Nigeria Fighting Cholera Outbreak; Death Toll Nears 1,800

Nigerian health officials say nearly 1,800 people have died from cholera this year, with cases found in more than 20 states around the country. To combat the bacterial disease that is spread by dirty water, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment is urging proper hygiene and organizing mass cleanups in affected areas. Timothy Obiezu reports from the capital, Abuja.Camera: Emeka Gibson …

Johnson & Johnson’s HIV Vaccine Fails Mid-Stage Africa Study

Johnson & Johnson said on Tuesday its experimental vaccine failed to provide sufficient protection against HIV in sub-Saharan Africa to young women who accounted for a large number of infections last year.The results from the mid-stage study are the latest setback to efforts to develop a vaccine to prevent HIV or human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS that had infected over 37 million people globally as of 2020.”Although this is certainly not the study outcome for which we had hoped, we must apply the knowledge learned from the … trial and continue our efforts to find a vaccine that will be protective against HIV,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Shown Less Effective Against VariantsPreliminary study at New York University suggests a second shot may help Despite the discovery of effective treatments that can put the virus in remission, experts say an HIV vaccine is critical to eradicating the virus.The mid-stage study testing the J&J vaccine included 2,600 women participants across five Southern African countries, where women and girls accounted for over 60% of all new HIV infections last year.Researchers found that 63 participants who received placebo and 51 who were administered the J&J vaccine got HIV infection, resulting in a vaccine efficacy of 25.2%.The vaccine was found to be safe with no serious side effects reported, but the study will not continue based on the efficacy data, J&J said.The trial of the vaccine was supported by …

New Variant of COVID-19 Detected in South Africa    

Scientists in South Africa say they have detected a new variant of COVID-19.The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced Monday in a new study that the variant, which has been designated C.1.2, was first detected in South Africa in May of this year, and has since spread to seven other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the southern Pacific region of Oceania.   The scientists say the C.1.2 variant appears to have the same characteristics as that of other mutations that are more transmissible and more able to overtake a person’s immune system.The study has not been published nor has it undergone the normal peer review process. The scientists say they are still monitoring the frequency of the C.1.2 variant, and that it has not evolved as either a “variant of interest” or “variant of concern” under the guidelines established by the World Health Organization. FILE – A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Sept. 30, 2014.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the three COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the United States remain highly effective in preventing severe disease. Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC scientist, told a vaccine advisory panel that the COVID-19 vaccine was 94% effective in preventing hospitalization for adults between the ages of 18 to 74 between April and July, when the delta variant became dominant. The vaccine’s effectiveness against hospitalization dropped among adults 75 and older, but was still above 80%.   Dr. Oliver …

US Climate Envoy in Japan to Push Efforts to Cut Emissions

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry met in Tokyo on Tuesday with Japan’s top diplomat to push efforts to fight climate change ahead of a United Nations conference in November. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi highlighted what he said was the importance of getting other major carbon emitters, especially China, to cooperate. “China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter and the number two economy as well, and it is extremely important that we encourage China to firmly fulfill its responsibility to match its place,” Motegi told reporters after his meeting with Kerry. Motegi added that he hoped Japan and the United States would lead global decarbonizing efforts at the U.N. conference to be held in Glasgow in late November, known as COP26, and beyond. The United States is the second-largest carbon emitter. Japan is fifth. Kerry was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, as well as Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama. Kerry arrived in Japan on Monday and will fly out on Tuesday evening to China for more climate talks — his second trip to the country during the Biden administration. Kerry has called on global leaders to work together and accelerate actions needed to curb rising temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. He urged China to join the U.S. in urgently cutting carbon emissions. Many countries have pledged to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050. Japan has promised to strive to reduce its emissions by 46% from 2012 levels, up from an earlier target of 26%, to achieve carbon neutrality …

Officials in Louisiana Assess Trail of Destruction Left by Hurricane Ida

The mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, is urging residents who evacuated ahead of Sunday’s arrival of now-Tropical Depression Ida not to return as the massive storm has left the city without electricity. Ida hit the Louisiana coastline as a Category 4 hurricane packing winds of 240 kilometers per hour, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans when the flood barriers known as levees failed and left the city underwater, killing 1,800 people and trapping thousands of other residents for days.  Officials said the new $14.5 billion system of levees that were erected around New Orleans after the 2005 disaster withstood the onslaught of Ida and kept the waters of the Mississippi River from flooding the city again. However, more than one million residents in Louisiana, including New Orleans, and the neighboring southern U.S. state of Mississippi are without electricity.  Local utility company Entergy said all eight electric transmission lines that feed the city are out of service, with one tower falling into the Mississippi River. Authorities said it could be days, even weeks, before power is fully restored, raising further concerns over residents falling ill from the area’s searing late-summer heat, which forecasters say could go as high as 32 degrees Celsius later this week.People move in boat on flooded streets in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lafitte, La.“Now is not the time for re-entry,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday during a post-Ida press conference.  The situation was far worse in several surrounding areas, such as the town of LaPlace, located about 55 kilometers west of New Orleans. The heavy rain Ida dumped on …

First WHO Health Supplies Land in Taliban-Held Afghanistan 

The World Health Organization says an aircraft provided by Pakistan Monday delivered the first shipment of much-needed medicine and health supplies to Afghanistan since the country came under control of the Taliban. The humanitarian assistance was loaded in Dubai and flown directly to the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, said a WHO statement. The supplies will be immediately delivered to 40 health facilities in 29 provinces across Afghanistan.  The plane carrying Taliban fighters display their flag as they patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021. The WHO said Monday that a reliable humanitarian air bridge is urgently required to scale up the collective humanitarian effort.“After days of non-stop work to find a solution, I am very pleased to say that we have now been able to partially replenish stocks of health facilities in Afghanistan and ensure that — for now – WHO-supported health services can continue,” said Dr. Ahmed Al Mandhari, WHO regional director for the eastern Mediterranean.The 12.5 metric ton supplies delivered consist of trauma kits and interagency emergency health kits, and are enough to cover the basic health needs of more than 200,000 people, as well as provide 3,500 surgical procedures and treat 6,500 trauma patients.The WHO noted that Monday’s flight was the first of three planned with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fill urgent shortages in medicine and medical supplies in Afghanistan.  First PIA Cargo flight with WHO medical supplies from Islamabad to Mazar Sharif today. A humanitarian air bridge for essential supplies to Afghanistan in coordination with international …

UN Marks ‘Official End’ of Leaded Gasoline

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said Algeria stopped selling leaded gasoline in July, making it the last country to end its sale and marking an “official end” of leaded gasoline use in cars. Wealthy countries began phasing out leaded gasoline in the 1970s and 1980s due to health and environmental concerns, but some countries continued to sell it.  UNEP began a final push to ban leaded gasoline in 2002. “The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said in a statement. Lead was first added to gas nearly 100 years ago, ostensibly to improve engine performance. Leaded gas is still used on some small airplanes, according to The Associated Press. Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.     …

Fauci: ‘Just Get Vaccinated’

The top U.S. infectious disease expert told CNN Sunday there could be up to 1,000,000 COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by the end of the year, but the situation while “entirely predictable” is also “entirely preventable.”  Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. has the “wherewithal” to avoid the fulfillment of the prediction, but the problem is the 80 million people in the country who are not vaccinated. “We could turn this thing around and we can do it efficiently and quickly if we could just get those people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “It’s so important that people in this crisis put aside any ideological and political differences and just get vaccinated.” Meanwhile, last week, the U.S. reached a daily average of 100,000 hospitalizations for COVID-19, according to a New York Times report that said the surge in cases is rivaled only by a surge last winter when vaccines were not available.Memphis overwhelmed by COVID-19 emergency calls, prompting wait times for ambulances, Aug. 13, 2021.“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Dr. Shannon Byrd, a pulmonologist in Knoxville, Tennessee told The Times. “It’s bringing whole families down and tearing families apart. They’re dying in droves.”  Residents of Auckland, New Zealand are facing another two weeks of full lockdown, after 53 more cases of the highly contagious delta variant were detected in the region Monday. Eighty-three cases were detected Sunday.  Israel has opened its COVID vaccine booster program to all citizens 12 years of age and older, as the country is challenged with an increasing number of COVID delta variant cases.The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center counted more than 216.4 million global infections early Monday and 4.5 million deaths. It cost nearly $15,000 for a U.S. football player to make the decision to get a COVID vaccine.  Isaiah McKenzie, a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, was fined $14,650 for …

In Thailand, Aerospace Engineers Turn Their Skills to COVID-19

In Thailand, a team of aerospace engineers is using the high-tech skills they honed programming planes and satellites to run a simple but effective mapping website helping everyday volunteers reach those with COVID-19 who are falling through the cracks of a struggling public health care system. Since going live in mid-July, jitasa.care has seen well over 10,000 households sign on, seeking assistance for everything from food to oxygen to an urgent ride to the hospital, most of them in the capital, Bangkok. About the same number of volunteers have signed up to help them. “Jitasa” ties together the Thai words for “mind” and “volunteer.” “In Thai it means … people who want to volunteer to do good deeds,” said Wasanchai Vongsantivanich, one of the lead developers. He was surprised by how quickly the site took off. It got a big boost after someone shared the link with a popular local Facebook influencer who passed it on to his millions of followers. “When it went widespread, people started to make use of this and a lot of volunteers subscribed by themselves [to] help each other, and that was fantastic and a wonderful thing that we see from the platform,” Wasanchai said. The engineers’ efforts are part of an outpouring of help from Thais of all stripes who are volunteering their time and singular skills to take some of the load off the public health care system. The medical services are strained by the worst wave of infections to hit the country since the pandemic began. Every day brings tens of thousands of new cases and hundreds of more deaths. Intensive care units in Bangkok are filling up, forcing some Thais to spend days hunting for a free hospital bed and the worst off to die at home before they …

Hurricane Ida Weakens, But Remains a Threat

Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in the U.S. Gulf Coast state of Louisiana as a dangerous Category 4 storm, had weakened to a Category 2 storm by Sunday night.  The storm remains strong, however, and the National Hurricane Center said late Sunday that Ida was responsible for “catastrophic storm surge, extreme winds, and flash flooding…in portions of southeastern Louisiana.”   Ida has knocked out the electrical power in portions of Louisiana and Mississippi, leaving more than a million people in the dark, including the entire city of New Orleans.  The first death from Ida has been reported, the result of a fallen tree. The storm had maximum sustained winds of 165 kph Sunday night.  The NHC said residents should expect heavy rainfall along the southeast Louisiana coast, spreading northeast into the Lower Mississippi Valley Monday. Rainfall totals of 25 to 45 centimeters are possible across southeast Louisiana into far southern Mississippi, with as much as isolated maximum amounts of 61 centimeters possible.   “This is likely to result in life- threatening flash and urban flooding and significant river flooding impacts,” the weather forecasters said. Cars drive through flood waters along route 90 as outer bands of Hurricane Ida arrive on Aug. 29, 2021, in Gulfport, Miss.Hurricane warnings are in effect for Morgan City, Louisiana to the mouth of the Pearl River, Lake Pontchartrain, Lake Maurepas, and metropolitan New Orleans Sixteen years ago, August 29, 2005, Hurricane Katrina came ashore in Louisiana as a Category 3 storm. Katrina was blamed for 1,800 deaths, levee breaches and devastating flooding in New Orleans. The city’s federal levee system has been improved since then, and Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards predicted the levees would hold. “Will it be tested? Yes. But it was built for this moment,” he said.  Before Ida arrived, Edwards declared a state of emergency and said 5,000 …