Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Mini-break - No update tomorrow.

**Beware the barrenness of a busy life.**

This morning -

Yesterday -
9/12/11 -


Colombian Volcano Update - In the middle of the country is a stretch where four active volcanoes lie on a line that is only ~50 km long - Ruiz, Tolima, Santa Isabel and Machín. It has been almost 20 years since there has been any volcanic activity in these stretch of four volcanoes, but two are on yellow alert after signs that the dry spell of activity may be coming to an end soon. Ruiz and Machin are both on elevated alert status, but Machín is the more interesting of the two as it has likely been almost 900 years since it last erupted. The volcano is a dome complex that has produced pyroclastic flows and mudflows sourced from explosive eruptions, some of which traveled over 40 km from the domes in the ancestral caldera. There has been an increase in seismic activity - 139 earthquakes in August alone - under Machín for the past year or so, thus necessitating the increased alert status, but little else has changed. These earthquakes have been at two depths, from 1-5 km and 5-14 km below and to the southeast of the main domes. This potential activity has real ramifications in the region around Machín, such as decisions on where to build schools.
Over at the more famous Nevado del Ruiz, seismicity has increased dramatically over the course of 2011 (the 20 year anniversary since its last eruption). During the month of August alone, almost 400 likely volcanically-related earthquakes occurred at Ruiz. Sulfur dioxide measurements are listed as "moderate" but no signs of deformation have occurred at the volcano. All that shaking means that Ruiz is also on yellow alert status, suggesting that an eruption might be in the cards.

In the Atlantic -
Tropical storm Maria was located about 360 mi. (580 km) ESE of the southeastern Bahamas.

In the Pacific -
Tropical depression 18w was located approximately 495 nm east-southeast of Kadena air base, Okinawa.

Tropical Storm Katia has shut down roads and power and led to one death in Ireland and Britain, where residents braced for THE STRONGEST WIND GUSTS IN 15 YEARS. Forecasters in both countries said Monday's gusts topped 125km/h as the storm - previously a hurricane as it roared across the Atlantic - made driving, shipfaring and even walking dangerous in broad swaths of Ireland, Scotland and northern England. In north-east England's County Durham, a driver died after a tree fell on a car on the highway. Most ferry services between Ireland and Britain were cancelled, and fishing boats along the Atlantic coasts of Ireland and Scotland were warned to head into port.
Britain's government forecasting service, the Met Office, told the public to be ready for the strongest winds since October 1996, when the tail end of Hurricane Lili killed five Britons and caused an estimated £150 million ($230 million) of damage there. The Met Office said winds were averaging 88km/h while the strongest reported gust so far was 128km/h at a mountain station in North Wales. Gusts in the Northern Ireland border town of Castlederg reached 118km/h. Heavy rainfall hit the north of Ireland and central Scotland. Ireland, which is regularly buffeted by strong Atlantic winds, also warned of exceptionally dangerous driving conditions and the risk of widespread coastal flooding. Towns along Ireland's Atlantic coast last experienced heavy flooding in November 2010. A bridge spanning a bay in County Donegal, northwest Ireland, was closed today as a precaution, while fallen trees obstructed roads in several other parts of the island, including Limerick in the south-west. Engineers were trying to restore power to about 11,000 homes along the Irish Republic's border with Northern Ireland. Another 2000 homes in Dublin lost power because of toppled electricity lines. Ireland and Britain periodically catch the tail-end of Atlantic hurricanes as they travel north-east with the Gulf Stream and weaken into tropical storms.
Authorities in Norway, Sweden and Denmark said they expected gale-force winds to arrive there today.


PAKISTAN & INDIA - Floods chaos worsens. In Pakistan, Karachi has been hit by heavy rain but the worst of the damage is in Sindh's rural areas. More than 200 people have died and millions remain affected after two weeks of flooding in Pakistan's southern Sindh province. The situation is worsening each day as water levels are rising because of poor drainage. The UN has begun relief work but more rain has been forecast for the area.
Heavy monsoon rains have been battering South Asia for days but southern Pakistan has borne the brunt of the bad weather in recent weeks. Almost one million houses there have been destroyed or damaged and floods have affected nearly 4.2m acres of land. The rain is heaping misery on the hundreds of thousands living out in the open. Many people remain stranded on high ground and rooftops surrounded by flood waters.
Up to 2.5 million children have been affected. One official said children and families, many of them still recovering from last year's devastating floods, are in urgent need of help before the situation worsens. More rain has been forecast for the coming days. "The situation in Sindh is already serious and there will be more flooding and more problems because of these rains." Officials in Badin district are said to have issued a warning to people to vacate their homes and breaches in several canals have forced evacuations in Mirpurkhas town. Pakistan's disaster management authority said it was working to quantify what it called the "huge" losses in cash crops such as sugar cane and cotton.
Meanwhile, in India's eastern Orissa state more than one million have been displaced and 16 killed in floods. About 2,600 villages have been submerged across 19 districts. The army and navy have been called in to help as many villagers are still stranded and dependent on food drops from helicopters. Officials in Orissa, India, said at least 61,000 people had been evacuated to safety and relief and rescue operations had begun. Several rivers, including the Mahanadi, are overflowing and flood waters have severed a number of key road links. Some areas had been cut off due to breaches in river banks and embankments and helicopters were the only way to bring food and water to people stranded there. Officials said the situation was expected to get better soon as rains had stopped and the water level in the Mahanadi and other rivers had begun to recede.


Beset by haze from hundreds of fires, Indonesia tries to trigger rain - An Indonesian agency says there are more than 1,200 "hot spots" in South Sumatra. Fires have created thick blankets of haze over parts of Sumatra, Singapore and Malaysia.
Indonesia has begun cloud-seeding operations over the island of Sumatra in an attempt to trigger rain to put out fires creating thick blankets of haze over parts of Sumatra and neighboring Singapore and Malaysia. Three Spanish-built CASA 212-200 aircraft were deployed on Friday to Sumatra. The rain-inducing operations will continue in three specific areas for the next 90 days.
The number of hot spots in South Sumatra in September has reached 1,241. Hundreds more have been detected on the island of Kalimantan, which is Indonesia's side of Borneo island. South Sumatra has the highest number of hot spots, or areas of high temperatures that could indicate peat or forest fires. Ground operations to extinguish the fires are also ongoing. These include spraying, controlled burning, building trenches to limit the spread of the fire and sluices around the burning peat. Haze from forest and peat fires has been a perennial problem for the region, particularly during the dry months. Slash-and-burn techniques to clear land and droughts have been blamed for the fires in the past. Using uncontrolled fires to clear land is illegal, but enforcement has been an issue. The worst incidence of fires and haze was in 1997 to 1998. The World Wide Fund for Nature estimates over nearly 100 hectares - an area three times the size of the Netherlands - was burned. The Asian Development Bank put the damages and losses at about US $9 billion for Indonesia and its neighboring countries. The fires also had significant impact on Indonesia's wildlife, including orangutans, tigers and elephants and protected national parks.


'Contagion': This Will Almost Certainly Occur - an epidemiologist says. The forces that tend to drive the emergence of new diseases - rapid global travel and migration of human and animal populations, a complex and interconnected worldwide food chain, to name only two - have accelerated.The newly released movie 'Contagion' hits these points with near-documentary accuracy and precision. Like SARS, the fictional pathogen in the film begins in Asia and travels rapidly by plane to other parts of the world. At the beginning of the SARS outbreak, in 2003, it was not even clear if the agent was bacterial or viral. Reports from Mexico at the beginning of the 2009 H1N1 pandemic pegged the mortality rate at four percent - staggeringly high for influenza. The need to make decisions in the face of so many unknowns is perhaps the most difficult aspect of public health (medicine too).
Despite some disappointments, Contagion hits much more often than it misses. The science is uncannily true, with rare exceptions. An epidemic like the one described in the film will almost certainly occur, though we can't predict the details. The notion that an agent like Nipah virus, a pathogen shared by bats, pigs, and humans and presumably the model for the virus in the movie, will break out of its niche and cause widespread disease is very believable. It is easy to forget about public health and the threat of emerging infectious diseases. Despite millions of cases and hundreds of thousands of deaths worldwide, many saw the H1N1 pandemic as a dud. When public health, like public security, is doing its job well, nothing happens, and this invisibility undermines its support. At a time when public health expenditures can, in all seriousness, be called "discretionary" by politicians arguing for deficit reduction at the expense of public health, we need to be anything but complacent.

Positive Salmonella sample prompts recall of more ground turkey -Cargill is recalling 185,000 more pounds of ground turkey products produced at its Cargill Meat Solutions facility in Springdale, Arkansas, after tests on a product sample suggested they may be contaminated with the same strain of Salmonella Heidelberg that earlier this summer was linked to a multistate outbreak that has sickened at least 111 people in 31 states. So far they aren't aware of any illnesses linked to the latest batch of recalled meat. Recalled products include 16-ounce chubs, fresh ground turkey trays, and fresh ground turkey patties that were produced on Aug 23, 24, 30, and 31 and bear the establishment number "P-963" inside the USDA inspection mark. They were distributed nationally to retail outlets.
---Cantaloupe suspected in multistate Listeria outbreak - Colorado health officials, who have been investigating an unusually high number of Listeria cases over the past few months, announced recently that nine cases are linked to a multistate outbreak and that preliminary investigation findings suggest cantaloupe is the likely source. Colorado's confirmed cases are from nine different counties. Patient ages range from the 30s to the 90s, with an average age of 84 and the majority of patients women. Colorado typically sees only about 10 listeriosis cases each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is coordinating a multistate investigation along with the Food and Drug Administration, the USDA, and state and local health partners.Though cantaloupe is suspected and not yet confirmed as the outbreak source, people at high risk for Listeria infections, such as older people and those with underlying medical conditions, should avoid it and other possible sources of Listeria, including deli meats that aren't reheated to 165ºF, refrigerated pate or meat spreads, refrigerated smoked seafood, and soft cheeses such as queso fresco unless made with pasteurized milk.
---Internet survey suggests 50% effectiveness for seasonal 2010-11 flu vaccine - Based solely on input from an online survey, a team of researchers determined that the 2010-11 flu vaccine was 52% effective in preventing influenza-like illness.