HAMNET Report 28 July 2019

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has declared the Ebola outbreak in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC).

“It is time for the world to take notice and redouble our efforts. We need to work together in solidarity with DRC to end this outbreak and build a better health system,” said Dr Tedros. “Extraordinary work has been done for almost a year under the most difficult circumstances. We all owe it to these responders – coming from not just WHO but also government, partners and communities – to shoulder more of the burden.”

The declaration follows last week’s meeting of the International Health Regulations Emergency Committee for Ebola in DRC. The Committee said recent developments in the outbreak underpin the decision, including the first confirmed case in Goma, a city of almost two million people on the border with Rwanda and the gateway to the rest of DRC and the world.

The Committee expressed disappointment about delays in funding which have constrained the response and made a number of specific recommendations related to this outbreak.

The United Nations has also activated a humanitarian system-wide scale-up to support the response efforts.

In better news, AIDS-related deaths continue to decline as access to treatment expands and progress continues in the delivery of HIV/tuberculosis services, according to a new report from the United Nations Programme on HIV and AIDS (UNAIDS).

Since 2010, AIDS-related deaths have fallen by 33 per cent to 770,000 in 2018, the Global AIDS Update shows.

Global declines in AIDS-related deaths have largely been driven by progress in eastern and southern Africa. In Eastern Europe and central Asia, however, AIDS-related deaths have risen by 5 percent and in the Middle East and North Africa by 9 percent since 2010.

That’s great news that Southern Africa is leading the field in AIDS death prevention.

In a week of mixed blessings, the Western Cape experienced a huge winter storm, with the majority of the rain falling on Tuesday.  The City’s Disaster Operations Centre logged 176 incidents including flooding, power outages and fallen trees or structural damage, following the most recent heavy weather episode.

The Disaster Operations Centre logged 43 flooding-related incidents; 122 power outages across the metropole; nine incidents of trees that had blown over or fallen branches, and two incidents where roofs were blown off in Masiphumelele and Burundi informal settlement.

Operationally, the status of reported incidents included 3 640 structures affected in 7 suburbs, fallen trees reported in 6 municipalities, roads flooded across the city, and power outages in 15 municipalities.

Looking on the good side, catchment areas of all the major dams supplying the Cape Peninsula experienced heavy and prolonged rain, and all dams have shown upwards of 5 percentage points of improvement, with the Berg River Dam finally overflowing its wall, and quoted as 102% full. This is wonderful for the rapidly enlarging population of the Peninsula, and, with another 6 weeks or so of winter rainfall possible, our dams can potentially provide us with a summer free of water-worry.

Southgate Amateur Radio News has received news from Rob Mannion, G3XFD that a new movie called “The Current War” has gone on general release in the UK. The film features the “war” between the rival promoters of D.C. and A.C. …namely Edison and Westinghouse.

The film stars Benedict Cumberbatch, Michael Shannon, Katherine Waterston, Tom Holland, Tuppence Middleton, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Hoult.

Rob notes that it’s not often we see films that feature the stories of technology. So watch for the release of this one in South Africa soon.

The Website Phys.org reports that, more than 100 years after Albert Einstein published his iconic theory of general relativity, it is beginning to fray at the edges, according to Andrea Ghez, UCLA professor of physics and astronomy. Now, in the most comprehensive test of general relativity near the monstrous black hole at the centre of our galaxy, Ghez and her research team report on July the 25th in the journal Science that Einstein’s theory of general relativity holds up.

“Einstein’s right, at least for now,” said Ghez, a co-lead author of the research. “We can absolutely rule out Newton’s law of gravity. Our observations are consistent with Einstein’s theory of general relativity. However, his theory is definitely showing vulnerability. It cannot fully explain gravity inside a black hole, and at some point we will need to move beyond Einstein’s theory to a more comprehensive theory of gravity that explains what a black hole is.”

Einstein’s 1915 theory of general relativity holds that what we perceive as the force of gravity arises from the curvature of space and time. The scientist proposed that objects such as the Sun and the Earth change this geometry. Einstein’s theory is the best description of how gravity works, said Ghez, whose UCLA-led team of astronomers has made direct measurements of the phenomenon near a supermassive black hole—research Ghez describes as “extreme astrophysics.”

The laws of physics, including gravity, should be valid everywhere in the universe, said Ghez, who added that her research team is one of only two groups in the world to watch a star known as S0-2 make a complete orbit in three dimensions around the supermassive black hole at the centre of the Milky Way. The full orbit takes 16 years, and the black hole’s mass is about four million times that of the sun.

The researchers say their work is the most detailed study ever conducted into the supermassive black hole and Einstein’s theory of general relativity.

The researchers studied photons—particles of light—as they travelled from S0-2 to Earth. S0-2 moves around the black hole at blistering speeds of more than 16 million miles per hour at its closest approach. Einstein had reported that in this region close to the black hole, photons have to do extra work. Their wavelength as they leave the star depends not only on how fast the star is moving, but also on how much energy the photons expend to escape the black hole’s powerful gravitational field. Near a black hole, gravity is much stronger than on Earth.

So monitoring those photons over a very long time can help prove Einstein’s original theory. That theory has certainly stood the test of time.

This is Dave Reece  ZS1DFR  reporting for HAMNET in South Africa.