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University of Sydney launches supercomputer Artemis to research on Ebola

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Sydney: A supercomputer commissioned by the University of Sydney is helping to investigate the secrets of the Ebola outbreak in west Africa.

Called Artemis, the Dell computer is helping researchers in molecular biology, economics, mechanical engineering and physical oceanography and offers powerful analysis of research data.

The university and Dell Australia announced its launch on Wednesday, Xinhua reported citing an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report.

The supercomputer is not basic. It has 1,512 cores of compute capacity, almost 10 Terabytes of fast DDR4 memory, 10 Nvidia Tesla K40 graphics units and 480 Terabytes of Lustre file storage.

The university said that the high performance computer (HPC) was available at no cost to the university’s researchers across all disciplines.

National Health and Medical Research Council Australia fellow, professor Edward Holmes, from the university’s Charles Perkins Centre, said that he was harnessing Artemis to trace the spread of Ebola in west Africa. By sequencing the virus’s genetic code, the university could discover how Ebola changed and adapted as it spread. (IANS)

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Signs of Generosity are declining worldwide but Africa continues to grow more generous: World Giving Index

World Giving Index is an annual report published by the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF)

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In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate.
In this Nov. 19, 2014 photo, a boy receives rice from a novice Buddhist monk near Mahar Aung Myae monastery in Hlaing Thaya, northwest of Yangon, Myanmar. Monks in the desperately poor neighborhood combine whatever food they received during morning alms into a giant pot and redistribute it to the less fortunate. VOA
  • The score is a combined measure of respondents in 139 countries who were asked whether they had given money to a good cause, volunteered their time and helped a stranger
  • Globally, donating money and helping a stranger fell by nearly 2 percent
  • Myanmar held the top position of the World Giving Index as the most generous country

New York, USA, September 6, 2017: The world’s poorest continent continued to grow more generous according to a yearly index of charitable giving called World Giving Index released on Tuesday, bucking the trend of otherwise declining signs of charity worldwide.

Africa was in a 2016 survey the only continent to report a continent-wide increase of its index generosity score when compared to its five-year average.

The score is a combined measure of respondents in 139 countries who were asked whether they had given money to a good cause, volunteered their time and helped a stranger.

“Despite the many challenges our continent is facing, it is encouraging to see that generosity continues to grow,” said Gill Bates, Southern Africa’s CEO for the Charities Aid Foundation (CAF) that commissioned the poll.

Numbers for donating money dip

But globally, donating money and helping a stranger fell by nearly 2 percent, while volunteering dropped about 1 percent, the index showed.

From the United States to Switzerland and Singapore to Denmark, the index showed that the planet’s 10 richest countries by GDP per capita, for which data was available, saw declines in their generosity index score.

Myanmar leads the world

Myanmar, for the fourth consecutive year, held the top position of the World Giving Index as the most generous country.

Nine in ten of those surveyed in the Southeast Asian nation said they had donated money during the previous month.

Indonesia ranked second on the combined measure of generosity, overtaking the United States which held that position in last year’s index.

Big jump for Kenya

A star performer, CAF said, was the East African nation of Kenya, which jumped from twelfth to third place in a single year.

Yemen, the Middle East’s poorest country, which has been grappling with the effects of civil war ranked bottom of the World Giving Index.

The index is primarily based on data from a global poll of 146,000 respondents by market research firm Gallup. (VOA)

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Patients who Survive Ebola often Continue to Face Numerous Health Problems: Study

They have to face numerous health problems

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Laboratory technician Mohamed SK Sesay, who survived Ebola but saw many of his colleagues die and now has joint and muscle pains and loss of sight, holds the child of one of his work colleagues who died of the disease, in Kenema, Sierra Leone
Laboratory technician Mohamed SK Sesay, who survived Ebola but saw many of his colleagues die and now has joint and muscle pains and loss of sight, holds the child of one of his work colleagues who died of the disease, in Kenema, Sierra Leone. VOA
  • Approximately 11,000 people died in the Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa from 2014 to 2016
  • Many battled vision problems and headaches that lasted for months
  • They show some quite distinct scarring patterns

Sierra Leone, West Africa, August 25, 2017: Patients who survive infection with the Ebola virus often continue to face numerous health problems. New research finds 80 percent of Ebola survivors suffer disabilities one year after being discharged from the hospital.

Approximately 11,000 people died in the Ebola outbreak that hit West Africa from 2014 to 2016; tens of thousands more who were infected survived.

Of those survivors, many battled vision problems and headaches that lasted for months.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool, the UK and the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, UK are studying what’s called post-Ebola syndrome. One of the senior authors of the study, Dr. Janet Scott, says researchers are unsure why survivors experience such disabilities.

“I’m not sure we’ve quite gotten to the bottom of it yet,” Scott said. “The idea that you go through something as horrific as Ebola and just walk away from that unscathed was always a bit of a vain hope. So, it could be the inflammatory response. It could be damage to the muscles, and it could be the persistence of the virus in some cases. It could be all of those things.”

Scott says problems found in Ebola survivors’ eyes may provide clues to what is happening elsewhere in the body.

“They show some quite distinct scarring patterns,” she said. “There’s definitely scar tissue there. We can see it in the eyes. We can’t see it in the rest of the body, but I’m sure it’s in the rest of the body because the patients are coming in with this huge range of problems.”

The disabilities were reported in past cases of  Ebola outbreak, as well. However, because past outbreaks were smaller and there were few survivors, researchers were not able to do major, long-term studies on the after effects.

ALSO READ: Indian-origin Scientist part of the team that discovered natural Human Antibodies to fight Ebola viruses

This time, said Scott, “There are 5,000 survivors or thereabouts in Sierra Leone, and more in Guinea and Liberia. So, it’s an opportunity from a research point of view to find out the full spectrum of sequelae … the things that happen after an acute illness.”

Military Hospital 34 in Freetown, Sierra Leone, also took part in the study, helping to recruit 27 Ebola survivors and 54 close contacts who were not infected. About 80 percent of survivors reported disabilities compared to 11 percent of close contacts.

“The problems we’re seeing in Ebola survivors, this is not due just to the tough life in Sierra Leone. This is more than likely down to their experience in Ebola,” Scott said.

The research was led by Dr. Soushieta Jagadesh, who said: “a year following acute disease, survivors of West Africa Ebola Virus Disease continue to have a higher chance of disability in mobility, cognition, and vision.”

“Issues such as anxiety and depression persist in survivors and must not be neglected,” she added.

Scott hopes the findings can be used to provide better care in the event of another Ebola outbreak, no matter where it is. In the West Africa outbreak, the first goal was to contain the epidemic, followed by reducing the death rate.

“If I was treating an Ebola patient again, it has to be more than just surviving,” Scott said. “You have to try to make people survive well. Surviving with half your body paralyzed or with your vision impaired and being unable to care for your family or earn a living isn’t really enough. So, what I would like to do is to focus on that aspect to make people survive better and survive well.” (VOA)

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Mudslide Disaster in Africa: Bodies Were ‘Just Being Washed’ Away, Says an Aid Worker of Sierra Leone

Bodies continue to arrive at Freetown's overwhelmed central morgue, with corpses laid on the floor and the ground outside

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Sierra Leone
People wearing protective suits hold hands as they cross a river after a mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 15, 2017, in this still image taken from a video. VOA

When aid worker Idalia Amaya arrived at the scene of the mudslide that devastated Sierra Leone’s capital Freetown, she was horrified to find homes washed away, entire villages engulfed by mud, and corpses floating down the streets.

“Bodies were just being washed down streams … so many people were crying and wailing,” said Amaya, an emergency response coordinator for Catholic Relief Services (CRS).

“It was a horrible sight — it was devastating,” the U.S. aid worker told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone on Wednesday, two days after witnessing the mud’s deadly fallout.

A mountainside collapsed on Monday morning in the town of Regent, burying dozens of homes as people slept and killing at least 400. Women and children were hit the hardest in what is one of Africa’s deadliest mudslides in decades.

FILE - People inspect the damage after a mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 14, 2017.
FILE – People inspect the damage after a mudslide in the mountain town of Regent, Sierra Leone, Aug. 14, 2017. VOA

Rescue workers have uncovered about 400 bodies so far, but that number is likely to surpass 500 as the search persists, Freetown’s chief coroner Seneh Dumbuya said Tuesday.

“The chance of finding more survivors is slim to none,” Amaya said. “It is so difficult to search in the mud.”

“A lot of victims were women and children, as men had left for work early in the morning. It is heartbreaking to see fathers and husbands who have lost all of their relatives.”

At least 3,000 people have been left homeless — and urgently need food, shelter and health care — while another 600 are missing, according to the Red Cross.

ALSO READ: UN: Most Deaths From Natural Disasters Occur in Poor Countries 

“Many people are reliving trauma they suffered during Ebola,” said Amaya, referring to the world’s worst recorded outbreak of the disease, which ravaged the former British colony from 2014 to 2016, infecting 14,000 people and killing 4,000.

“They are working around the clock to dig out survivors, support those in need, and make the best of the situation,” Amaya added. “I am struck by the resilience of people who have been through civil war, Ebola and deadly floods.”

Bodies continue to arrive at Freetown’s overwhelmed central morgue, with corpses laid on the floor and the ground outside.

The authorities and aid agencies are preparing to bury the dead in several Freetown cemeteries in coming days, CRS said.

As hundreds of people queued outside the morgue, Amaya said Freetown was struggling to come to terms with its latest disaster.

“It still feels very raw,” she said. “But people are coming together, grieving together, and starting the healing process.”(VOA)