Hepatitis E vaccine works
An experimental vaccine appears to be safe and effective in protecting people against hepatitis E infection, a trial has found. Hepatitis E virus is shed in feces and spread via tainted water and food. Even though most people recover from it, it can cause severe illness in elderly people and has a mortality rate of 1 percent to 3 percent. It can kill between 5 percent and 25 percent of pregnant women and those who survive can suffer high rates of miscarriage. In a phase 3 trial involving 97,356 healthy participants in Jiangsu Province, half of them were given the locally made vaccine and the other half a placebo. The vaccine made by Xiamen Innovax Biotech was given in three doses, the second being a month after the first and the third six months after the first. Within a year after the third dose, 15 of the participants who were given placebo were found infected with hepatitis E, the researchers said in a paper published in the Lancet yesterday. No one in the vaccine group was infected.
Swimmers warned off rivers
The government has closed parks and warned the public about swimming and dumping trash in rivers after 10 people died from a disease spread by rats. The latest reported death from the bacterial disease leptospirosis was on Saturday. The 17-year-old boy in northern Kedah state had swam in a river and had a picnic with friends at a park last month, the New Straits Times and the Star reported. Several parks throughout the country have been closed since the first deaths were reported last month. The Health Ministry’s Web site warns people not to swim in public rivers when it rains and to avoid taking a dip if they have cuts on their body, which makes an infection more likely.
Officials battle anthrax
Health officials are struggling to contain a major outbreak of anthrax in the north, with at least 52 new infections registered in the past week, the health ministry said yesterday. At least 162 people have been infected with the bacteria in nine separate outbreaks in less than a year, but no one has died so far, said Mahmudur Rahman, a health ministry director. Most of the cases have been in the rural cattle-rearing region in the north. “In the latest outbreak in the northern town of Shajadpur, 52 people became infected in the last week,” Rahman said.
Blasts kill at least 21
A bomb exploded at a meeting of tribal elders in the Kurram region near the Afghan border yesterday, killing seven people, a government official said. “We have reports that it happened in a jirga. The death toll could be higher,” said the official, Naeemullah Jan. A few hours later a blast inside a mosque in the South Waziristan tribal region killed at least 15 people.
Eight die of moonshine
Eight people died after drinking moonshine alcohol in Jakarta, police said yesterday. The victims, all men, succumbed to poisoning after drinking the toxic beverage they had bought from a shop in South Jakarta on Saturday night, police spokesman Boy Rafli said. “The last victim died today in hospital,” he said. The shopkeeper who made the “lethal” brew had been arrested, he said. Twenty-five people, including four foreigners, died from methanol-laced palm wine last year on Bali, while 13 were killed in similar fashion in Yogyakarta earlier this year.
Secret Mafia text uncovered
Mafia clans have used a popular football show on TV to send secret messages to jailed godfathers held in isolation, a magistrate said. Imprisoned crime bosses were kept up to date on mob business through mobile phone texts sent to the show, Quelli Che il Calcio, which unwittingly scrolled them across the bottom of the screen, among innocent messages from supporters of Italian football teams. Enzo Macri, a magistrate tipped off after a letter advising a jailed boss to watch the show was intercepted, cited one of the texts, “Everything is OK — Paolo,” as being sent by a clan affiliate. Senator Carlo Vizzini demanded to know why Mafia inmates were allowed to watch Quelli Che il Calcio. “I do not understand why people held under such conditions can watch programs in which the TV audience can participate,” he said.
■ UNITED KINGDOM
Tesco to offer drive-thru
Tesco is launching the nation’s first drive-through supermarket this week, but drivers will not be steering their vehicles up and down the aisles. The service, being tested at a Tesco Extra store in Baldock, Hertfordshire, allows customers to order their groceries online and pick them up at the supermarket without leaving their car. Staff will pack the shopping into the boot. The concept, if successful, could be rolled out across the country and is aimed at customers who want the convenience of online shopping but don’t have time to wait at home for their groceries to be delivered. “This will be especially popular with busy moms who have the school run and children’s activities to manage,” Tesco.com chief executive Laura Wade-Gery said. Online customers choose the “click and collect” option and book a two-hour collection slot.
Museums lax in security
None of the alarms and only seven out of 43 surveillance cameras were working at a Cairo museum where a Vincent van Gogh painting was stolen, the top prosecutor said on Sunday. Thieves made off with the canvas, known by the titles Poppy Flowers and Vase with Flowers, on Saturday from the Mahmoud Khalil Museum. Prosecutor general Abdel-Meguid Mahmoud told the state news agency that the thieves used a box cutter to remove the painting from its frame. He blamed the heist on the museum’s lax security measures, calling them “for the most part feeble and superficial.” The museum guards’ daily rounds at closing time were inadequate and did not meet minimum security requirements to protect internationally renowned works of art, he said. Mahmoud said his office had warned the nation’s museums to implement stricter security controls after nine paintings were stolen last year from another Cairo institute, the Mohammed Ali Museum. Similar security lapses were to blame in that theft.
Blasts kill three, injure 20
Police said three people were killed and 20 wounded in separate attacks overnight in Baghdad. The first attack targeted a liquor store near central Baghdad about 8pm on Sunday. A police official said the blast was caused by a roadside bomb that wounded two people. An hour later, another bomb struck a popular cafe in the city’s southwest, killing one person and wounding 15. A grenade attack about 11pm in western Baghdad killed one soldier and wounded two others. About 6:30am yesterday, unknown attackers threw a grenade from a speeding car in east Baghdad, killing one policeman and wounding another.
Two dolphins rescued
Dozens of biologists and environmental activists rescued two freshwater dolphins on Sunday, among nine that have been trapped in a river by low water levels for more than a month. The two dolphins were caught in nets and brought to shore. They were put in padded, water-filled aluminum containers and driven on all-terrain vehicles about 3km downstream, where they were put in a pen in deeper water. Environment manager Rodrigo Quintana said the two rescued dolphins would be kept in the pen until they could be reunited with the other seven. He estimated it would take two or three days more to round up all of the dolphins. The nine dolphins were trapped early last month in a tributary of the Rio Grande, north of the city of Santa Cruz, when drought caused water levels to drop.
■ UNITED STATES
Ebola breakthrough made
Government researchers working to find ways to treat the deadly Ebola virus said on Sunday a new approach from AVI BioPharma saved monkeys after they were infected. Two experimental treatments protected more than 60 percent of monkeys infected with Ebola and all the monkeys infected with a related virus called Marburg, the team at the US Army Medical Research Institute of Infectious Diseases in Fort Detrick, Maryland, reported. Writing in the journal Nature Medicine, Sina Bavari and colleagues said the drugs tested were antisense phosphorodiamidate morpholino oligomers, or PMOs, called AVI-6002 and AVI-6003. The company has submitted investigational new drug applications to the US Food and Drug Administration and may now test the drugs in people.
■ UNITED STATES
Pigs elude wrestlers
A pig wrestling competition at a county fair in northern Montana has been canceled after the animals eluded fair officials trying to round them up for the event. Fair office manager Shirley Embleton said the wild pigs spend the year on a free-range property along the Marias River and about 30 are captured on the Friday of the scheduled event, but this year, fair officials were only able to locate one boar, despite flying the river. The event was postponed until Saturday, but neither the landowner nor fair officials could locate the absent pigs. Embleton said next year, organizers plan to locate and capture the animals earlier in the week.
■ UNITED STATES
A 31-year-old bride-to-be heading home from her bachlorette party was arrested for drunk driving hours before she was to get married. Washington State Patrol Trooper Christina Martin says the woman was driving at more than 145kph on Saturday morning and weaving in and out of traffic on an interstate when she was stopped. Martin says a trooper arrested the woman, processed her and let her take a cab home in time to make it to her early afternoon wedding. Martin says the bride’s alcohol level was nearly twice the legal state limit.
■ UNITED STATES
Three killed in shooting
Police said three people were killed and four wounded after a man opened fire at a rural neighborhood in Virginia. The gunman was among those killed on Sunday afternoon. Donnie Lowe of the Louisa County Sheriff’s office said the gunman began shooting after a dispute over property and belongings. Two men were killed and four other people wounded. Lowe said the gunman and his dog were killed in a shootout with police.
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
Australian scientists have raised questions over the efficacy of the AstraZeneca and University of Oxford COVID-19 vaccine in establishing herd immunity, calling for a pause on its widespread rollout as the country recorded one new case of the virus yesterday. Opposition to the vaccine casts a cloud over Australia’s immunization plans, with 53 million doses of the AstraZeneca jab already on hand. “The question is really whether it is able to provide herd immunity. We are playing a long game here. We don’t know how long that will take,” Australian and New Zealand Society for Immunology president Stephen Turner said. Turner added
The Polish Supreme Court on Friday quashed a lower court’s green light for the extradition of a businessman to China for alleged fraud, a charge he has denied, saying that he is being targeted for supporting Falun Gong. Polish authorities took Chinese-born Swedish citizen Li Zhihui, now 53, into custody in 2019 on an international warrant issued by China for alleged non-payment in a business deal, Krzysztof Kitajgrodzki, his Polish lawyer, told reporters. Following the Supreme Court ruling, the case would return to a lower appellate court for review. Kitajgrodzki told reporters that it was still not a given that his client