World Bulletin / News Desk
The outbreak of West Nile disease in the United States moved a step closer on Wednesday to becoming the second worst on record with federal health authorities reporting 280 cases of the virus-caused illness over the past week.
There have now been 4,249 cases of West Nile recorded this year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 20 cases fewer than in 2006, the second-largest outbreak on record.
The number of deaths rose by five to 168 since last week, the CDC said.
The worst year on record for West Nile disease was 2003, when 9,862 cases were reported, the CDC said.
The pace of new cases of the disease - which is transmitted from infected birds to humans by mosquitoes -- has slowed since late summer, authorities said.
More than 70 percent of the cases have been reported in eight states: Texas, Mississippi, Michigan, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Illinois and California. Texas has been the hardest hit, recording close to 40 percent of the cases in the country, according to the CDC.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area has been the epicenter of this year's outbreak, with 33 deaths, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.
The Dallas Morning News reported Wednesday that health officials in Tarrant County, home to Fort Worth, may have vastly underreported cases of the serious neuroinvasive form of West Nile.
The report said the number of cases detected through Tarrant County blood bank screenings - information that helps public officials determine the size of an outbreak - differs significantly from what officials there have reported.
But state health officials said it was unlikely cases were overlooked.
The severe neuroinvasive form of the disease almost always requires hospitalization and can lead to meningitis, encephalitis and death, according to the CDC.
"Neuroinvasive disease is not subtle," said Carrie Williams, a spokeswoman for the Texas health department. "We're confident physicians knew about the outbreak and were on the lookout for disease."
Nationwide, half of cases reported to the CDC have been of the neuroinvasive form. The other half are West Nile Fever, a milder form which causes flu-like symptoms and is not deadly.
Outbreaks tend to be unpredictable and are typically triggered by a combination of hot weather and intermittent rainfall as well as ecological factors such as the size of the bird and mosquito populations.
Some 54 people have died in or near the capital Accra, and around 300 people are now being infected daily with the highly contagious disease, putting pressure on local health facilities, said Linda Van-Otoo, GHS director for Greater Accra.
A Philippine seaman is being monitored in Togo for signs of the disease but authorities say the country is still Ebola-free, despite dozens of workers returning from Liberia.
A 36-year-old man from Senegal is being tested in Barcelona.
MSF (Doctors Without Borders) has deployed 1,000 of its own staff in the stricken region, running centres that currently have 300 beds
On Wednesday, the residents of the two communities woke up just after the president ordered the quarantine only to find their community barricaded with soldiers and police officers preventing people from leaving or entering the two areas.
They were given ZMapp, a drug used on a handful of patients in the West African outbreak and produced by U.S.-based Mapp Biopharmaceutical.
A local priest who asked not to be named said that the illness had affected several villages and estimated that the death toll was over 100 people.
The calculation highlights the dilemma facing officials considering how to distribute the tiny quantities of unproven drugs that are likely to be available in the near term
"We are hopeful and grateful to God and to the medical team that they are showing signs of improvement," Liberia's Information Minister Lewis Brown told a press conference on Tuesday.
The decision came as the Ivorian national football team is due to face Sierra Leone, one of the countries that had been hard hit by the Ebola outbreak, next month in Abidjan as part of the Africa Cup of Nations 2015 qualifiers.
Infant products are particularly vulnerable to food safety scares in China after powdered milk tainted with the industrial chemical melamine led to the deaths of at least six infants in 2008
Countries that do not have Ebola cases must strengthen their capacity to detect and contain any cases immediately, the WHO said
At least twenty patients broke out of quarantine in the Liberian capital after protesters looted a medical clinic.
At the end of last year, 13,254 tonnes of spent fuel was being held in temporary storage at nuclear plants, according to data from the commission, mostly in water tanks but some in concrete containers.
The 35-year-old Nigerian woman was en route to India on a treatment tour from advanced cancer.