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Monkeypox Warnings ‘went Ignored,’ and Now World Must Brace for More Outbreaks: Scientists

Yesenia Harris



For years, African scientists tracked a steep rise in monkeypox cases.

More than 2,800 suspected cases were reported in 2018 in the Democratic Republic of the Congo alone. The year after, there were nearly 3,800.

By 2020 — half a century after the first human infection was found in the central African country, then known as Zaire — the total tally of suspected annual cases neared 6,300, including 229 deaths.

The clear spike in infections occurred as globalization increased, humans continued encroaching on animal habitats and cross-protection offered from decades-old smallpox immunization campaigns began to wane. Given that perfect storm, many scientists weren’t shocked by the recent emergence of monkeypox in other countries around the world.

Some also warn that this won’t be the last time the virus spreads beyond its typical territory.

“The recent outbreaks are kind of the culmination of years of warnings that basically went ignored,” said Dr. Boghuma Titanji, a scientist and infectious diseases physician at Emory University in Atlanta who is originally from Cameroon.

“Because unfortunately, monkeypox is a disease that has traditionally caused outbreaks in Africa — and usually in very remote parts of Africa — and affecting populations that the world doesn’t always care about.”

The monkeypox virus, known for causing telltale skin lesions, typically enters human populations when someone touches or eats infected wildlife. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

‘Our fears are being confirmed’

The monkeypox virus, known for causing telltale skin lesions, typically enters human populations when someone touches or eats infected wildlife. From there, it can spread through close contact, including respiratory droplets in the air, skin-to-skin contact or if someone touches contaminated surfaces such as clothes or bedding.

Most researchers who study emerging viruses were long concerned it could “evolve to fill the ecological niche” left behind when a similar virus, smallpox, was eradicated through global immunization programs, Titanji told CBC News

“If given the opportunity to spread unchecked … it could get better at infecting humans and lead to bigger outbreaks than what we’ve seen in the past,” she added.

Human monkeypox incidence “dramatically increased” in rural Congo in the decades after mass smallpox vaccination ceased, researchers warned in a paper published in 2010 in the peer-reviewed journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

WATCH | How monkeypox outbreaks typically unfold in endemic regions of Africa:

Virologist explains how monkeypox outbreaks typically unfold in endemic regions of Africa

1 day ago

Virologist Dr. Oyewale Tomori describes what monkeypox outbreaks normally look like in the regions of Africa where the virus is endemic.

In Nigeria, more than 500 monkeypox cases have been reported since 2017, including a handful of deaths — and the actual number could be higher, given limited surveillance of the virus’s spread in rural areas, said Dr. Oyewale Tomori, a Nigerian virologist.

“The longer we are away from the smallpox vaccine, the more the likelihood that monkeypox would begin to spread,” said Tomori, a member of the Global Virome Project leadership board and previous president of the Nigerian Academy of Science.

“We’ve been saying that for quite some time. Now our fears are being confirmed.”

Animal migrations driven by climate change and deforestation are also fuelling more human-animal interactions, Titanji said, which makes it easier for viruses such as monkeypox to spill over from wildlife into human populations.

WATCH | Disease outbreaks coming faster, spreading more, says WHO:

Disease outbreaks coming faster, spreading more, says WHO

1 hour ago

‘Ecological pressure’ is driving an increase in endemic diseases, not just monkeypox, says Mike Ryan, Executive Director of the World Health Organization.

“With the world being as interconnected as it is, it takes less than 24 hours for a traveller from an endemic country, like Nigeria, Cameroon or [Congo], to actually get to Europe or North America or South America, or anywhere else on the planet for that matter,” she said.

Spreading out of Africa is not a great surprise, echoed Dr. Beatrice Nguete, a physician and monkeypox researcher with the Kinshasa School of Public Health in Congo’s capital city.

“All communicable diseases have the potential to move out,” she said. “You have one person visiting an endemic [area], or an area where there was an outbreak occurring — you have that possibility.”

Recent surge in global travel

But why now, exactly?

Monkeypox cases have emerged sporadically in other countries before, typically with ties to travel, but not to the scale of the current multi-country outbreak where local transmission is clear.

Hundreds of cases have been reported so far across multiple continents, largely among men, with more than 50 confirmed or suspected infections now under investigation in Canada.

There’s no concrete evidence yet that the virus has mutated, according to World Health Organization (WHO) officials, though global teams are still analyzing samples.

Instead, Dr. David Heymann, a leading adviser to the WHO and former head of its emergencies department, recently suggested that the unprecedented global outbreak was a “random event” and likely tied to transmission at raves held in Europe.

A teenager is examined by a physician for suspected monkeypox in the Republic of Congo in August 2017. (Melina Mara/The Washington Post/Getty Images)

People can sometimes be contagious with monkeypox for close to a month, including a day or so before skin lesions appear — giving the virus lots of time to transmit. That means high case counts in Africa and more mobility after a long travel lull during the COVID-19 pandemic might be providing the ideal conditions for its rapid spread.

“We’re seeing a very big surge in global travels, the likes of which we haven’t seen at any point in time over the last three years,” noted Dr. Abdu Sharkawy, an infectious diseases specialist at the University Health Network and an assistant professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.

Given the unusual nature of current transmission patterns, there’s also a possibility the virus was spreading globally, undetected, for quite some time, until clinicians outside Africa realized what they were seeing, said Dr. Michael Libman, director of the J.D. MacLean Centre for Tropical Medicine at McGill University in Montreal.

“If it has evolved in a certain way, that might make it slightly different than what we’ve dealt with in Africa in the past,” he said.

WHO warns of ‘further transmission’

Lingering questions surrounding the current global outbreak make it tough to predict how it will play out. But monkeypox outbreaks in Africa typically tend to ebb and flow, said Tomori of the Global Virome Project.

“We don’t see rapid transmission like you see with COVID, for example,” he said. “But also it dies down almost within a few months after one or two generations of spread … then suddenly pops up again.”

Officials in Canada, the U.K. and multiple other countries are also pursuing ring vaccination strategies to cut off the chains of virus transmission by inoculating certain high-risk individuals — such as close contacts of people with suspected infections — with smallpox shots.

Still, Dr. Hans Henri P. Kluge, the WHO’s regional director for Europe, issued a statement on Tuesday outlining his concern that the “potential for further transmission in Europe and elsewhere over the summer is high,” given the number of large parties and festivals expected in the months ahead.

WATCH | How does ring vaccination work?:

How ‘ring vaccination’ could help contain monkeypox spread in Canada

6 days ago

‘Ring vaccination,’ rather than mass vaccination used for COVID-19, is the likely way to contain monkeypox’s spread in Canada, says Dr. Samir Gupta.

“As of now, an effective response to monkeypox will not require the same extensive population measures as we needed for COVID-19 because the virus does not spread in the same way,” he continued. “But — and this is important — we do not yet know if we will be able to contain its spread completely.”

Officials from the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control are also warning that if monkeypox spills into local wildlife, it could become endemic to that continent, like in parts of Africa — referring to when a virus is consistently circulating within a specific region.

“If the current trends continue — and there’s no reason to believe they shouldn’t — we’re going to see a lot more cases, and we’re going to see them in a very diverse span of geographical areas,” the U of T’s Sharkawy said.

Given the possibility of ongoing spread and future outbreaks, Titanji of Emory University said it’s crucial that the global public health community pays closer attention to animal-to-human virus transmission, for both monkeypox and other emerging pathogens.

“When these outbreaks across North America and Europe ultimately come to an end, will we go back to ignoring the spillover events that have been happening for the last 50 years in Africa?” she asked.

“Or are we going to invest more meaningfully towards better tracking the virus — and better protecting those populations — to really stop the spillover events at their source?”

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Russian Journalist Who Protested Ukraine War on State TV Is Charged

Yesenia Harris



Russian authorities on Wednesday detained a former state TV journalist who quit after making an on-air protest against Moscow’s war in Ukraine, and charged her with spreading false information about Russia’s armed forces, her lawyer said on social media.

Marina Ovsyannikova was charged over a protest she staged last month, invoking Russian President Vladimir Putin’s name in a banner that said: “Putin is a killer, his soldiers are fascists. 352 children have been killed [in Ukraine]. How many more children should die for you to stop?”

If tried and convicted, Ovsyannikova faces up to 10 years in prison under a new law that penalizes statements against the military and that was enacted shortly after Russian troops moved into Ukraine, lawyer Dmitry Zakhvatov said in a Telegram post.

Earlier on Wednesday, Ovsyannikova’s home was raided, and she was taken for questioning. Zakhvatov said she will spend the night in a holding cell at Moscow police headquarters.

WATCH | Ovsyannikova’s protest heard ’round the world:

Journalist with anti-war sign interrupts Russian state newscast

5 months ago

A TV editor interrupted the main news program on Russia’s state TV Channel One, holding up a sign behind the studio presenter. The sign, in English and Russian, read: ‘NO WAR. Stop the war. Don’t believe propaganda. They are lying to you here.’

Ovsyannikova, born to a Ukrainian father and Russian mother, used to work as a producer with Russian state-funded Channel One. She made international headlines on March 14, when she appeared behind the anchor of an evening news broadcast holding a poster that said “stop the war, don’t believe the propaganda, they are lying to you here.” She was charged with disparaging the Russian military and fined 30,000 rubles ($347 Cdn at the time).

After quitting her job, Ovsyannikova became somewhat of an activist, staging antiwar pickets and speaking out publicly against the conflict.

“Sadly, during the past years I worked at Channel One, I spread the Kremlin propaganda and I am very ashamed of this,” she said not long after her protest. “I am ashamed I allowed Russian people to be fooled.”

She was fined two more times in recent weeks for disparaging the military in a critical Facebook post and comments she made at a court where opposition figure Ilya Yashin was remanded in custody pending trial for spreading false information about the military.

According to Net Freedoms, a legal aid group focusing on free speech cases, as of Wednesday there were 79 criminal cases on charges of spreading false information about the military and up to 4,000 administrative cases on charges of disparaging the armed forces.

In the latest developments in the invasion, Ukraine’s air force said Wednesday that nine Russian warplanes were destroyed in a deadly string of explosions at an air base in Crimea.

Russia denied any aircraft were damaged in Tuesday’s blasts — or that any attack took place.

Smoke rises after explosions were heard from the direction of a Russian military airbase near Novofedorivka, Crimea, on Wednesday, in this still image obtained by Reuters. (Reuters)

Ukrainian officials stopped short of publicly claiming responsibility for the explosions — which killed one person and injured 14 others — while mocking Russia’s explanation that a careless smoker might have caused ammunition at the Saki air base to catch fire and blow up. Analysts also said that explanation doesn’t make sense and that the Ukrainians could have used anti-ship missiles to strike the base.

If Ukrainian forces were, in fact, responsible for the blasts, it would be the first known major attack on a Russian military site on the Crimean Peninsula, which was seized from Ukraine by the Kremlin in 2014. Russian warplanes have used Saki to strike areas in Ukraine’s south.

Crimea holds huge strategic and symbolic significance for both sides. The Kremlin’s demand that Ukraine recognize Crimea as part of Russia has been one of its key conditions for ending the fighting, while Ukraine has vowed to drive the Russians from the peninsula and all other occupied territories.

Russian authorities sought to downplay the explosions on Wednesday, saying all hotels and beaches were unaffected on the peninsula, which is a popular tourist destination for many Russians.

The Current19:25Fears of catastrophe at Ukrainian nuclear plant under Russia control

In Ukraine, a nuclear plant under Russian occupation has the international community warning of potential catastrophe. Guest host Michelle Shephard discusses the risks with Philip Crowther, international affiliate correspondent for the Associated Press; and Mariana Budjeryn, a Ukrainian nuclear expert at Harvard’s Belfer Center.

A Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, cryptically said that the blasts were either caused by a Ukrainian-made long-range weapon or the work of Ukrainian guerrillas operating in Crimea.

The base on the Black Sea peninsula, which dangles off southern Ukraine, is at least 200 kilometres from the closest Ukrainian position — out of the range of the missiles supplied by the U.S. for use in High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers.

In other developments, Russian forces shelled areas across Ukraine on Tuesday night into Wednesday, including the central region of Dnipropetrovsk, where 13 people were killed, according to the region’s governor, Valentyn Reznichenko.

Reznichenko said the Russians fired at the city of Marganets and a nearby village. Dozens of residential buildings, two schools and several administrative buildings were damaged.

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U.K. All Decked Out for Queen Elizabeth’s Platinum Jubilee

Yesenia Harris



The United Kingdom will mark Queen Elizabeth’s 70 years on the throne this week with four days of celebrations — from military parades and a church service, to street parties and a pop concert outside Buckingham Palace.

Elizabeth, 96, has been on the throne since she was 25, an ever-present figure in the U.K. and one of the most recognizable faces in the world.

Here’s a look at the the decorations, the royal fans and the special events ahead of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations that begin Thursday.

Outside Buckingham Palace, Piccadilly Circus

People gather on The Mall looking toward Buckingham Palace and the Queen Victoria Memorial statue on Tuesday in London. The road is lined with Union Jacks and closed to traffic ahead of the Platinum Jubilee.

(Matt Dunham/The Associated Press)

Royal fan John Loughrey poses with a cutout of Queen Elizabeth on Tuesday in a tent he has put up to camp outside Buckingham Palace for the Platinum Jubilee celebrations.

(Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

People take pictures of the screen in Piccadilly Circus as it displays a countdown to the Platinum Jubilee, featuring two photos of the Queen, in London on May 27.

(Alberto Pezzali/The Associated Press)

Sightings of Queen Elizabeth

Elizabeth is given a tour by Keith Weed, president of the Royal Horticultural Society, of the floral displays at its Chelsea Flower Show in London on May 23.

(Paul Grover/Reuters)

The Queen is shown how to purchase a ticket as she unveiled a plaque to mark the completion of London’s Crossrail project at Paddington station in London on May 17.

(Andrew Matthews/Reuters)

Elizabeth and guests watch the Royal Windsor Horse Show Platinum Jubilee Celebration at Windsor Castle in Windsor, Britain, on May 15.

(Henry Nicholls/Reuters)

The Queen speaks with a worker as she arrives to watch horses competing on the second day of the horse show in Windsor on May 13.

(Toby Melville/Reuters)

Exhibits featuring Elizabeth

Members of staff hold the Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom, painted by Andy Warhol in 1985, as part of an exhibition at Sotheby’s in London on May 27.

(Alberto Pezzali/The Associated Press)

Sotheby’s exhibitions celebrating the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee opened in London May 28, free to the public until July 15. The Queen (2022) by Oluwole Omofemi is on view.

(Tristan Fewings/Sotheby’s/Getty Images)

Lightness of Being (2022) by Chris Levine is also on view at Sotheby’s. The exhibition brings together important loans of aristocratic tiaras and royal portraiture of each of Britain’s seven queens.

(Tristan Fewings/Sotheby’s/Getty Images)

At Madame Tussauds in London, studio artists retouch wax models of the British Royal Family in a new grouping and outfits, ahead of the Platinum Jubilee celebrations on May 25.

(Toby Melville/Reuters)

(Toby Melville/Reuters)

The Queen at Legoland

Legoland modeller Freya Groom poses for a photo while placing a model of Queen Elizabeth in a vehicle near a model of Buckingham Palace at Legoland in Windsor on Tuesday.

(Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

A model of the Red Arrows is shown flying over a model of London.

(Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

A model of Elizabeth in a vehicle is pictured near a model of the Admiralty Arch landmark on The Mall.

(Peter Nicholls/Reuters)

Other public displays

Flower Tower, a display of more than 4,300 handmade knitted and crocheted flowers, is seen at All Saints Church, ahead of Platinum Jubilee celebrations, in Middleton Cheney, Britain, on May 26.

(Andrew Boyers/Reuters)

A yarn Queen Elizabeth with a corgi and accompanying guards is pictured above a post box in Hangleton near Hove, East Sussex, on Tuesday.

(Glyn Kirk/AFP/Getty Images)

A crocheted scene of Elizabeth standing inside a castle is seen on top of a post box in New Brighton, Britain, on May 9.

(Phil Noble/Reuters)

Royal fans and their memorabilia

Royal super-fan Margaret Tyler poses for a photograph with her collection of royal memorabilia in her “Jubilee room” at home in London on Monday. Her collection fills the ground floor of her house.

(Adrian Dennis/AFP/Getty Images)

Royal Family memorabilia collector Jan Hugo stands near a life-size figure of the Queen, surrounded by her collection that boasts over 10,000 pieces, in Nulkaba, Australia, on May 4. Hugo’s is Australia’s largest collection of royal memorabilia.

(Stefica Nicol Bikes/Reuters)

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Hurricane Agatha Blamed for Mudslides That Kill 11 in Mexico

Yesenia Harris



Residents of Mexico’s Oaxaca state are cleaning up after Hurricane Agatha struck the area on Monday as a Category 2 storm.

Hurricane Agatha left at least 11 people dead and 33 missing in the southern Mexico state of Oaxaca, where it set off flooding and landslides, Gov. Alejandro Murat said Wednesday.

More than 40,000 people in the state have been affected, primarily along the coast and in the mountains just beyond, Murat said.

Murat on Tuesday said rivers overflowed their banks and swept away people in homes, while other victims were buried under mud and rocks.

“There were fundamentally two reasons” for the deaths, Murat told local media. “There were rivers that overflowed, and on the other hand, and the most serious part, were landslides.”

Murat said the deaths appeared to be concentrated in a number of small towns in the mountains, just inland from the coast. But he said there were also reports of three children missing near the resort of Huatulco.

Agatha made history as the strongest hurricane ever recorded to come ashore in May during the eastern Pacific hurricane season.

A shack is pictured in the aftermath of Hurricane Agatha, in San Isidro del Palmar, Oaxaca state, Mexico. Agatha made impact as a Category 2 hurricane with winds up to 168 km/h. (Jose de Jesus Cortes/Reuters)

It made landfall Monday afternoon on a sparsely populated stretch of small beach towns and fishing villages in Oaxaca.

It was a strong Category 2 hurricane, with maximum sustained winds of 168 km/h, but it quickly lost power moving inland over the mountainous interior. Remnants of Agatha were moving northeast Tuesday into Veracruz state.

Murat has said power had been restored to some communities near the coast, but that some bridges had been washed out and mudslides blocked a number of highways.

San Isidro del Palmar, only a couple miles inland from the coast, was swamped by the Tonameca river that flows through town.

A restaurant is seen Tuesday damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Agatha, in San Isidro del Palmar. (Jose de Jesus Cortes/Reuters)

Residents waded through neck-deep water to salvage what items they could from their homes, walking gingerly with piles of clothing atop their heads and religious figures in their arms.

Argeo Aquino, who has lived in the town his whole life, said he could recall only two other occasions when he saw such flooding.

“The houses are totally flooded, so they are getting everything out,” Aquino said Monday as he watched his neighbours. “There are stores, houses. More than anything else, we have to try to save all the good material, because everything else is going to be washed away.”

The Tonameca’s brown waters reached the windows of parked cars and the minibuses used for local transportation.

A man stands Tuesday at his house damaged in the aftermath of Hurricane Agatha, in San Isidro del Palmar. (Jose de Jesus Cortes/Reuters)

Nearby, heavy rain and high winds lashed the beach town of Zipolite, known for its clothing-optional beach and bohemian vibe. The wind howled for about six hours on Monday, said Silvia Ranfagni, manager of the Casa Kalmar hotel.

“The sound of the wind was really loud, high-pitched,” said Ranfagni. “It started at 1 p.m. when the telephone coverage went out and it didn’t calm down until 7:30.”

“A lot of trees were down, roads washed out,” she said. “A lot of metal and thatched roofs were blown off.”

Agatha formed on Sunday and quickly gained power. It was the strongest hurricane on record to make landfall in May in the eastern Pacific, said Jeff Masters, meteorologist with Yale Climate Connections.

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