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Phuket Gazette World News: Bird flu toll hits 6; Argentina floods; Nobel Peace Prize stolen; Dancer Ruby riles Berlusconi

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Phuket Gazette World News: Bird flu toll hits 6; Argentina floods; Nobel Peace Prize stolen; Dancer Ruby riles Berlusconi | The Thaiger
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PHUKET MEDIA WATCH

– World news compiled by Gazette editors for Phuket’s international community

China readies to fight new bird flu; Japan, HK on guard
Reuters / Phuket Gazette
PHUKET: China said it was mobilising resources nationwide to combat a new strain of bird flu that has killed six people, as Japan and Hong Kong stepped up vigilance and the United States said it was closely monitoring the situation.

All of the 14 reported infections from the H7N9 bird flu strain have been in eastern China and at least four of the six dead are in the financial hub of Shanghai, a city of 20 million people.

The strain does not appear to be transmitted from human to human but authorities in Hong Kong raised a preliminary alert and said they were taking precautions at the airport. Vietnam banned imports of Chinese poultry.

In Japan, airports have put up posters at entry points warning all passengers from China to seek medical attention if they have flu-like symptoms.

A total of 14 people in China have been confirmed to have contracted H7N9, all in the east of the country. One of the cases was a four-year-old child, who was recovering, the official Xinhua news agency said.

Hong Kong authorities said six people had died.

Authorities in Shanghai also discovered the H7N9 virus in a pigeon sample taken from a traditional wholesale market, Xinhua added, believed to be the first time the virus has been discovered in a animal in China since the outbreak began.

“(China) will strengthen its leadership in combating the virus … and coordinate and deploy the entire nation’s health system to combat the virus,” the Health Ministry said in a statement late on Wednesday on its website (click here).

In Hong Kong, authorities activated the preliminary “Alert Response Level” under a preparedness plan for an influenza pandemic, which calls for close monitoring of chicken farms, vaccination, culling drills, and a suspension of imports of live birds from the mainland.

All passengers on flights in and out of Hong Kong were being asked to notify flight attendants or airport staff if they were feeling unwell.

Vietnam said it had banned poultry imports from China, citing the risk from H7N9.

In Beijing, the Health Ministry said the government would swiftly communicate details of the new strain to the outside world and its own people, following complaints it had been too slow to report on the outbreak and suspicion of a cover-up.

Chinese internet users and some newspapers have questioned why it took so long for the government to announce the new cases, especially as two of the victims fell ill in February. The government has said it needed time to correctly identify the virus.

In 2003, authorities initially tried to cover up an epidemic of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), which emerged in China and killed about 10 percent of the 8,000 people it infected worldwide.

Transparent communication

China “will continue to openly and transparently maintain communication and information channels with the World Health Organisation and relevant countries and regions, strengthen monitoring and preventative measures”, the ministry said in a statement.

Flu experts across the world are studying samples isolated from the patients to assess the human pandemic potential of the strain.

Other strains of bird flu, such as H5N1, have been circulating for many years and can be transmitted from bird to bird, and bird to human, but not generally from human to human.

So far, this lack of human-to-human transmission also appears to be a feature of the H7N9 strain.

“The gene sequences confirm that this is an avian virus, and that it is a low pathogenic form (meaning it is likely to cause mild disease in birds),” said Wendy Barclay, a flu virologist at Britain’s Imperial College London.

“But what the sequences also reveal is that there are some mammalian adapting mutations in some of the genes.”

This, she said, meant the H7N9 virus has already acquired some of the genetic changes it would need to mutate into a form that could be transmitted from person to person.

While the official Xinhua news agency said it was unfair to compare SARS with H7N9, as the new bird flu virus had yet to show signs of human-to-human transmission, it did warn that the government’s credibility was on the line.

“If there is anything that SARS has taught China and its government, it’s that one cannot be too careful or too honest when it comes to deadly pandemics. The last 10 years have taught the government a lot, but it is far from enough,” it said in a commentary.

Dozens killed in Argentina flooding
Phuket Gazette / News wires

PHUKET: At least 40 people were confirmed dead after heavy rainfall caused deadly flooding in Argentina, officials said on Wednesday.

The rainstorm began Tuesday evening in La Plata, the provincial capital of Buenos Aires, which is located in eastern Argentina, forcing local residents to seek refuge in their own vehicles, on their rooftops and on trees.

Provincial authorities on Wednesday morning initially said two people had been killed, but the governor of the province of Buenos Aires, Daniel Scioli, later spoke to the press, saying at least 35 had lost their lives, but sources later said at least 40 had died in the floods.

Over 2,000 people evacuated the area, where the neighborhoods of Villa Elvira and Los Hornos were reported as the most affected. However, residents have complained of little assistance from emergency teams, as many of them evacuated themselves after hours of waiting for aid.

Several building and residential areas were damaged and affected, but details were not immediately available.

Syria’s humanitarian crisis worsening rapidly – Red Cross
Reuters / Phuket Gazette

PHUKET: The humanitarian situation in Syria is worsening rapidly with some areas a landscape of “devastation and destruction”, the Red Cross said on Thursday after a month which activists said was the bloodiest yet in the conflict.

About 70,000 people have been killed and millions displaced during the two-year-old uprising, the United Nations says. Civilians have been cut off from water, electricity and life-saving medical supplies, especially in rebel-held areas targeted by air strikes and ballistic missiles.

The Syrian government’s restrictions on aid convoys have meant most supplies are distributed in government-held areas.

Peter Maurer, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said aid workers had been able to do make more trips into opposition-held areas in the past two weeks, indicating Damascus may be softening its stance on convoys into such territory.

He said the workers were “not pleasantly surprised” by what they found in areas accessible for the first time, with the need for food, sanitation, water and medicine increasing.

“We saw devastation and destruction,” he said.

“What we were able to achieve is not enough. The needs are growing exponentially while our ability to react is growing linearly,” he said.

Convoys and volunteers for the Syrian Arab Red Crescent – the ICRC’s partner in Syria – have been targe

— Phuket Gazette Editors

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Archiving articles from the Phuket Gazette circa 1998 - 2017. View the Phuket Gazette online archive and Digital Gazette PDF Prints.

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Environment

Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming

The Thaiger

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Second death in China from virus concerns officials with the CNY holidays looming | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Five patients remain in serious condition in Wuhan - New York Times

“At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain.”

Medical officials in China’s Wuhan city have announced that another man had died after being infected by the new coronavirus strain. Thailand and Japan have now reported new cases of a the Chinese Coronavirus that has already killed two and infected at least 40 in China. There are growing concerns about the spread of the virus beyond Chinese ahead of the Chinese New Year holidays. Chinese New Year will be celebrated on January 25 this year but many Chinese, and people of Chinese ethnicity, travel before and after this date, including trips over seas.

The Chinese man, reported to be aged 69, was admitted to a Wuhan hospital on December 31 with “abnormal renal function”. The man died from pneumonia linked to the new strain of the coronavirus outbreak in the central China province.

Chinese scientists identified the illness as a new strain of coronavirus, which is in the same family as the deadly severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) and Middle East respiratory syndrome (MERS). Symptoms of coronaviruses can range from fever and coughing to kidney failure, and in some cases lead to death.

At least 41 people have now been diagnosed as being infected this latest flu-like strain, earlier called the “Wuhan Flu”, and now referred to as Chinese Coronavirus.

Five patients still remain in a serious condition. Chinese medical officials state that no cases of human-to-human transmission of the new viral strain have been confirmed so far.

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Crime

2 more alleged call centre scam suspects arrested in Japan

Greeley Pulitzer

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2 more alleged call centre scam suspects arrested in Japan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: Japanese suspects arrested during a raid in Chon Buri in late March 2019

Two men arrested in Japan yesterday stand accused of operating a large-scale call centre scam based in Thailand, bringing the total number of arrests in the case to 28. Japanese police believe 36 year old Kengo Yasutake and 34 year old Shimpei Hirata operated a luxury home in Pattaya, where a team of Japanese men would call people across Japan and tell them their subscription fees for a website were overdue.

Police say the gang has tricked more than 200 people and collected a total of more than 55 million baht. Fifteen Japanese men have already been arrested by Thai police last March at another luxury house location, also in Chon Buri province, and Japanese investigators arrested more in May 2019 as they attempted to leave Thailand for Japan.

Investigators say the group had a well-organised division of labour conducting the scam, with individual members making phone calls, cashing swindled electronic gift cards and as managing the scam web site.

They were arrested on suspicion of scamming a woman and two others living in the city of Fukui, central Japan, alleging in an email that they had failed to pay website subscription fees, and coercing them into purchasing electronic gift cards worth a total 780,000 yen, or about 215,000 baht.

SOURCE: Japan Times
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Well-Being

First ‘China coronavirus’ case confirmed in Japan

Greeley Pulitzer

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First ‘China coronavirus’ case confirmed in Japan | The Thaiger
PHOTO: The first case of the 'Wuhan Flu' identified in Japan - The Economist

As Thailand’s airports continue screening passengers arriving from China, Japan has confirmed its first case of the new China coronavirus that has killed one and attracted a travel alert from the US State Department. The patient, a man from Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo, had recently visited the Chinese city of Wuhan, where an outbreak of a pneumonia strain is believed to be caused by the new coronavirus.

The US State Department issued a warning on Wednesday about travel to the Wuhan region in China, citing an alert by the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention which urges citizens travelling in the region to avoid contact with animals, animal markets or animal products, among other precautions.

Health authorities in Thailand announced on Wednesday they are stepping up screening of passengers arriving by air ahead of the Chinese New Year holiday, when 800,000 Chinese tourists are expected to head for the Kingdom.

Though there has been no known human-to-human transmission, the World Health Organisation says the new virus could spread and is warning hospitals worldwide. Coronaviruses are a large family of viruses that can cause infections ranging from the common cold to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, aka. SARS. Some of the virus types cause less serious disease, while some, like the one that causes Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), are far more severe.

The Japanese patient returned from Wuhan and was hospitalised with a fever. He was released yesterday after the symptoms subsided.

SOURCE: The Bangkok Post

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