Mrs Kaal said.
"Once the rain actually stops, usually the bulk of it disappears within 24 hours."

TasNetworks said lightning strikes and fallen power lines had caused widespread power outages across the state, with around 1500 people currently without power.

For all current outages and estimated restoration times visit: www.tasnetworks.com.au/current-power-outages

Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Malcolm Riley said about 30 daily records were broken yesterday for rainfall in January, mostly in the north and along the east coast.

He said the event was far from over.


"Every year or two we get a decent east coast rain event and this is a premier league sort of situation and it's got a long way to run so it may be one very much of note," he said.

"This is just the way things tend to happen on the East Coast — every now and then they get an
absolute dumping of rain.

"Our forecasts have backed off a bit for tomorrow but have increased for Sunday.

Flooding at Orford on the East Coast.The Orford Bowls Club under water.

"The sea temperatures off our east and north coast are about two degrees above normal so that's actually providing a bit of extra energy to this system."

Mr Riley said Launceston, Westbury Meander, Strath Bridge, Friendly Beaches and Cressy all recorded their highest daily rainfall total for all time yesterday.


The town of Gray, just south of St Marys, had around 362mm of rain in just over 48 hours to 9am today.

St Marys Hotel barman Rodney Spilsbury said flooding in the town this morning reached about three meters deep.


"The main street above the hotel going out towards St Mary's pass was in full flood," he said.

"All the street and the vicinity which they call 'the flat' was one sheet of water, but it's all dropped now. It happened quickly, but they reckon there's more on the way so we're just waiting."

BUSHFIRES
Only road access to Temma cut off by bushfire damage to bridge © NIKKI DAVIS-JONES
Meanwhile bushfire ravaged Temma in the northwest was isolated after the fire damaged the only bridge into the area.

Without the bridge, residents of Temma and Couta Rocks remain cut off from the rest of the state.

Currently, the only way out of the area is by boat.


Bureau of Meteorology spokesman Malcolm Riley said the heaviest areas of rainfalls were in the northwest away from the northeast fire front.

"Unfortunately not a lot got into the fire area — only about 1mm or so," he said late yesterday.

WATER RESTRICTIONS

Despite the downpours, Mole Creek is the latest town to be placed on water restrictions today.

TasWater regional services department manager Mark McConnon said the impact of prolonged dry conditions continued to have an impact on the North West town despite rain in the past 24 hours.


"Recent bushfires in the area saw an increase in consumption over the last week and the inflow into the weir has not been able to keep up with demand," Mr McConnon said.

Mole Creek joins Campbell Town/Ross, Triabunna, Orford and Launceston on stage one restrictions.
Bridport, Swansea, Colebrook, Currie and Whitemark remain on stage two water restrictions.

Thunderstorms and heavy rain, which may lead to flash flooding, are forecast for the same areas today and over the weekend.

Rainfall totals of 50-100mm were expected in the North East today, with rain also increasing on the East Coast this morning and a flood watch continuing for all North and Eastern river basins. Higher rain totals are possible around elevated areas.

Meanwhile, firefighters and drought-stricken farmers could take heart from the latest Bureau of Meteorology outlook for the February to April period issued yesterday.

The Climate Outlook Overview indicates that rainfall is likely to be above average in central and southern Australia and drier than average in the far north.  - SeeMoreRocks.





GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Massive Sinkhole Opens Up In Parking Lot In Moscow, Russia - Swallows Two Cars! [PHOTOS + VIDEO]


February 3, 2016 - MOSCOW, RUSSIA - Moscow authorities are trying to determine what caused a rather deep crevice to open up in a parking lot in the capital’s northeast.

It swallowed two cars!

Social media users jokingly suggested the drivers overlooked the parking fee.

The incident happened on Wednesday after two unsuspecting drivers parked their Hyundai and BMW on a spot that would soon turn into a gaping hole.

The Hyundai was unlucky and literally took a dive into the gap. It had to be pulled out with a crane and a tow truck, while the BMW teetered on the edge of the crater.

The surface of the hole was 15 square meters (nearly 161 square feet) and was 3 meters deep, TASS reported.







The most disappointing aspect for the drivers was that they had used paid parking, according to local residents, who shared their amazement on social media.

“A paid parking lot in front of the office - fees have been introduced just recently,” a caption to one of the photos from the scene says.

“Must have forgotten to pay,” one social media user suggested.





Local authorities said the drivers won’t have to pay for repairs, according to RIA Novosti.

Road traffic safety inspectors have warned car owners about the possibility of waterlogging, and that the current thaw in the city may lead to cracks opening in the ground.

Daily temperatures in Moscow have been above zero since January 28. Due to sleet on the roads there have been a number of accidents, including a sinkhole on a major highway that damaged as many as 14 cars. - RT.





PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: French Caribbean Facing Zika Epidemic - Taking Extra Measures!

An Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. The mosquito behind the Zika virus
seems to operate like a heat-driven missile of disease. Scientists say the hotter it gets, the better the mosquito that carries
Zika virus is at transmitting a variety of dangerous illnesses. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

February 3, 2016 - FRENCH CARIBBEAN - Two French regions in the Caribbean face an epidemic of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which was just declared a global public health emergency, and France's government is sending extra hospital equipment and preparing extra medical staff to combat it, the health minister said Wednesday.

Marisol Touraine told reporters that Martinique and French Guiana have had 2,500 potential cases and about 100 confirmed Zika cases since mid-December, including 20 pregnant women and two people suffering a temporary paralysis condition called Guillain-Barre syndrome.

"Our system of health and sanitary alert is fully mobilized," Touraine said. "There are three objectives: to prevent, reinforce monitoring and anticipate."

On Tuesday, the World Health Organization declared Zika a global public health emergency after being linked to brain deformities in babies in South America. Several thousand cases of microcephaly have been reported in Brazil since October, although researchers have so far not proven a definitive link to the virus. No vaccine exists for Zika.

A few cases have been reported in Guadeloupe and Saint Martin, also part of the French Caribbean. Nine people have come to mainland France with Zika this year, but Touraine said there is no risk of epidemic on the mainland.

She said the government will expand access to testing to include doctors' offices and recommend condom use in the region, where she plans to make a visit later this month to check on the situation.

Health officials say a person in Texas has become infected with the Zika virus through sex, in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States amid the current outbreak in Latin America.

The virus, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas, is primarily spread through mosquito bites, but investigators had been exploring the possibility it could be sexually transmitted. There was a report of a Colorado researcher who picked up the virus in Africa and apparently spread it to his wife back home in 2008, and it was found in one man's semen in Tahiti.

Touraine also recommmended that people returning from affected areas avoid donating sperm or undergoing in vitro fertilization for a month afterward. - AP.




GEOLOGICAL UPHEAVALS: Massive Underwater Sinkhole Develops In Romblon, Philippines - Draws Curiosity And Fear! [VIDEO]

YouTube screen capture of a massive underwater sinkhole in the Philippines.

February 3, 2016 - PHILIPPINES - The apparently sudden appearance of a sinkhole in a creek in Romblon has raised concern among parents and authorities in the area.

The creek is a common play area for local kids, who love to take a dip in its cool waters.

But just over the weekend, two kids were surprised to discover a 1.8-meter-deep sinkhole in their usual haunt.


Parents have since warned their kids to stay away from the creek for fear that they may be sucked into the hole.

This fear may be unfounded, however: sinkholes are usually just depressions formed by the collapse of the surface above a hidden space in the ground.

Nevertheless, there may still be the danger of a further collapse.

Chloe Wessling, a technical diver, took a closer look at the sinkhole and found that it appeared to be stable.

"When I was there I didn't see any additional movement. Sometimes sinkholes can expand, but while I was there I didn't see any of that," she told GMA News' Unang Balita.

Authorities have cautioned residents to stay away from the sinkhole for now for safety's sake.


WATCH: Massive sinkhole in the Philippines.




- GMA News.





PLANETARY TREMORS: Weather Anomalies - Rare Earthquake Shakes Residents Of Maine, United States?! [MAPS + TECTONIC SUMMARY]

USGS earthquake location.

February 3, 2016 - MAINE, UNITED STATES - At 6:56 a.m., residents on the east coast of Maine got a wake up call from nature.

A magnitude 3.3 earthquake hit 5 miles to the northeast of Eastport's shore, but residents thought it felt a lot closer than that.

Luckily, there wasn't much damage, but it gave people a good rattle.

The earthquake was detected coming from the waters between Maine and Canada's coasts. Residents from Charlotte and Perry and as far as Machias reported they heard and felt it.

Some people experienced minor damage like falling household objects up to 10 miles from the center of the quake.


USGS shakemap intensity.


Early risers even saw waves coming from the epicenter in the water.

A magnitude 3.3 earthquake is still considered a minor one, but to some who lived close by, it was anything but.

"The only thing I could think of was the house blowing up," said one Eastport resident.

"There were some things falling off the shelves and it sounded like the house was going to crack in half," said another Eastport resident.

A worker on the pier said, "a short time later was a big wave rolling in. Just one rogue wave."

This earthquake was small but was enough to get the attention of Eastport residents this morning.

As an earth science instructor at UMaine said, a 3.3 earthquake doesn't cause much damage, and it could've been a lot worse.

Alice Kelly, PH.D., an instructor of earth and climate studies at UMaine, says it's unusual to see seismic activity in this area.

"For people who experience earthquakes frequently, this is actually rather small. China rattles, things may fall of a shelf. The most active part of the North American plate that's closest to us is in the mid-Atlantic so earthquakes here are very rare," said Kelly.

There have not been any reports of aftershocks. - WCSH.


Earthquakes in the Stable Continental Region

Natural Occurring Earthquake Activity
Most of North America east of the Rocky Mountains has infrequent earthquakes. Here and there earthquakes are more numerous, for example in the New Madrid seismic zone centered on southeastern Missouri, in the Charlevoix-Kamouraska seismic zone of eastern Quebec, in New England, in the New York - Philadelphia - Wilmington urban corridor, and elsewhere. However, most of the enormous region from the Rockies to the Atlantic can go years without an earthquake large enough to be felt, and several U.S. states have never reported a damaging earthquake.

Earthquakes east of the Rocky Mountains, although less frequent than in the West, are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of similar magnitude in the west. East of the Rockies, an earthquake can be felt over an area more than ten times larger than a similar magnitude earthquake on the west coast. It would not be unusual for a magnitude 4.0 earthquake in eastern or central North America to be felt by a significant percentage of the population in many communities more than 100 km (60 mi) from its source. A magnitude 5.5 earthquake in eastern or central North America might be felt by much of the population out to more than 500 km (300 mi) from its source. Earthquakes east of the Rockies that are centered in populated areas and large enough to cause damage are, similarly, likely to cause damage out to greater distances than earthquakes of the same magnitude centered in western North America.

Most earthquakes in North America east of the Rockies occur as faulting within bedrock, usually miles deep. Few earthquakes east of the Rockies, however, have been definitely linked to mapped geologic faults, in contrast to the situation at plate boundaries such as California's San Andreas fault system, where scientists can commonly use geologic evidence to identify a fault that has produced a large earthquake and that is likely to produce large future earthquakes. Scientists who study eastern and central North America earthquakes often work from the hypothesis that modern earthquakes occur as the result of slip on preexisting faults that were formed in earlier geologic eras and that have been reactivated under the current stress conditions. The bedrock of Eastern North America is, however, laced with faults that were active in earlier geologic eras, and few of these faults are known to have been active in the current geologic era. In most areas east of the Rockies, the likelihood of future damaging earthquakes is currently estimated from the frequencies and sizes of instrumentally recorded earthquakes or earthquakes documented in historical records.
Induced Seismicity

As is the case elsewhere in the world, there is evidence that some central and eastern North America earthquakes have been triggered or caused by human activities that have altered the stress conditions in earth's crust sufficiently to induce faulting. Activities that have induced felt earthquakes in some geologic environments have included impoundment of water behind dams, injection of fluid into the earth's crust, extraction of fluid or gas, and removal of rock in mining or quarrying operations. In much of eastern and central North America, the number of earthquakes suspected of having been induced is much smaller than the number of natural earthquakes, but in some regions, such as the south-central states of the U.S., a significant majority of recent earthquakes are thought by many seismologists to have been human-induced. Even within areas with many human-induced earthquakes, however, the activity that seems to induce seismicity at one location may be taking place at many other locations without inducing felt earthquakes. In addition, regions with frequent induced earthquakes may also be subject to damaging earthquakes that would have occurred independently of human activity. Making a strong scientific case for a causative link between a particular human activity and a particular sequence of earthquakes typically involves special studies devoted specifically to the question. Such investigations usually address the process by which the suspected triggering activity might have significantly altered stresses in the bedrock at the earthquake source, and they commonly address the ways in which the characteristics of the suspected human-triggered earthquakes differ from the characteristics of natural earthquakes in the region.

For More Information
Additional earthquake information for Maine

- USGS.




SIGNS IN THE HEAVENS: Weather Phenomenon - Strange Wave Clouds Appear At Sunrise In Spain?!

By Jose Calvo, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram

February 3, 2016 - SPAIN - These strange wave clouds appeared this morning at sunrise over the region of Rioja, Spain.

These weird clouds also known as Kelvin-Helmholtz instability form a glowing red and furious ocean in the sky.

These crazy clouds that look like a row of crashing waves are known as Kelvin-Helmholz waves.


By Jose Calvo, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram

By Jose Calvo, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram

By Jose Calvo, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram

By Jose Calvo, Facebook, Twitter, Blog, Instagram

They form when two layers of air or liquid of different densities move past each other at different speeds, creating shearing at the boundary.

When these two layers move past each other, a Kelvin-Helmholz instability is formed that is sort of like a wave.

Parts of the boundary move up and parts move down.

Because one layer is moving faster than the other, the shear causes the tops of the waves to move horizontally, forming what looks like an ocean wave crashing on the beach.

It really is like breaking waves.

A wave breaks when the water on top moves so much faster than the water below that it kind of piles up on itself.

And with those sunrise colors, we have a beautiful and weird sky phenomenon. - Strange Sounds.



PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: Bite Fear - Zika Mosquitoes' Habit May Foil U.S. Elimination Efforts!

A close up shot of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which carries the Zika virus.

February 3, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Health experts are bracing for Zika virus to spread to the United States by April or May, borne by a mosquito that craves human blood, feeds during the day and lives under beds and inside closets.

Until now, the best weapon against disease-carrying mosquitoes in the United States has been outdoor pesticide fog sprayed by truck and airplane. But health experts fear the typical approach will do little to eradicate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries Zika.

Controlling that mosquito requires pesticide sprayed under beds, on the walls and in closets, said Gonzalo Vazquez-Prokopec, who studies disease transmission patterns of mosquitoes at Emory's School of Public Health's Department of Environmental Sciences.

"We know fogging is not effective," Vazquez-Prokopec said.

Though there could be localized U.S. outbreaks, most likely along the Gulf Coast, federal officials said they hope the wide use of air conditioning, window screens and regular garbage collection will mitigate the risk.

The World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak an international health emergency this week after evidence linking the virus to microcephaly, a devastating birth defect that can cause unusually small heads and permanent brain damage. Brazil has reported 3,700 suspected cases of microcephaly. The outbreak is now affecting at least 25 countries and territories, most of them in Latin American and the Caribbean, and could infect up to 4 million people in the Americas, according to the WHO.

More than 30 people in the United States have been confirmed to have Zika after traveling to an affected country. There has been one report of transmission within the United States, but experts believe that will increase as the weather warms up, the local mosquito population multiplies and many more travelers return to the country.

"All it takes is one of those individuals who arrives back in the United States at the stage where they have virus in their blood," said Scott Weaver, an expert in mosquito-borne viral diseases at the University Texas Medical Branch's Galveston National Laboratory. At that point, he said, a single mosquito biting the affected person could spread the disease to others.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Monday the risk of transmission now is "quite low," but as temperatures rise, "we want to make sure that we have got a strategy to try to limit the spread of this disease when that happens."


 A health agent shows a chemical compound to kill mosquito larvae during an inspection for the Aedes aegypti mosquito inside a house at Vila Canoas slum,
as part of efforts to prevent the spread of the Zika virus, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, February 2, 2016. Reuters/Pilar Olivares


The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is working on a control program for Zika, which will likely involve public education about eliminating breeding sites and spraying to kill mosquito larvae and adult mosquitoes, especially in areas experiencing outbreaks, said spokesman Tom Skinner.

Until then, the CDC is circulating guidelines developed for combating chikungunya, a close cousin to Zika carried by the same types of mosquitoes. Local health departments are also sorting out their approach to fight Zika..

"If it's going to happen, I think it will happen in the warmer months, likely in April and May," said Dr. Peter Hotez, dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Zika thrives in impoverished areas, spreading widely in garbage-filled neighborhoods and in homes and apartments with no screens on the windows, conditions that are present in many Gulf Coast communities in the United States, Hotez said.

THE VECTORS

The Aedes aegypti mosquito that carries Zika also transmits dengue fever and chikungunya. Aedes aegypti is mostly found in southern parts of the United States, such as the coastal regions of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

Experts believe it arrived on slave trade ships from Africa, spreading yellow fever in port cities, including a 1793 outbreak in Philadelphia that wiped out 10 percent of the city's population of 50,000.

Unlike Aedes aegypti, most mosquitoes common to North America feed at night and live in wooded areas.

Recent research suggests the pest may be adapting to colder temperatures. David Severson at the University of Notre Dame discovered a population of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that has spent the past four winters underground in Washington, D.C.’s Capitol Hill neighborhood

Aggressive abatement involving indoor and outdoor fogging and breeding ground eradication between 1947 and 1970 nearly wiped out Aedes aegypti. At the time, the mosquitoes were the source of yellow fever in across the Americas. But budget cuts and the development of an effective yellow fever vaccine ended eradication efforts, and Aedes aegypti populations rebounded.

Scientists believe Aedes albopictus, or the Asian tiger mosquito, also is capable of spreading Zika. This aggressive biter arrived in the United States in 1985 and has replaced Aedes aegypti in some places. Its range includes at least 32 U.S. states as far north as Illinois and Pennsylvania and in pockets as far west as California.

Aedes albopictus breeds in small containers of water, bites during the daytime and lives near population centers. A less picky eater, it also feasts on pets and wild animals.Researchers in Brazil are studying whether the Culex species, a carrier of the West Nile virus commonly found in many southeastern U.S. states, might carry Zika, which could explain the rapid spread in Brazil. These mosquitoes rest in the daytime and bite at dusk or after dark.

PUBLIC HEALTH PROBLEM


All of this poses a challenge for U.S. health departments, which have faced pressure to reduce mosquito abatement activities amid budget cuts and increasing concerns over exposure to pesticides.

"The current methods we have some shortcomings,” said the CDC's Dr. Anne Schuchat. “We're going to need to work in future on identifying better options."

Brazil's government has mounted a door-to-door campaign and has authorized public health officials to enter properties by force if necessary. Health workers search for potential breeding spots and in some areas use indoor foggers, applying pesticides that stick to walls.

"That is not going to fly in the United States," said Joseph Conlon, technical advisor for the American Mosquito Control Association, which represents researchers, public health officials and pesticide makers.

There are no pesticides registered by the Environmental Protection Agency for indoor application, Conlon said. Instead, abatement will likely focus on typical breeding sites, from birdbaths to potted plants, dog bowls, tin cans, tires and other places likely to become inundated with water.

"Our best bet is to remove the breeding habitats," he said. "It's a lot harder to do than you would think. People don't want to change their habits," he said. - Reuters.



MONUMENTAL DISASTER ALERT: "The Really Big One" Seems Imminent - The Obama White House Rallies Public, Private Efforts To Prepare For DEVASTATING EARTHQUAKES; Convenes FIRST EVER "Earthquake Resilience Summit"; New Funding Will Spur Development Of West Coast Shake Alert System; CALIFORNIA, OREGON And WASHINGTON STATE Are On The Front Line!


February 3, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Spurred by renewed fears of the fabled “Big One” shattering the West Coast, the Obama administration on Tuesday promoted stronger earthquake-preparedness efforts as part of a first-of-its-kind White House summit.

Private foundation grants will fund new research at universities in California and Washington state, the Forest Service will streamline the placement of seismic monitoring stations and a presidential order will tighten standards for new federal buildings.

“While no one can predict earthquakes, the study of natural hazards and their causes and impacts has put us on the path to creating more effective tools to prevent these hazards from becoming disasters,” Interior Secretary Sally Jewell said.Dubbed the “Earthquake Resiliency Summit,” the program convened some of the nation’s leading seismologists, as well as executives from public agencies ranging from the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services to the Bay Area Rapid Transit system.

For several hours, the participants swapped information in a live-streamed format that exemplified the use of the bully pulpit to urge further state, private and congressional action.

“We have the real opportunity to mitigate damage and save lives if we act now on an early warning system,” said summit participant Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Pasadena, adding that “the federal government cannot, and will not, fund the system in its entirety.”




Coincident with the summit, the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation announced $3.6 million in grants to advance the so-called ShakeAlert system that’s being developed on the West Coast. The system has been sending live seismic alerts to test users since January 2012.

In theory, early warnings of even a few seconds could help slow trains, shut pipelines, alert first responders, reroute power and protect public safety in other ways during an emergency that experts consider inevitable.

California has a 99.7 percent chance of a magnitude 6.7 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The Pacific Northwest has a 10 percent chance of a magnitude 8 to 9 earthquake on the Cascadia subduction zone under the Pacific Ocean, a catastrophe whose consequences were vividly portrayed in a 2015 New Yorker article that captured officials’ attention.


The scene in Valdez, Alaska, after the Great Alaska Earthquake brought devastation on March 27, 1964. With a magnitude of 9.2, it was the
second-largest earthquake ever recorded. The largest, measured at 9.5, struck Chile on May 22, 1960.
AP

Read more here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article57991778.html#storylink=cpy


This week, the USGS announced that there were 14,588 earthquakes of magnitude 4.0 or greater throughout the world in 2015. California alone had hundreds of earthquakes in just the last week, though many were small and not felt by people, a USGS database shows.

“When you have earthquake early warning, and better buildings, you have better preparedness,” said former Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Alice Hill, now senior adviser for preparedness and resilience at the National Security Council.

Using the additional foundation grant funding, University of California, Berkeley, scientists will monitor earth-shaking using the same technology that smartphones use to count exercise steps, while University of Washington experts will experiment with sensors on the Pacific Ocean floor.




California’s Pacific Gas & Electric has recently joined the ShakeAlert system now undergoing beta testing, while executives with the giant chip-maker Intel Corp. committed this week to working with other companies to play a role in developing the early warning network.

All told, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates it will cost $38.3 million in capital funding to complete the ShakeAlert system on the West Coast to the point of issuing public alerts and $16.1 million each year to operate and maintain it.

“We cannot predict the time of the next earthquake,” said USGS seismologist Lucy Jones, who has served as a science adviser to Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti. “However, we can tell you what will happen.”

Congress could play a greater role if lawmakers choose.

One bill introduced last year by Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., would require a federal plan for installing an earthquake early warning system for the Cascadia subduction zone. A separate bill by Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., would fortify warnings against tsunamis, the hugely destructive wave surges triggered by earthquakes.

So far, neither bill has advanced.

Congress has already established the multi-agency National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program, but it has not updated the authorization since 2004. - McClatchyDC.
ore here: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/politics-government/white-house/article57991778.html#storylink=cpy





EXTREME WEATHER: Severe Storms Threaten Southeastern United States - Blizzard Winds Down Across Plains; Monster Wedge Tornado Touches Down In Alabama; Infrastructure Collapse; Widespread Power Outages And Travel Disruptions! [PHOTOS + VIDEOS + LIVE UPDATES]

(Twitter Photo/@LadyGolfer)

February 3, 2016 - UNITED STATES - Despite snow tapering off across the Upper Midwest, strong winds will continue to produce blizzard conditions through Wednesday morning. The heaviest snow occurred from south-central Nebraska into northwest Iowa with totals over a foot.

The combination of strong winds and/or snow will continue to disrupt travel on major highways including interstates 29, 35, 40, 70, 80, 90 and 94. Some major and many secondary roads have closed.

Air travel will also be a major problem throughout the region during the early part of Wednesday.

Meanwhile, thunderstorms became severe over the lower Mississippi Valley later Tuesday into Tuesday night. The threat for damaging winds, hail and perhaps an isolated tornado will focus on the Southeast on Wednesday.

For archived storm reports, click here.



UPDATES: (All times are listed in CST)4:32 a.m. CST Wednesday: Line of storms preparing to move into the Atlanta metro area.







4:25 a.m. CST Wednesday: An apartment complex is being evacuated due to flood waters in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, near the Tennessee state line, Catoosa County Emergency Management Agency reports.
4:14 a.m. CST Wednesday: Storm damage reported in Cookeville, Tennessee.




3:47 a.m. CST Wednesday: Numerous roads are flooded in Bledsoe County, Tennessee, according to the county's 911 call center.



3:33 a.m. CST Wednesday:
More than 160 flights, mostly at Minneapolis airport, are canceled so far Wednesday, FlightStats reports.

3:23 a.m. CST Wednesday: Thunderstorms with possible damaging winds, flooding rains are moving through Tennessee and Mississippi valleys, AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.




3:09 a.m. CST Wednesday: I-80 near Shelby, and I-35 near Williams, are blocked due to jackknifed tractor-trailers, IowaDOT reports.
3:00 a.m. CST Wednesday: More than 10,000 Alabama Power customers are without power as a result of the storms.




2:42 a.m. CST Wednesday: Interstate signs knocked down on a wet I-59 near Birmingham, Alabama, ABC 33/40 reports.




2:38 a.m. CST Wednesday:
As of 1 a.m. CST Wednesday, Jackson, Mississippi, received 5.14 inches of rain.

2:33 a.m. CST Wednesday: Iowa DOT snow plow works on Iowa Route 376 near Dakota City.




2:20 a.m. CST Wednesday: 8.2 inches of snow has fallen 5 miles north of Earlham, an NWS-trained spotter reported.
1:51 a.m. CST Wednesday: Numerous roads remain closed due to whiteout conditions in southwestern Minnesota, the Minnesota Department of Transportation reported.




1:33 a.m. CST Wednesday:
Denver Public Schools are on a 1-hour delay for the second straight day.
1:31 a.m. CST Wednesday: Heavy rain falling in Vestavia, Alabama.




1:26 a.m. CST Wednesday:
1:07 a.m. CST Wednesday: Disruptive travel conditions continue in northern and western Iowa, according to the Iowa DOT.




1:23 a.m. CST Wednesday: Mason City, Iowa, broke its Feb. 2 snowfall record with 10.0 inches; old record was 6.3 inches, set in 2004.
1:03 a.m. CST Wednesday: Tuesday's snowfall in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, was a record-breaker for the day.




1:00 a.m. CST Wednesday: Storms cause major damage in Pickens County, Alabama.




12:39 a.m. CST Wednesday: Line of storms that moved through Tuscaloosa, Alabama, is now moving toward Birmingham.
12:33 a.m. CST Wednesday: Alpena, Michigan, broke its Feb. 2 snowfall record with 6.3 inches; old record was 4.3 inches, set in 1930.
12:26 a.m. CST Wednesday: Power outages starting around Huntsville, Alabama.
12:19 a.m. CST Wednesday: About 9 inches of snow has fallen so far in Minneapolis.
12:07 a.m. CST Wednesday:
Flash flooding occurring in Sulligent, Alabama, fire officials reported.
12:02 a.m. CST Wednesday:
Line of storms will move into Tuscaloosa, Alabama, within the next 30 minutes, AccuWeather Meteorologist Brett Rathbun said.




11:54 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Flight delays of more than six-and-a-half hours are reported at Minneapolis-St Paul International/Wold-Chamberlain Airport, Minneapolis, the FAA said.
11:45 p.m. CST Tuesday: 7.8 inches of snow has fallen at Gile, Wisconsin, an NWS-trained spotter reported.
11:42 p.m. CST Tuesday: Minneapolis police investigate a fatal vehicle-pedestrian accident on a snow-covered street late Tuesday afternoon.




11:30 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Muskegon, Michigan, broke its Feb. 2 rainfall record with 1.25 inches; old record was 0.57 inches, set in 1968.
11:17 p.m. CST Tuesday: Radar-confirmed tornado on the ground near Reform, Alabama, the National Weather Service at Birmingham said.
10:55 p.m. CST Tuesday First Baptist Church in Collinsville, Mississippi, was severely damaged after a tornado hit the community on Tuesday afternoon.




10:47 p.m. CST Tuesday:
18.3-inch storm total in Grand Island, Nebraska, is the second-highest two-day snowfall total on record, and 15.7 inches in Hastings, Nebraska, is the fourth-highest two-day total on record.
10:41 p.m. CST Tuesday: Thunderstorm capable of producing a tornado is located east of Marion, Alabama.
10:38 p.m. CST Tuesday: Road closures continue in south-central Minnesota.
10:33 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Snow emergency issued in Minneapolis.
10:31 p.m. CST Tuesday: About 8 inches of snow has fallen near Maple Grove, Minnesota.




10:16 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Storms caused damage in five Mississippi counties, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency reported. Damage included homes and East Central Community College in Kemper County; homes and West Lauderdale High School in the Collinsville area of Lauderdale County; and Reed Elementary School in the Shuqualak area of Noxubee County.
10:10 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Snowy travel on I-35E at Roselawn Avenue, Minneapolis, according to Minnesota DOT webcam.
10:02 p.m. CST Tuesday:
About 75 people left homeless in Aliceville, Alabama, after reported tornado, the Alabama Red Cross said.
9:50 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Snowy conditions on U.S. Route 31 at Charlevoix, in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, according to Michigan DOT webcam.
9:47 p.m. CST Tuesday: Poor visibility in Aurora, Nebraska, emergency management reported.




9:44 p.m. CST Tuesday:
White-out conditions force plow crews to regroup in Iowa until Wednesday morning, the Iowa DOT said.
9:34 p.m. CST Tuesday: The GOES-East satellite captured the storm front that brought a tornado near Carrolton, Alabama, late Tuesday afternoon.




9:23 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Tornado near Beaverton, Alabama, according to Lamar County emergency management.
9:18 p.m. CST Tuesday:
More storm damage reported in western Alabama.




8:22 p.m. CST Tuesday: Storm chaser Mike Scantlin captured footage of a massive wedge tornado near McMullen, Alabama, earlier today.

WATCH: Large Wedge Tornado in Aliceville, Pickens County, Alabama.






7:59 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Significant damage reported in the town of Aliceville, Alabama.
7:38 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Flash flooding reported in Philadelphia, Mississippi.
7:16 p.m. CST Tuesday: Some roads remain snow covered in Kansas, while others are beginning to reopen.
6:57 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Blizzard conditions are still ongoing in parts of Nebraska:





according to FlightStats. At Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, nearly 270 flights have been canceled.
6:23 p.m. CST Tuesday: So far today, there have been seven reports of tornadoes according to the National Weather Service's Storm Prediction Center.
6:18 p.m. CST Tuesday: An emergency manager reports damage to a roof of a house and store along Highway 145 on the north side of Shuqualak, Mississippi.
6:12 p.m. CST Tuesday: A look at the road conditions across Wisconsin as snow continues to move through the Upper Midwest:





5:54 p.m. CST Tuesday: The baseball field at East Mississippi was also damaged as a result of the severe storms.
5:33 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Damage was reported in Collinsville, Mississippi, around 3:30 p.m. local time on Tuesday.




5:25 p.m. CST Tuesday: Through 4:30 p.m. local time, there were 287 crashes and 28 injuries in Minnesota today.
5:11 p.m. CST Tuesday:
This photo indicates a tornado on the ground near Dancy, Alabama, earlier this evening.
4:56 p.m. CST Tuesday:
A confirmed tornado on the ground near Carrollton, Alabama. A tornado emergency has been declared.
4:45 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Possible tornado damage reported at East Mississippi Community College in Scooba, Mississippi.




4:40 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Deep snowdrifts near Pierce, Nebraska.
4:28 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Thick storm clouds near the NWS office in Memphis.
4:26 p.m. CST Tuesday:
The snow is causing travel delays throughout southeast South Dakota.
4:19 p.m. CST Tuesday: A confirmed tornado was on the ground 5 miles northwest of Electric Mills, Mississippi, an NWS trained spotter reports.
4:04 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Limited visibility in Grand Island, Nebraska.
3:45 p.m. CST Tuesday: Emergency manager reports tornado damage in the town of Collinsville, Mississippi. First Baptist Church, located in town, was heavily damaged. There were also reports of barns damaged and trees down across roads.
3:39 p.m. CST Tuesday: Whiteout conditions reported in Hays, Kansas.




3:21 p.m. CST Tuesday: The Nebraska Department of Roads had to pull snowplows off of the state highways in District Three due to extremely low visibility. Blowing and drifting snow is making the roads impassable. For an update on the highways across the state, click here.
3:03 p.m. CST Tuesday:
A car was buried in snow in Boone County, Iowa, earlier this afternoon.


(Photo/Twitter user @MVEofficerDave)

2:09 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Reed Timmer is broadcasting live from North Sioux City, South Dakota.
2:00 p.m. CST Tuesday: A look at some of the highest snowfall totals by state:



1:41 p.m. CST Tuesday: Motorists are encouraged to avoid travel in much of northern Iowa.
1:23 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Road closures are anticipated across southern Minnesota due to the snow.
12:26 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Heavy snow has moved into the southern Twin Cities area in Minnesota:




12:17 p.m. CST Tuesday:
Storms will continue to intensify east of the Mississippi River today, potentially bringing a tornado, AccuWeather Meteorologist Logan Poole said.

"A band of strong-to-severe storms will develop in south-central Mississippi early this afternoon and progress northward through the evening," he said. "The storms will be isolated in nature and pose an enhanced risk of producing tornadoes."
12:14 p.m. CST Tuesday: University of West Alabama will close at 2 p.m. CST in advance of severe weather.
11:52 a.m. CST Tuedsday: Inbound flights to Denver International Airport and Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport are facing more than 60-minute delays due to snow and ice, the FAA reports.
10:50 a.m. CST Tuesday: Nearly 7,000 Alliant Energy customers are without power in eastern Iowa, the utility reports.
10:48 a.m. CST Tuesday: More than 120 flights have been canceled at Denver International Airport so far amid wintry weather, according to FlightStats.
10:33 a.m. CST Tuesday: Conditions are becoming increasingly hazardous across parts of Iowa as snow falls:




10:16 a.m. CST Tuesday: Emergency management in Emmet County, Iowa, reports visibility is less than a quarter of a mile due to strong winds and heavy snow. Travel is not advised in the county, they said.
10:08 a.m. CST Tuesday: Snow continues to pile up in Lincoln, Nebraska:


(Twitter Photo/@LadyGolfer)

(Facebook Photo/Cindy L Condreay)

10:04 a.m. CST Tuesday:
Snow is blanketing Ogallala, Nebraska:


- AccuWeather.





PLAGUES & PESTILENCES: The Latest Developments On The Zika Virus - World Health Officials Mobilize; South America Fumigates; Brazil Says Virus Outbreak Is Worse Than Believed; Brazil Authorities Forced Entry To Private Property To Fight Disease; Athletes In Rio Stay Inside, Slather On Repellent; Aussie Diagnosed With Infection After Bali Monkey Bite, Expert Warn Of Missed Cases; Sexually-Transmitted Zika Case Confirmed In Texas; First Case Confirmed In Jamaica!

The World Health Organization says a surge in cases in South America of microcephaly is likely caused by the mosquito-borne Zika virus
(AFP Photo/Christophe Simon)

February 3, 2016 - HEALTH - World health officials mobilized with emergency response plans and funding pleas Tuesday as fears grow that the Zika virus, blamed for a surge in the number of brain-damaged babies, could spread globally and threaten the Summer Olympics.

World health officials mobilize on Zika threat

The World Health Organization, which declared the outbreak an international emergency Monday, said it had created a global Zika response unit to contain the virus and get to the bottom of a corresponding rise in severe birth defects and a potentially crippling neurological disorder.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescents Societies joined the WHO in calling the outbreak an "emergency," and appealed for 2.4 million Swiss francs ($2.36 million) to fund the response.
French pharmaceutical giant Sanofi meanwhile announced it had begun research into a vaccine for Zika, for which there is currently no specific treatment.

Developing a vaccine could however take years, experts say.

Zika, which was first identified in Uganda, causes relatively mild flu-like symptoms and a rash. But the apparent link to birth defects and a potentially paralyzing neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome is causing worldwide alarm.
In Brazil, which has been hardest hit by the outbreak sweeping Latin America, Olympics organizers said they are concerned but downplayed fears -- one day after the government warned pregnant women not to attend the Games.

"We are sure we will win this battle and it will not affect the Games," said Rio 2016 organizing committee spokesman Mario Andrada.


FActfile on the zika virus (AFP Photo/Gustavo Izús, Adrian Leung, Anella Reta)

The Olympics will be held in Rio de Janeiro from August 5 to 21, during the southern hemisphere winter, which means there will be fewer of the mosquitoes that transmit the disease, organizers underlined.

WHO expert Anthony Costello emphasized the urgency of rapid action, stressing there was no reason to believe the crisis would remain limited to Latin America, where 25 countries so far have reported Zika cases.

"We are worried that this could also spread back into other areas of the world where the population may not be immune, and we know that the mosquitoes that carry Zika virus... are present through most of Africa, parts of southern Europe and many parts of Asia, particularly south Asia," he said.
Underlining Costello's point, Thai officials announced a man had contracted the virus in the country.

Cape Verde, off the coast of west Africa, and Indonesia have also reported domestic Zika cases.

- Free abortion pills -

Jitters over the virus have spread far beyond the affected areas to Europe and North America, where dozens of cases have been identified among travelers returning from Latin America.

Costello, an expert in microcephaly -- a condition in which babies are born with abnormally small heads and brains -- said health officials worldwide needed to adopt a standard definition and measurement of the condition in order to respond to suspicions it is being caused by pregnant mothers catching Zika.

"The development of diagnostic tests is absolutely critical," he said.


The World Health Organisation has declared a global emergency in response to the spread of Zika - but which countries are currently affected by the virus?


"At the moment we believe the association is guilty until proven otherwise."

UNICEF for its part said it was working with governments to get information out to pregnant women on how to protect themselves from mosquito bites -- currently the only way to prevent the virus.

A Dutch women's rights group meanwhile offered to send free pills to trigger an abortion to pregnant women in Latin America, a region known for its restrictive abortion laws.

"We are extremely worried that (the outbreak) might cause increasing unsafe abortions," said Rebecca Gomperts, founder and director of Women on Web.

Latin American countries, particularly Brazil, have reported a surge in babies born with microcephaly since the Zika outbreak was declared in the region last year.

Since October, Brazil has reported some 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly, of which 270 have been confirmed -- up from 147 in 2014.

Colombia, Ecuador, El Salvador, Jamaica and Puerto Rico have all warned women not to get pregnant.
Ecuador said Tuesday it had registered its first pregnant woman infected with Zika, saying her baby was at low risk for microcephaly because she was already near the end of her second trimester.

Zika panic also spread to the auto industry, as Indian carmaker Tata Motors announced it would rebrand its new Zica hatchback -- which stood for "zippy car." - Yahoo.

Brazil says Zika virus outbreak worse than believed

The World Health Organization declared a global emergency over the explosive spread of the Zika virus, which has been linked to birth defects in the Americas,
calling it an "extraordinary event" that poses a public health threat to other parts of the world.
Brazil's top health official said on Monday that the Zika virus outbreak is proving to be worse than believed because most cases show no symptoms, but improved testing should allow the country to get a better grip on the burgeoning public health crisis.

Health Minister Marcelo Castro told Reuters that Brazil will start mandatory reporting of cases by local governments next week when most states will have labs equipped to test for Zika, the mosquito-borne virus that has quickly spread through Latin America. The virus has no vaccine or cure at present.

On Monday, the World Health Organization declared the Zika outbreak to be a global emergency, a decision that should help fast-track international action and research priorities.


WORKING WITH U.S. ON VACCINE

Castro, a psychiatrist from Rio, said the virus cannot be transmitted from person to person, only by mosquito, addressing fears that it could be spread through saliva, semen or urine.

By next week, labs in all but three of Brazil's states will be able to test whether a person has had Zika or not, he said.

And by next month, the labs will have a test that can detect all three viruses borne by the Aedes aegypti mosquito - dengue, chikungunya and Zika. The test, however, will only be effective during the initial infection period of five days.

Castro said Brazilian researchers are convinced that Zika is the cause of the 3,700 confirmed and suspected cases in Brazil of microcephaly in newborns. Ninety percent of children born with the condition will have retarded mental and physical development, experts say.

"The microcephaly cases are increasing by the week and we do not have an estimate of how many there will be. The situation is serious and worrying," Castro said.

Brazilian biomedical research centers are joining forces with U.S. counterparts to try to find a Zika vaccine in record time, Castro said. A partnership between the U.S. National Institutes of Health and Brazil's Butantan Institute will seek to develop a vaccine by adding a gene to an existing one for dengue, he said.

Until there is a breakthrough on a vaccine, Brazil's only option is to try to eradicate the mosquito that spreads the virus, Castro said, with the government mobilizing all its possible resources and people, including tens of thousands of soldiers, to go door-to-door seeking places where the insect breeds.

Rousseff signed a temporary decree on Monday that makes it obligatory for residents to allow health workers to inspect their homes and properties for still water deposits where the Aedes aegypti mosquito lays its eggs.

Asked if Brazil would ease its restrictions on abortion to allow women with Zika to terminate pregnancies, Castro said it would be up to Congress to make that change. The government, he said, is sticking with the current law that makes abortion in the world's largest Roman Catholic country illegal except in cases of rape and risk to the mother's life.

Brazil will follow the U.S. decision last week to prohibit blood donations from people who have been infected with Zika, Castro said.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration, however, has said it is planning to require people who have traveled to an affected country to defer giving blood, but details on how that might work are still being determined. - Yahoo.



South America fumigated

Zika Virus: officials in Dominican Republic take drastic precautions.
GETTY
The 2016 Rio Paralympics site is among thousands of public spaces being disinfected by frantic officials trying to get a grip on the Zika virus.

Graveyards, homes and schools are also being fumigated to try and kill off the mosquitos spreading the virus, which was yesterday declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organisation (WHO).

With no current vaccine, officials are turning to preventative measures, including fumigation.

Currently the most important protective measures are the control of mosquito populations and the prevention of mosquito bites, health experts said.

Eerie photographs have emerged of officials in full body suits and face masks smoking out public spaces which are usually bustling with people.

Classrooms still with lessons written on the white boards are abandoned as smoke surrounds pupil desks.

Gardens, warehouses and homes are also filled with fumigation gases to try and reach the bugs.

The WHO made its decision to declare the outbreak an emergency after an urgent meeting in Geneva to discuss the "explosive" nature of the virus.

WHO officials have predicted as many as 4million people could be infected with the virus this year.

The last time a global emergency was declared was for the Ebola outbreak, which is thought to have led to more than 11,000 deaths.

Zika has been linked to thousands of babies being born with underdeveloped brains in Brazil.

Colombia has also seen a rise in the number of patients diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder which can cause paralysis

Following a meeting of an International Health Regulations Emergency Committee, WHO director general Dr Margaret Chan warned the causal relationship between infection during pregnancy and microcephaly in babies is "strongly suspected" but not scientifically proven.

The committee advised the association between the virus and microcephaly - a condition where the child has an underdeveloped brain - constitutes an "extraordinary event". - Express.



Brazil authorizes forced entry to private property to fight Zika

Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff authorized health officials to enter private properties by force if necessary in an effort to control the spread of the mosquito-borne virus Zika, which the government has dubbed an "imminent danger to public health."

The presidential decree was published in the government's official gazette on Monday and allows the forced entry by health officials into public and private properties if they have been abandoned or the owners are not present.

Officials are looking for breeding grounds for mosquitoes that can carry the virus, which has spread rapidly over the Americas and particularly in Brazil. - Yahoo.


Athletes in Rio stay inside, slather on repellent for Zika

Aline Silva has had the dengue fever twice, and she's not taking any chances with the Zika virus.Silva is a Brazilian wrestler who hopes to win an Olympic medal in just over six months in Rio de Janeiro. At a test event on Sunday for the games— at a venue in Rio's new Olympic Park — she wasn't alone in being concerned.

Several non-Brazilian athletes talked about slathering on mosquito repellent, staying in their hotel rooms and away from the water and the beaches in order to avoid mosquitoes.

Brazil is an epicenter of the rapidly spreading Zika virus, a mosquito-borne disease that Brazilian scientists say is linked to a rare birth defect.

The growing international health emergency around Zika could scare athletes and fans from coming to South America's first Olympics as organizers prepare for hundreds of thousands of visitors.

"For me it's very worrying," said Silva, who said she applies repellent about every 90 minutes when she's away from home.

"Really, the biggest problem is in training and competing — when I can't use it (repellent)," she said. "I have had dengue twice, so I am aware about all of this. Maybe I am more worried than most."

Asked if other Brazilian athletes were concerned about Zika, Silva replied: "Yes, of course."

American wrestler Adeline Gray, a three-time world champion who will be an Olympic favorite for gold, raised the issue of Zika's link to birth defects and cases of babies being born with unusually small heads and possible brain damage.

"I think if I was planning to have a child next month, I would be extremely uneasy about this," said Gray, who competes in the 75-kilogram class. "Maybe that would have changed my decision (to come here)."

Gray said her coaches have banned her from going swimming in Brazil during her short stay.

"Unfortunately we're not spending too much time outside. We're wearing long sleeves, long pants and just making sure we have on as much bug spray as we can."

Gray said she's trying to avoid the distraction. As several reporters kept asking her questions, she politely stepped away to watch an on-going match at the new Carioca Arena 1.

"This anxiety has to kind of subside so you can focus on what you are doing," she said. "If you are worried about that in the back of your mind, then you're not doing your job well enough."

Japan coach Shigeo Kinase gave similar advice to his wrestlers about staying indoors.

"We are trying not to leave the hotel too often," he said. "If my athletes go out shopping, I go with them."

Rio organizers have been scouring Olympics venues daily for two weeks, looking for standing water where mosquitoes breed. Rio spokesman Mario Andrada said the inspections would continue daily until the games open on Aug. 5. That will be in Brazil's winter when it's cooler, drier and the mosquito population is smaller.

Andrada emphasized that no one is publicly talking about cancelling or postponing the games.

"This has never been mentioned. No way," Andrada said. "It's impossible to do that. There is no reason to do that." - Yahoo.



Aussie diagnosed with Zika after Bali monkey bite, experts warn of missed cases

Tame monkeys roam freely at Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali. Photo: AP
The fast-spreading Zika virus is likely being under-diagnosed in South-East Asia, infectious disease experts have warned in several reports, including that of an Australian who was infected after a monkey bite in Bali.

The virus, which is being investigated for links to potentially fatal defects in unborn babies in South America, is believed to have been transmitted primarily by mosquitos, with only rare reports of exceptions.

But the authors of a report into the case of a 27-year-old Australian man last year have proposed that a monkey bite he received at the Ubud Monkey Forest could have been to blame.

The authors of the report, including doctors from the hospital and academics from the Victorian Diseases Reference Laboratory and the Menzies School of Health Research, wrote that while mosquito-borne transmission was possible,the monkey was a plausible route of transmission.

They also noted the virus has similar symptoms to other viruses, such as dengue fever, and the limited availability of the test to detect Zika virus in Indonesia.

"Transmission of Zika virus by monkey bite or other (non-mosquito) routes, and attribution of illness to dengue or other infections, may be more frequent than the absence of prior reports suggests," says the report, published in the Southeast Asian Journal of Tropical Medicine and Public Health in May 2015.

Meanwhile, researchers studying an outbreak of dengue fever at Jambi Province in central Sumatra in early 2015 also pointed out the possibility Zika was being under-diagnosed due to similarities with the common symptoms of other diseases.

While the recent links between Zika and birth defects is causing alarm, experts say 80 per cent of people do not experience sickness when they get the virus. When people are affected, the symptoms are usually mild and include a rash and fever. Most people clear the virus from their blood within a week.

They had stumbled on a 27-year local man who contracted the disease despite having never travelled outside of Indonesia. A report into the case was this week uploaded to the Eijkman​ Institute for Molecular Biology Indonesia's website ahead of publication in a Centre for Disease Control journal in May.

Frilasita Aisyah Yudhaputri​ from the institute's virus research unit said while the virus was believed to have existed in Indonesia for some time, the Asian strain of Zika was "mild" and not believed to cause birth defects.

"The one we found is the Asian strain, … the same found in Thailand, the Philippines and Cambodia.It is not the one related to microcephaly (a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development.)," she said.

A 2013 report into a previously healthy 52-year-old Australian woman who returned home from Jakarta with Zika misdiagnosed as Dengue also suggested it is possible many cases were being missed.

The report said that at the time, this was the first case of a Zika virus infection reported in a returned traveller to Australia although evidence of the virus had been reported in Java, Indonesia.

"However it is likely that many cases are either undiagnosed (because of mild symptoms) or misdiagnosed, presumably most commonly as dengue fever, given their clinical similarities," the report in the American Journal of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene stated.

Dr Mike Catton, from the Doherty Institute's Victorian Infectious Diseases Reference Laboratory, said it was difficult to know whether Zika was being under-diagnosed in Indonesia but said he believed it was unlikely that a "large outbreak" like that being experienced in South America could be overlooked.

He said of 1500 Australians the institute had tested after returning from overseas with an illness, only seven tested positive for Zika since 2012.

"I think that testing is likely to be picking up Zika if it's there in Australian return travellers," he said.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade has not adjusted its travel advice for Indonesia because the transmission of the virus is not considered to be "ongoing" there, a spokeswoman said. - SMH.



Sexually-transmitted Zika case confirmed in Texas

Health officials on Tuesday reported that a person in Texas has become infected with the Zika virus through sex in the first case of the illness being transmitted within the United States amid the current outbreak in Latin America.

The unidentified person had not traveled but had sex with a person who had returned from Venezuela and fallen ill with Zika, Dallas County health officials said. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control issued a statement saying lab tests confirmed the non-traveler was infected with Zika.

While Thompson told the television station that the case of sexual transmission is "a game-changer," he added that he didn't want people in Dallas County to overreact. Health officials and Thompson noted that sexual partners can protect themselves by using condoms to prevent spreading sexually transmitted infections. - AP.


First Zika virus case confirmed in Jamaica

The Jamaica Ministry of Health has confirmed the Caribbean country’s first case of the Zika virus.

A ministry statement released on Saturday says a 4-year-old child has recovered after contracting Zika.

It adds that authorities have stepped up prevention and detection efforts in the Portmore, St. Catherine area where the child lives.

Caribbean Public Health Agency lab tests for the virus came back positive on Friday afternoon.

Authorities are investigating the case in hopes of determining the source of infection.

The child began showing symptoms on Jan. 17 and had earlier travelled to Texas.

Jamaica’s Minister of Health will provide a full update at a news briefing on Monday.

Pregnant women and others on the island are being urged to take precautions to avoid the mosquito that transmits the disease. - The Star.