April 27, (THEWILL) – China has confirmed the first known human case of the H3N8 strain of avian flu, but health authorities say there is a low risk of widespread transmission among people.
H3N8 is known to have been circulating since 2002, after first emerging in North American waterfowl. It is known to infect horses, dogs, and seals, but has not previously been detected in humans.
April 27, (THEWILL) – China’s National Health Commission, said a four-year-old boy, living in central Henan province, tested positive for the strain after being hospitalised earlier this month with a fever and other symptoms.
The boy’s family raised chickens at home and lived in an area populated by wild ducks, the NHC said in a statement.
The boy was infected directly by birds and the strain was not found to have “the ability to effectively infect humans”, the commission said.
It added that tests of the boy’s close human contacts found “no abnormalities.”
The NHC said the boy’s case was a “one-off cross-species transmission, and the risk of large-scale transmission is low.”
It warned the public to nevertheless stay away from dead or sick birds and seek immediate treatment for fever or respiratory symptoms.
Avian influenza occurs mainly in wild birds and poultry. Cases of transmission between humans are extremely rare.
The H5N1 and H7N9 strains of bird flu, detected in 1997 and 2013, respectively, have been responsible for most cases of human illness from avian influenza, according to the US Centers for Disease Control.
Human infections of zoonotic, or animal-borne, influenzas are “primarily acquired through direct contact with infected animals or contaminated environments, but do not result in efficient transmission of these viruses between people”, according to the World Health Organisation.
In 2012, H3N8 was blamed for the deaths of more than 160 seals off the northeastern coast of the United States after it caused deadly pneumonia in the animals.
Indian Rescuers Drill Through Debris To Reach 41 Men Trapped In Tunnel
Indian rescuers led by “rat miners” drilled through rocks and debris on Tuesday to reach 41 construction workers trapped in a collapsed tunnel in the Himalayas for 17 days.
The process of pulling out the 41 low-wage workers from India’s poorest states, one at a time on wheeled stretchers through a pipe 3 feet wide, was due to begin soon, officials said.
“Work of laying pipes in the tunnel to take out workers has been completed,” Uttarakhand state chief minister Pushkar Singh Dhami said on the X social media platform, thanking the Hindu deity Baba Baukh Nag Ji as well as the millions of Indians who prayed for the men and the tireless rescuers.
“Soon, all the labourer brothers will be taken out.”
The men have been stuck in the 3-mile tunnel since it collapsed on Nov. 12.
They have been getting food, water, light, oxygen and medicines through a pipe, but efforts to dig a tunnel to rescue them with high-powered drilling machines were frustrated by a series of snags.
Government agencies managing the unprecedented crisis turned on Monday to “rat miners” to drill through the rocks and gravel by hand from inside a 3-feet-wide evacuation pipe pushed through the debris after machinery failed.
The miners are experts at a primitive, hazardous and controversial method used mostly to get at coal deposits through narrow passages, and get their name because they resemble burrowing rats.
The miners, brought from central India, worked through Monday night and finally broke through the estimated 200 feet of rocks, earth and metal on Tuesday afternoon.
Dozens of rescue workers with ropes, ladders and stretchers entered the tunnel and 41 ambulances were lined up outside to take the 41 men to a hospital about 20 miles away.
Some rescue workers in hard hats made victory signs and posed for pictures.
Relatives of the trapped men, who have been camping near the site, gathered outside the tunnel with luggage, ready to accompany the men to hospital.
“As he comes out, my heart will revive again,” the father of a trapped worker, who give his name as just Chaudhary, said of his son, Manjeet Chaudhary.
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Villagers also gathered outside the tunnel, some singing Hindu devotional songs and raising slogans in praise of the Hindu god Lord Ram on hearing news of the breakthrough.
Others gathered on nearly slopes hoping to catch a glimpse of the men as they are brought out.
The men have been getting cooked food since a lifeline pipe was pushed through last week, including flat breads, lentils and vegetable curry.
More than a dozen doctors, including psychiatrists, have been at the site, talking to the men through the pipe and monitoring their health.
They were advised to do light yoga exercises, walk around in the space they have been confined to, and keep speaking to each other.
The tunnel is part of the $1.5 billion Char Dham highway, one of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s most ambitious projects, aimed at connecting four Hindu pilgrimage sites through a 550-mile network of roads.
Authorities have not said what caused the cave-in, but the region is prone to landslides, earthquakes and floods.
The tunnel did not have an emergency exit and was built through a geological fault, a member of a panel of experts investigating the disaster has told Reuters.
The Char Dham project has faced criticism from environmental experts, and some work was halted after hundreds of houses were damaged by subsidence along the route.
The government has said it employed environmentally sound techniques to make geologically unstable stretches safer.
It also ordered the National Highways Authority of India to audit 29 tunnels being built across India
Sexual Transmission Of Monkeypox Confirmed In Congo Amid Record Outbreak
The World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed the occurrence of sexual transmission of monkeypox in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), marking a significant development in the country’s ongoing outbreak and raising concerns among African scientists about the potential for increased difficulty in containing the disease.
In a recent statement, WHO revealed that a Belgian man who visited the DRC in March tested positive for monkeypox shortly after his arrival. The man, who identifies as gay, frequented underground clubs catering to men who have sex with men (MSM).
Subsequently, five individuals with whom the man had sexual contact also tested positive for monkeypox, marking the first confirmed instance of sexual transmission of the virus in Africa, according to Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist affiliated with WHO.
Monkeypox, previously confined to sporadic outbreaks primarily transmitted from infected rodents to humans in parts of Central and West Africa, experienced widespread epidemics among MSM in Europe last year, with over 100 countries reporting approximately 91,000 cases.
WHO has highlighted the presence of numerous discreet clubs catering to same-sex relationships in the DRC, warning of the potential for monkeypox to spread rapidly within these networks.
Notably, the current outbreak in the DRC, with over 12,500 infections and approximately 580 deaths, has for the first time spread to Kinshasa, the country’s capital, and the conflict-ridden South Kivu province.
Monkeypox Is No Longer A Global Health Emergency: WHO Tomori said that the number of cases reported in the DRC outbreak may be an underestimate, suggesting that similar occurrences could be happening across Africa due to inadequate disease surveillance.
He cautioned against driving at-risk populations underground, as this could hinder disease containment efforts. Despite the severity of the outbreak, Tomori lamented the lack of vaccination campaigns in Africa, stressing the urgent need for a more comprehensive approach to address the escalating situation.
Hamas Delays Hostage Release, Alleging Israel Violated Terms Of Cease-Fire
Hamas on Saturday put on hold a second hostages-for-prisoners exchange, alleging that Israel violated the terms of a temporary cease-fire agreement.
« The release of the second round of hostages to be delayed until Israel commits to the terms of the agreement — allowing aid trucks into the north of Gaza, » Hamas’ military wing said in a statement on its television channel.
It was not immediately clear which specific delivery of aid the Hamas statement referred to. The Israeli Prime Minister’s office declined immediate comment, but an Israeli official told NPR that « Israel did not violate the agreement. »
The second batch of hostages were set to be released around 4 p.m. local time (9 a.m. ET), but about an hour and a half later, the announcement from Hamas came down.
The delay at least temporarily dashes the hopes of families of the captives and Palestinians waiting for the release of prisoners from Israeli jails.
The sudden reversal capped a day of anticipation after a successful swap on the first day of the cease-fire on Friday, when Hamas handed over two dozen hostages, including 13 Israelis who were seized as part its Oct. 7 assault on Israel that killed around 1,200 people, Israel says. In exchange, Israel released 39 Palestinian prisoners.
Nearly 15,000 Palestinians have been killed since the start of the conflict and more than 30,000 wounded, according to the latest figures from Gaza’s health ministry.
Among the Israelis who won freedom on Friday is Hanna Katzir, who the Palestinian Islamic Jihad — a militia group that also took part in last month’s attack on Israel — had earlier said was killed in an Israeli airstrike. Other Israelis released are eight members of three separate families, including four young children. Five captives, including Katzir, are in their 70s and the oldest is 85.
Hospitals where the freed hostages were taken have reported that they are in generally good condition. Dr. Efrat Bron-Harlev, the CEO of Schneider Children’s Medical Center, said the four children, three mothers and a grandmother there « are in the best and most caring hands. »
« Their physical condition is good and they are currently undergoing medical and emotional assessment by the medical and psychosocial teams at Schneider Children’s in a specially designated and private area, » Bron-Harlev said.
As Israeli hostages were being freed and reunited with their families on Friday, there were scenes of celebration in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, where the Palestinians prisoners were being handed over. An enormous crowd in the heart of Ramallah gathered, chanting pro-Hamas slogans and waved the militant group’s green flag.
The temporary truce was brokered by Qatar, Egypt and the United States. Under the terms of the deal, Israel and Hamas must halt combat operations while at least 50 Israelis and 150 Palestinian prisoners are exchanged in groups each day. Israel says it could extend the cease-fire up to 10 days if Hamas keeps releasing captives.
Egypt’s state information service on Saturday said that Egyptian officials were working with parties involved in the negotiations « to extend the truce period between the Israeli and Palestinian sides, for a day or so. »
Israel’s military has vowed to resume fighting once the deal expires or breaks down. « At the end of the operational pause, we will return promptly to our operations and offensive in Gaza, » military chief of staff Lt. Gen. Herzi Halevi said Saturday.
Meanwhile in Gaza, the pause in fighting has opened the door for the besieged Hamas-controlled territory to receive badly needed food, fuel and other supplies after weeks of bombardment from Israeli warplanes and ground forces. Israel has vowed to crush Hamas. The fighting has displaced nearly half of Gaza’s population of 2.3 million people, according to UNRWA, the U.N. relief agency overseeing Palestinians.
With the temporary cease-fire, some Palestinians are feeling safe enough to visit relatives in central and southern Gaza for the first time since the fighting began. Fuel supplies are scarce so they are using cooking oil to power old cars.
However, last month Israel’s military warned Gazans living in the northern half of the territory, which includes Gaza City’s half-million people, to move to the south or risk being killed during Israeli operations.
Men carry empty canisters to be filled with cooking gas from a tanker that entered the Palestinian enclave via the Rafah crossing with Egypt, on Saturday.
A spokesperson for Israel’s Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT) said Saturday that 200 trucks carrying humanitarian aid entered Gaza from Egypt. It said the trucks were carrying food, water, shelter equipment and medical supplies.
« The United Nations led the deployment of over 50 humanitarian aid trucks to both the northern Gaza Strip and shelters that have not yet been evacuated. This deployment is being carried out with Israeli approval through the evacuation corridor, » COGAT said.
The Palestinian Red Crescent says it was able to deliver humanitarian aid by convoy to Gaza City and the North Gaza Governorate. It said the aid delivery was considered the largest since the conflict began.
The same number of trucks were dispatched to Gaza on Friday, according to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
On his second visit to Gaza, UNRWA Commissioner-General General Philippe Lazzarini said the agency is ready to receive more than 150 trucks a day of aid.
« It is time to remove bureaucratic hurdles and restrictions on UNRWA so that we can expand and accelerate the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance to more than two million people, » Lazzarini said.
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