|The World Health Organization (WHO) has declared a global flu pandemic after holding an emergency meeting, according to reports.
It means the swine flu virus is spreading in at least two regions of the world with rising cases being seen in the UK, Australia, Japan and Chile.
The move does not necessarily mean the virus is causing more severe illness or more deaths.
The swine flu (H1N1) virus first emerged in Mexico in April.
It has since spread to 74 countries.
Official reports say there have been 28,000 cases globally and 141 deaths and figures are rising daily
It is the first flu pandemic in 40 years – the last in 1968 with Hong Kong flu killed about one million people.
The current pandemic seems to be moderate and causing mild illness in most people.
One factor which may have prompted the move to a level six pandemic was that in the southern hemisphere, the virus seems to be crowding out normal seasonal influenza.
It is thought the move was not prompted by the situation in any one country but the reports of several pockets of community spread.
There have been almost 800 cases in the UK with some areas of Scotland being particularly hard hit.
The government has been stockpiling antivirals such as Tamiflu and has ordered vaccine, some doses of which could be available by October.
Chief medical officer, Sir Liam Donaldson said the WHO declaration of a pandemic would not significantly change the way the UK was dealing with swine flu at the moment.
But he added there could be some minor changes to who received antivirals.
“The declaration of a pandemic per se doesn’t make a big difference to the to the way we are handling the outbreaks we have.
“We are going to continue to investigate every case that occurs and treat their contacts with antivirals even though they may not be ill.
“The difference is that the Health Protection Agency has learnt a lot about approaching this question of antiviral prophylaxis and they are going to be treating the closer contacts of the cases, rather than the more far-flung contacts, because they feel that that is supported by what they know so far about how the disease is transmitting.
He added: “These flu viruses can change their pattern of attack, so when we come into the flu season in the autumn and winter in this country, when we expect a big surge of cases, we need to watch very carefully to see if the character of the virus is changing.”
Scottish health secretary Nicola Sturgeon said a move to level six means that countries need to be ready to implement pandemic plans immediately but the UK was already operating at a “heightened state of readiness”.
But it could affect the speed at which the UK gets pandemic vaccine supplies but that had been factored into pandemic planning.
Flu expert Professor John Oxford, said people should not panic as the outbreak was milder than others seen in the past century.
“It is global and fulfilling the requirements of a pandemic but I don’t think anyone should worry because nothing drastic has happened between yesterday and today.”
Amidst the high wired elections fever, tensions flared in Tehran last night as thousands of protesters marched to the state television centre, enraged by the discovery that President Ahmadinejad was being given far more airtime than his opponents.
The demonstration came as a leading conservative accused reformists of fomenting a “velvet revolution”. Yadollah Javani, a leader of the hardline Revolutionary Guards, said that reformists were going to claim vote-rigging if their candidate, Mir Hossein Mousavi, loses in tomorrow’s presidential elections. He vowed to crush any post-election violence.
In another remarkable intervention, about 50 clerics from Qom, Iran’s religious nerve-centre, also rebuked Mr Ahmadinejad, stating in an open letter that “accusing people in a session when they are not present is contrary to our religion.” Such conduct would “spread disappointment among the people and make our enemies happy”.
These developments expose deep splits within a ruling establishment that never normally airs its disagreements in public and come on the eve of a landmark election in which Mr Mousavi, a relative moderate, could become the first challenger to defeat an incumbent president in the Islamic Republic’s 30-year history.
There are no reliable opinion polls in Iran, but Mr Mousavi has visibly gained momentum in recent days and his exuberant supporters have flooded on to the streets of Tehran in huge numbers. The usual restrictions on dissent have been largely swept aside as the regime has loosened — or lost — its grip ahead of the election.
The election has also exposed the deep divide within Iranian society. Mr Mousavi’s candidacy has galvanised the urban middle-classes, and he also has the support of Mohammed Khatami, the popular reformist President from 1997 to 2005, and Hojatoleslam Rafsanjani, who was defeated by Mr Ahmadinejad in the presidential election of 2005.
Mr Ahmadinejad enjoys strong support among the rural poor and religiously devout, and is thought to have the backing of the Supreme Leader as well as the Revolutionary Guards and the volunteer Basij militia.
Rightly or wrongly, they adore this man who presents himself as the champion of the oppressed, the scourge of Iran’s corrupt elite with its loose morals, a leader who has stood up to the bullying West and restored their country’s pride. Even though the rampant inflation and chronic unemployment have made their lot much worse; he is their man.
Rose Francine Rogombe was sworn in as Gabon’s interim president on today, the first step in the process of replacing President Omar Bongo, Africa’s longest-serving head of state, who died earlier this week.
Bongo’s death left a power vacuum at the head of the central African nation that he tightly controlled for over four decades and, with a well-developed oil industry and a Eurobond, investors are watching carefully for signs of trouble. After a series of coups elsewhere in Africa over the last year, some had feared Bongo’s death would spark instability.
But analysts have said that the president’s ruling party was likely to tightly manage the transition and doubted popular unrest. According to Gabon’s constitution, Rogombe, a lawyer by training who was head of the Senate when Bongo died, will have 45 days to hold elections to select a new head of state.
“I swear to devote all my efforts to looking after the Gabonese people … to respect and defend the constitution and the rule of law and to conscientiously carry out my job by being fair to all,” Rogombe said, one hand on Gabon’s constitution. Rogombe’s time in power as interim leader can be extended in case of force majeur, said Marie Madeleine Mborantsouo, who swore in the new president on Wednesday in her position as head of the Constitutional Court.
Bongo’s has been praised by some for maintaining stability in his own country and contributing to African peace efforts. But the last months of his life were equally overshadowed by investigations by a French judge into how much money he and his family allegedly stole from the state coffers during his time in power, which has left most ordinary people mired in poverty.
Sixteen bodies pulled from the Atlantic Ocean Tuesday were taken to Fernando de Noronha for transportation Wednesday afternoon by helicopter to the air base in Recife, Brazil.
The 25 bodies previously found were put aboard a Brazilian frigate.
Searches for the remaining bodies will continue overnight, the navy and aeronautical command said in a written statement.
The Airbus A330 crashed in the Atlantic Ocean June 1 en route from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to Paris, France, carrying 228 passengers and crew.
The first bodies were recovered about 320 kilometers (200 miles) northwest of the Brazilian archipelago of Saint Peter and Saint Paul; Tuesday’s recoveries were 80 kilometers (50 miles) away. It was not clear whether the bodies had drifted in the 1-2 knot currents or whether their separation suggested that the jet may have broken apart in the air.
Meanwhile, the French, who are leading the investigation, were increasing their naval efforts. The nuclear submarine Emeraude was expected to reach the search area Wednesday to search for wreckage, including the flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder. And the French sent two tugs towing 40 tons of recovery equipment, a surveillance ship and a ship equipped for amphibious operations.
The United States is also sending equipment to help with the search.
The Federal Ministry of Health has confirmed the report that African Swine Flu has been discovered in a certain part of Delta state.
The Ministry, in a report by the special assistant on communication to the minister of health,Niyi Ojuolape, said the presence of the disease has been confirmed after consultation with the Delta State Ministries of Health and Agriculture.
The ministry, however, said that African Swine Fever (ASF) affects only pigs and that it does not affect humans in any way. It stated also that it is not in any way related to the a(h1n1) influenza, otherwise known as swine fever, which has been ravaging the health world.
Mr Ojuolape,however, assured the public that the case of Swine Flu has not been reported in Nigeria and that the government is doing a lot to monitor the events with a view to handling any eventuality effectively.
Also, the Delta State Ministry of Agriculture has quarantined the affected piggery and has started culling the affected pigs to prevent the disease from spreading to other pigs.
African Swine Fever (ASF) is however, a highly contagious, generalized disease of pigs caused by an iridovirus that exhibits varying virulence between strains, although different serotypes cannot be identified.
Experts say that the virus resists inactivation and can persist in meat up to 15 weeks, processed hams up to six months and up to one month in contaminated pens. It is endemic in most of Southern Africa, and on the Iberian peninsula of Europe. Since the 1960s, outbreaks have occurred in France, Italy, Malta, Belgium,Holland, Cuba, Domican Republic and Haiti.
Treatment and vaccine have not been discovered till date. The United States,the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) prohibit the importation of live hogs and uncooked pork from any country where ASF exists, except if the products are commercially canned,hermetically sealed, and fully sterilized so it remains shelf stable without refrigeration; and the processes used have been proven to inactivate the virus.
Prime Minister Gordon Brown will remain at the helm of Britain’s ruling Labour Party after beating back a rebellion by members unhappy over its worst-ever defeat in voting for the European Parliament.
Confronting dissidents at a two-hour closed-door meeting in Parliament in London late yesterday, Brown won the support of most Labour lawmakers by promising to make unspecified changes to his leadership style and agenda.
“I know I need to improve,” Brown told the meeting, according to his spokesman. He shrugged off calls for his resignation, saying, “You solve the problem not by walking away but by doing something about it.”
Although Brown’s supporters warned that a leadership fight would prompt a general election that Labour would almost certainly lose, the prime minister’s hold on power remains fragile. The wounds inflicted may be reopened if the party’s poll ratings don’t improve or if Brown presses ahead with controversial plans to clamp down on welfare benefits and sell a stake in the postal service.
Tomorrow, lawmakers vote on a motion proposed by opposition parties calling on Brown to hold a general election immediately instead of waiting until the deadline a year from now. If a handful of Labour lawmakers rebel or neglect to show up, Brown, who has a 63-seat majority, could lose the vote.
Former ministers Charles Clarke, Stephen Byers and Fiona Mactaggart yesterday joined a list of 19 Labour lawmakers saying Brown should step down after the party finished third in elections for the European Parliament.
The size of the mutiny was too small to trigger a leadership contest, and the challenge unified both the Cabinet and most of the party in backing Brown. While six ministers have walked out of the government, none followed James Purnell in calling for Brown to step aside.
Unless the prime minister quits, 70 Labour members of Parliament would have to publicly call for him to go before the party could consider replacing him. More than 300 attending the meeting in a packed committee room banged tables and cheered for Brown when he arrived to speak.
Brown’s standing has withered as disclosures of lawmakers’ personal spending combined with the effects of a deepening recession and rising unemployment. The British National Party, whose constitution permits only whites to join, won its first two seats in the European Parliament.
The challenge to Brown from his allies is the toughest for a sitting premier since John Major called a leadership contest to face down rebels in his Conservative Party in 1995.
This time, the opposition to Brown centers on his personality and leadership style. Caroline Flint quit as Europe minister last week, saying Brown didn’t take her seriously and didn’t include her in Cabinet discussions.
An opinion poll by ComRes Ltd. showed that Home Secretary Alan Johnson would be more popular than Brown, 58, and could deprive the Conservatives of the votes they need to command a majority in Parliament.
With Johnson as Labour leader, the opposition would fall six seats short of a majority. Against Brown, Conservatives would have 74 seats more than all rival parties combined, according to ComRes, which finished its poll of 1,001 adults on June 7th.
Nigerian militants say they have sabotaged an oil-pumping station in the restive southern Niger Delta region.
The Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta said Wednesday in an e-mail that its strike on an installation run by Chevron Corp’s local subsidiary left the facility in flames. A company spokesman confirmed a fire at one of its flow stations.
Violence is rising in the chaotic and lawless southern oil region as the military intensifies operations to oust militant fighters battling for a larger share of government-controlled oil-industry revenues.
Sourced from AP