Friday, May 22, 2015

M4.2 Quake Rattles UK & A Review Of Europe’s Seismic Risks


Credit British Geological Society


# 10,077


Although the risks of seeing a major earthquake in the UK are small, the British Isles are not immune to moderately strong tremors.  Their strongest recorded quake (M6.1) occurred in 1931, well enough offshore into the North Sea as to not cause much damage (see BGS account of the Dogger Bank Earthquake).


Overnight a considerably smaller quake occurred just offshore from Ramsgate, Kent.  The British Geographic Society describes the event as:


The earthquake of the 22 May 2015 occurred at 02:52 BST0 (01:52 UTC), with an epicentre approximately 7 km south of Ramsgate, Kent. The instrumental magnitude was determined at 4.2 ML, and the earthquake was located approximately 24 km northeast of the magnitude 4.3 Folkestone earthquake that occurred on 28 April 2007. So far, over 1,000 felt reports from an automatic online questionnaire survey have been received from members of the public, almost all of them coming from within a 75 km radius of the epicentre, covering Ramsgate and Margate and their surrounding hamlets, as far south as Dover and Folkestone (approximately 18-26 km southwest of the epicentre), Canterbury (approximately 22 km to the west of the epicentre) and Herne Bay (approximately 20 km to the northwest of the epicentre). Further afield, reports have been received from the Faversham, Chatham, Basildon and Southend-on-Sea areas. The most distant reports have been received from Norwich, North Walsham and Cromer (see map).

Almost all of the reports indicated that people were awoken from their sleep. Over half the reports described the shaking strength of the earthquake to be moderate, mainly with a trembling effect, and described the sound strength as moderate. Over two thirds of the reports stated that windows rattled and one third reported furniture shaking. Reports described “thought door to hotel was being kicked in, woke up alarmed”, “woke the whole household and neighbours with a bang that lasted 1-2 seconds”, “walls of house creaked, sounded like heavy object rolling over roof of the house”, “noise and the whole building just shaking the road made a weird loud noise too”, “banging of window shutters first, then rumbling noise faintly but shutter banging became louder, then four poster bed hangings were swaying and whole room seemed to be moving” and “I was lying in my bed watching something with my headphones on when I felt the bed shake”

Updated at 11:30 BST (10:30 UTC), 22 May 2015


This is a region with some history of seismic activity - as the historical map below shows - in 2007 a 4.2 quake was reported just south of last night’s quake, and if you go back to the 1300’s an (estimated) M5.8 quake occurred just offshore.



Historical quakes near Ramsgate, Kent


When it comes to earthquakes we usually think first of the Pacific’s Ring Of Fire, but Europe – particularly southern Europe -  has a long history of destructive quakes as well.   And lest anyone discount the destructiveness of a moderate 6.0 quake, few buildings in northern and central Europe were built with seismic safety in mind.


30,000+ European Quakes Charted – Credit SHARE


In 2011,  in A Look At Europe’s Seismic Risks, we took a look at some of the devastating earthquakes to strike Europe over the past 700 years, including the quake that leveled the Swiss town of Basel in 1356 and the horrific earthquake and tsunami that struck Portugal in 1755 on November 1st (All Saint’s Day).


In December of 2011, in WHO e-Atlas Of Natural Disaster Risks To Europe, we looked at some of the seismic risks to Europe. Also in 2011 (see UNDP: Supercities At Seismic Risk) we saw a report that stated that half of the world’s supercities (urban areas with 2 million – 15 million inhabitants) are at high risk for seismic activity.


And more recently, in January of 2012 (see UN Agency Warns On Global Seismic Risks), the United Nations International Strategy For Disaster Reduction (UNIDSR.Org) issued a cautionary warning about ignoring seismic threats.

Below you’ll find the 2013 SHARE (Seismic Hazard Harmonization in Europe) seismic hazard map.




Last April, in  UK: 2015 Civil Risks Register, we looked at more than 2 dozen serious `risks’ to the UK’s civilian population that the the UK government is actively concerned about, and preparing for. 


They range from catastrophic terrorist attacks to effusive volcanic eruptions (in Iceland) to pandemic influneza (their #1 natural disaster concern).


Last night’s temblor is a reminder that disasters can strike anytime, and anywhere, and preparedness isn’t just for those who live on major fault lines or in the path of hurricanes and typhoons.  Every home should have no less than a 72-hour supply of emergency food and water, a good first aid kit, emergency lighting (not candles!), a battery operated radio, and a disaster plan.



Basic kit : NWS radio, First Aid Kit, Lanterns, Water & Food & cash


For more on preparedness, you may wish to revisit some of these recent blogs:


Referral: CIDRAP Recaps Yesterday’s HPAI H5N2 News


Credit Minn. Board Animal Health



# 10,076


Although we’ve seen a decline in the number of new farms reporting HPAI H5 infection across the upper Midwest, the avian virus continues to impact additional farms in Iowa, and even states that haven’t reported a new cases in several days dare not relax.   


It is hoped that warmer weather will continue to diminish the avian flu threat over the summer, but what comes next fall and winter is anyone’s guess. 


Which is why Iowa announced yesterday that they will join Minnesota, New York, and several other states which have already decided to prohibit the display, trade, or sale of poultry at state and county fairs and other public venues through the end of 2015.  


Excerpts from the official statement follow:



Fairs, livestock auctions, swap meet and exotic sales will not include birds

DES MOINES – The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship today announced an order to cancel all live bird exhibitions at county fairs, the Iowa State Fair, and other gatherings of birds due to avian influenza. The Department’s order begins immediately, is effective through the end of 2015, and also prohibits live birds from being sold at livestock auction markets, swap meets and exotic sales.

Iowa has over 25 million birds and more than 60 farms impacted by H5N2 highly-pathogenic avian influenza (HPAI). The purpose of the Department’s directive is to minimize the risk of potential further spread of the virus to other poultry.  The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and Iowa Department of Public Health consider the risk to the public related to HPAI H5 infections to be very low.  No human infections of the virus have ever been detected and there is no food safety risk for consumers.

“We are asking producers and bird owners to increase their biosecurity measures and we feel this is a needed step to further minimize the risk of spreading the virus,” said Iowa Secretary of Agriculture Bill Northey.  "The scale of this outbreak has been unprecedented, so we think it is important we take every possible step to limit the chance that this disease will spread any further."

(Continue . . . )


With more on all of this, plus concerns over media reports of lax biosecurity at some farms and a recap of recent outbreaks in Iowa, CIDRAP News  Editor Robert Roos penned the following report last night.


Iowa bans bird shows as avian flu outbreaks persist

Robert Roos | News Editor | CIDRAP News

May 21, 2015

Iowa state officials today announced a ban on live-bird shows and some sales for the rest of this year in an effort to stop the spread of avian flu, and followed up by reporting another chicken outbreak, which followed two turkey outbreaks announced yesterday.

Meanwhile, a Reuters story today said that on the basis of a reporter's experience, recommended biosecurity measures were not being enforced at several farms in northwestern Iowa, where the state's outbreaks are concentrated.

(Continue . . . )


Thursday, May 21, 2015

Eurosurveillance: Genetic Diversity Of H5N8 Detected In Japanese Birds


Credit U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service


# 10,075



In January of 2014, an emerging HPAI H5N8 appeared in South Korean poultry and wild birds, and although it appears to have originated in China the previous year, it suddenly took off.  It showed up next in Japan, and subsequently showed up across much of China, in Russia, Western Europe, Taiwan, and North America.

Apparently at home in migratory birds, this well-traveled H5N8 virus has reassorted with several local LPAI viruses, producing viable, and highly pathogenic hybrids (H5N2, H5N3, H5N1, etc.) – which taken together have cost the world’s poultry industry billions of dollars over the past 15 months (see Taiwan hit by new type of H5N2, H5N8 for first time).


As with all of the avian flu viruses we’ve been watching, these influenza subtypes (i.e. H5N8 or H5N1) don’t represent a single entity, but rather a family of closely related viruses, all able to `better themselves’  through the evolutionary process. 


As a result, new variants and clades are constantly appearing either through antigenic drift or reassortment. Some fail miserably and quickly fade away, while others are competitive and `biologically fit’ enough to prosper.


We’ve heard a lot about the genetic diversity of H5N1 and the need to update candidate vaccines over the years (see WER: Development Of Candidate Vaccine Viruses For Pandemic Preparedness), but far less is known about how the H5N8 virus is evolving in the wild.


A little a year ago, in EID Journal: Describing 3 Distinct H5N8 Reassortants In Korea, we saw some early evidence of this evolutionary pattern, and last December in NARO: Miyazaki H5N8 Outbreak A Different Sub Clade we learned that a second variation on an H5N8 theme had turned up in a Japanese poultry outbreak.

Last fall (see Japan: H5N8 Detected In Izumi Crane) H5N8 was detected among wild and migratory birds in the Izumi bird preserve on southern tip of Japan, a place famed for the yearly arrival and overwintering of thousands of rare Hooded, and White-naped cranes.

Both species spend their summers in Mongolia, Siberia, or Northwestern China - and of the roughly 10,000 hooded swans in the world - 80% overwinter in Izumi.


All of which serves as prelude to a Rapid Communications that appears in today’s Eurosurveillance that describes the discovery of at least 3 genetically distinct groups of the H5N8 virus.

Eurosurveillance, Volume 20, Issue 20, 21 May 2015

Rapid communications

Genetic diversity of highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza viruses at a single overwintering site of migratory birds in Japan, 2014/15

M Ozawa ()1,2,3,4, A Matsuu2,3,4, K Tokorozaki5, M Horie2,3, T Masatani2,3, H Nakagawa1, K Okuya1, T Kawabata2, S Toda5

We isolated eight highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza viruses (H5N8 HPAIVs) in the 2014/15 winter season at an overwintering site of migratory birds in Japan. Genetic analyses revealed that these isolates were divided into three groups, indicating the co-circulation of three genetic groups of H5N8 HPAIV among these migratory birds. These results also imply the possibility of global redistribution of the H5N8 HPAIVs via the migration of these birds next winter.

In January 2014, newly discovered highly pathogenic H5N8 avian influenza viruses (H5N8 HPAIVs) caused outbreaks in poultry and wild birds in South Korea [1], although their ancestor had been isolated in China in 2013 [2]. Thereafter, these viruses have been circulating in both avian populations in South Korea [3,4] and sporadically in neighbouring countries, including China and Japan. Since November 2014, H5N8 HPAIVs have also appeared in poultry and wild birds in Europe [5,6]. Genetic analyses revealed that these isolates were closely related to the H5N8 viruses circulating in Korean birds. More recently, genetically similar HPAIVs also caused outbreaks in various avian species in North America [7]. These findings suggest that the H5N8 viruses have circulated and evolved in migratory birds.


Phylogenetic analysis

To understand the genetic relationship between our isolates and related viruses, the HA and neuraminidase (NA) genes were phylogenetically analysed with counterparts from the representative avian influenza H5 (Figure 2A) and N8 (Figure 2B) subtypes, respectively.

We found that the H5 genes from our eight isolates belonged to clade and were genetically divided into three groups. The water isolate, A/environment/Kagoshima/KU-ngr-H/2014(H5N8), fell into a phylogenetic cluster together with the European isolates and was closely related to two wild duck isolates in Japan (Group A, indicated in green in the Figures). The first and second crane isolates, A/crane/Kagoshima/KU1/2014(H5N8) and A/crane/Kagoshima/KU13/2014(H5N8), were genetically similar to the North American isolates (Group B, blue in the Figures). The HA genes of the rest of our isolates (Group C, red in the Figures), as well as a poultry isolate from Japan were clearly distinct from those of the other recent H5N8 isolates. These findings suggest that three genetically distinct groups of H5N8 HPAIVs were independently circulating among the migratory birds at the Izumi plain.

Intriguingly, the genetic grouping of our isolates matched broadly the dates of sampling; the forth to eighth isolates were categorised into Group C, while earlier isolates were categorised into Group A or B. To determine whether this virus group has genetic characteristics that become predominant among the migratory birds over the remaining virus groups, further investigation would be needed.


No mutations were found that are known to confer the ability to infect mammalian hosts or to provide resistance against anti-influenza drugs to avian influenza viruses, with the exception of an asparagine at position 31 in the M2 protein, which confers resistance to the M2 ion channel blocker amantadine [11].


We isolated eight H5N8 HPAIVs from migratory birds and the water in their environment at the Izumi plain in southern Japan. Based on their genome sequences, these isolates were genetically divided into three groups. These results indicate the co-circulation of at least three genetic groups of H5N8 HPAIVs among the migratory birds overwintering at a single site in Japan. These H5N8 HPAIVs are most likely to be derived from wild ducks [12], rather than from cranes whose flyways were restricted to East Asian countries (Figure 1A). These findings also imply the possibility of global redistribution of the H5N8 HPAIVs via migration of these ducks next winter.


The birds that overwintered in Japan, Korea, and the Pacific Northwest last fall are now gathered in their summer breeding sites in northern China, Mongolia and Siberia -  sharing lakes, ponds, and streams and no doubt, the occasional avian virus -  and will be winging their way south again in a few short months. 

What new viral variants, clades, or reassortments we will see next fall and winter when they return is anyone’s guess.

Texas DSHS Announces First Neuroinvasive West Nile Case Of 2015


Photo Credit CDC


# 10,074


The West Nile Virus arrived in North America in 1999, likely brought in by a viremic visitor, and over a period of a few short years managed to spread across the entire United States and make inroads into Canada.

From the USGS Factsheet on West Nile Virus


While some years are worse than others, each summer thousands of people are infected via mosquito bites in the United States.  Fortunately, about 80% of those infected with WNV experience at worst only mild, or sub-clinical symptoms. Most of the rest may experience a brief febrile illness (West Nile Fever).  Both are likely highly underreported.


A very small percentage (perhaps 1%) may develop WNV neuroinvasive disease (WNND), a form of encephalitis that can sometimes prove fatal. Those over the age of 50 appear to be the most vulnerable to the most serious form of the illness, and as most of those are hospitalized, those numbers are more solid.


In 2012 – the worst year for West Nile deaths thus far – the CDC reported:


Final 2012 West Nile virus update:

In 2012, all 48 contiguous states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico reported West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes. A total of 5,674 cases of West Nile virus disease in people, including 286 deaths, were reported to CDC. Of these, 2,873 (51%) were classified as neuroinvasive disease (such as meningitis or encephalitis) and 2,801 (49%) were classified as non-neuroinvasive disease. The numbers of neuroinvasive, non-neuroinvasive, and total West Nile virus disease cases reported in 2012 are the highest since 2003.



Last year, only 85 deaths were reported, and in 2011 just 43.  We really won’t have any idea what kind of West Nile season we are going to see yet for a couple of month.   But today, Texas has reported their first confirmed neuroinvasive West Nile case of the year.



Texas Reports Year’s First West Nile Case

News Release
May 21, 2015

The Texas Department of State Health Services is reporting the state’s first case of West Nile illness this year and reminding people how to protect themselves from the mosquito-borne virus that causes it.

A patient in Harris County has been diagnosed with West Nile neuroinvasive disease, the more serious form of illness. DSHS won’t release additional personal details in order to protect the patient’s identity. To reduce the chances of a mosquito bite that can transmit West Nile virus, people should:

  • Use an approved insect repellent every time you go outside and follow the instructions on the label. Among the EPA-approved repellents are those that contain DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and oil of lemon eucalyptus/para-menthane-diol products.
  • Regularly drain standing water, including water collecting in empty cans, tires, buckets, clogged rain gutters and saucers under potted plants. Mosquitoes that spread West Nile virus breed in stagnant water.
  • Wear long sleeves and pants at dawn and dusk when mosquitoes are most active.
  • Use air conditioning or make sure there are screens on all doors and windows to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

“Up to 80 percent of people who contract the virus don’t get symptoms and won’t even know they have it,” said Dr. Tom Sidwa, state public health veterinarian and manager of DSHS’s zoonosis control branch. “But those who do get sick can experience very serious effects ranging from fever to substantial neurological symptoms and even death.”

Symptoms of the milder form of illness, West Nile fever, can include headache, fever, muscle and joint aches, nausea and fatigue. People with West Nile fever typically recover on their own, although symptoms may last for weeks to months. Symptoms of West Nile neuroinvasive disease can include those of West Nile fever plus neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis.

There are no medications to treat or vaccines to prevent West Nile virus infection. People over 50 years old and those with other health issues are at a higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying when they become infected with the virus. If people have symptoms and suspect West Nile virus infection, they should contact their healthcare provider.

Health officials are also monitoring cases of another mosquito-borne virus, chikungunya. Seven Texas residents have been diagnosed with chikungunya this year. So far, all Texas cases have been acquired by people travelling abroad in areas where the virus is more common, particularly the Caribbean. The same precautions apply, and DSHS encourages travelers to take steps to avoid mosquito bites.

Last year, there were 379 human cases of West Nile illness in Texas, including sixdeaths. DSHS will regularly update case counts at


As we do every summer, we’ll be following the spread of mosquito-borne pathogens such as Dengue, Chikungunya, Malaria, WNV, SLEV, and EEE  along with tickborne diseases like Lyme, SFTS, and the Heartland Virus. 

With the Memorial day weekend coming up, and a long summer ahead, it is important to remember the 5 `Ds’ of prevention:


Qatar SCH Announces 3rd MERS Case Of 2015



After a remarkably quiet April and first part of May, MERS-CoV is back in the news this week, with recent cases spread from Saudi Arabia, to the UAE, to Iran on the Arabian peninsula to an imported case and cluster in South Korea


From Qatar’s Supreme Council of Health today we get the following statement on what is their 3rd MERS case of 2015, involving a non-national working at a camel farm.


SCH Reports a New Case of MERS-CoV

Publication Date:  21 May 2015
Category:  Primary News

SCH announces that MERS CoV infection has been confirmed in a 29 year old non-national working at a camel farm. This is the 3rd case in 2015 to be confirmed in Qatar.

The patient presented to a primary care health center on May 19th with symptoms of fever and cough for 5 days. The test results cam positive on May 20th2015 for MERS CoV and he was transferred to the hospital under strict Infection Prevention and Control measures. The patient has no co-morbidities or travel history during the incubation period of MERS CoV.

He is currently in stable condition and is receiving the appropriate treatment under strict infection prevention & control measures. A joint HP&CDC team with animal health is doing a detailed investigation of the other workers and camels at the barn where the case works. Health education messages about appropriate preventive measures were shared with all contacts and they were advised to comply with the recommended MERS-CoV preventive measures and to report to the health authorities on the development of any respiratory symptoms.



I believe this brings to 13 the number of cases reported by Qatar since the MERS virus was identified in 2012.   Earlier reports include February's Qatar SCH Statement On New MERS Case  and WHO: The DON Patrol from last March.

Saudi MOH: 1 New MERS Case (Hafuf Again)



# 10,072


After two days without reporting any cases we learn of yet another case from the town of Hafuf, which has been the site of repeated – apparently epidemiologically related – cases over the past month.   The first case was reported on April 20th, followed by another case on May 5th reported to be `a contact’ of the first case.

Exactly how and when this contact occurred wasn’t specified. Since then, we’ve seen 5 more cases from Hafuf listed at `household contacts of a confirmed case’ – although exactly which of these first two patients (or both) they are related to isn’t clear.


Today we’ve another case listed (even more generically) as a `Contact of a suspected or confirmed case in the Community or Hospital’.    We also don’t get onset dates, further clouding the issues.


In any event, this appears to be the 8th case from Hafuf (aka `Hafoof’) over the past 30 days, all of which appear to stem from the index case reported on April 20th.

Hopefully we’ll get a WHO report that can sort out the epidemiological chain of events behind these cases for us.