Earthquakes

Magnitude 5+ Earthquakes – Global

5.1 Earthquake hits the Volcano Islands off Japan.

5.0 Earthquake hits the Fox Islands in the Aleutian Islands.

5.0 Earthquake hits New Ireland, Papua New Guinea.

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Storms and Floods

Tropical Storms – Roundup of Tropical Storms:

Tropical depression 28w (Melor), located approximately 78 nm south of Manila, Philippines, is tracking west-northwestward at 06 knots.

NewsBytes:

Philippines – Tattered lanterns, festive lights and tin roofs littered towns in the central Philippines on Tuesday after Typhoon Melor swept through, killing at least four people and leaving millions without power ahead of Christmas. Melor weakened slightly as it cut across the central islands of the archipelago, but on Tuesday afternoon its wind gusts were still reaching 170 kilometres an hour as it passed over the island of Mindoro. It was due to move out into the South China Sea on Tuesday afternoon.

Wildlife

Toxic Marine Algae Causing Brain Damage In California Sea Lions

Massive blooms of toxic algae, also known as red tides, may have led to brain damage contributing to the stranding of thousands of sea lions on California beaches, researchers say.

The algal bloom that has spread from California waters all the way to northern Washington is releasing domoic acid, which can be toxic to humans and to marine mammals who consume concentrations of it in crabs, oysters, mussels, sardines and anchovies, they explain.

Sea lions exposed to the neurotoxin can suffer damage to their spatial memory, leading to them becoming confused and lost as they search for increasingly diminishing sources of food, the researchers report in the journal Science.

They conducted a series of tests on 30 sea lions that had been rescued after being stranded on state beaches, putting them through a simple maze to see if they could navigate it to find a food reward.

The animals exhibited a significant loss in spatial memory, the researchers found.

The massive blooms of algae are occurring in waters off the California coast that are as much as 6 degrees warmer than usual, the researchers say, and climate change is likely an important factor.

The first signs that California’s sea lions were being affected by the algae toxin came in 1998 when hundreds washed ashore in Monterey Bay, and strandings of the marine mammals, often showing signs of confusion and seizures, have been seen almost every year since then.

Disease

Microcephaly – Brazil

On 8 December 2015, the Ministry of Health (MoH) of Brazil provided PAHO/WHO with an update regarding the unusual increase in the number of cases of microcephaly among newborns in the northeast of Brazil.

As of 5 December, 1,761 suspected cases of microcephaly, including 19 deaths, have been identified. The cases are distributed across 422 municipalities of 14 federal units. Pernambuco and Paraíba are the most affected states with 804 and 316 cases, respectively. Fatal cases were reported in Rio Grande do Norte (7), Sergipe (4), Bahia (2), Rio de Janeiro (2), Ceará (1), Maranhão (1), Paraíba (1) and Piauí (1).

Cholera – Democratic Republic of the Congo

The Ministry of Health of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has notified WHO of ongoing outbreaks of cholera across the country. Although the overall trend is decreasing, there are still areas reporting a high number of cases.

Since the beginning of the year, 19,705 cases have been reported in DRC. As of 29 November, the following provinces had reported cases: South Kivu (4,906), ex-Katanga (4,565), Maniema (3,971), North Kivu (3,294) and ex-Oriental (2,969). A high number of cases are still reported in the province of South Kivu where the situation is particularly worrying because of the presence of camps hosting refugees from Burundi. Furthermore, there are concerns that the epidemic in Maniema could spread to other provinces of the country as observed during the 2011 cholera epidemic when areas of Kinshasa were also affected.

Foot-and-mouth outbreak hits Limpopo, South Africa

An outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease has been confirmed in the Limpopo province.

The department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries said that laboratory tests had confirmed the outbreak and had also identified the virus as the SAT 3 strain. “The outbreak occurred in the Matiane community, in the Thulamela local municipality of the Vhembe District which is within the FMD protection zone of South Africa, where vaccination for FMD is routinely conducted,” the department said in a Times Live report.

The areas is reportedly close to the Kruger National Park where infected buffalo were a constant source of the infection. The department speculated that the drought in the area may be causing cattle and buffalo to come into increased contact due to limited grazing and water sources.