Tuesday, April 28, 2009

WHO raises flu alert level, warns no region is safe

MEXICO CITY: World health officials on Monday stepped up warnings of a possible pandemic of swine flu as governments released millions of antiviral drugs and the number of cases rose, spreading into Europe.

With the likely death toll in Mexico, the epicentre of the outbreak, now standing at 149, the World Health Organisation (WHO) raised its flu pandemic alert level from three to four.

While the increase marked a "significant step towards pandemic influenza, it's also a phase which says we are not there yet," said Keiji Fukuda, acting WHO assistant-general for health, security and the environment.

And he warned "that in this age of global travel where people move around in airplanes so quickly, there is no region to which this virus could not spread."

The number of confirmed cases in the United States doubled to 40 and Britain and Spain both said they had registered patients sick with swine flu, the first in Europe.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned the new multi-strain virus, which is believed to be a mix of a human flu virus and an avian flu which first came from swine, risked triggering a global pandemic.

"We are concerned that this virus could cause a new influenza pandemic. It could be mild in its effect or potentially be severe," Ban told reporters.

"We don't know yet which way it will go but we are concerned that in Mexico most of those who died were young and healthy adults."

Influenza caused three epidemics during the 20th century, the worst being the Spanish flu between 1918 and 1919 that killed at least 40 million people, according to the WHO.

Mexico, which was rocked by a 5.6 magnitude earthquake on Monday, said the number of confirmed and suspected deaths from the flu had now risen to 149, as other countries urged against non-essential travel to the tourism hotspot.

Schools across Mexico have been closed until May 6 in a bid to stop the spread of the flu, which has sickened more than 1,600 people.

"We're in the decisive moment of the crisis. The number (of deaths) will continue rising," Health Minister Jose Angel Cordova added.

Europe's first confirmed case was reported in Spain, where 26 suspected cases were being probed, while two people were found to have the disease in Britain and dozens more potential cases were being checked in seven European Union member states.

Fears the disease could further strain the already-embattled global economy gave stock markets the jitters, leading to falls in Europe and Asia, while trading on Wall Street was muted.

And oil prices fell sharply on fears the escalating outbreak could further dampen economic activity and impact energy demand.

Although the US government has declared a public health emergency with 40 cases in five states, President Barack Obama urged calm.

The swine flu outbreak "requires a heightened state of alert, but it is not a cause for alarm," he told a gathering of the National Academy of Sciences.

Richard Besser, acting director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said the affected states of New York, Ohio, Kansas, Texas and California and others were receiving 11 million courses of antiviral drugs.

"The good news is we haven't identified it in additional states. But I wouldn't put too much on that," he added, stressing that of so far most people in the US had only been mildly ill.

Swiss pharmaceutical group Roche said it was ready to send out more stocks of the antiviral medication Tamiflu, some 220 million doses of which are in the hands of governments worldwide.

And British pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline also said it was "urgently" investigating how to boost production of its antiviral drug Relenza, as the race to develop a direct vaccine for the H1N1 strain gathered pace.

The company has already provided 100,000 packs of the drug to Mexican authorities, along with a further 170,000 doses of its seasonal flu vaccine.

The European Union called emergency talks of health ministers and advised against non-essential travel to areas where the deadly virus has surfaced. The US and Canada were also to issue an advisory warning against "non-essential travel" to Mexico.

Nine people in both New Zealand and Colombia, one in Peru and up to 12 in Canada are under observation with flu symptoms. There have been six confirmed cases in Canada and in the Middle East, a 26-year-old Israeli was also hospitalised. - AFP/de


Monday, April 27, 2009

Those were the days...

As I look at most of the students today, I can only say that they are pretty much fortunate and blessed to have parents that can afford to buy them stuff that we (our generation) might seldom even think of last time.

As the parents' generation get more educated, sophisticated and the earning power increases as well, children's behaviors, needs and demands change and evolves naturally of course. If one parent do not place high value in building a kid's foundation and principles in their own character, I can foresee quite a fair bit of character problems in the future to come.

Thinking back, I ever remembered that life was really poor for me and my family. Now, we are only an average one. To think back, yes, we were once really poor. Going to fastfood restaurants - pizza hut, mcdonalds, KFC, A&W etc was basically once in 10 blue moons? We can't afford to even buy toys. All we (the siblings) could do is to play with our next door neighbours, hoping that they will lend us their toys.

I don't remember eating at MOS burger before till Nicole introduced it to me during my new believer's days. I have not even know what is Orchard Road till I went to my secondary school later on.

My mum and dad will often skip the celebration of birthdays as we were too poor to celebrate. Very often, when I had the slightest desire to just buy a story book that I like during book fairs in school, I will often get the scolding from my mum for asking too much from them.

Working since 13 years old often put me to think that I was not as fortunate as other kids and I missed out a lot during my growing up days. However, I have also gained many priceless learning points when I was working during my secondary school days. I often wonder, what will happen to me if i have not come to know the Lord. I guess that my life will still be quite a rotten and bitter piece. Thinking of which will be the last day for me on this earth, when will I be able to run away from home, just quit my studies and pursue a job that gives me a stable income etc.

Till this day, I can't help but to appreciate God and the people that He sent into my life when I was in my downest times and darkest valleys. The times when I faced many problems at home, no money to pay for my tuition fees during my poly days, when my father was hospitalised for a good 1 year, when I was finding difficulty even to have the money to take transport to school, God sent angels from all over the place to help me cross the hurdles.

Today, as I look back, I need to give thanks to God, be grateful to Him and give unconditionally to others who need help too. I don't think I am considered any high-income earners, but to the best I know how, I will do what I can to bless others. :)

And yes, those were the days... :)

Sunday, April 05, 2009

As the forum goes on....

I shall revive the blog with my latest updates here in China, Chengdu.

12-15 degrees celsius
cool weather
warm people
busy schedules
requests, requests and more requests
thankful heart to the Lord
nice and caring overseas colleagues

The trip to Chengdu has taught me many things. Independence. Cross-cultural values. Communication. Love for people. Sensitivity towards others.

Met people from Japan, Korea, China, India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Nepal, Indonesia, Malaysia... Not my first time meeting so many internationals but first meeting so many non-christian internationals.

It is kind of different you know.

However, I somewhat feel that God is teaching me something different. He is doing a new work in my heart. Taking out some stuff and repairing some parts. Maybe humans should go for servicing once in a while. :P

I'll be back on Tuesday... and yes, time to take a rest when I come back.