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New sub-variant of COVID Arcturus coronavirus now in Los Angeles



Los Angeles County has identified its first cases of a new sub-variant of the Omicron coronavirus dubbed Arcturus, a strain closely monitored by global health authorities, as it has been linked to rising cases in India.

The sub-variant, officially designated XBB.1.16, has also gained attention following anecdotal reports linking it to what was a rare symptom of COVID-19: pink eye.

However, it remains unclear whether this symptom is more pronounced in Arcturus than in earlier strains of Omicron. The latter subvariant has not been shown to cause more severe disease.

However, it is possible that Arcturus is even more contagious than dominant strain of coronavirus in the US XBB.1.5. While this is likely not enough to cause a new spike in cases, any spike in transmission increases the risk to vulnerable individuals – and raises the value of protective measures, health officials say.

“When we hear reports that ‘the pandemic is over’ or that ‘COVID-19 has become endemic’, it seems that people no longer need to be aware of its impact or take any steps to protect themselves and others,” Los -Angeles. Barbara Ferrer, director of public health for the county, said at a briefing on Thursday. “The very fact that we are seeing new strains with possible other symptoms should remind us that COVID continues to evolve.”

It is unclear how many cases of Arcturus have appeared in California. At least three have been identified in Los Angeles County, Ferrer said.

Since Arcturus is a sub-variant of Omicron, Ferrer said it is likely that current vaccines and therapeutics will be effective against this strain.

However, she said in an interview: “With any new mutation that crowds out what is already there…they will probably be able to transmit the infection more easily. So you could see the bump.”

Unofficial nickname Arcturus is Latin and comes from the Greek word arcturos, what does a bear watcher or watcher mean. This is also the name fourth brightest star in the night sky.

It is now believed to be the second most common strain of coronavirus circulating in the country, accounting for approximately 7.2% of cases, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is well above its estimated share of 2.1% for the week ended April 1.

Meanwhile, XBB.1.5 accounted for roughly 78% of new cases nationwide in the week ending Saturday.

In the US Southwest, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Hawaii, and the Pacific Territories, Arcturus accounted for approximately 9.8% of cases, up from approximately 2.6% in the week ended April 1.

“This is worth looking at. It has been in circulation for several months now.” Maria van Kerkhovethe World Health Organization’s technical lead on COVID-19 said recently.

Indian authorities say Arcturus has begun replacing older versions of the coronavirus.

“Based on early reports in India and over 20 countries, it doesn’t look like more people are being proportionally sent to the hospital. But it causes an increase in cases,” the doctor said. Peter Chin-Hong, infectious disease expert at the University of California, San Francisco. Since US incidence rates are at a relatively low level, “if you give a little more benefit to a particular sub-option, it will increase the number of cases.”

There are also unconfirmed reports of pink eyeor conjunctivitis in people infected with coronavirus in India, especially children.

Prior to Arcturus, pink eye was a symptom of 1% to 3% of coronavirus cases, according to Chin-Hong and Ferrer.

If left untreated, conjunctivitis can go beyond just pain and itching and damage the cornea, Ferrer says.

“It’s always been a side effect [of COVID-19]albeit very rarely,” she said. “If left untreated, it can lead to even more damage to people’s eyes. If you have conjunctivitis – for whatever reason – it needs to be treated.”

Pink eye can be caused by other viruses and bacteria. According to the National Eye Institute, “this is one of most common eye problems for both children and adults.”

“Just because you have conjunctivitis doesn’t necessarily mean you have COVID. You should go and get tested, especially if you have any other symptoms,” Ferrer said.

According to National Eye Institutepeople who are around a person with conjunctivitis should wash their hands frequently with soap and water or use alcohol-based hand sanitizer.

Always wash your hands before touching your eyes and after touching a person with conjunctivitis or anything they have used.

“Do not share personal items that have been used by a person with conjunctivitis, including pillows, towels, cosmetics or glasses,” the institute said in a statement.

People with conjunctivitis who wear contact lenses should check with their eye doctor about how to clean, store, and change lenses. They should also throw away any lenses, solutions, and cases they used when they had conjunctivitis. The same goes for face or eye makeup, as well as makeup brushes or sponges.

Coronavirus cases are relatively stable at lower levels in California. As of Thursday, there were no signs of rising levels of coronavirus in Los Angeles County sewage or officially reported cases of coronavirus.

“But it’s always possible: I expect that if we do see an increase, I hope it will be relatively small,” Ferrer said.

Over the past week, Los Angeles County has reported 44 deaths from COVID-19.

“Compared to other periods of the pandemic, we are seeing a much lower number of deaths,” Ferrer said on Thursday. “However, these deaths are not insignificant. And COVID continues to be one of the leading causes of death in Los Angeles County and across the country.”

In general, people at higher risk of dying are older and not up to date on their COVID-19 immunizations and revaccinations or have not been treated with COVID drugs, experts say.

Only 42% of Los Angeles County seniors have received the updated vaccine since it became available in September.

While many believe that the time when hospitals were overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients is over, any spike in cases could still lead to more hospitalizations, highlighting the importance of keeping vaccines up to date (especially for the elderly) and seeking therapeutic services. COVID medicines, such as paxlovid and molnupiravir, which are provided free of charge if you become infected.

Evidence that the updated COVID-19 vaccine saves lives and reduces the risk of hospitalization continues to accumulate. According to data for the 90-day period ending March 27, Los Angeles County residents who received a refresher booster were half as likely to die compared to people who were vaccinated but did not receive a refresher booster.

The chance of death in people who received updated boosters was about one-tenth less than that of unvaccinated residents of Los Angeles County. Immunity from a past infection does not, by itself, provide as much protection as vaccines.

“This data illustrates the very real protection offered by a bivalent amplifier, even against the newer options that are circulating now,” Ferrer said.

She also urged infected residents to take anti-COVID medications such as Paxlovid when prescribed, even if they do not feel seriously ill.

“Paxlovid has a really good track record in reducing severe disease. And the only thing you don’t want to do is wait until you develop a severe illness before taking it if you’re in the high-risk category,” Ferrer said.

Research shows that vaccination another Paxlovid also reduce the risk of prolonged COVID.

Chin-Hong said he suspects the rise in cases of the latter sub-option was a factor in prompting federal officials this week to give another booster dose for the elderly and immunocompromised.

“I don’t think we’ll ever see something like ‘regular spike’ in quotes again. But we will see these little bumps. And I feel that XBB.1.16 can cause a small jump in our cases, a small jump in hospitalizations, ”he said. “But right now we’re so low that when you’re this low, you can only go one way, up.”

Los Angeles County COVID-19 vaccination clinics began offering additional updated doses on Thursday.

Americans who need help accessing an updated vaccine, COVID therapeutics, or other COVID-19 related resources can call (833) 540-0473 seven days a week from 8:00 am to 8:30 pm.


SpaceX spacecraft explosion spread particulate matter for miles



SpaceX has launched the largest rocket ever built for first time on thursday from its spaceport in Boca Chica, Texas. The Starship spacecraft, designed to carry humans to Mars, lifted off the launch pad and then exploded mid-flight with no crew on board.

Now residents and researchers are scrambling to assess the impact of the blast on local communities, their health, habitat and wildlife, including endangered species. The main problem is the large amount of sand and ash, as well as the heavier debris raised during launch. The particulate emissions spread far beyond the expected debris field.

As a result of the explosion, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) suspended the Starship Super Heavy launch program pending the results of an “accident investigation,” part of standard practice, according to the agency’s email sent to CNBC after the launch. As of Friday, the agency had no reports of injuries or damage to public property.

SpaceX did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Not in plan

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, speaking publicly on Twitter Spaces on April 16 ahead of the test flight, admitted that the 33-engine vehicle is akin to a “box of grenades” and that the Starship is unlikely to reach orbit, but is likely to explode.

However, Musk and SpaceX could not accurately predict that their launch site would be destroyed, with particulate matter raining down on residents and habitats as far away as Port Isabel, a city about six miles from the launch site, and South Padre Island, several miles up the coast from the site.

Images taken during the test flight show that SpaceX’s launch pad also exploded, sending concrete chunks from it flying in multiple directions, leaving a giant crater underneath. According to Dave Cortez, director of the Lone Star Sierra Club chapter, environmental advocacy group 501c4, “the concrete flew out into the ocean and risked getting into the fuel storage tanks, which are bunkers adjacent to the launch pad.”

Jared Margolis, a senior lawyer for the Center for Biological Diversity, said that during an environmental assessment SpaceX conducted to obtain a launch license, the company told the FAA and other agencies that in the event of an “anomaly” they expect debris to fall. in a limited area of ​​700 acres surrounding the launch pad.

That would mean a one-square-mile debris field, with debris coming out about three-quarters of a mile away, he said, citing SpaceX. documents of ecological expertise of the site which are public records.

In fact, after the test flight and explosion, people in Port Isabel reported broken windows in their businesses, shaking windows in their homes, and dust and particulate matter that unexpectedly covered their homes, schools and land, according to Cortez.

Port Isabel is a city on the mainland near the SpaceX launch site and across from offshore South Padre Island, which has also received a particulate matter share, according to correspondence between researchers and residents shared with CNBC.

It is not yet known whether touching or inhaling particulate matter, like ash and sand, is dangerous, and what effect it may have on soil health, Cortez and Margolis said.

One industry chronicler who talked about launching locally, Lavi Ohanawrote that the launch was also “one of the loudest” she had ever seen, “with shockwaves that just felt like hitting again and again and again.”

Impact on endangered species

Margolis said the Center for Biological Diversity is concerned about the impacts of noise, particulate matter and heavier debris on endangered species living in the area, including the tooth plover, red grasshopper, jaguarundi, ocelot and sea turtle populations, including Kemps Ridley. , which nests on the beaches of Boca Chica and is one of the most endangered sea turtles in the world.

From February to June, the Kemps-Ridley nesting season.

He emphasized that the lands of the National Wildlife Refuge, which are very close to the launch site, are critical habitats for plover.

Cortes added that members of the Sierra Club were particularly concerned about the impact on human health and how the aftermath of the explosion could limit people’s ability to go out, whether it’s fishing for lunch, relaxing on the beach, or walking through the many parks and protected wildlife. Areas near the starbase.

health problems

The impact of particulate emissions from a SpaceX launch will not be understood until samples are evaluated and the debris field is comprehensively measured.

But in general, particulate matter emissions are regulated by the federal Clean Air Act and Texas law.

Eric Resch, an environmental engineer who tracks the impact of SpaceX objects and launches on his blog, ESGHound, said particulate emissions are linked to lung and respiratory problems and are considered a high priority pollutant by the EPA. Health effects depend on the time and amount of exposure, as well as particle size and content, he added.

Resch had been warning the public for months that the FAA and SpaceX weren’t careful enough in their environmental analysis to comfortably embark on a launch of this magnitude. He said: “The possibility of a widely dispersed emission plume was not disclosed by either the FAA or SpaceX during the initial environmental permit and approval process.”

Margolis and Cortez both noted that roads were damaged and gates and cordons closed immediately after the SpaceX Starship test flight. This meant that wildlife biologists and other field researchers could not immediately get through to examine the full extent of any damage done to the nearby wildlife sanctuary, although some were reportedly on site by Saturday April 22.

One problem, Margolis said, is that evidence of harm to endangered species can be removed from a site before regulators have a chance to evaluate it.

Return to flight

Elon Musk tweeted April 21, 2023, after a test flight: “3 months ago we started building a massive water-cooled steel plate that will run under the launcher. Wasn’t ready in time and we erroneously assumed, based on fire static data, that Fondag would survive 1 launch. Looks like we can be ready to launch again in 1-2 months.”

CNBC asked the FAA what it would take for SpaceX to get approval to conduct another test flight or launch the super-heavy Starship from Boca Chica, Texas.

The agency said in an email that returning Starship Super Heavy to flight would require the FAA to determine that “any system, process or procedure involved in the accident does not affect public safety.”

As they are still collecting information, the FAA and the regional branch of the Texas Fish and Wildlife Service have not yet been able to answer questions about any environmental impacts from Thursday’s launch. SpaceX did not respond to a request for comment.

However, the FAA told CNBC via email that the explosion activated something called an “anomaly response plan” that is part of the 2022 plan. Programmed environmental assessment completed by the company along with state and federal agencies, and that SpaceX has additional “environmental measures” they must complete before relaunching. The plan “was prompted by debris infiltrating neighboring properties,” the FAA said.

After meeting the to-do list in the plan and mitigating the impact, SpaceX will need to ask the FAA to amend their launch license in order to get approval for another test flight.

Center for Biological Diversity Attorney Jared Margolis believes the FAA’s requirements will be minimal and simple for a company to follow, but not ultimately effective in protecting the welfare of local residents and protecting endangered species.

He explained: “We are not against space exploration or this company. But while we’re looking up at the stars, we shouldn’t be willing to sacrifice communities, habitats, and species.”

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Lost 2nd century Roman fort discovered in Scotland



Archaeologists have unearthed the foundations of a “lost” second-century Roman fortress in western Scotland, part of an ill-fated attempt to extend imperial control across Britain.

The fort was one of 41 fortifications built along the Antonine Wall, a fortification mostly made up of earthen and timber ramparts that is said to have stretched for about 40 miles (65 kilometers) across Scotland at its narrowest point. Historical environment of Scotland (will open in a new tab) (HES), government agency.

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