Coronavirus: Record 100,000 new Covid cases reported in US

first_imgIt is the highest one-day rise in a country that has recorded more cases and deaths than any other.- Advertisement –last_img

Nintendo Switch Rides Pandemic Boost to Hike Sales Forecast to 2.4 Crore Units

first_img– Advertisement – Nintendo, home of the perennial Super Mario franchise, had been reluctant to hike forecasts despite blistering sales of its Switch system, saying the boost from stuck-at-home consumers may prove transitory.But lockdowns and curbs imposed around the world to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus mean entertainment options remain curtailed for many as consumers look toward the year-end shopping season, pointing to continued demand for gaming.Sony and Microsoft will both release next-generation consoles next week, adding to competition for the mid-cycle Switch, which launched in March 2017.- Advertisement – Japan’s Nintendo on Thursday hiked the sales forecast for its hit games console Switch to 2.4 crore devices in the year ending March 2021 from 1.9 crore previously, as the COVID-19 pandemic boosts consumer spending on home gaming.The jump in the sales forecast came as the Kyoto-based gaming company reported operating profit for April-September tripled to JPY 291.4 billion (roughly Rs. 20,800 crores) from JPY 94 billion (roughly Rs. 6,700 crores) in the same period a year earlier.- Advertisement –center_img Sony’s gaming chief said last week that pre-release demand for its upcoming console, the PlayStation 5, is exceeding expectations, with the tech giant raising its full-year forecast.© Thomson Reuters 2020Are iPhone 12 mini, HomePod mini the Perfect Apple Devices for India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.- Advertisement –last_img read more

Google Messages Starts Rolling Out Text Scheduling Feature: Report

first_imgGoogle Messages’ latest feature will reportedly let users schedule their messages. The feature has started rolling out for some users and according to a report, the latest Google Messages APK also includes code for this feature. After typing a message, users can choose a time and date they’d like the text to be sent. Users can opt to select from one of the predefined scheduling times or select a custom date and time. It should be noted that the scheduled messages feature hasn’t rolled out to all users yet.Twitter user Sai Reddy (@besaireddy) shared screenshots of the new feature on the micro-blogging site. To schedule messages on Google, users are required to press and hold the Send button after drafting the message. This will bring up the new schedule messages option. There seems to be three default timings users can pick from: “Later today, 6:00 pm,” “Later tonight, 9:00 pm,” or “Tomorrow, 8:00 am.” However this appears to only be available for select users, and hasn’t rolled out widely yet.- Advertisement – – Advertisement – If you don’t want to schedule your messages at the pre-set time, or want to choose another day, you can do so by selecting and customising the date and time. After this, press Save to set the schedule on Google Messages. If you want to change the message or the time its scheduled to be sent, you can click on the message. A pop-up menu will give you the option to update the message, send it now, or delete it completely.The feature has not rolled out for all users yet and still seems to be in its testing phase. It’s possible that Google will roll it out for more users over the coming weeks, especially since the latest Google Messages APK contains code for this feature, as spotted by XDA Developers.Recently, Google Messages also rolled out a feature for some users that let them sort out messages into different categories. The categories include personal, transactions, OTP (one-time passwords), offers, and more. Users can choose to enable or disable the feature once it has rolled out.- Advertisement –center_img Will Xbox Series S, PS5 Digital Edition fail in India? We discussed this on Orbital, our weekly technology podcast, which you can subscribe to via Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, or RSS, download the episode, or just hit the play button below.last_img read more

Kamala Harris – the first woman vice-president

first_imgThe California senator will make history as the first female, black and Asian American vice-president.- Advertisement –last_img

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Biden’s Win, House Losses, and What’s Next for the Left

first_img– Advertisement – The leadership and elements of the party — frankly, people in some of the most important decision-making positions in the party — are becoming so blinded to this anti-activist sentiment that they are blinding themselves to the very assets that they offer. What is your expectation as to how open the Biden administration will be to the left? And what is the strategy in terms of moving it?I don’t know how open they’ll be. And it’s not a personal thing. It’s just, the history of the party tends to be that we get really excited about the grass roots to get elected. And then those communities are promptly abandoned right after an election.I think the transition period is going to indicate whether the administration is taking a more open and collaborative approach, or whether they’re taking a kind of icing-out approach. Because Obama’s transition set a trajectory for 2010 and some of our House losses. It was a lot of those transition decisions — and who was put in positions of leadership — that really informed, unsurprisingly, the strategy of governance.What if the administration is hostile? If they take the John Kasich view of who Joe Biden should be? What do you do? For months, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has been a good soldier for the Democratic Party and Joseph R. Biden Jr as he sought to defeat President Trump.But on Saturday, in a nearly hourlong interview shortly after President-elect Biden was declared the winner, Ms. Ocasio-Cortez made clear the divisions within the party that animated the primary still exist. And she dismissed recent criticisms from some Democratic House members who have blamed the party’s left for costing them important seats. Some of the members who lost, she said, had made themselves “sitting ducks.”- Advertisement – I think it’s going to be really important how the party deals with this internally, and whether the party is going to be honest about doing a real post-mortem and actually digging into why they lost. Because before we even had any data yet in a lot of these races, there was already finger-pointing that this was progressives’ fault and that this was the fault of the Movement for Black Lives.I’ve already started looking into the actual functioning of these campaigns. And the thing is, I’ve been unseating Democrats for two years. I have been defeating D.C.C.C.-run campaigns for two years. That’s how I got to Congress. That’s how we elected Ayanna Pressley. That’s how Jamaal Bowman won. That’s how Cori Bush won. And so we know about extreme vulnerabilities in how Democrats run campaigns. I’ve been begging the party to let me help them for two years. That’s also the damn thing of it. I’ve been trying to help. Before the election, I offered to help every single swing district Democrat with their operation. And every single one of them, but five, refused my help. And all five of the vulnerable or swing district people that I helped secured victory or are on a path to secure victory. And every single one that rejected my help is losing. And now they’re blaming us for their loss.So I need my colleagues to understand that we are not the enemy. And that their base is not the enemy. That the Movement for Black Lives is not the enemy, that Medicare for all is not the enemy. This isn’t even just about winning an argument. It’s that if they keep going after the wrong thing, I mean, they’re just setting up their own obsolescence. If I lost my election, and I went out and I said: “This is moderates’ fault. This is because you didn’t let us have a floor vote on Medicare for all.” And they opened the hood on my campaign, and they found that I only spent $5,000 on TV ads the week before the election? They would laugh. And that’s what they look like right now trying to blame the Movement for Black Lives for their loss.Is there anything from Tuesday that surprised you? Or made you rethink your previously held views?The share of white support for Trump. I thought the polling was off, but just seeing it, there was that feeling of realizing what work we have to do.We need to do a lot of anti-racist, deep canvassing in this country. Because if we keep losing white shares and just allowing Facebook to radicalize more and more elements of white voters and the white electorate, there’s no amount of people of color and young people that you can turn out to offset that.But the problem is that right now, I think a lot of Dem strategy is to avoid actually working through this. Just trying to avoid poking the bear. That’s their argument with defunding police, right? To not agitate racial resentment. I don’t think that is sustainable.There’s a lot of magical thinking in Washington, that this is just about special people that kind of come down from on high. Year after year, we decline the idea that they did work and ran sophisticated operations in favor of the idea that they are magical, special people. I need people to take these goggles off and realize how we can do things better.If you are the D.C.C.C., and you’re hemorrhaging incumbent candidates to progressive insurgents, you would think that you may want to use some of those firms. But instead, we banned them. So the D.C.C.C. banned every single firm that is the best in the country at digital organizing. We know that race is a problem, and avoiding it is not going to solve any electoral issues. We have to actively disarm the potent influence of racism at the polls.But we also learned that progressive policies do not hurt candidates. Every single candidate that co-sponsored Medicare for All in a swing district kept their seat. We also know that co-sponsoring the Green New Deal was not a sinker. Mike Levin was an original co-sponsor of the legislation, and he kept his seat.To your first point, Democrats lost seats in an election where they were expected to gain them. Is that what you are ascribing to racism and white supremacy at the polls?- Advertisement –center_img Some of this is criminal. It’s malpractice. Conor Lamb spent $2,000 on Facebook the week before the election. I don’t think anybody who is not on the internet in a real way in the year of our Lord 2020 and loses an election can blame anyone else when you’re not even really on the internet.And I’ve looked through a lot of these campaigns that lost, and the fact of the matter is if you’re not spending $200,000 on Facebook with fund-raising, persuasion, volunteer recruitment, get-out-the-vote the week before the election, you are not firing on all cylinders. And not a single one of these campaigns were firing on all cylinders.Well, Conor Lamb did win. So what are you saying: Investment in digital advertising and canvassing are a greater reason moderate Democrats lost than any progressive policy?These folks are pointing toward Republican messaging that they feel killed them, right? But why were you so vulnerable to that attack?If you’re not door-knocking, if you’re not on the internet, if your main points of reliance are TV and mail, then you’re not running a campaign on all cylinders. I just don’t see how anyone could be making ideological claims when they didn’t run a full-fledged campaign.Our party isn’t even online, not in a real way that exhibits competence. And so, yeah, they were vulnerable to these messages, because they weren’t even on the mediums where these messages were most potent. Sure, you can point to the message, but they were also sitting ducks. They were sitting ducks.There’s a reason Barack Obama built an entire national campaign apparatus outside of the Democratic National Committee. And there’s a reason that when he didn’t activate or continue that, we lost House majorities. Because the party — in and of itself — does not have the core competencies, and no amount of money is going to fix that. Updated Nov. 7, 2020, 10:09 p.m. ET Well, I’d be bummed, because we’re going to lose. And that’s just what it is. These transition appointments, they send a signal. They tell a story of who the administration credits with this victory. And so it’s going be really hard after immigrant youth activists helped potentially deliver Arizona and Nevada. It’s going to be really hard after Detroit and Rashida Tlaib ran up the numbers in her district.It’s really hard for us to turn out nonvoters when they feel like nothing changes for them. When they feel like people don’t see them, or even acknowledge their turnout.If the party believes after 94 percent of Detroit went to Biden, after Black organizers just doubled and tripled turnout down in Georgia, after so many people organized Philadelphia, the signal from the Democratic Party is the John Kasichs won us this election? I mean, I can’t even describe how dangerous that is.You are diagnosing national trends. You’re maybe the most famous voice on the left currently. What can we expect from you in the next four years?I don’t know. I think I’ll have probably more answers as we get through transition, and to the next term. How the party responds will very much inform my approach and what I think is going to be necessary.The last two years have been pretty hostile. Externally, we’ve been winning. Externally, there’s been a ton of support, but internally, it’s been extremely hostile to anything that even smells progressive.Is the party ready to, like, sit down and work together and figure out how we’re going to use the assets from everyone at the party? Or are they going to just kind of double down on this smothering approach? And that’s going to inform what I do. Is there a universe in which they’re hostile enough that we’re talking about a Senate run in a couple years?I genuinely don’t know. I don’t even know if I want to be in politics. You know, for real, in the first six months of my term, I didn’t even know if I was going to run for re-election this year.Really? Why?It’s the incoming. It’s the stress. It’s the violence. It’s the lack of support from your own party. It’s your own party thinking you’re the enemy. When your own colleagues talk anonymously in the press and then turn around and say you’re bad because you actually append your name to your opinion.I chose to run for re-election because I felt like I had to prove that this is real. That this movement was real. That I wasn’t a fluke. That people really want guaranteed health care and that people really want the Democratic Party to fight for them.But I’m serious when I tell people the odds of me running for higher office and the odds of me just going off trying to start a homestead somewhere — they’re probably the same. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.We finally have a fuller understanding of the results. What’s your macro takeaway?Well, I think the central one is that we aren’t in a free fall to hell anymore. But whether we’re going to pick ourselves up or not is the lingering question. We paused this precipitous descent. And the question is if and how we will build ourselves back up. – Advertisement –last_img read more

California ‘bans the box,’ protecting formerly incarcerated people in the college admissions process

first_imgLeft with few options, Murphy enrolled in West Coast University (WCU), a private, for-profit college that focuses on providing healthcare degrees. She took out $140,000 in student loans to help cover the roughly $150,000 cost to secure her bachelors degree at WCU. Murphy had almost completed her coursework and was performing well when in February 2019, six months before she was set to graduate, she received a call from the university dean. He told Murphy he was recently informed about her past felony conviction, and instructed her to stop attending her clinical placement assignments at a hospital. He also directed Murphy to meet with the school’s ethics committee. While dismayed, Murphy said she didn’t think it would be too serious: She had always been open to background checks and knew that a law protected applicants from having to disclose their conviction history so long as they had a court-provided certificate of rehabilitation. The certificate is available for people who have been out of custody for seven years and who have passed a background check. Under California state law, individuals who have obtained these certificates also cannot be denied professional licensure solely because of their prior convictions. Murphy received hers in 2014. – Advertisement – “I presented my case and explained to them … what had happened—that I never evaded any life scans or anything like that to attend clinical placement,” said Murphy, in an interview with Prism. “Then the next day they voted to expel me.”An impossible bindMurphy’s story is emblematic of the lose-lose situation many people with prior convictions face when they choose to seek higher education. Admissions policies that run background checks or ask applicants about their criminal records can adversely impact the chances of being accepted into the college of their choice. However, an applicant’s failure to disclose their conviction history—even if their right to privacy is protected by law—can also have negative consequences. Colleges have cited concerns around campus safety and even doubts about whether formerly incarcerated students will be able to obtain professional licenses post-graduation as reasons for rejecting students with criminal records. Regardless of colleges’ reasoning, the result is that students with criminal records—including those like Murphy who have arduously sought to rebuild their lives—are placed in an impossible bind. When private attorneys told Murphy that there was nothing they could do in her case, she found refuge in Root & Rebound, an organization based in California and South Carolina that aims to restore resources and power to those impacted by incarceration. On the heels of her expulsion, the group provided Murphy with much needed legal aid and successfully helped her fight for an appeal.- Advertisement – – Advertisement – This particular barrier sits within a larger set of challenges formerly incarcerated people contend with related to education. Sonja Tonnesen-Casalegno, deputy director of programs at Root & Rebound, noted that many people who have been incarcerated, particularly younger people, did not complete their basic education prior to their incarceration and may have difficulty continuing their education post-release as a result. Further, academic programs provided to incarcerated youth are often of substandard quality. In a climate wherein college graduates see 57% more job opportunities than non-grads and where an estimated two-thirds of all jobs require postsecondary education, the lack of higher education can have huge ripple effects throughout one’s life. A powerful, though imperfect, bill With SB 118, California becomes only the fifth state to ban the box in higher education, joining Colorado, Louisiana, Maryland, and Washington.Tonnesen-Casalegno says the bill received unanimous support from members of the state legislature’s education committee and most university leadership. She noted, however, that some schools did raise questions around whether formerly incarcerated students would be eligible for certain professional licenses upon graduation. In order to assuage those concerns, the bill was amended to feature a notable exclusion: The legislation will not apply to professional degree programs or law enforcement training programs. This carveout is not ideal, says Tonnesen-Casalegno, but groups like Root & Rebound and other bill advocates plan to work with universities to ensure the subset of programs falling into that category is as narrowly defined as possible. Despite this concession, advocates for the bill like Dr. Noel Vest argue it is even more expansive than similar legislation that has already been passed in other states. Vest, who is currently a postdoctoral fellow at Stanford University, is also a formerly incarcerated scholar. He received his PhD in 2019 from Washington State University and was engaged in legislative advocacy around Washington’s 2018 Fair Chance in Higher Education Act, a bill that similarly banned the box in Washington state colleges and universities. “The bill in California is very powerful because it actually states in the legislation that it applies to private and public universities,” Vest told Prism. “Even though the bill [in Washington] specifically states that it’s any school that receives public or any kind of tax funding, some places have interpreted that to mean that it doesn’t specifically apply to private schools in Washington.”Given the size of California’s public college system and its status as home to the largest jail system in the country, if legislation is successfully implemented it is likely to be a model for other states hoping to make similar reforms. ‘Be an adviser, not a gatekeeper’ Vest admits that in many ways his experience diverges from that of many other formerly incarcerated people and has lacked many of the major barriers. He was raised in a white middle-class family and didn’t grow up in an over-policed neighborhood, and it wasn’t until his mid 20s that he first became involved in the criminal legal system following his substance dependency. Further, while he was incarcerated in Nevada, Vest participated in a fairly robust prison education program that offered courses through the College of Southern Nevada. He cites that program as being crucial to his current academic success. However, given his experience, Vest is not immune to understanding—especially when it comes to the major obstacles facing formerly incarcerated students after they have applied to and been accepted into institutions of higher education. Vest, along with Andrew Winn, director of Project Rebound at Sacramento State University and a formerly incarcerated scholar, cite access to housing and on-campus jobs as an ongoing issue. Many schools that have banned the box in admissions continue to ask about conviction history in applications for student jobs or placement in dormitories. The need for affordable housing and steady employment is heightened for formerly incarcerated students because they may be saddled with enormous debt, often from court-related fines and fees, Winn notes. Additionally, the technological divide created by incarceration can leave some students falling behind—an acute problem now that so many schools have shifted to remote learning. Outside of those obstacles, formerly incarcerated students also are met with narrow, limited expectations of what they can achieve and aspire to. Both Vest and Winn say that upon their release they believed that becoming a drug and alcohol treatment counselor was among the few job opportunities they would have available, because it’s among the few professions that those in prisons and jails might interact with regularly. Those inside, such as Vest, are often able to benefit from programs run by alcohol and drug treatment counselors which frequently sparks interest in pursuing a similar career themselves. Vest also noted that substance dependency counseling tends to be a more forgiving industry when it comes to accepting professionals with prior convictions. While these careers and programs are extremely important, both Winn and Vest believe that prisons should work towards expanding the range of professional fields that those inside are made aware of and can aspire to upon their release. Colleges should also take this up and debunk the idea that there remain only few careers available to their formerly incarcerated students. However, many schools still perpetuate the notion that those with conviction histories will never be able to overcome barriers to professional licensure. Even in Murphy’s case, her expulsion was the result of West Coast University policy around students with criminal records that is itself rooted purely in a speculative theory that they would not be able to obtain professional licenses upon graduating due to their criminal record—something that she has since proven not to be true. “Their policy is they believe that it’s unlikely for convicted felons to obtain licensure through the board of Registered Nursing and it’s unlikely for us to obtain employment after graduation, so we shouldn’t just waste our time, money, or effort applying there,” explained Murphy. While many licensing programs do reject formerly incarcerated applicants, advocates from Root & Rebound say colleges should be helping students navigate those barriers and find new ways to still meet their ultimate goals instead of reinforcing the idea that they can’t aspire to what they want.“Become the expert on those barriers to licensure so that you can educate students,” said Tonnesen-Casalegno. “Be an adviser, not a gatekeeper.” A persistent stigmaEven for students who may not be interested in acquiring professional degrees like Murphy, their experiences can still be adversely shaped by the stigma that surrounds incarceration—even within fields that should engage more thoughtfully with the carceral system. In disciplines where conversations around crime and punishment frequently arise, formerly incarcerated students can be left feeling that they have to disclose their pasts without knowing how it might be received.“Many of the students who have incarceration experiences are really drawn towards majors like sociology, psychology, criminal justice, and social work,” Winn told Prism. “Those also tend to be the majors that speak most about the experiences of previously incarcerated people and those with convictions, and so I think about the microaggressions that students face every day when they speak out in class and say, ‘ Look, I’m that person that you’re talking about, here I am.’ Not all our students have that self confidence in themselves to actually come out and speak up and say, ‘Look, that’s not really what actually happens based on my own personal experience.’”The endurance of this social stigma is not just detrimental to formerly incarcerated students themselves, but to the entire campus. If colleges and universities seek to not just prepare students for the world beyond their walls, but also provide tools to enable students to improve that world, they ought to welcome people with different life paths, experiences, and ways of thinking—including those who have spent time in prison or jail . The reluctance to meaningfully fold formerly incarcerated people into campus life stems not from any evidence-based concerns about public safety, but rather from the stigma surrounding those deemed to be irreparably deviant and criminal. Tonnesen-Casalegno is adamant that people understand that campus safety is a hugely important issue but it is not one that “lies at the feet of formerly incarcerated students.” She says banning the box will not hurt campus safety efforts because on campus violence and harm is often perpetrated by those who are the most privileged and who are frequently not held accountable.“Criminal history is not a window into someone’s ability,” said Tonnesen-Casalegno. “It’s a window into their childhood, their circumstances, and all of the things we as a society argue that we will not discriminate against.” Tamar Sarai Davis is Prism’s criminal justice staff reporter. Follow her on Twitter @TheRealTamar.Prism is a BIPOC-led nonprofit news outlet that centers the people, places and issues currently underreported by our national media. Through our original reporting, analysis, and commentary, we challenge dominant, toxic narratives perpetuated by the mainstream press and work to build a full and accurate record of what’s happening in our democracy. Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Two months later in April 2019, the school followed up with Murphy to let her know she could return and complete her coursework. While she graduated earlier this year, her journey to commencement was not without additional cost in both time and money. She was required to repeat a course she had already paid for, costing her an additional $24,000. While Murphy is ultimately now living the professional life that she had once aspired to, she recognizes that this is a problem that stretches far beyond just her personal story. This year, she was among a handful of researchers, activists, and lawyers who lobbied on behalf of California Senate Bill 118, recently passed legislation that will prohibit all colleges and universities in the state—both public and private—from inquiring about an applicant’s criminal record.According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 70% of colleges in the United States report asking applicants about their criminal history on their admissions applications. For applicants who do have criminal records or were formerly incarcerated, this inquiry alone has a profound chilling effect: Statistics show that two-thirds of applicants who have a conviction history do not finish college applications after they get to the criminal history question. – Advertisement –last_img read more

19 cases of Ebola fever reported in Sudan

first_img Members of a WHO early warning network in the area and a team from WHO headquarters have been working with health authorities in Yambio County to set up a crisis committee to contain the outbreak, officials said. The committee is supporting case management in Yambio hospital and organizing the follow-up of contacts of case-patients. May 24, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – Nineteen cases of Ebola hemorrhagic fever, with four deaths, have been reported in southern Sudan, the World Health Organization (WHO) said today. The outbreak is in Yambio County of Western Equatoria province, the agency said. Cases appear to be restricted to Yambio, but neighboring countries have been notified. The WHO said it was not recommending any special restrictions on travel or trade as a result of the outbreak. The Kenya Medical Research Institute and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed Ebola virus as the cause of the cases, the WHO said.center_img See also: May 24 WHO statement read more

H5N1 virus resurfaces in Pakistan

first_imgJun 23, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A livestock official in Pakistan today confirmed that the H5N1 avian influenza virus has struck again in the country’s North-West Frontier province, killing thousands of chickens at a commercial farm.Ibrahim Kahn, a livestock department chief in Swabi district, where the outbreak occurred, said confirmatory tests were performed at a government laboratory in Islamabad, according to a report today from Agence France-Presse (AFP).Kahn told AFP that the farm’s owner notified authorities on Jun 20 about the suspicious deaths of about 4,000 birds. After a laboratory confirmed the H5N1 virus in samples from the birds the next day, authorities sealed the farm and destroyed about 2,000 birds, he said.Pakistan’s health ministry examined workers on the farm, but none appear to be infected with the virus, Kahn told AFP.Last December, H5N1 outbreaks in North-West Frontier province contributed to suspected human-to-human transmission of the virus.A few days before the new outbreak, Pakistan had filed a final report with the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) on outbreaks that occurred sporadically throughout 2007 and into early 2008. The country’s last outbreak, which occurred in early March, also hit a commercial chicken farm in North-West Frontier province, near Abbottabad, according to a previous report from the OIE.The report said wild birds were the probable source of the H5N1 virus in the previous 2007 and 2008 outbreaks.Hong Kong farmers angryElsewhere, chicken farmers in Hong Kong threatened to release their chickens to protest what they see as an unfair compensation offer from government officials who, after recent H5N1 outbreaks in the city’s live poultry markets, are exploring the possibility of phasing out live chicken trading, according to a Jun 20 AFP report.The government has offered farmers and traders compensation totaling $163.9 million to give up their sales licenses, according to AFP. Chicken stall owners would receive between $600,000 and $1.5 million, depending on the size of the stall and product turnover, the report said.York Chow, Hong Kong’s health minister, said in a statement that the offer was “very reasonable,” but a representative from the farmer’s group that is threatening to release chickens said the government’s offer was too low, according to AFP.In early June, Hong Kong’s government announced that animal health officials had found the H5N1 virus in five chicken-dropping samples from three poultry market stalls. The officials did not say if the testing was prompted by reports of sick or dead birds.After the virus was found in chicken droppings at four more poultry markets, authorities on Jun 11 announced that all market poultry would be culled and that they were considering extending a 3-week ban on all live poultry from local farms and mainland China.Less than a week later, authorities in Guangdong province, on Hong Kong’s northern border, announced that the virus had struck a duck farm in Yashan Village.FAO: Vietnam should keep vaccinatingIn other avian influenza developments, experts from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recently said Vietnam will probably need to continue vaccinating poultry for at least the next 3 to 5 years, according to a Jun 19 statement from the FAO. The experts made the statement in a  report on a recent avian flu conference that was held in Vietnam, sponsored by the country’s agriculture ministry, the FAO, and two US government agencies.Jeff Gilbert, the FAO’s avian influenza team leader in Vietnam, said in the statement that given farmers’ lack of knowledge about biosecurity, Vietnam is at risk for significant outbreaks, like those that occurred in 2004 and 2005, unless vaccination continues.After those widespread outbreaks, which led to the destruction of 66 million birds, Vietnam in 2005 became the first country to institute mandatory poultry vaccination against the H5N1 virus. However, over the past year, the country has suffered recurring smaller outbreaks, often among unvaccinated birds.Bui Ba Bong, Vietnam’s deputy agriculture minister, said further study of H5N1 virus transmission should be combined with restructuring of the country’s poultry sector to boost biosecurity and strengthen educational messages about the disease.Andrew Speedy, an FAO representative in Vietnam, praised Vietnam’s government for acknowledging avian influenza risks, maintaining transparency, and taking a scientific approach to battling the virus. He said the country should “reconsider” vaccination, calling it effective but costly.Gilbert said that changing Vietnam’s traditional farming systems to incorporate better biosecurity and surveillance measures will require a careful approach. “So there is a push and pull. They (the farmers) will be pushed by legislation, but they will be pulled by giving them access to markets,” he said.Anni McLeod, a senior official with the FAO’s livestock division, told meeting participants that a recent study indicated that mass media messages about avian influenza are losing their effectiveness in Vietnam.She suggested a more personal, interactive approach to communities. “For many people in Vietnam, avian influenza is a part of life, it’s not unusual, so we have to think about more direct ways to communicate with people, ways that are more related to their lives,” McLeod said in the statement.See also:OIE reports on Vietnamese outbreakJun 11 CIDRAP News story “Hong Kong finds more H5N1, culls all market poultry”Jun 19 FAO statement 25, 2006, CIDRAP News story “Special report: Vietnam’s success against avian flu may offer blueprint for others”last_img read more

Indonesia reports H5N1 decline in poultry flocks

first_imgSep 24, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – An agriculture ministry official in Indonesia who spoke yesterday at a pandemic planning conference for businesses said the number of poultry outbreaks caused by the H5N1 avian influenza virus is declining.Muhammad Azhar, the agriculture ministry’s avian influenza control coordinator, said only 2 of Indonesia’s 31 provinces have not been hit by the virus, but pointed out that 9 provinces have gone 6 months without reporting any new outbreaks, the Jakarta Post reported today.”Areas still at risk are those on Java Island, because it is the main producer of both pedigree and nonpedigree chickens,” he said, according to the report.In March, a representative from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that H5N1 virus levels in Indonesia’s poultry are so high that conditions might be ripe for viral mutation that could start an influenza pandemic, according to previous reports. The FAO has said the disease is endemic in Java, Sumatra, and southern Sulawesi islands.The FAO has said the country needs more resources and better coordination to improve surveillance and control of the virus, and that by June that organization hoped to train more than 2,000 response teams to work in more than 300 of Indonesia’s 448 districts.A health minister who spoke at the conference said the number of human H5N1 cases has also declined this year, the Post reported. Erna Tresnaningsih, the health ministry’s director for animal-vector diseases, said Indonesia has recorded 20 H5N1 cases and 17 fatalities from the disease so far this year. She said the number appears to trail the numbers seen in 2006 (55 cases and 45 deaths) and 2007 (42 cases and 37 deaths).”Praise be to God, with good partnership, we’ve been able to push the figures,” Tresnaningsih told the group, according to the Post report.In other developments, US officials in Kyrgyzstan on Sep 15 launched a new avian influenza prevention program called STOP AI for the central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, according to a press release from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).William Frej, USAID’s regional mission director for central Asia, said at the opening ceremony in Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan, “This project will help central Asia’s governments and poultry producers protect their citizens and economies from the serious consequences that can result from even a limited outbreak of highly pathogenic avian influenza.”Countries in central Asia import large quantities of poultry from countries that have reported outbreaks, including China, Iran, Russia, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, the USAID statement said. In March 2006 Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan reported H5N1 outbreaks.USAID’s STOP AI program provides export assistance and resources for planning, surveillance, control, and disease prevention, the statement said. It also focuses on economic recovery after an outbreak and safety measures for animal health workers and other response personnel.The project included a 5-day training session for 25 veterinary and health workers from five central Asian countries, according to the USAID statement. Topics included procedures for avian influenza diagnosis and decontamination and the collection, storage, and transportation of virus samples. USAID said its goal is to enable the participants to train their colleagues upon return to their home countries.Elsewhere, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently cohosted an avian influenza workshop in Gambia for veterinarians in African countries including Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Senegal, AllAfrica News reported yesterday.Kekoi Kuyateh, a Gambian agriculture secretary, said the USDA has helped Gambia and other countries build avian influenza prevention capacity by providing personal protective equipment, sampling supplies, and diagnostic kids, the AllAfrica report said.Ten African countries have reported H5N1 outbreaks, including Togo, which reported outbreaks in early September.See also:Mar 18 CIDRAP News story “FAO: H5N1 levels in Indonesia raise pandemic risk”last_img read more

WHO seeks to ease worry over upcoming flu season

first_img On Sep 22, the WHO issued its recommendation for the southern hemisphere’s 2009 influenza season. It advised that the vaccine be based on the same three viral strains as this year’s vaccine: for the A/H1N1 component, a strain similar to A/Brisbane/59/2007; for the A/H3N2 component, a strain similar to A/Brisbane/10/2007, and for the B component, a strain similar to B/Florida/4/2006. The recommendation also mirrors its guidance for the northern hemisphere’s 2008-09 flu season. The best time to get immunized is before the season starts, which for people in the northern hemisphere is now, Fukuda said. “The season in Australia was pretty mild,” he said. “This is something that we can confirm.” Sep 23 CIDRAP News story “WHO keeps same strains for 2009 southern hemisphere flu vaccine” Oct 2, 2008 (CIDRAP News) – A top influenza expert with the World Health Organization today sought to allay fears that the upcoming flu season in the northern hemisphere will be unusually severe. See also: He said he worries that awareness regarding seasonal flu might be dropping off, because it seems to be overshadowed by H5N1 and pandemic flu concerns. “But this is the most common form of flu and the most preventable,” he said, adding that the disease can affect people of any age or health status and spreads very easily. “If you breathe you are susceptible to getting influenza.” Apprehension in advance of the upcoming flu season is normal, but the best thing people can do is get their influenza vaccine, Fukuda said. “The key message is that this is the single most important thing you can do to protect yourself, the people around you, and the people you care most about,” he said. Fukuda promised that WHO will monitor the season closely through its Global Influenza Surveillance Network, consisting of 122 labs that span 94 countries. The labs process thousands clinical specimens each year from patients who have seasonal influenza infections. Recent reports in the British media described fears about the likely arrival of the Brisbane strain of influenza A/H3N2 in the United Kingdom during the upcoming season. That strain circulated at the end of Australia’s 2007 flu season, then unexpectedly circulated in the United States during its 2007-08 season. The latest vaccine recommendations for both hemispheres include the Brisbane strain of H3N2. The southern hemisphere’s 2008 flu season has tailed off, and it appears that its vaccine was a good match with circulating influenza strains, Fukuda said. WHO officials are in frequent close contact with health authorities in Australia. In a news teleconference, Keiji Fukuda, MD, MPH, coordinator of the WHO’s global influenza program, said northern hemisphere locations are reporting only sporadic influenza cases. “There’s no real indication on how this season is going to evolve yet,” he said. Fukuda said he’s not sure why rumors are circulating that the northern hemisphere is in for a severe flu season. He said some people might be interpreting the presence of three new strains in the northern hemisphere’s influenza vaccine as a sign that the season might be severe. However, he said, “Change itself does not mean that the season is going to be severe.”last_img read more