London, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — The World Health Organization says there has been a "dramatic resurgence" of measles in Europe, in part fueled by vaccine refusals, with nearly 90,000 people sickened by the virus in the first half of 2019.
In a report issued Thursday, the U.N. health agency said the number of measles cases from January to June this year is double the number reported for the same period in 2018. Measles is among the world's most infectious diseases and is spread mostly by coughing, sneezing and close personal contact.
Although numerous European countries have introduced stronger vaccination policies, stubborn pockets of vaccine refusal have fueled epidemics across the continent. Last month, the German government proposed making measles immunization mandatory for children and employees at kindergartens and schools; there have been more than 400 cases of measles in Germany this year.
With more than 84,000 cases, Ukraine accounted for the vast majority of measles in Europe, followed by Kazakhstan and Georgia. In February, Ukraine's health ministry said eight people had died of measles.
An expert WHO committee said four countries — Albania, the Czech Republic, Greece and the U.K. — have now lost their status as having eliminated measles. Measles is preventable with two doses of the vaccine, but there is no effective treatment once people are infected.
"If high immunization coverage is not achieved and sustained in every community, both children and adults will suffer unnecessarily and some will tragically die," said Dr. Guenter Pfaff, chair of a WHO expert committee on measles in Europe.
In some developed countries, measles vaccination rates dropped sharply following the publication of a flawed study in the late 1990s that linked the combined measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism. Health officials have struggled to debunk misperceptions about the vaccine's safety ever since.
"Misinformation about vaccines is as contagious and dangerous as the diseases it helps to spread," WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in a statement this week.
In 2017, WHO estimated about 110,000 people died from measles worldwide, mostly children under 5-years-old.
New York, Aug 29 (AP/UNB) — A fossil from Ethiopia is letting scientists look millions of years into our evolutionary history — and they see a face peering back.
The find, from 3.8 million years ago, reveals the face for a presumed ancestor of the species famously represented by Lucy, the celebrated Ethiopian partial skeleton found in 1974.
This ancestral species is the oldest known member of Australopithecus, a grouping of creatures that preceded our own branch of the family tree, called Homo.
Scientists have long known that this species — A. anamensis — existed, and previous fossils of it extend back to 4.2 million years ago. But the discovered facial remains were limited to jaws and teeth. The newly reported fossil includes much of the skull and face.
It was described Wednesday in the journal Nature by Yohannes Haile-Selassie of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History and co-authors.
The face apparently came from a male. Its middle and lower parts jut forward, while Lucy's species shows a flatter mid-face, a step toward humans' flat faces. The fossil also shows the beginning of the massive and robust faces found in Australopithecus, built to withstand strains from chewing tough food, researchers said.
The fossil was found in 2016, in what was once sand deposited in a river delta on the shore of lake. At the time the creature lived, the area was largely dry shrubland with some trees. Other work has shown A. anamensis evidently walked upright, but there's no evidence that it flaked stone to make tools, said study co-author Stephane Melillo of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig, Germany.
Experts unconnected to the new study praised the work. Eric Delson of Lehman College in New York called the fossil "beautiful" and said the researchers did an impressive job of reconstructing it digitally to help determine its place in the evolutionary tree.
With a face for A. anamensis, said Zeray Alemseged of the University of Chicago, "now we know how they looked and how they differed from the Lucy species."
William Kimbel, who directs the Institute of Human Origins at Arizona State University, said the discovery helps fill a critical gap in information on the earliest evolution of the Australopithecus group.
The study's authors said the finding indicates A. anamensis hung around for at least 100,000 years after producing Lucy's species, A. afarensis. That contradicts the widely accepted idea that there was no such overlap, they wrote.
Scientists care about overlap because its presence or absence can indicate the process by which one species gave rise to another. The paper's argument for overlap rests on its conclusion that a forehead bone previously found in Ethiopia belongs to Lucy's species.
But several experts, including Kimbel, were not convinced that conclusion is correct. So the question of just how Lucy's species arose from the older one remains open, Kimbel said in an email.
Bunol, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — More than 20,000 people are pelting each other with ripe tomatoes in the annual "Tomatina" street battle in a town in eastern Spain that has become a major tourist attraction.
The party saw 145 tons of tomatoes offloaded from six trucks into crowds packing Buñol's streets for the midday hour-long battle Wednesday.
The fight leaves participants and the surrounding streets awash in red pulp.
Participants don swimming goggles to protect their eyes.
Organizers hose the streets down moments after the event's end at noon while participants use public showers.
The event, which costs 12 euros (about $13) for a basic ticket, was inspired by a food fight between local children in 1945 in the tomato-producing region.
Dhaka, Aug 28 (UNB) – Marking the National Mourning Day and 44th death anniversary of Father of the Nation, Bangladesh Shilpakala Academy (BSA) is organising drama shows of Loko Natyadal’s play ‘Mujib Maane Mukti’ across the country from Aug 28-31.
The play is researched, planned, written, composed and directed by prominent theatre activist Liaquat Ali Lucky.
Several shows are scheduled to be staged at 20 venues in Dhaka, Gopalganj, Moulvibazar, Jhenaidah, Gazipur and Brahmanbaria. A total of 100 drama troupes are participating in these shows, BSA officials told UNB.
“‘Mujib Maane Mukti’ is an emotional and poetic tribute to Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman,” Lucky said.
BSA’s month-long schedule also includes several other programmes to observe the National Mourning Day and 44th death anniversary of Bangabandhu.
Salt Lake City, Aug 28 (AP/UNB) — Utah health officials say they are investigating 21 cases of a severe lung disease linked to vaping.
The state Department of Health announced the new number Monday, a jump from the five cases in teenagers and young adults reported last week.
The department says the cases stem from the use of a mix of nicotine and marijuana electronic cigarette products.
The symptoms of the disease include coughing, shortness of breath, chest pain, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.
The department advises that people who vape experience any of the symptoms that they should visit doctors.
Health officials say the first five people found with the disease were hospitalized.
Their conditions have improved after treatment.