(TMU) — The Wuhan coronavirus—now called 2019-nCoV—is spreading rapidly at an alarming rate. There are an estimated 1,975 cases and 56 deaths in China alone, in addition to confirmed patients in at least 13 countries with several potential cases inside the United States and elsewhere.
UPDATE – 1/25/20: 7:30 p.m. EST — South China Morning Post reports on January 25th, the new toll of cases has drastically increased up to 1,700, while the number of deaths is 55, as Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for international help to contain the outbreak. Xinhua reported on Sunday that the new official death count is now 56, with a massive 1,975 cases now confirmed within China and 2,684 suspected unconfirmed cases according to Chinese health officials.
The three virus patients in Malaysia are all related to a Chinese man who was detected with the virus in Singapore, according to Channel News Asia. Malaysia is now claiming there is a fourth case according to Reuters. Canada has confirmed its first case of the coronavirus as announced by Ontario health officials according to Global News Canada.
Japan confirmed its third case of the Wuhan coronavirus, according to Japan’s Health Ministry. China further imposed even more restrictions on other cities across central Hubei province, restricting a total of 56 million people, according to AP. Nationwide throughout Beijing measures to detect the virus on flights, trains, buses were announced as well. The western China province of Qinghai has confirmed its first case of Wuhan coronavirus, according to the local health authority. 29 out of 34 provincial jurisdictions have activated the highest emergency response. China is also sending in its medical response military to affected areas especially Wuhan, the origin of the virus.
Chinese President Xi Jinping said China was facing a “grave situation” warning the virus was accelerating. China has locked-down most provinces and the death toll has now risen to 42.
Many other countries are expected to confirm cases over the weekend. As Reuters wrote: “The virus has caused alarm because it is still too early to know just how dangerous it is and how easily it spreads between people. And because it is new, humans have not been able to build any immunity to it. “
Two separate studies have found those infected with the virus are passing the disease on to between two and three other people on average at the current transmission rate, according to Reuters.
Suspected cases that are under investigation:
Texas is investigating a suspected case of the Chinese coronavirus while there are rumors of as many as nine suspected cases in LA and one confirmed in Chicago at the time of this report. The CDC also announced they are monitoring 63 people who came into contact with patient zero in the U.S. or the case in Chicago. Two suspected cases have been sent to the CDC from Minnesota.
U.S. lawmakers said health authorities expect to confirm a third case of coronavirus in the United States following a closed-door briefing in Washington between federal health officials and lawmakers according to Bloomberg.
New reports suggest that there are now three confirmed cases in France, marking Europe’s first cases of coronavirus. A 48-year-old man tested positive after passing through Wuhan. He is being treated in a Bordeaux hospital and came in contact with approximately 10 people between his arrival to France on Wednesday and his hospitalization. Little is known about the second and third case that is being treated in Paris.
China has quarantined the following 16 cities (total population of 46 million):
- Wuhan: 11 million
- Huanggang: 7.5 million
- Xiangyang: 6.1 million
- Yichang: 4.2 million
- Jingmen: 3 million
- Xianning: 2.8 million
- Huangshi: 2.5 million
- Suizhou: 2.2 million
- Xiantao: 1.6 million
- Ezhou: 1 million
- Qianjiang: 962,000
- Enshi: 780,000
- Xiaogan: 780,000
- Zhijiang: 550,000
- Dangyang: 560,000
- Chibi: 530,000
Here’s what we know so far:
- Total number of confirmed cases is over 900 with 26 dead.
- China has restricted travel for 46 million people.
- Hospitals in Wuhan make urgent pleas for help and supplies.
- U.K. and U.S. governments tell citizens to avoid outbreak zones.
- Two deaths have now been reported outside Wuhan.
- Health officials expect to confirm a third U.S. case of coronavirus soon.
The unnamed 30-year-old man from Washington state is being treated by a robot in a guarded bio-containment room at Providence Regional Medical Center in Everett, Washington—a fact that illustrates the danger of this virus.
The U.S. citizen had returned to Seattle in the middle of last week after traveling to Wuhan on January 15, according to the CDC.
Earlier this week several major U.S. airports including those in San Francisco, New York, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Chicago’s O’Hare began screening airline passengers arriving from central China for the virus. However, the confirmed patient in Chicago exhibited no symptoms at the time and therefore would not have been caught by an airport screening.
The CDC is sending 100 staffers to aid in the screenings at major airports.
There have also been reports of domestic flights in Wuhan being scanned for the virus by medical personnel in hazmat suits according to video posted by Yahoo News.
Shocking footage uploaded to social media also shows citizens in China collapsing on the streets.
— 巴丢草 Badiucao (@badiucao) January 23, 2020
Other video uploaded to social media shows people filling the halls in a Red Cross Hospital in Wuhan, the city at the epicenter of the deadly viral outbreak. People can be seen covered by sheets and blankets in the video, leading some to believe that they are deceased.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has so far declined to call the outbreak a global health emergency while the Center For Disease Control (CDC) has issued a level three warning (Avoid Nonessential Travel) with the U.S. State Department, advising the avoidance of China and specifically Wuhan.
The U.S. military has also warned its personnel in Japan to watch out for symptoms of the deadly pneumonia-like virus, according to an alert posted by Stripes.
If you must travel to China, the following precautions are recommended:
- Avoid contact with sick people.
- Avoid animals (alive or dead), animal markets, and products that come from animals (such as uncooked meat).
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
- Older adults and travelers with underlying health issues may be at risk for more severe disease and should discuss travel with their healthcare provider.
If you traveled to Wuhan in the last 14 days and feel sick with fever, cough, or difficulty breathing, you should:
- Seek medical care right away. Before you go to a doctor’s office or emergency room, call ahead and tell them about your recent travel and your symptoms.
- Avoid contact with others.
- Not travel while sick.
- Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue or your sleeve (not your hands) when coughing or sneezing.
- Wash hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds. Use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer if soap and water are not available.
Scientists have said that the coronavirus is similar to the Spanish flu and suspect it most likely came from snakes. The outdoor food market that is alleged to be the origin included over 100 different animals both live and dead, as TMU reported.
Symptoms include a fever, cough, shortness of breath, and breathing difficulties. However, according to Chinese state media, some are not experiencing any of these symptoms and are instead experiencing nausea, diarrhea, tiredness, bad concentration, headache, irregular heartbeat, chest pain, cornea inflammation, and muscular pains in the limbs, back, and waist.
The WHO has advised governments to be prepared for the disease and to be ready to test anyone with symptoms that has traveled to affected regions.
A top official at the U.S. National Institute of Health (NIH) revealed Wednesday that trials for a vaccine targeting 2019-nCoV could potentially begin within three months.
Anthony S. Fauci, the director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told Bloomberg Law that they are working with Cambridge, Massachusetts-based biotech company Moderna Inc. to develop a vaccine.
“We’re already working on it,” Fauci said. “And hopefully, in a period of about three months, we’ll be able to start a phase I trial in humans.“
According to the Daily Mail, a report written by researchers from England, Scotland, and Florida believe that up to 350,000 people could potentially be infected in Wuhan by the beginning of February.
Many people suspect that the Chinese government is covering up the actual number of people who have thus far been infected by the virus. Some are even stating that the virus itself is far more dangerous and is currently mutating, according to posts on social media. One Wuhan patient stated on Twitter in Chinese that the virus that triggered such an epidemic is not a coronavirus but something else that is not included in the official report:
“This is a very aggressive virus, mine is not the coronavirus. The numbers are only covering the coronavirus. Mine is another (type of) viral pneumonia.”
Wang Guangfa, a top medic who contracted coronavirus, says the deadly respiratory disease is so contagious it can be transmitted through the eyes and recommends for people to wear eye protective gear.
— 自由亚洲电台 (@RFA_Chinese) January 23, 2020
One journalist shared a picture on Twitter allegedly showing that all staff at hospitals are forbidden to discuss the latest development of the outbreak with family, relatives, and friends through email, phone calls, texts, WeChat, Weibo, or e-mail. This suggests that China is in fact trying to cover up something about the virus.
Sources in #Wuhan shared the message with me, which allegedly shows that all staff at hospitals are forbidden to discuss about the latest development of #WuhanCoronavirus outbreak with family, relatives and friends through email, phone calls, texts, WeChat, Weibo or e-mail. pic.twitter.com/LD6DVamZvH
— William Yang (@WilliamYang120) January 24, 2020
A source on the ground told TMU that Wuhan is already running out of medical resources with hospitals and doctors asking for donations of supplies privately.
Last year in December, shortly before the first known case, scientists argued that the global community as a whole was not ready for a disease X in a pandemic preparedness exercise called Event 201. The program was a collaboration between the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, the World Economic Forum, and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Event 201 simulated a fictional coronavirus called CAPS.
New Study Suggests Binge Drinking Could Damage Brain And Cause Lasting Anxiety
(TMU) – A recent study suggests that binge drinking alcohol could seriously damage the brain in ways that increase the risk of cognitive-behavioral issues like anxiety.
The study, which was conducted by researchers at the University of Porto, found that just ten days of binge drinking cause immune cells in the brain to destroy connections between neurons, which leads to anxiety and other mental health issues.
It is important to note that these were not human studies, as the test subjects were mice, but these types of experiments typically give significant insight into how different substances affect the brains of humans.
Study co-author João Relvas, told Inverse that, “[We] don’t have any reason to believe that the same mechanisms will not be operating in the human brain. Even for a short period of time, excessive drinking is likely to affect the brain, increasing the level of anxiety, a relevant feature in alcohol abuse and addiction.”
“The dangers of alcohol drinking, especially amongst the younger population, have been widely underestimated and excessive alcohol drinking is socially relatively well tolerated. Increasing public awareness and education of the young can, together with other measures, change the way society looks at alcohol intake,” Relvas added.
In the study, the researchers broke the mice off into two groups. One group was given alcohol over a 10 day time period, while the other group was not. Half of the mice were given 1.5 grams per kilogram of ethyl alcohol each day, which is the equivalent of five drinks for an adult human that weighs 165 pounds.
After 10 days, the researchers looked at the mice’s brain tissue and found that the mice who consumed alcohol had significant damage to the area of the brain that controls complex cognition and decision making, which resulted in increased anxiety.
The researchers also determined the process that caused this damage in the brain. They believe that alcohol boosts the production of an inflammatory molecule called TNF.
In further experiments, they used a drug called pomalidomide to block TNF and found that it prevented anxiety and reduced the impact that the alcohol had on the brain.
The symptoms are “ultimately driven by increased secretion of TNF by microglia, as we show that reducing its production either pharmacologically or genetically can prevent synapse loss and anxiety,” Relvas says.
Relvas also said that this drug could potentially be used to treat alcohol addiction.
“This study suggests that regulating the levels of TNF might eventually be useful when treating alcohol addiction,” he said.
However, the team does not recommend that anyone use TNF inhibitors while binge drinking, because further studies need to be done to confirm the safety and efficacy of the drugs for the purpose.
Furthermore, TNF inhibitors would not prevent any of the other damage that alcohol can do to the rest of the body.
“Alcohol abuse is a leading cause of disease with a massive impact on human life and should be treated as so,” Relvas says.
His team’s findings were published earlier this month in the journal Science Signaling.
Otherwise healthy man suddenly dies from overdose of Black Licorice candy
(TMU) – In a tragic and unpredictable turn of events, a 54-year-old man in Massachusetts died after his heart stopped beating from eating too much black licorice candy. The man’s sudden death at a McDonald’s in 2019 had doctors clueless, and became the focus of a study by senior medical researchers.
We all have our guilty pleasures and vices: it could be that we like to butter our toast on both sides, drink a pot of coffee daily, snack on moonshine cherries, or the common problem of compulsive eating as we sit in front of the TV. And no doubt, these vices do carry a health cost – but the cost of this man’s black licorice habit turned out to be far beyond anything imaginable.
According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine, the 54-year-old man didn’t have a history of heart problems. His doctors attested that he regularly took his dog out on walks and was fit enough to meet the physical demands of his job as a construction worker.
However, his relative fitness wasn’t enough to contend with his fatal habit of consuming one to two large bags of black licorice every day for three weeks – a problem which, without any warning, had a massively detrimental impact on his health.
According to the report, the habit resulted in a precipitous drop in his potassium levels, causing his sudden heart failure at the McDonald’s. After suffering cardiac arrest and collapsing, the man never regained consciousness and died 24 hours after arriving at Massachusetts General Hospital.
“We almost didn’t believe it when we figured it out,” Dr. Jacqueline B. Henson, who treated the man while she worked at the hospital, told New York Times. “We were all shocked and surprised.”
Doctors soon discovered that the man had a generally poor diet and consumed at least a pack of cigarettes a day, according to friends and family. Yet none of those factors could explain his death. As it turned out, his death could be traced to his sudden switch from red to black licorice three weeks prior to his death.
Officials of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have announced that consuming two ounces of black licorice for 12 days can result in an irregular heart rhythm or arrhythmia for people aged 40 and over, as well as high blood pressure, edema (swelling), lethargy, and congestive heart failure.
Medical practitioners are generally taught that black licorice contains glycyrrhizic acid, a common plant extract used to sweeten candies and other foods that can dangerously reduce potassium levels when consumed in high doses.
The ingredient is also common in other foods and drinks that contain licorice root, such as jelly beans, licorice tea, certain types of chewing gum, popular anise liquors like ouzo, raki, arak, and anisette, and a number of Belgian beers. Sweet-flavored chewing tobaccos also commonly contain licorice.
However, overconsuming these products cause our potassium levels to plunge, throwing off the balance of sodium and potassium that’s necessary for a healthy functioning heart. When our potassium levels drop, sodium levels skyrocket – resulting in arrhythmia and boosting our blood pressure.
The Massachusetts case, however, is an extreme one and far from the norm, noted Dr. Henson, who said that the occasional licorice treat shouldn’t be confused with poison.
“It’s fine taken in sort of small amounts, infrequently,” Henson said. “But when taken on a regular basis, it can lead to these issues.”
Ann Arbor becomes latest city to decriminalize “magic” mushrooms and other natural psychedelics
(TMU) – The city of Ann Arbor, Michigan, has effectively decriminalized psilocybin or “magic” mushrooms along with other natural psychedelics in the latest sign that public opinion across the U.S. is continuing to turn against prohibitionist policies.
On Monday, the Ann Arbor City Council unanimously voted in favor of a resolution that would make it the city’s lowest-ranked law enforcement priority to the investigate or arrest anyone planting, cultivating, purchasing, transporting, distributing, using or possessing entheogenic plants or plant compounds.
The resolution applies to all psychedelics derived from plants and fungi, including psilocybin mushrooms, ayahuasca, ibogaine, mescaline, peyote and other substances with hallucinogenic properties deemed illegal under state and federal law.
The council also requires the Washtenaw County Prosecutor’s Office to halt the prosecution of those involved in the use of entheogenic plants and plant compounds.
Ann Arbor now joins a growing list of cities including Denver, Colorado, and the California cities of Santa Cruz and Oakland that have decriminalized all entheogenic plants. Other cities including Chicago and Austin are considering similar measures. A ballot measure that would legalize the use of psilocybin in therapeutic settings will also be voted on in the state of Oregon this November.
The move to de-prioritize law enforcement around psychedelics was spearheaded by the efforts of local grassroots advocacy group Decriminalize Nature Ann Arbor, or DNA2.
At the beginning of the year, councilmembers were skeptical about any move to decriminalize psychedelics. Since then, they’ve found themselves convinced by evidence of the therapeutic and spiritual benefits of psychedelics, including for mental health treatment and treating addiction, reports MLive.
Councilmember Zachary Ackerman cited the opening of a $17 million psychedelic and consciousness research center by Johns Hopkins Medicine as proof of “the tremendous potential of these future medicines.” The Center for Psychedelic and Consciousness at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore is currently conducting clinical trials to find out whether the drug is suitable as a prescription drug for the U.S. market.
Councilmember Jack Eaton described the council’s unanimous backing for the decriminalization resolution as carrying on the city’s legacy of backing the local decriminalization of m******** during the 1970s, when the plant was still illegal under state and federal law.
The resolution doesn’t allow for the commission of crimes or any significant violation of state or federal law, and any use of entheogenic substances that pose a threat to public health and safety could require intervention by law enforcement bodies.
In the resolution, entheogenic plants are defined as the full spectrum of plants and fungi that contain indole amines, tryptamines and phenethylamines “that can benefit psychological and physical wellness, support and enhance religious and spiritual practices, and can reestablish human’s inalienable and direct relationship to nature.”
The resolution also states that psychedelic substances can be used to address substance abuse problems, addiction, recidivism, trauma, post-traumatic stress, depression, anxiety, grief, cluster headaches and other debilitating conditions.
“The use of entheogenic plants, which can catalyze profound experiences of personal and spiritual growth, have been shown by scientific and clinical studies and traditional practices to be beneficial to the health and well-being of individuals and communities in addressing these conditions,” it states.
Psilocybin mushrooms are currently considered a Schedule 1 narcotic by the Drug Enforcement Agency.
However, psilocybin – the main chemical component of the mushrooms – was designated as a “breakthrough therapy” by the FDA in 2019 due to the positive results of psilocybin in treating depression, anxiety, addiction, and other mental health problems.
Studies have also shown how a microdose of psilocybin—far from the level needed for a full-blown trip—actually increases the creativity and empathy of participants.
Other researchers have also found that psilocybin has provided effective help to patients struggling to quit other addictive substances such as cigarettes.
The newfound recognition of psilocybin therapy as a valid treatment has eroded old stereotypes of psilocybin as some intoxicating and hallucination-inducing party drug that drives its users insane – a reputation that largely grew out of the hippie counterculture of the 1960s when they were widely known as “psychedelic” or “magic” mushrooms.
The resolution further notes that entheogenic plants have been the basis of spiritual practices by human cultures for thousands of years, yet those who seek them for the sake of improving their health and wellbeing must risk arrest and prosecution to obtain them.
“Decriminalization of naturally occurring medicines is necessary for progress,” councilmember Jeff Hayner said in a press release from DNA2 last week, reports Detroit Metro Times. “We can no longer turn a blind eye towards the wisdom of indigenous peoples, and the bounty the earth provides. I have been moved by the testimonies of those who have found profound relief from the use of entheogenic plants.”
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