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Govt warned of another COVID-like zoonotic disease from elephants

The letter also alluded to various studies which time and again have pointed towards the imminent threat of transmission.

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New Delhi, May 14 : In the wake of growing threat from emerging zoonotic diseases, like the deadly coronavirus, an animal right organisation has urged Union Minister Giriraj Singh to ban elephants from being exhibited or trained for performances, as high prevalence of tuberculosis among them can pose a threat to public health.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) knocked on the doors of the Union Minister of Fisheries, Animal Husbandry and Dairying and called for his attention to another imminent zoonotic threat — tuberculosis — faced by captive elephants in the country.

In a letter, Giriraj Singh was apprised that tuberculosis, which can be transmitted from elephants to humans, has been detected in elephants in the country.

“Many captive elephants in the country suffer from TB,” the letter stated. PETA noted that captive elephants who have tested reactive for TB have been used for rides at Amer Fort near Jaipur and that those used in circuses, films, TV shows, festivals, parades, and other spectacles could also be putting the public at risk.

“It is high time we unshackle all elephants and allow them to live freely, as nature intended. Banning their use in performances would bring us closer to that goal and protect the public from this source of tuberculosis. COVID-19 has shown us that zoonotic disease risks must be taken seriously,” says PETA India CEO and veterinarian Dr Manilal Valliyate.

Continued use of elephants could have severe consequences for public health, tourism, and the overall economy, as the nation has rightly learned from the current pandemic.

“The Ministry can issue a central notification in the official Gazette of India banning the exhibition and training of elephants as performing animals,” the letter written to the minister stated.

Although protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, elephants are unreasonably excluded from the ban imposed by the central government which prohibits the use of various wildlife species, including bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, and lions, for performances.

The letter also alluded to various studies which time and again have pointed towards the imminent threat of transmission.

An April 2018 evaluation report of captive elephants in Jaipur by the Animal Welfare Board of India – a central government statutory body – revealed that 10 per cent of the elephants, which are used for rides and other tourist attractions near Jaipur, were found to be reactive in a rapid serological test for TB.

Another scientific study conducted on 600 elephants in Karnataka, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu published in 2012 found “evidence for high prevalence of asymptomatic tuberculosis infection in Asian elephants in a captive Indian setting”.

A study published in 2013 discovered “two probable cases of cross-species transmission of M. tuberculosis between mahouts and captive elephants. First is the case of human-to-elephant (transmission) and second is a case of elephant-to-human transmission of M. tuberculosis”.

Besides this, a paper published in 2016 stated, “There is evidence to suggest cross-species tuberculosis transmission,” based on one-time screenings of nearly 800 elephants and their mahouts over a period of three years.

In 2008, the Ministry of Defence had decided to prohibit the use of elephants during Republic Day parades by concluding that there are serious safety concerns associated with the risk that frustrated elephants could become violent – and that uncertainties exist regarding the legality of their ownership.

In 2010, the government declared elephants a National Heritage Animal in order to strengthen measures to protect them. Based on a detailed study report that highlighted the suffering endured by captive elephants in India in 2016, AWBI had then recommended that the central government ban the exhibition and training of elephants for performances.

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Door-to-door COVID-19 survey underway in Taj city

The death toll in Agra stands at 88. The total number of cases till Thursday morning was 1,241. The recovery rate is 83.07 per cent. The number of hotspots now is 52.

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Agra, July 2 : The Agra district administration has begun an extensive exercise for door-to-door survey in all areas to check the further spread of COVID-19. Two days ago, the state government had announced that all areas will be thoroughly screened to ensure the infection from the coronavirus was effectively stopped.

The survey began on Wednesday in the city and will cover the whole district by July 5.

Teams of health workers will visit homes and conduct surveys, thermal screening and look for people with respiratory ailments. This exercise is considered necessary to reach out to people not only in the hotspots, but also in remote areas of the district, who might be in the need of medical attention.

In the last 24 hours 14 fresh corona cases were reported in Agra and 17 from Mathura.

The death toll in Agra stands at 88. The total number of cases till Thursday morning was 1,241. The recovery rate is 83.07 per cent. The number of hotspots now is 52.

District Magistrate P.N. Singh said the markets would be permitted to remain open for an additional one hour in the evening.

In Mathura, the district administration has sealed the borders and deployed additional personnel to ensure no one entered the district for the annual Mudiya Poonau fair at Goverdhan. The five-day fair, which was supposed to begin from July 1 this year has been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

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Coronavirus may infect heart cells of Covid-19 patients: Study

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New York, July 1 : A team of US scientists, led by an Indian-origin researcher revealed that SARS-CoV-2 (coronavirus), the virus behind Covid-19, can infect heart cells in a lab dish.

This suggests it may be possible for heart cells in Covid-19 patients to be directly infected by the virus.

The discovery, published today in the journal Cell Reports Medicine, was made using heart muscle cells that were produced by stem cell technology.

“We not only uncovered that these stem cell-derived heart cells are susceptible to infection by a novel coronavirus, but that the virus can also quickly divide within the heart muscle cells,” said study researcher Arun Sharma from the Cedars-Sinai Board of Governors Regenerative Medicine Institute in the US.

“Even more significant, the infected heart cells showed changes in their ability to beat after 72 hours of infection,” Sharma added.Although many COVID-19 patients experience heart problems, the reasons remain unclear. Pre-existing cardiac conditions or inflammation and oxygen deprivation resulting from the infection have all been implicated.

But there has until now been only limited evidence the SARS-CoV-2 virus directly infects the individual muscle cells of the heart.The study also demonstrated human stem cell-derived heart cells infected by SARS-CoV-2 change their gene expression profile.This offers further confirmation the cells can be actively infected by the virus and activate innate cellular ”defence mechanisms” in an effort to help clear-out the virus.

“This viral pandemic is predominately defined by respiratory symptoms, but there are also cardiac complications, including arrhythmia, heart failure and viral myocarditis,” said study co-author Clive Svendsen.

“While this could be the result of massive inflammation in response to the virus, our data suggest that the heart could also be directly affected by the virus in Covid-19,” Svendsen added.

Researchers also found that treatment with an ACE2 antibody was able to blunt viral replication on stem cell-derived heart cells, suggesting that the ACE2 receptor could be used by SARS-CoV-2 to enter human heart muscle cells.

“By blocking the ACE2 protein with an antibody, the virus is not as easily able to bind to the ACE2 protein, and thus cannot easily enter the cell,” said Sharma. “This not only helps us understand the mechanisms of how this virus functions, but also suggests therapeutic approaches that could be used as a potential treatment for SARS-CoV-2 infection,” he explained.

The study used human induced pluripotent stem cells (iPSCs), a type of stem cell that is created in the lab from a person”s blood or skin cells. IPSCs can make any cell type found in the body, each one carrying the DNA of the individual. “This work illustrates the power of being able to study human tissue in a dish,” the authors wrote.

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Australians refusing COVID-19 tests could face fines: PM

“And so I thank the New South Wales and Victorian governments for doing that heavy-lifting on behalf of all other states and territories.

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Scott Morrison

Canberra, July 1 : Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison warned on Wednesday that people could be fined if they refuse to be tested for coronavirus.

He said that the “stick will have to be put about” in order to contain new COVID-19 outbreaks, reports Xinhua news agency.

It comes after the announcement on Tuesday that from 11.59 p.m. Wednesday night, 10 areas linked to new outbreaks in Victoria state will go into local lockdown amid a spike in cases.

These “hot zones” will be required to return to Stage 3 Stay at Home restrictions – until at least July 29.

In making the announcement, Premier of Victoria Daniel Andrews revealed that more than a thousand people, when asked, refused to be tested.

“We”re doing this in an Australian way. We”re looking to do it through incentive, through the use of carrot, not stick. But occasionally the stick will have to be put about, whether it”s fines or other sanctions that are in place to ensure that we keep everybody safe,” Morrison told TV program Today on Wednesday.

He said that the uptick in cases in Victoria, which has confirmed more cases of COVID-19 than the rest of the country combined recently, was not “surprising” because Melbourne, along with Sydney, has taken the most recently returned travellers.

“Both of those states have been running those quarantines, they”ve been paying for them themselves, and that means their risks have been greater,” he said.

“And so I thank the New South Wales and Victorian governments for doing that heavy-lifting on behalf of all other states and territories.

“We always knew there would be outbreaks. The issue is not whether they occur, but how you deal with them, and we are dealing with it in concert with the Victorian government.”

Australia has so far reported 7,920 COVID-19 cases, with 104 deaths.

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