June 25, 2013 – SINGAPORE – The National Environment Agency (NEA) has confirmed that the hail that some residents, particularly those living in the western parts of Singapore experienced, is not caused by the cloud seeding in Indonesia. It said in a briefing on Tuesday evening, that clouds do not travel that far and the clouds would be going in the wrong direction if it was related as the wind is currently blowing the haze away from Singapore. Asked if the hail was related to the haze, NEA would only say that it was a possibility but could not give a confirmation. It added that the heavy downpour on Tuesday afternoon was not toxic. Wednesday’s forecast was still likely to be “unhealthy” even though the current PSI reading is in the “moderate” range. This is because the PM2.5 reading is in the “unhealthy” range. Emergency department attendance and polyclinic attendance for haze-related conditions have gone up 0.9 per cent and 16.5 per cent respectively, it said. –Strait Times
June 25, 2013 – MECCA – Saudi Arabia reported nine new MERS-CoV (Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus) cases in the past 3 days, including six cases that were asymptomatic. In addition, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported on Jun 22 that two Saudi MERS cases that had been announced earlier were also asymptomatic. The Saudi and WHO reports offered the clearest evidence yet of such cases, which suggest the possibility that people can unknowingly carry and spread the virus. Also over the weekend, the WHO’s Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office (EMRO) appealed for fast, complete reporting of MERS-CoV cases, in the wake of a meeting in Cairo of public health experts from all countries that have had cases. The Saudi Ministry of Health (MOH) announced the latest cases and deaths in statements on Jun 21 and 23. The Jun 21 announcement reported the illness in a 41-year-old woman in Riyadh and a 32-year-old Saudi citizen in the country’s Eastern region. The woman is a contact of a previous case-patient and was in stable condition, while the 32-year-old had cancer and was in an intensive care unit. The statement also noted the death of a previously reported patient but gave no details. The MOH’s Jun 23 statement announced the six asymptomatic cases and one symptomatic one. Four of the silent cases were in children between the ages of 7 and 15, all of whom had contact with other cases in Riyadh and the Eastern region. The other two symptom-free cases involved female healthcare workers (HCWs in the Eastern region and Al-Ahsa. The MOH did not specify if the two HCWs were exposed to MERS patients, but it seemed likely, since Al-Ahsa was the site of recent hospital outbreaks. The Jun 23 statement also cited a case in a 50-year-old woman in the Eastern region who was hospitalized with “pulmonary disease” and was listed in stable condition. In addition, the statement reported the death of the 32-year-old cancer patient whose case was announced on Jun 21.
On Jun 22 the WHO weighed in by recognizing four cases that Saudi Arabia had announced 2 days earlier. These involved a 43-year-old woman in the Eastern region who had already recovered, plus three female HCWs, ages 29, 39, and 45, from Taif governorate, near Mecca. The three HCWs had cared for two previously confirmed MERS case-patients, and their infections were detected in the course of contact tracing, the WHO said, adding, “Two of these three cases were asymptomatic and all three tested weakly positive by PCR [polymerase chain reaction].” Only one asymptomatic MERS case has been reported previously, and only unofficially. Recently Jordanian and US health officials reported via the media that eight Jordanians had positive serologic (antibody) tests indicating past MERS-CoV infections, and one of the individuals had not had any symptoms. They were among 124 people who were tested recently in a retrospective investigation of a hospital outbreak of MERS in Jordan in April 2012, the officials said. The WHO issued another statement on Jun 23, which noted the two cases reported by the Saudi MOH 2 days earlier, in the 41-year-old woman and 32-year-old man, along with the death of a previous patient.
The WHO statement put the global MERS-CoV count at 70 confirmed cases with 39 deaths. The latest cases and additional death reported in Saudi Arabia appear to raise the global numbers to 77 cases and 40 deaths. Saudi Arabia’s tally is 62 cases and 34 deaths. At the Cairo meeting, which ran from Jun 20 to 22, more than 100 public health experts agreed on the need for rapid, detailed reporting of MERS-CoV cases, using consistent methods, according to a WHO EMRO press release. “At an international level, fast and complete reporting of cases, with contact histories, clinical care and treatment outcomes in as much detail as possible, and collected in a uniform manner across countries, is necessary for the international public health community to be able to build up a picture of what works and what doesn’t in combatting this virus,” the statement said. Ala Alwan, MD, EMRO director, said that using the same tools and protocols will facilitate the most effective pooling of information and resources. “This meeting has taken us an important step in that direction,” he added. Keiji Fukuda, MD, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security and the environment, called for urgent action: “At the moment we have an important window where cases have still been relatively few and human transmission is relatively limited. We need to exploit this chance to agree and implement the best public health measures possible across the board for, in so doing, we stand the best chance of controlling this virus before it spreads further.” –CIDRAP
Storm systems growing more intense: A radar image of the storm complex that may have caused the East Coast tsunami
June 25, 2013 – NEW JERSEY – The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says a 6-foot wave that hit the East Coast earlier this month was a rare tsunami. The West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center said the source of the wave is “complex and under review,” but they believe it was caused by a strong storm and perhaps even the “the slumping at the continental shelf east of New Jersey.” The weather service says that Brian Coen, who was spear fishing near Barnegat Inlet in New Jersey, saw the effect of the tsunami first hand. He told the weather service that he noticed an outgoing tide that lasted a couple of minutes and exposed rocks that had been submerged. That was followed by a big six-foot wave. The Asbury Park Press, which covers the Jersey coast, talked to Paul Whitmore, director of the tsunami center. He explained the weather system that moved through the area may have changed the air pressure enough to “generate waves that act just like tsunamis.” When that happens, the wave is called a ‘meteotsunami” — in other words a tsunami caused by meteorological conditions, not seismic activity. –NPR
June 25, 2013 – INDIA – The Atomic Energy Regulatory Board (AERB) has begun a detailed study to analyze the possible threats of an underwater volcano near the Madras Atomic Power Station (MAPS) in Kalpakkam, about 70km south of Chennai. Confirming the presence of an underwater volcano five weeks ago, an AERB reply to an RTI query said the Geological Survey of India (GSI) has also recommended an advanced study to figure out the status of the volcano, though initial investigations did not detect any significant geological signs. AERB said the National Institute of Oceanography (NIO), Oil and Natural Gas Corporation (ONGC) and GSI have recommended further analysis in view of an “inferred high density material intrusion of remnant magnetization based on magnetic and gravity anomalies” around the location of the volcano. AERB had appointed these national agencies to study the possible threats and geological status of the underwater volcano after Smithsonian’s Global Volcanism Program (GVP) released a document on the reported volcano in 1757, located about 100km-110km from the Indira Gandhi Centre for Atomic Research (IGCAR), Kalpakkam. According to GVP, a US government agency based in Washington DC studying active volcanoes and their eruptions during the last 10,000 years, says the undersea eruption of the volcano happened last on January 20, 1757, off Puducherry, resulting in the formation of a new island. However, AERB said GSI’s offshore surveys did not find any existence of an island. Also, it added that the seismic data and wells drilled by ONGC in the vicinity did not indicate any volcanic intrusions. In last September, V Pughazhendi and R Ramesh, two activists of the Peoples Movement for Nuclear Radiation Safety, who published a book compiling the documentary evidences of the volcano, demanded that the AERB conducts an advanced study. The AERB study is in progress and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) insists countries should ensure safety and protection if they had built reactors without considering the effect of volcanoes in their vicinity. –Times of India
June 25, 2013 – EQUATOR – There is no widespread tsunami threat after a 6.4 earthquake reported at 12:04 p.m. on Mon. June 24, 2013 in the Northern Mid-Atlantic Ridge, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center. The agency issued the notification saying the determination was based on historical earthquake and tsunami data. The quake was centered 772 miles ENE of Remire-Montjoly, French Guiana; 775 miles ENE of Cayenne, French Guiana; 778 miles ENE of Matoury, French Guiana; 786 miles ENE of Kourou, French Guiana; and 844 miles NNE of Salinopolis, Brazil, according to information compiled by the USGS. The USGS reports the earthquake was located at a depth of 6.2 miles and at the following coordinates: 10.726°N 42.616°W. –Maui Now