Ebola infects 1 more person in the DRCThe Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) reported one new confirmed Ebola case over the last 3 days, edging the overall outbreak total to 3,427, according to numbers reflected on the World Health Organization’s (WHO’s) online Ebola dashboard. The WHO in a recent report said recent trends have been encouraging, with the number of cases in the most recent epidemiologic week the fewest since the outbreak response began.Four more probable cases have been added, raising that number to 123. The DRC’s Ebola technical committee (CMRE) said in its Jan 31 daily update that three of the probable cases are from Butembo and one is from Mandima. So far, 2,246 deaths have been reported. Health officials are still investigating 451 suspected cases.In its report for Feb 2, the CMRE said the newly confirmed case is from Beni, which is the current hot spot. In that report, the group said attacks have disrupted health control activities at two control points in the Biakato Mines area near Mandima.In a speech today at the WHO’s executive board meeting in Geneva today, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, PhD, said the small number is an encouraging trend, “But until we get to zero, there is always the risk that the outbreak could flare up again.” He said security incidents in November undermined earlier progress, and he said he worries about ongoing security threats and noted that on Jan 30 more civilians were killed by armed rebels in Beni.Tedros said the WHO currently has about 630 staff in the DRC to support the Ebola response. “But even as we focus on ending this outbreak, we must also think beyond Ebola to strengthening DRC’s weak health system,” he said.WHO online Ebola dashboard Jan 31 CMRE update Feb 2 CMRE update Saudi Arabia reports first MERS-CoV case of FebruaryToday Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Health (MOH) reported one more MERS-CoV case in Jeddah, the first case noted this month.The MOH said the patient is a 28-year-old man, whose exposure to MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) is listed as primary, meaning it’s unlikely he contracted the virus from another known patient. He is not a healthcare worker, and he had camel contact—a known risk factor for MERS.Saudi Arabia reported 15 cases in January, including a probable healthcare-related cluster of 6 cases in Abha.The WHO said in its latest monthly update that, since 2012, it has received reports of 2,499 MERS-CoV cases, at least 861 of them fatal. The vast majority have been in Saudi Arabia. Feb 3 MOH report Study: Quadrivalent flu vaccines offer similar protection against flu BA new study published in Clinical Infectious Diseases tracked flu vaccine efficacy against influenza B strains in both the trivalent (three-strain) and quadrivalent (four-strain) vaccines and found no significant differences between the two.Beginning in 2013 in the United States, quadrivalent inactive influenza vaccines (IIV4) containing two B viruses became an option in addition to trivalent vaccines (IIV3), which contained one B strain. To conduct this study, researchers compared the odds of influenza B infection across four flu seasons (2013-14 to 2016-17) where both IIV3 and IIV4 vaccines were used, and by the two B lineages among vaccinated versus unvaccinated participants.The overall effectiveness against any influenza B was 53% (95% confidence interval [CI], 45% to 59%) for IIV4 versus 45% (95% CI, 34% to 54%) for IIV3, the authors said. “IIV4 was more effective than IIV3 against the B lineage not included in IIV3, but comparative effectiveness against illness related to any influenza B favored neither vaccine valency,” they wrote. Feb 1 Clin Infect Dis studyFeb 3 Tedros WHO executive board speech FDA approves Seqirus’s H5N1 pandemic flu vaccineVaccine manufacturer Seqirus, of Holly Springs, North Carolina, announced today that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved Audenz, its adjuvanted cell-based H5N1 pandemic flu vaccine.The FDA approved the vaccine for people aged 6 months and older in the event of an H5N1 flu pandemic, the company said in a news release. The vaccine uses the company’s MF59 adjuvant, which is designed to enhance the body’s immune response. It is produced using cell-based antigen manufacturing, which is designed for rapid production and can be stockpiled for first responders in the event of an H5N1 pandemic.”Pandemic influenza viruses can be deadly and spread rapidly, making production of safe, effective vaccines essential in saving lives,” said Rick Bright, PhD, director of the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority (BARDA), part of the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services.Russell Basser, MD, senior vice president of research and development at Seqirus, said, “This pandemic influenza vaccine exemplifies our commitment to developing innovative technologies that can help provide rapid response during a pandemic emergency.”Feb 3 Seqirus news release H5N1 strikes Chinese poultry farmAnimal health officials in China have reported a highly pathogenic H5N1 avian flu outbreak in China, affecting a farm in the city of Shaoyang in Hunan province, the Straits Times, an English-language newspaper based in Singapore, reported today, citing a statement from the country’s agriculture ministry.About 18,000 poultry were culled to curb the spread of the virus.Feb 3 Straits Times storyIn other avian flu developments, two countries reported more highly pathogenic H5N8 detections. Poland reported one more outbreak, which began on Jan 24 and affects a farm in Warminsko-Mazurskie province in the northeast, according to a notification today from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE).Elsewhere, Israel reported that tests on a sick eagle found on Jan 27 in the Jordan valley yielded H5N8. The bird was wearing a transmitter. It was brought to a wildlife hospital and put in quarantine. The detection was the country’s first involving the strain since April 2019.Feb 3 OIE report on H5N8 in Poland Feb 1 OIE report on H5N8 in Israel
The Chennai Super Kings have suffered a setback ahead of the start of IPL 2020. The first disappointing news for the team was that Kovid had affected more than a dozen people in the team camp, including two players. It has been rumored that the Chinese Super Kings may not play in the opening match against Mumbai Indians. This was followed by the resignation of vice-captain Suresh Raina. Raina returned home for personal reasons. Now it has been made clear that spinner Harbhajan is also not playing in the league.Harbhajan did not go with the teamHarbhajan was not with the CSK team that returned to the UAE for the IPL. The team management explained that Harbhajan would later join the team. But Bhaji had earlier made it clear to the management that he was not playing this time. Harbhajan was asked to reconsider the decision. It has finally been officially announced that the player will not be playing.Harbhajan’s tweetBecause the actor is personalHarbhajan’s explanation was that he was withdrawing from the league for personal reasons. “I will not be playing in the IPL this time for personal reasons. I need to be with my family at this critical juncture. The CSK management has been very supportive. I wish all the best to the team,” Harbhajan tweeted. Bhaji has been a regular in the league since 2008.Also Read: Messi did not leave Barcelona for one reason or another; That’s what caught me, the player said team management was a disaster !!Chennai’s tweetFriend with explanationThere were rumors that Harbhajan’s withdrawal was due to the spread of Kovid in the Chennai camp. But Harbhajan’s friend has come to the scene and clarified that this is not the real reason. He told PTI that Harbhajan had decided not to return to the UAE because his wife had to stay at home. Bhaji’s friend told him not to reveal his name.Harbhajan is not like that …Harbhajan’s withdrawal was not due to the spread of Kovid in the Chennai camp. “He is not ready to be separated from his wife and baby for 3 months during this crisis. Even in the UAE, in such a situation the mind will always be with the family. Then it may not be possible to focus on the playground,” said Harbhajan’s friend. The friend clarified that he does not mind the money and even if he gets Rs 2 crore or Rs 20 crore, the family will not be separated in the present situation.
Gaming chair manufacturer Respawn Products has partnered with Epic Games to create Fortnite-branded chairs.As part of the partnership, Respawn Products has produced a collection of bespoke chairs for Epic Games’ battle royale title.Image credit: Respawn ProductsRELATED: DreamHack announces two $250,000 Fortnite tournamentsAlex Gonzalez, Sponsorship and Promotional Lead at Respawn Products had this to say about the partnership: “Respawn Products is currently focused on evolving within the gaming, esports, and streaming space to continue offering our high-quality products at affordable prices to all gamers whether they’re aiming to compete at the highest level or play a couple of hours a week casually. As the industry continues to develop and evolve we are hoping to pursue a strong focus within esports and continuing to collaborate with unique and meaningful partnerships, sponsorships, and activations.”Respawn Products is also partnered with the likes of Renegades, Team Reciprocity, Obey Alliance, Paris Eternal, Paladins Pro League, SMITE Pro League, High School Esports League, and Estars Studios‘ WSOE.RELATED: Gen.G partners with Bumble for all-women Fortnite teamBlake Zalcberg, General Manager at Respawn Products added: “When thinking about the right partners to work with, Epic Games matched us in entrepreneurial spirit and corporate culture. Their brand level and attention to detail is second to none and when a partner like them forces you to get better, you know that they’re the right one.“We think the quality and end-result for anyone who purchases an Officially Licensed Fortnite Gaming Chair will feel that as well. We are looking forward to expanding on this partnership to develop great products that the community will love to sit in whether it is competitive or casual play.” The Fortnite collection, which is available to purchase at the time of writing, consists of six chairs.Esports Insider says: Fortnite’s undeniably one of the biggest games on a global scale – though it’s specifically popular in North America and Europe – so Respawn Products has done a good job with this partnership. If promoted properly through events and social media, these chairs could fly off the shelf.ESI Autumn Forum – Find out more
New Business Minister Haimraj Rajkumar, who also has responsibility for the tourism sector, recently met with industry stakeholders as part of familiarising himself with the portfolio, and to meet with, and listen to, the views of key players in the field. During his remarks, he underlined the point that for Guyana to be successfully marketed abroad, there is need for the country to be promoted locally in a more aggressive manner. He pointed out that quite a lot of Guyanese choose to go abroad for vacation, as against enjoying what obtains locally.This is indeed a fact, and this may be so for various reasons, including cost, standard of services locally etc. On this basis, the minister stated that much more needs to be done by local stakeholders to make citizens begin to understand and appreciate more of what Guyana has to offer, so that they, in turn, can become “ambassadors of tourism”.The minister was indeed correct in his assessment of the present situation and what needs to be done. However, many were expecting to hear more from him regarding his vision for the sector, and what policy intervention would be made by his government to address some of the very challenges he raised.Our tourism potential is huge; the challenge is for stakeholders, including Government and the private sector, to pool their talents and resources and create a package that would be affordable and attractive to both Guyanese and foreigners.We had stated before that there is need for more collaboration between all stakeholders in an effort to capitalise on opportunities available in the tourism sector. Guyana is considered one of the most attractive and unique tourism destinations in the world. Unlike our Caribbean counterparts, whose fare is typically sun, sand and sea, Guyana has a different type of tourism product with our irresistible combination of fascinating and breathtaking natural beauty, pristine Amazonian rainforests, immense waterfalls, amazing wildlife, vibrant Indigenous culture, and rich cultural heritage. The Tourism Ministry, the Guyana Tourism Authority and other partners must continue to explore ways in which they can capitalise on opportunities to aggressively market this unique product abroad.That said, over the years, Guyana has expended a considerable amount of resources to develop new and innovative eco-friendly tourism products, and we are now seeing some of those initiatives bearing fruit. For example, a few months ago, Guyana’s tourism product received a major boost when this country was named the world’s best eco-tourist destination.Certainly, there is still much more work to be done, as there are some impediments that pose a threat to the development of a thriving tourism sector. Issues such as expensive air travel, lack of trained personnel in the tourism and other related sectors etc, continue to pose challenges. These are issues that must remain on the front burner to be addressed, as they have a direct impact on the quality and affordability of the tourism package we offer.With the oil sector about to take off, more persons — both Guyanese in the diaspora and foreign citizens — will be coming here either to work, visit, or for academic purposes. The focus should be on putting in place systems aimed at projecting a positive image of our country. To begin with, there is need for citizens to start cleaning up their surroundings, especially those living in the capital city, towns, and major centres, where tourists traverse. The capital city is a main centre of attraction for visitors, but on any regular day, a walk around the city streets and surrounding areas would leave one sick at the huge pile-up of garbage and other refuse languishing at certain points.It has been observed that ‘school talks’ was one of those initiatives undertaken by the Ministry and others as part of activities to mark Tourism Awareness Month. This should certainly continue throughout the year, and maybe the Ministry can engage students and teachers in different projects which could help spread awareness about tourism and its importance to the economy and the country as a whole.A thriving tourism sector would benefit all Guyanese, as more persons would be able to secure employment, our country’s revenue would be boosted, and many other related industries would prosper, among other benefits.