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Nigeria Fighting Cholera Outbreak; Death Toll Nears 1,800

Nigerian health officials say nearly 1,800 people have died from cholera this year, with cases found in more than 20 states around the country. To combat the bacterial disease that is spread by dirty water, Nigeria’s Federal Ministry of Environment is urging proper hygiene and organizing mass cleanups in affected areas. Timothy Obiezu reports from the capital, Abuja.Camera: Emeka Gibson

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Johnson & Johnson’s HIV Vaccine Fails Mid-Stage Africa Study

Johnson & Johnson said on Tuesday its experimental vaccine failed to provide sufficient protection against HIV in sub-Saharan Africa to young women who accounted for a large number of infections last year.The results from the mid-stage study are the latest setback to efforts to develop a vaccine to prevent HIV or human immunodeficiency virus, which causes AIDS that had infected over 37 million people globally as of 2020.”Although this is certainly not the study outcome for which we had hoped, we must apply the knowledge learned from the … trial and continue our efforts to find a vaccine that will be protective against HIV,” said Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID).Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 Vaccine Shown Less Effective Against VariantsPreliminary study at New York University suggests a second shot may help Despite the discovery of effective treatments that can put the virus in remission, experts say an HIV vaccine is critical to eradicating the virus.The mid-stage study testing the J&J vaccine included 2,600 women participants across five Southern African countries, where women and girls accounted for over 60% of all new HIV infections last year.Researchers found that 63 participants who received placebo and 51 who were administered the J&J vaccine got HIV infection, resulting in a vaccine efficacy of 25.2%.The vaccine was found to be safe with no serious side effects reported, but the study will not continue based on the efficacy data, J&J said.The trial of the vaccine was supported by the NIAID and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.J&J said it was studying the safety and efficacy of a different experimental HIV vaccine among men who have sex with men, and transgender persons. The trial, conducted in the Americas and Europe, is expected to be completed in March 2024.

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New Variant of COVID-19 Detected in South Africa    

Scientists in South Africa say they have detected a new variant of COVID-19.The country’s National Institute for Communicable Diseases announced Monday in a new study that the variant, which has been designated C.1.2, was first detected in South Africa in May of this year, and has since spread to seven other countries in Africa, Asia, Europe and the southern Pacific region of Oceania.   The scientists say the C.1.2 variant appears to have the same characteristics as that of other mutations that are more transmissible and more able to overtake a person’s immune system.The study has not been published nor has it undergone the normal peer review process. The scientists say they are still monitoring the frequency of the C.1.2 variant, and that it has not evolved as either a “variant of interest” or “variant of concern” under the guidelines established by the World Health Organization. FILE – A general view of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta, Georgia, Sept. 30, 2014.The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Monday that the three COVID-19 vaccines currently in use in the United States remain highly effective in preventing severe disease. Dr. Sara Oliver, a CDC scientist, told a vaccine advisory panel that the COVID-19 vaccine was 94% effective in preventing hospitalization for adults between the ages of 18 to 74 between April and July, when the delta variant became dominant. The vaccine’s effectiveness against hospitalization dropped among adults 75 and older, but was still above 80%.   Dr. Oliver told the panel the vaccines appear to be less effective in preventing infection or mild illness, which she said was due to the vaccine’s weakening over time and the more contagious delta variant.   A Dallas County Health and Human Services nurse completes paperwork after administering a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at a county-run vaccination site in Dallas, Aug. 26, 2021.The advisory committee is considering whether to recommend authorizing booster shots of the Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson vaccines amid a surge of new COVID-19 infections across the United States. The Biden administration recently announced it will begin offering a third shot of the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine sometime next month. Both the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration have recently recommended a third shot of Pfizer or Moderna for some people with weakened immune systems.  The committee unanimously voted Monday to recommend the Pfizer vaccine for Americans 16 years old and older.  In a separate development Monday, the CDC added seven new destinations to its highest risk level of its COVID-19 travel advisory list. Azerbaijan, Estonia, Guam, North Macedonia, the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico, the Caribbean island nation of Saint Lucia and Switzerland have been designated as Level 4, which signifies a “very high” risk of contracting COVID-19. The CDC says people should avoid travel to these destinations, and advises that anyone who must travel to these spots needs to be fully vaccinated. FILE – People cross nearly empty streets in the central business district of Auckland, New Zealand, Aug. 27, 2021.In New Zealand, health officials Tuesday reported another decline in new COVID-19 cases since Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern placed the country under a strict lockdown earlier this month. The health ministry posted 49 new cases on Tuesday, after reporting 53 cases Monday and 83 new cases Sunday.   Ardern imposed the strict lockdown on August 17 after a 58-year-old man in Auckland became the first person to test positive for COVID-19 since February. About 612 new cases have since been posted, with Auckland posting 597 and 15 detected in the capital, Wellington, according to Reuters.Some information for this report came from Reuters.      

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US Climate Envoy in Japan to Push Efforts to Cut Emissions

U.S. climate envoy John Kerry met in Tokyo on Tuesday with Japan’s top diplomat to push efforts to fight climate change ahead of a United Nations conference in November. Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi highlighted what he said was the importance of getting other major carbon emitters, especially China, to cooperate. “China is the world’s biggest carbon emitter and the number two economy as well, and it is extremely important that we encourage China to firmly fulfill its responsibility to match its place,” Motegi told reporters after his meeting with Kerry. Motegi added that he hoped Japan and the United States would lead global decarbonizing efforts at the U.N. conference to be held in Glasgow in late November, known as COP26, and beyond. The United States is the second-largest carbon emitter. Japan is fifth. Kerry was also scheduled to meet with Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, Environment Minister Shinjiro Koizumi, as well as Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Hiroshi Kajiyama. Kerry arrived in Japan on Monday and will fly out on Tuesday evening to China for more climate talks — his second trip to the country during the Biden administration. Kerry has called on global leaders to work together and accelerate actions needed to curb rising temperatures to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial levels. He urged China to join the U.S. in urgently cutting carbon emissions. Many countries have pledged to eliminate net carbon emissions by 2050. Japan has promised to strive to reduce its emissions by 46% from 2012 levels, up from an earlier target of 26%, to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050. China has also set a goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2060. Suga has said Japan will try to push the reduction as high as 50% to be in line with the European Union. In order to achieve that target, Japan’s Environment Ministry is seeking a significant budget increase to promote renewable energy and decarbonizing programs. The Trade and Industry Ministry plans to use large subsidies to promote electric vehicles and wind power generation, according to a draft budget proposal for 2022. The Trade and Industry Ministry, in its draft basic energy plan released in July, said the share of renewables should be raised to 36-38% of the power supply in 2030 from the current target of 22-24%. During his Sept. 1-3 China visit, Kerry is expected to meet with his Chinese counterpart, Xie Zhenhua. 

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Officials in Louisiana Assess Trail of Destruction Left by Hurricane Ida

The mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana, is urging residents who evacuated ahead of Sunday’s arrival of now-Tropical Depression Ida not to return as the massive storm has left the city without electricity. Ida hit the Louisiana coastline as a Category 4 hurricane packing winds of 240 kilometers per hour, 16 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans when the flood barriers known as levees failed and left the city underwater, killing 1,800 people and trapping thousands of other residents for days.  Officials said the new $14.5 billion system of levees that were erected around New Orleans after the 2005 disaster withstood the onslaught of Ida and kept the waters of the Mississippi River from flooding the city again. However, more than one million residents in Louisiana, including New Orleans, and the neighboring southern U.S. state of Mississippi are without electricity.  Local utility company Entergy said all eight electric transmission lines that feed the city are out of service, with one tower falling into the Mississippi River. Authorities said it could be days, even weeks, before power is fully restored, raising further concerns over residents falling ill from the area’s searing late-summer heat, which forecasters say could go as high as 32 degrees Celsius later this week.People move in boat on flooded streets in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Monday, Aug. 30, 2021, in Lafitte, La.“Now is not the time for re-entry,” New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Monday during a post-Ida press conference.  The situation was far worse in several surrounding areas, such as the town of LaPlace, located about 55 kilometers west of New Orleans. The heavy rain Ida dumped on the town left the streets flooded, trapping many residents in their homes Monday. A group of volunteers searched the flooded streets in motorboats in LaPlace and other small towns to rescue the trapped residents.  Louisiana Governor John Bel Edwards said at least two people have died as a result of Hurricane Ida, including a man who drowned in New Orleans and a person killed when a tree fell on a house outside of the city of Baton Rouge, the state capital. Governor Edwards said he expects the death toll to rise considerably due to the significant destruction caused by Ida.  U.S. President Joe Biden talked with officials from the hardest-hit regions Monday, voicing his confidence that people in “Louisiana and Mississippi are resilient,” while assuring them that “we can certainly see the power of government respond to the needs of the people.”   “We’re going to stand with you and the people in the Gulf (of Mexico), as long as it takes for you to recover,” Biden said during a virtual videoconference call at the White House. The National Hurricane Center downgraded Ida to a tropical depression late Monday afternoon, with maximum sustained winds of 55 kilometers an hour on a path towards Jackson, Mississippi. Forecasters expect it to veer to the northeast through Tennessee, Kentucky and West Virginia before heading toward the nation’s capital, Washington D.C. by Wednesday.  Emergency management officials in Tennessee warned about the dangers of the storm in areas that are still recovering from flash flooding that killed at least 20 people earlier in August.  Some information for this report came from The Associated Press and Reuters. 

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UN Marks ‘Official End’ of Leaded Gasoline

The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) said Algeria stopped selling leaded gasoline in July, making it the last country to end its sale and marking an “official end” of leaded gasoline use in cars. Wealthy countries began phasing out leaded gasoline in the 1970s and 1980s due to health and environmental concerns, but some countries continued to sell it.  UNEP began a final push to ban leaded gasoline in 2002. “The successful enforcement of the ban on leaded petrol is a huge milestone for global health and our environment,” UNEP Executive Director Inger Andersen said in a statement. Lead was first added to gas nearly 100 years ago, ostensibly to improve engine performance. Leaded gas is still used on some small airplanes, according to The Associated Press. Some information in this report comes from The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.  
 

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First WHO Health Supplies Land in Taliban-Held Afghanistan 

The World Health Organization says an aircraft provided by Pakistan Monday delivered the first shipment of much-needed medicine and health supplies to Afghanistan since the country came under control of the Taliban. The humanitarian assistance was loaded in Dubai and flown directly to the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif, said a WHO statement. The supplies will be immediately delivered to 40 health facilities in 29 provinces across Afghanistan.  The plane carrying Taliban fighters display their flag as they patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, Aug. 19, 2021. The WHO said Monday that a reliable humanitarian air bridge is urgently required to scale up the collective humanitarian effort.“After days of non-stop work to find a solution, I am very pleased to say that we have now been able to partially replenish stocks of health facilities in Afghanistan and ensure that — for now – WHO-supported health services can continue,” said Dr. Ahmed Al Mandhari, WHO regional director for the eastern Mediterranean.The 12.5 metric ton supplies delivered consist of trauma kits and interagency emergency health kits, and are enough to cover the basic health needs of more than 200,000 people, as well as provide 3,500 surgical procedures and treat 6,500 trauma patients.The WHO noted that Monday’s flight was the first of three planned with Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) to fill urgent shortages in medicine and medical supplies in Afghanistan.  First PIA Cargo flight with WHO medical supplies from Islamabad to Mazar Sharif today. A humanitarian air bridge for essential supplies to Afghanistan in coordination with international agencies. Thanx PIA. FILE – A US military aircraft takes off at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, Aug. 28, 2021.The WHO called for the world to remain focused on meeting the needs of the people of Afghanistan at this critical time.“The world’s attention over the past two weeks has been focused on the air evacuation from Kabul airport. But the demanding humanitarian work of meeting the needs of tens of millions of vulnerable Afghans who remain in the country is now beginning,” the world body said.  
 FILE – Internally displaced Afghan families, who fled from the northern province due to battle between Taliban and Afghan security forces, sit in the courtyard of the Wazir Akbar Khan mosque in Kabul, Aug. 13, 2021.On Sunday, UNICEF said in a statement that children were particularly bearing the brunt of the increased conflict and insecurity in the past weeks. The agency noted that children are “at greater risk than ever” in the wake of a security crisis, skyrocketing food prices, a severe drought, the spread of the coronavirus, and upcoming harsh winter conditions.“If the current trend continues, UNICEF predicts that one million children under 5 in Afghanistan will suffer from severe acute malnutrition — a life-threatening disease.”More than 4 million children, including 2.2 million girls, are out of school while around 300,000 children have been forced out of their homes due to the conflict, according to UNICEF. The agency warned partners against cutting aid to Afghanistan. “The needs of the children of Afghanistan have never been greater. We cannot abandon them now.” 

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Fauci: ‘Just Get Vaccinated’

The top U.S. infectious disease expert told CNN Sunday there could be up to 100,000 new COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. by the end of the year, but the situation while “entirely predictable” is also “entirely preventable.”   Dr. Anthony Fauci said the U.S. has the “wherewithal” to avoid the fulfillment of the prediction, but the problem is the 80 million people in the country who are not vaccinated. “We could turn this thing around and we can do it efficiently and quickly if we could just get those people vaccinated,” Fauci said. “It’s so important that people in this crisis put aside any ideological and political differences and just get vaccinated.” Meanwhile, last week, the U.S. reached a daily average of 100,000 hospitalizations for COVID-19, according to a New York Times report that said the surge in cases is rivaled only by a surge last winter when vaccines were not available.Memphis overwhelmed by COVID-19 emergency calls, prompting wait times for ambulances, Aug. 13, 2021.“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” Dr. Shannon Byrd, a pulmonologist in Knoxville, Tennessee told The Times. “It’s bringing whole families down and tearing families apart. They’re dying in droves.”  Residents of Auckland, New Zealand are facing another two weeks of full lockdown, after 53 more cases of the highly contagious delta variant were detected in the region Monday. Eighty-three cases were detected Sunday.  New Zealand’s health ministry announced the country’s first death linked to Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine, a woman who died from myocarditis shortly after she was inoculated. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the heart muscle and has been identified as a side effect of the Pfizer two-dose vaccine.The health ministry said the woman had other medical issues which may have contributed to her death. Israel has opened its COVID vaccine booster program to all citizens 12 years of age and older, as the country is challenged with an increasing number of COVID delta variant cases.The Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center counted more than 216.4 million global infections early Monday and 4.5 million deaths. It cost nearly $15,000 for a U.S. football player to make the decision to get a COVID vaccine.  Isaiah McKenzie, a wide receiver for the Buffalo Bills, was fined $14,650 for not wearing a mask inside a team facility on several occasions, conduct contrary to the National Football League’s protocol for unvaccinated players. After the fine, McKenzie got his first shot. Some information for this report came from Reuters and The Associated Press. 

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