Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Officials begin tracing contacts of Texas patient diagnosed with Ebola

from latimes 

A Man who traveled from Liberia to visit family members in Texas tested positive for Ebola on Tuesday, marking the outbreak's first diagnosis outside of Africa, health officials said. The unidentified patient, who is critically ill, has been cared for in a special isolation ward at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas since Sunday, said Dr. Edward Goodman, the hospital's epidemiologist. The patient initially sought treatment in the hospital's emergency department Friday but was sent home with antibiotics, Goodman said. The man was in apparent good health when he stepped off a commercial airliner Sept. 20 but began to feel sick four days later, said Dr. Tom Frieden, director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frieden emphasized that the man did not become infectious until he began to develop active symptoms of the hemorrhagic fever.

Federal, state and local medical teams are now scrambling to locate individuals who were in close contact with the patient and may have been infected. The virus is spread through direct contact with body fluids, including blood, saliva, vomit and feces.
"I have no doubt that we will control this importation of Ebola so that it does not spread widely in this country," Frieden said. "We will stop it here."
Henry Johnson heard the news while watching TV in the hospital's emergency room with his wife, who was waiting to be treated for a headache. The Dallas resident said the crowded room watched closely and remained calm.
But Johnson said he was worried about the people who were in the ER on Friday, as well as those who might have been exposed to Ebola after hospital staff let the patient leave.
"They should have quarantined him then," the 53-year-old chef said. "I hope they catch it before it really gets out."

Megan Castro, 27, of nearby Mesquite wasn't aware of the Ebola patient when she arrived at the hospital with her stepson and saw news trucks parked outside.
When she learned why they were there, she stopped short of the doors and scanned the building, wringing her hands as she weighed whether to go inside.
"Have they cleaned the whole hospital?" she wondered aloud.
The two debated whether to go to a different hospital. In the end, they decided to go in. But she said hospital officials should inform visitors and patients about what was being done to contain the disease.
"The community has a right to know because there's a lot of people who come in and out of this hospital," said Castro, who works as a driver.
Goodman said the hospital had anticipated the arrival of an Ebola patient and held a meeting on the matter just last week. "Because of that we were well prepared to deal with this crisis," he said.

Frieden and hospital officials declined to describe the patient or his condition in detail, citing federal privacy laws. But Frieden said the patient had been in contact with only a handful of people after he became infectious.
Officials would not say which flights the patient took from Liberia, one of the three African nations now battling the worst Ebola epidemic in history. But Frieden said other passengers on the aircraft would not have been at risk because the patient was asymptomatic at the time.
The Ebola virus incubates in a human for anywhere from two to 21 days. After the onset of fever, headaches and abdominal pain, most patients experience severe vomiting and diarrhea. As the virus continues to replicate, its effects on the body grow increasingly severe, and bleeding and organ failure can result.

A special team of CDC "disease detectives" and other experts have been dispatched to Texas to assist Dallas County Health and Human Services workers in tracing the patient's contacts. Once those people are located, they will be monitored for 21 days. If they show signs of a fever within that time, they will be isolated and tested for Ebola, officials said.
"There are no other suspected cases in the state of Texas at this time," said Dr. David Lakey, commissioner of the Texas Department of State Health Services.
Though the patient is the first to be diagnosed with Ebola in the United States, the case is by no means the first instance of viral hemorrhagic fever to be imported from Africa. In the last decade, doctors have diagnosed one case of Marburg virus, which is very similar to Ebola, and four cases of Lassa virus, Frieden said. None resulted in further transmission, he said.

In West Africa, Ebola has sickened at least 6,574 people and killed at least 3,091, according to the World Health Organization. The exponential spread has been blamed on the failure to quickly recognize the threat, the lack of basic medical supplies and facilities, and the slow global response to isolate and treat the ill.
Health experts say the situation in the United States is very different. Access to premium healthcare makes a widespread outbreak here highly unlikely.
"We have the ability to trace contacts, monitor people and to act quickly if any of them should start to exhibit symptoms," said Dr. Anne Rimoin, an epidemiologist at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health. "Had these mechanisms been in place in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea, there wouldn't be this huge outbreak in the first place."
Indeed, the CDC published two studies Tuesday saying that Ebola outbreaks in Senegal and Nigeria were now under control because of the quick response of medical teams in those countries. In both cases, the disease was introduced by an infected visitor.
Although Frieden and other medical experts insisted the Ebola virus would be stopped "dead in its tracks," Dallas-area residents voiced uncertainty, particularly those in the Liberian expat community.
Stanley Gaye, president of the Liberian Community Assn. of Dallas-Fort Worth, said local Liberians were already anxious about meeting or shaking hands with those who had just returned from visits to West Africa.
"This disease is a horrible disease, and I don't want to be in a gathering with someone [whose] family has been affected by the disease," Gaye said. One member of the community has lost seven relatives to Ebola, he said.
Gaye said it would be better for public officials to release the names of confirmed Ebola patients so that others in the community could take precautions. He said his phone had been "bombarded all day" with calls from community members.
"We don't know who this person is, we don't know who their family is," he said. "I think we should know so that everyone who has been in contact with the person can look out for the symptoms and be tested.... We see what is happening right now in Africa. We don't want that happening here in the United States."
Twitter: @montemorin
Morin reported from Los Angeles and Hennessy-Fiske from Dallas. Times staff writers Matt Pearce and Alexandra Zavis in Los Angeles contributed to this report.

The Day They Shut Down Meigs Field

from airspacemag.com

This former Chicago landmark is a cautionary tale for small airports everywhere.


This used to be an airport. Now it’s grass. (flickr /Christine)

On  March 31, 2003, one of the best known general aviation airports in the world suddenly closed. Meigs Field, the downtown Chicago landmark and default airport of Microsoft’s Flight Simulator video game series, shut down without warning and, according to airport supporters, illegally. Pilots of aircraft there awoke that Monday morning to find large Xs gouged into the runway, with heavy construction equipment placed atop for good measure. After several days’ negotiations, aircraft were allowed to depart from the parallel taxiway one by one, never to return.
The decision to shut down Meigs Field was made by Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, ostensibly to prevent terrorists from using the field as cover to mount an attack. While that was a legitimate concern, many contend the true motive was Daley’s long-held wish to turn Meigs into a large park.
The airport was built in 1948, during general aviation’s post-World War II glory days, and provided convenient access to Chicago for businesspeople and casual aviators alike. Named for Merrill Meigs, publisher of the Chicago Herald and Examiner and an aviation fan, Meigs Field was immensely popular; several runway extensions and facilities were later added.
Daley first shut the field down in 1996 with the intention of turning the airport into parkland, in order to boost slumping Chicago real estate values and shore up political support by closing a symbol of elite privilege. Though that move was sudden, Xs marking the runway as off-limits were only painted on, and soon after, the state of Illinois legislated the airport back into operation. Meig’s future seemed assured by late 2001 when, to close a deal to expand nearby O’Hare International, Chicago’s primary international airport and one of the busiest in the world, Daley was forced to agree to operate Meigs until 2026. When the O’Hare deal stalled, Daley closed Meigs once and for all, incurring a $33,000 fine for ignoring the 30-day advance warning required by the Federal Aviation Administration. (The O’Hare expansion was eventually approved separately.)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hong Kong Residents Defy Officials’ Call to End Protests

from nytimes

 HONG KONG — A wave of protest in Hong Kong extended into the working week on Monday as thousands of residents defied a government call to abandon street blockades across the city, students boycotted classes and the city’s influential bar association added to condemnation of a police crackdown on protesters a day earlier.
The continued public resistance underscored the difficulties that the Hong Kong government faces in defusing widespread anger that erupted on Sunday, after the police used tear gas, pepper spray and batons to break up a three-day sit-in by students and other residents demanding democratic elections in the semiautonomous Chinese territory.
On Monday afternoon, the Hong Kong government canceled the city’s annual fireworks show to mark China’s National Day, which falls on Wednesday — an implicit acknowledgment that officials expect the protests to continue for days.
The police crackdown Sunday not only failed to dislodge protesters from a major thoroughfare in the heart of Hong Kong but appeared Monday to have motivated more people to join the student-led protests. A government announcement that the riot police had been withdrawn from the protest centers also seemed to open the door to growing demonstrations. The number of protesters, which had ebbed overnight, swelled again by midday Monday, as office workers in slacks and dress shirts mixed with crowds of students in black T-shirts.
Many of the new arrivals said they were angered by the police’s actions on Sunday, which they called excessive.
“This morning I was happy to see that they stayed and insisted on continuing the protest,” said Cindy Sun, a 30-year-old bank worker who joined protesters in the Admiralty district during her lunch hour.
“What they were doing was not appropriate, especially the tear gas,” she said. “The students were completely peaceful.”
Chloe Wong, 46, a mother of two, said she was inspired to join the protesters in Admiralty by the scenes of tear gas being fired the day before. She said she could find time to participate for only an hour but wanted to show her support.
“The protesters, they are so young,” she said. “They are fighting for our future, for my children’s future.”
Demonstrators were also blocking major streets in the busy shopping district of Causeway Bay and in Mongkok in Kowloon, one of the world’s most densely packed places.
Hong Kong has maintained a reputation as a safe enclave for peaceful demonstration and commerce, and the crackdown here has raised the political cost of Beijing’s unyielding position on electoral change in Hong Kong. Late last month China’s legislature called for limits on voting reforms here and barriers for candidates for the position of chief executive, the city’s top leadership post.
The protesters are seeking fully democratic elections for the city’s leader in 2017. But under China’s plan for conducting those elections, only candidates vetted by a Beijing-friendly committee would be allowed to run.
Earlier Monday, the government said that it had pulled back the riot police from the areas where roads were being blocked. The government urged the demonstrators to end their street sit-ins so that life in this busy commercial city could return to normal.
Leung Chun-ying, the city’s top leader, said earlier the government opposes the “unlawful occupation actions by Occupy Central” and called for “the various sectors of the community to engage in rational discussions through peaceful and lawful means.”
But in Admiralty, home to the government’s offices and a focus of the demonstrators’ anger, many of the protesters said they were determined to stay until Mr. Leung resigned and answered their demands for democratic elections to choose his successor.
“We won’t leave until we have a dialogue between the government and the people,” said Agnes Yip, a sales worker in her 20s who had slept overnight on an expressway in Admiralty. “We’ll stay all day at least, and then tomorrow.”
Many of the protesters in Admiralty were wearing surgical masks and goggles in anticipation that the police would again try to disperse them with tear gas or pepper spray. The announcement about the riot police appeared to allay such fears, at least for the time being.
“Because the residents who have assembled on the roadways have largely returned to calm, the riot police have already withdrawn,” an unidentified spokesman for the government said in the statement Monday morning. The spokesman “urged the assembled residents to maintain calm and to peacefully disperse.”
​But after the statement was released, some police officers with riot shields and other crowd-control equipment remained near the protesters in Admiralty.
On Monday, the Hong Kong Bar Association condemned what it said had been “repeated, systematic, indiscriminate and excessive” use of tear gas against demonstrators in Admiralty. “Even though on occasions, a minority of demonstrators became confrontational with the police, the overwhelming majority of the demonstrators were visibly conducting themselves peacefully,” the bar association said in a statement.
An assistant police commissioner, Jacob Cheung Tak-keung, said at a news conference that officers had used a “minimal level of force” on Sunday after repeated warnings.
The police said Monday that a total of 41 people had been injured in clashes over the previous three days, including 12 police officers.
Hong Kong, a former British colony that was returned to Chinese sovereignty in 1997, had been promised universal suffrage by 2017, when the city will have new elections for chief executive. The standoff between unarmed students and riot police sets the stage for a possibly prolonged struggle that poses a test for President Xi Jinping of China, who haschampioned a harsh line against political threats to Communist Party rule.
Alison Fung, a magazine editor who said she had been at the Admiralty sit-in since Sunday night, said that she and other demonstrators were angered by what she called the “wordplay” used to present China’s election proposal as a democratic advance.
“Probably about 10 years ago, Hong Kong was not so concerned about politics,” Ms. Fung said Monday. “But we want a more fair election so we can decide our own future. People feel that our opinions aren’t listened to.”
The Hong Kong Federation of Students, one of the organizations leading the protests, called Sunday night for an indefinite student strike. On Monday, images of students holding gatherings at their schools in lieu of classes, many of them wearing black in support of the protests, could be seen on social media and in local news reports.
In another indication that the protests could broaden, the Hong Kong Professional Teachers’ Union called Sunday for a general strike by teachers in the city. The organization, which has around 90,000 members, called the police “enemies of the people” and said they had used “ruthless force” against unarmed civilians.
In a response Monday that drew some derision online, Hong Kong’s Education Bureau said it “respected all teachers,” pointing to a program it runs that rewards teachers for excellence. The bureau called on teachers to “uphold professionalism” and “make every effort to take care of students so that their normal schooling can be free from any interference.”
“All external political influence and pressure must be kept away from the school campus,” the statement added, a nod to accusations from pro-Beijing politicians in Hong Kong that students were being manipulated by people with a political agenda. Organizers of the protests have denied such accusations, saying that the student protesters are acting independently.
commentary on the website of the People’s Daily, the Chinese Communist Party’s main newspaper, claimed that the upheavals in Hong Kong were instigated by democratic radicals who had sought support from “anti-China forces” in Britain and the United States, and had sought lessons from independence activists in Taiwan. It called them a “gang of people whose hearts belong to colonial rule and who are besotted with ‘Western democracy.’ ”
Beijing has bristled at any concern voiced by foreign governments about the tensions in Hong Kong, including from Britain, whose treaty signed with China in 1984 set the conditions for Hong Kong’s return to Chinese sovereignty. But on Monday, the British Foreign Office issued a statement saying, “Hong Kong’s prosperity and security are underpinned by its fundamental rights and freedoms, including the right to demonstrate.”
“It is important for Hong Kong to preserve these rights and for Hong Kong people to exercise them within the law,” the statement said.
Speaking at a regularly scheduled news conference Monday in Beijing, a spokeswoman for the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Hua Chunying, said that “Hong Kong is China’s Hong Kong” and warned against interference, according to a statement posted on the ministry’s website.
“We hope related countries speak and act cautiously, don’t get involved in any way in Hong Kong’s internal affairs, don’t support the illegal activities of ‘Occupy Central,’ and don’t send out any wrong signals,” Ms. Hua said.
The United States Consulate in Hong Kong urged all sides to “refrain from actions that would further escalate tensions,” adding, “We do not take sides in the discussion of Hong Kong’s political development.” The statement appeared intended to answer Chinese officials who in the past have accused Washington of fomenting unrest in Hong Kong.
Despite the protests, Hong Kong’s financial markets opened as usual. The benchmark Hang Seng index closed 1.9 percent lower, the worst-performing major market in Asia. The Hong Kong Monetary Authority said that 44 bank branches, offices or ATMs had been temporarily closed Monday because of the protests.
Analysts said the short-term effects of the protests on business in Hong Kong were likely to be muted. In the longer term, they said, the local political climate could delay key budget approvals for the many large-scale infrastructure projects planned around the territory and could affect Hong Kong’s positioning as a financial center for China.
The protests triggered heightened censorship in mainland China. Phrases related to Hong Kong were deleted at levels exceeding anything that has been seen previously this year on the Sina Weibo social media platform, according to Weibscope, a monitoring service run by the Journalism and Media Studies Center at the University of Hong Kong. The photo-sharing application Instagram was blocked in mainland China on Sunday evening.