African scientists baffled by monkeypox cases in Europe, US

African scientists baffled by monkeypox cases in Europe, US
Dr. Roman Woelfel, head of the Institute of Microbiology of the German Armed Forces, works in his laboratory in Munich after Germany has detected its first case of monkeypox. (REUTERS)
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Updated 22 May 2022

African scientists baffled by monkeypox cases in Europe, US

African scientists baffled by monkeypox cases in Europe, US
  • "This is not the kind of spread we’ve seen in West Africa, so there may be something new happening in the West,” says Nigerian virologist

LONDON: Scientists who have monitored numerous outbreaks of monkeypox in Africa say they are baffled by the disease’s recent spread in Europe and North America.
Cases of the smallpox-related disease have previously been seen only among people with links to central and West Africa. But in the past week, Britain, Spain, Portugal, Italy, US, Sweden and Canada all reported infections, mostly in young men who hadn’t previously traveled to Africa.
There are about 80 confirmed cases worldwide and 50 more suspected ones, the World Health Organization said. France, Germany, Belgium and Australia reported their first cases Friday.
“I’m stunned by this. Every day I wake up and there are more countries infected,” said Oyewale Tomori, a virologist who formerly headed the Nigerian Academy of Science and who sits on several WHO advisory boards.
“This is not the kind of spread we’ve seen in West Africa, so there may be something new happening in the West,” he said.
To date, no one has died in the outbreak. Monkeypox typically causes fever, chills, rash and lesions on the face or genitals. WHO estimates the disease is fatal for up to one in 10 people, but smallpox vaccines are protective and some antiviral drugs are being developed.




A section of skin tissue, harvested from a lesion on the skin of a monkey infected with monkeypox virus, is seen at 50X magnification. (CDC/Handout via REUTERS)

British health officials are exploring whether the disease is being sexually transmitted. Health officials have asked doctors and nurses to be on alert for potential cases, but said the risk to the general population is low. The European Center for Disease Control and Prevention recommended all suspected cases be isolated and that high-risk contacts be offered smallpox vaccine.
Nigeria reports about 3,000 monkeypox cases a year, WHO said. Outbreaks are usually in rural areas, when people have close contact with infected rats and squirrels, Tomori said. He said many cases are likely missed.
Dr. Ifedayo Adetifa, head of the country’s Center for Disease Control, said none of the Nigerian contacts of the British patients have developed symptoms and that investigations were ongoing.
WHO’s Europe director, Dr. Hans Kluge, described the outbreak as “atypical,” saying the disease’s appearance in so many countries across the continent suggested that “transmission has been ongoing for some time.” He said most of the European cases are mild.
On Friday, Britain’s Health Security Agency reported 11 new monkeypox cases, saying “a notable proportion” of the infections in the UK and Europe have been in young men with no history of travel to Africa and who were gay, bisexual or had sex with men.
Authorities in Spain and Portugal also said their cases were in young men who mostly had sex with other men and said those cases were picked up when the men turned up with lesions at sexual health clinics.
Experts have stressed they do not know if the disease is being spread through sex or other close contact related to sex.
Nigeria hasn’t seen sexual transmission, Tomori said, but he noted that viruses that hadn’t initially been known to transmit via sex, like Ebola, were later proven to do so after bigger epidemics showed different patterns of spread.
The same could be true of monkeypox, Tomori said.
In Germany, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach said the government was confident the outbreak could be contained. He said the virus was being sequenced to see if there were any genetic changes that might have made it more infectious.
Rolf Gustafson, an infectious diseases professor, told Swedish broadcaster SVT that it was “very difficult” to imagine the situation might worsen.
“We will certainly find some further cases in Sweden, but I do not think there will be an epidemic in any way,” Gustafson said. “There is nothing to suggest that at present.”
Scientists said that while it’s possible the outbreak’s first patient caught the disease while in Africa, what’s happening now is exceptional.
“We’ve never seen anything like what’s happening in Europe,” said Christian Happi, director of the African Center of Excellence for Genomics of Infectious Diseases. “We haven’t seen anything to say that the transmission patterns of monkeypox have been changing in Africa. So if something different is happening in Europe, then Europe needs to investigate that.”
Happi also pointed out that the suspension of smallpox vaccination campaigns after the disease was eradicated in 1980 might inadvertently be helping monkeypox spread. Smallpox vaccines also protect against monkeypox, but mass immunization was stopped decades ago.
“Aside from people in west and Central Africa who may have some immunity to monkeypox from past exposure, not having any smallpox vaccination means nobody has any kind of immunity to monkeypox,” Happi said.
Shabir Mahdi, a professor of vaccinology at the University of Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, said a detailed investigation of the outbreak in Europe, including determining who the first patients were, was now critical.
“We need to really understand how this first started and why the virus is now gaining traction,” he said. “In Africa, there have been very controlled and infrequent outbreaks of monkeypox. If that’s now changing, we really need to understand why.”


Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall

Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall
Updated 6 sec ago

Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall

Three dead, 3 critically wounded in shooting at Denmark mall
  • A 22-year-old Danish man was arrested, Copenhagen police inspector Søren Thomassen told reporters

COPENHAGEN: Danish police said Monday that the suspect in a weekend shooting at a Copenhagen mall that left three dead, including two teenagers, was known to mental health services.
“Our suspect is also known among psychiatric services, beyond that I do not wish to comment,” Copenhagen police chief Soren Thomassen told a press conference.
Thomassen added that the victims appeared to have been randomly targeted and there was nothing to indicate it was an act of terror.
“Our assessment is that the victims were random, that it isn’t motivated by gender or something else,” Thomassen said.
The police chief could not yet comment on a motive, but said there seemed to have been preparation ahead of the attack and that the 22-year-old suspect was not aided by anyone else.
“As things stand, it seems he was acting alone,” he said.
The three killed have been identified as a Danish teenage girl and boy, both aged 17, and a 47-year-old Russian citizen residing in Denmark.
Another four were injured in the shooting: two Danish women, aged 19 and 40, and two Swedish citizens, a 50-year-old man and a 16-year-old woman.
Police confirmed that the suspected shooter was present at the mall at the time of the shooting and is known to the police “but only peripherally.”
They added that they believe videos of the suspect circulating since Sunday evening on social media to be authentic.

An ambulance and armed police are seen during the evacuation of people at the Fields shopping center in Copenhagen, Denmark, on July 3, 2022 after Danish media reported a shooting. (AFP)

In some of the images, the young man can be seen posing with weapons, mimicking suicide gestures and talking about psychiatric medication “that does not work.”
YouTube and Instagram accounts believed to belong to the suspect were closed overnight, AFP noted.
The shooting occurred Sunday afternoon at the busy Fields shopping mall, located between the city center and Copenhagen airport.
According to police, the shooter was armed with a rifle, a pistol and a knife, and while the guns were not believed to be illegal, the suspect did not have a license for them.
Witnesses quoted by the Danish media described how the suspect had tried to trick people by saying his weapon was fake to get them to approach.
“He was sufficiently psychopathic to go and hunt people, but he wasn’t running,” one witness told public broadcaster DR.
Other eyewitnesses told Danish media they had seen more than 100 people rush toward the mall’s exit as the first shots were fired.
Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen denounce the “cruel attack” in a statement late Sunday.

People embrace outside Fields shopping center, after Danish police said they received reports of a shooting at the site, in Copenhagen, Denmark, July 3, 2022. (Reuters) 

“Our beautiful and usually so safe capital was changed in a split second,” she said.
The shooting came just over a week after a gunman opened fire near a gay bar in Oslo in neighboring Norway, killing two people and wounding 21 others.
In February of 2015, two people were killed and five injured in Copenhagen in a series of Islamist-motivated shootings.


Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16

Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16
Updated 45 min 39 sec ago

Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16

Bus falls into deep gorge in northern India, killing 16
  • Deadly road accidents are common in India due to reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles

NEW DELHI: A passenger bus slid off a mountain road and fell into a deep gorge in northern India on Monday, killing 16 people, including schoolchildren, a government official said.
Rescue workers pulled out the badly injured from the wreckage of the vehicle and sent them to a hospital, Ashutosh Garg, a senior administrator for the district of Kullu in Himachal Pradesh state, told news agency Press Trust of India.
Another official, Prashant Sirkek Singh, said about 20 passengers were traveling in the bus.
Photos shared on social media showed responders trying to rescue survivors from the mangled hulk of the yellow bus. The exact cause of the crash was not immediately known.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi expressed sorrow over the accident.
Deadly road accidents are common in India due to reckless driving, poorly maintained roads and aging vehicles. More than 110,000 people are killed every year in road accidents across India, according to police.


Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands

Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands
Updated 04 July 2022

Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands

Japan protests Chinese navy sailing near disputed islands
  • The islets, known as the Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu by Beijing, are at the center of a long-running dispute between Japan and China

TOKYO: Japan lodged a protest with China on Monday over a Chinese naval vessel sailing near disputed islands, a Japanese official said, as reports emerged of Russia also sending its own navy ship to the area.
The islets in the East China Sea, known as the Senkaku by Tokyo and the Diaoyu by Beijing, are at the center of a long-running dispute between Japan and China.
Japanese officials regularly protest the presence of Chinese coast guard vessels in waters near the islands, but it is the first time since 2018 that a navy ship has been spotted there, according to public broadcaster NHK.
At around 7:44 a.m. on Monday, a Chinese navy frigate “was observed entering Japan’s contiguous waters” southwest of one of the Tokyo-controlled islands, a statement from the Japanese defense ministry said.
Contiguous waters are a 12-nautical-mile band that extends beyond territorial waters.
“We expressed grave concerns and lodged our protest to the Chinese side through a diplomatic route, and urged them to prevent a repeat” of similar incidents, deputy chief cabinet secretary Seiji Kihara told reporters.
The islets “are Japanese territory from the viewpoints of both history and international law,” he added.
Separately, a Russian naval ship was also spotted in the contiguous waters of the disputed islands on Monday morning, NHK, Jiji Press and other Japanese media reported, citing anonymous defense ministry sources.
The ministry could not immediately confirm the reports to AFP.
In May, Chinese and Russian fighter jets carried out joint flights near the East Asian country as leaders of the so-called Quad bloc — Japan, United States, Australia and India — met in Tokyo.
While the planes did not breach territorial airspace, Japan said the move was “provocative” given that the timing coincided with the leaders’ summit.
Beijing said the flights were part of Chinese and Russian “annual military cooperation plan.”


Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man

Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man
Updated 04 July 2022

Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man

Protests in US after release of video of police killing Black man
  • Police claimed the victim had earlier fired at them when they were chasing him over a traffic violation
  • Akron mayor called the shooting “heartbreaking” while asking for patience from the community

AKRON, United States: Several hundred protesters marched Sunday in Akron, Ohio after the release of body camera footage that showed police fatally shooting a Black man with several dozen rounds of bullets.

As anger rose over the latest police killing of a Black man in the United States, and authorities appealed for calm, a crowd marched to City Hall carrying banners with slogans such as “Justice for Jayland.”

The slogan refers to Jayland Walker, 25, who was killed Monday after officers tried to stop his car over a traffic violation, police said.

Sunday marked the fourth straight day of protests in the city of 190,000 people. Demonstrations during the day were peaceful but for a tense moment in which some protesters got close to a line of police and shouted at them.

Derrick Johnson, president of the NAACP, denounced the shooting as “murder... point blank” as the civil rights group led a daytime rally.

“This Black man was killed... for a possible traffic violation. This doesn’t happen to white people in America,” he said in a statement, also slamming the police department’s response.

Protests continued into the evening, with a hundred-strong crowd still in the streets in front of the justice center, a reporter said.

Despite calls from some protesters for calm, tensions mounted as the night wore on.

Some protesters set dumpsters alight and broke windows of the snowplows and other heavy equipment authorities had moved near the police department as a barrier in anticipation of unrest.

Police in riot gear deployed and fired tear gas at the crowd to push it back from the justice center.

After initially providing few details of the shooting, Akron authorities released two videos Sunday: a compilation of body-camera footage, body-cam still frames and voiceover, and another of the complete body-cam footage of the entire chase and shooting.

The voiceover explained that Walker did not stop and drove off. Police engaged in a car chase and said a shot had been fired from Walker’s vehicle.

After being chased for several minutes, Walker got out of his car while it was still moving and fled on foot. Officers tried to subdue him with their tasers, but he kept running.

Several officers finally chased Walker to a parking lot. The body-cam footage is too blurry to see clearly what happens, but an initial police statement released after the shooting says Walker behaved in a way that caused officers to believe he posed a “deadly threat.”

All of the officers at the scene opened fire on Walker, shooting multiple times in rapid succession.

He was pronounced dead at the scene.

The incident was the latest death of an African-American citizen at the hands of police, events that have sparked mass protests over racism and police brutality.

“Many will wish to air their grievances in public, and I fully support our residents’ right to peacefully assemble,” Akron mayor Dan Horrigan told a press conference, saying he was “heartbroken” over the events.

“But I hope the community can agree that violence and destruction are not the answer.”

He also said an independent investigation was being conducted.

Bobby DiCello, a lawyer for the Walker family, told The New York Times: “I’ve been a trial lawyer for 22 years and I’ve never seen anything remotely close to what that video is going to show.”

Police chief Steve Mylett said he didn’t know the exact number of bullets fired at Walker, but the medical examiner’s report “indicates over 60 wounds to Mr. Walker’s body.”

He added that the eight officers involved in Walker’s death have been placed on paid administrative leave until the investigation is complete.

Authorities canceled a festival planned for the July 4th Independence Day holiday weekend.

Basketball star LeBron James, an Akron native, said in a tweet Sunday he was praying for his city.


Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs

Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs
Updated 04 July 2022

Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs

Tens of thousands Sydney residents told to evacuate as rains flood suburbs
  • An intense low-pressure system off Australia’s east coast is forecast to bring heavy rain through Monday across New South Wales

SYDNEY: Fresh evacuation orders were issued for tens of thousands of Sydney residents on Monday after relentless rains flooded several suburbs, with officials warning of more wild weather to come.
An intense low-pressure system off Australia’s east coast is forecast to bring heavy rain through Monday across New South Wales after several places in the state were hit with about a month’s worth over the weekend.
Since Sunday, about 30,000 residents in New South Wales state have been told to either evacuate or warned they might receive evacuation orders.
Frustration swelled in several suburbs in the west of Australia’s largest city after floods submerged homes, farms and bridges there, some for the third time this year.
“It’s just devastating. We are in disbelief,” Camden Mayor Theresa Fedeli said.
“Most of them have just come out of the last flood, getting their homes back in place, their businesses back in place and unfortunately we are saying it is happening again.”
An operation was underway to rescue 21 crew members from a cargo ship, which lost power south of Sydney and risked being swept ashore, local media reported.
“It has been a very difficult time for many months to have this flood event off the back of others. It makes it more challenging,” New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet said during a televised media briefing.
Paul O’Neill, a resident from flood-hit Wisemans Ferry, said he was taking food supplies by boat to his stranded family after rising waters cut off access.
“The road collapsed and hasn’t been fixed since the last floods, hasn’t been touched. So now they close our road access and then the ferry, the only way to get home now is by boat,” O’Neill said.
Footage on social media showed petrol stations, homes, cars and street signs partially under water while garbage bins floated down flooded roads. Military vehicles were seen going into flooded streets to evacuate stranded families.
Some inland towns, including Picton, about 90km southwest of Sydney, have lined the main streets with sandbags.
About 100 millimeters of rain could fall in the next 24 hours over a swath of more than 300km along the New South Wales coast from Newcastle to the south of Sydney, the Bureau of Meteorology said.
“We are expecting the rain to pick up again from this afternoon,” bureau meteorologist Jonathan How said.
More than 200mm of rain have fallen over many areas, with some hit by as much as 350mm since Saturday.
The weather could trigger flash floods and landslides, with river catchments already near full capacity after the La Nina phenomenon, typically associated with increased rainfall, lashed Australia’s east coast over the last two years.
Climate change is widely believed to be a contributing factor to the frequent severe weather events, the Climate Council said, adding Australia is “under-prepared.”
Federal emergency management minister Murray Watt said climate change must be taken “seriously” due to the frequent occurrence of floods.
“The reality is we are living in a changing climate,” Watt told ABC television.
Bad weather has delayed by 24 hours Monday’s scheduled launch of a NASA rocket from the Arnhem Space Center in north Australia, operator Equatorial Launch Australia said.