Members of the Russian Embassy in Prague were flying home Monday, even as Moscow expelled Czech diplomats in Russia
Members of the Russian Embassy in Prague were flying home Monday, even as Moscow expelled Czech diplomats in Russia
A 21-year-old man has been charged with the murder of police community support officer Julia James in Kent. Callum Wheeler, from Aylesham, is due to appear at Medway Magistrates Court via videolink on Tuesday. The body of Ms James was discovered in Akholt Wood near her home in Snowdown on 27 April.
There are concerning reports emerging from India that an aggressive flesh-eating “black fungal” infection is maiming Covid-19 patients and survivors, attacking their noses, eyes and sometimes brains. Doctors have warned that the rare condition, called mucormycosis, has been detected far more frequently than usual in hospitals across the country, with some fears that it is linked to Covid-19 treatments. So what’s going on? Is the infection really a face eating fungus? Yes. Mucormycosis, colloquially known as the “black fungus”, is a fast-moving infection that attacks a person’s sinuses, lungs and brain. While there are antifungal treatments that can be used to treat the condition, they often don’t work, and poor diagnosis means it is often detected after the fungus has spread. In many cases, patients need surgery to cut out the affected tissue before it spreads to the brain - leading to the loss of their upper jaw and sometimes even an eye. “The fungus grows incredibly fast,” says David Denning, a professor of infectious diseases at the University of Manchester and chief executive of the Global Action Fund for Fungal Infections (Gaffi). “Once it gets in, it just marches through the tissue and doesn’t respect tissue planes, so it can go straight from ordinary tissue through into bone, into nerves.” He adds that the mortality rate is, typically, around 50 per cent - but it can be as high as 80 per cent if diagnosed late. So it’s not a bacteria or a virus? No. Mucormycosis is a third class of pathogen, a fungal infection. It’s caused by exposure to the mucor mould, which is commonly found in soil and decaying organic matter, including plants, compost and fruit. A person can get sick if they breathe in these fungal spores, but it’s thought it isn’t possible to catch mucormycosis from another infected person. Symptoms include a bleeding nose, swelling and pain in the eye, drooping eyelids and blurred or lost vision. Black patches of skin can also emerge around the nose. “All fungi affect different parts of the body and can be slow or fast growing, can be relatively easy to treat, or can be very resistant,” says Dr Elizabeth Ballou, lecturer in Cellular Microbiology at the University of Birmingham. “Mucormycosis is one of the most feared because it grows very quickly and is very difficult to treat.” So how serious is the threat of mucormycosis? The condition is very rare and tends to affect those who have diabetes or are severely immunocompromised – such as cancer patients or people living with HIV/Aids. Usually the condition does not pose a major threat to healthy individuals. Even before the pandemic, India had a far higher baseline of infections than other regions. Experts estimate that the vast country reported roughly 17 cases per million people each year, compared to between two and 10 cases in Britain or France. This is largely because India has a large population living with diabetes, almost 80 million people, who are at risk of severe mucormycosis. Exposure to the mucor mould is also relatively high, says Prof Denning, as it's a dusty environment with a lot of material spreading in the air. But why has India seen a surge in cases? The current increase is thought to be linked to the country’s devastating coronavirus surge, as the steroids used to treat severe Covid-19 – including dexamethasone – dampen the immune response, which can go into overdrive and attack itself in response to the viral infection. Some experts also say that, as hospitals are overwhelmed, many families are self-medicating and may be overusing steroids. And a large proportion of those sick with the “black fungus” have diabetes, as mucormycosis “attacks people with uncontrolled sugar”, says Dr VK Paul, a member of NITI Aayog, an Indian Government think tank. Diabetes is harder to control when a patient is unwell, regardless of the disease. But the steroids used to tackle Covid also push up blood sugar levels. “I think you’ve got a triple effect,” says Prof Denning. “Essentially there’s already lots of exposure, plus [high rates of] poorly controlled or out of control diabetes, and then add steroids to treat severe Covid-19 into the mix.” So how many cases have been reported in India? It’s not entirely clear, as reports are trickling out from individual hospitals. Dr Paul has said that “there is not a big outbreak of it”, but the picture emerging is clear: cases are far higher than usual. For instance in Mumbai, the Sion Hospital has reported 24 cases of the fungal infection in the past two months, up from six cases a year, according to Dr Renuka Bradoo, head of the hospital's ear, nose and throat wing. She told the BBC that 11 patients had to lose an eye, while six died. Are there cases in the UK? Yes. Limited numbers of cases have been reported in countries including the UK, France, Austria, US, Iran, Mexico and Brazil, Prof Denning says. What about other fungal infections? Are they a risk here? Yes. There is a huge range of fungal infections, including many that aren’t life threatening – including thrush, athletes foot and dandruff. But, worldwide, roughly two million people are estimated to die from serious fungal infections every year. Though many have underlying health conditions which weaken their immune response – including leukemia or HIV/Aids – experts say a large proportion of these deaths are avoidable. “We think two thirds of those are preventable if we just had all the diagnostics, and all the medicines that are listed by the WHO is essential,” says Prof Denning. “If they were available to everybody, combined with good clinical education, we think 1.6 million lives could be saved every year.” Some of the nastiest fungal infections include aspergillosis, which affects the lungs and causes breathing difficulties – impacting more than 4,000 people in the UK every year – and cryptococcal meningitis, a serious infection of the brain and spinal column that affects those living with HIV/Aids, leading to roughly 200,000 fatalities a year. But what’s really worrying experts is the growing threat of multi-drug resistant fungal infections, such as Candida auris, an emerging threat which caused an outbreak at the Royal Brompton Hospital in London in 2015 and has now been detected across the globe. The fungi causes a yeast infection, but can also trigger bloodstream infections that are lethal 45 per cent of the time, and most existing antifungal drugs are ineffective treatments. Is it possible that a fungi could trigger a new pandemic? Fungal infections have proved devastating for frogs and plants in the past. For instance chytrid fungus, which eats away at the skin of amphibians, has been linked to the decline of 500 species in the past 50 years – including 90 extinctions. Meanwhile fungi like ash dieback, chestnut blight and Japanese larch disease, have wiped out thousands of trees. But experts say they are less likely to trigger a pandemic, as fungi rarely jump from person to person. “Let’s put it like this: I don't think we're going to see the end of the human population because of fungal infections,” says Prof Denning. Instead, experts warn about a slow moving crisis of increasingly untreatable infections. “Fungal infections are a growing problem that has definitely been underestimated, but not because they’re going to suddenly spread person to person like Covid-19,” says Dr Ballou, warning that drug resistant infections will instead “creep up on us.” Protect yourself and your family by learning more about Global Health Security
The chart-topping singer and her footballer boyfriend Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain are expecting their first child.
Chinese state media calls reports in Australia ‘embarrassing’ and a ‘smear’ tactic
Lewis Hamilton says he wasn't able to enjoy his time off from racing during the Formula 1 break in January and February, because he was busy re-negotiating his contract with Mercedes.
Angela Rayner vows to reconnect Labour with working class voters. Exclusive: deputy leader says party must do more to speak to people in low-wage jobs she grew up with
New measures are due to be announced on Monday which will take effect from May 17.
It has finally happened. After months of dire predictions, modellers have concluded that Britain is not facing a deadly third wave, and that deaths are likely to be five times fewer than previously suggested. On Monday, as Boris Johnson announced that Step 3 of easing lockdown will go ahead, the Government released new models which paint an uncharacteristically hopeful picture of the coming months. Gone are the mountains of infections, admissions and deaths that were predicted in February, replaced with the gentle hills of a slight upswing once full restrictions are lifted. Here is how the models have shifted: Deaths When the Government set out its roadmap proposals on Feb 22, it was based on modelling from Imperial College and Warwick University, and pulled together in a summary by the Scientific Pandemic Influenza Group on Modelling (SPI-M). The Government had hoped for a major easing of lockdown by Easter, but was forced to slam on the brakes after SPI-M warned lifting restrictions could lead to an extra 30,000 deaths. Imperial went further, suggesting 55,000 lives would be lost up to June 2022, even under the most cautious scenarios, and warned a third wave could be comparable to January, calling for masks and social distancing to remain in place even after lifting. Roll forward three months and the models have been proven to be way too pessimistic.
‘I am posting this because I am very helpless,’ Vohra wrote in a Facebook post
Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of committing to a 16th season on the Formula 1 grid and has set a July deadline to sign a new contract. The Briton had cast doubt over his future in the sport after only agreeing only a one-year deal for the 2021 season. “Naturally we don’t want to rush anything but I think we have to be sensible and start conversations,” he said after winning Sunday’s Spanish Grand Prix.
Eating less meat is widely acknowledged as one of the best ways to reduce our carbon footprint and do our bit for the planet – and with today marking the start of National Vegetarian Week, there's no better time to get creative and set aside meat and fish in favour of plant-based alternatives. The campaign, led by the Vegetarian Society, is challenging us to go just one week without meat, in a bid to raise awareness of how easy, delicious and satisfying a meat-free diet can be. Think you can't do it? Have a browse of our vegetarian recipe collection, packed with family favourites, quick fixes and veggie versions of our favourite treats (including a knock-out burger, below). Seven of our favourite veggie recipes are shared below to inspire you – try one a day for the next week, starting with a hands-off aubergine parmigiana and comforting dal, and ending with a slap-up brunch, and crowd-pleasing moussaka. The ultimate vegetarian burger Portobello mushrooms, tahini and soy sauce create the perfect meaty flavour in Anna Jones's burger, while a mixture of brown rice and beans provide substance and texture. Accessorise with your favourite burger toppings and you have the perfect meat-free feast.
Former Labour Party spokesman is co-hosting the series throughout Mental Health Awareness Week
Just over four years ago Prince Harry sat on a sofa in Kensington Palace and told me about the absolute chaos he had experienced emotionally after the death of his mother. Back then, there was a real sense of positivity in the air – not just for Harry, who had finally arrived in a good place and was in a new relationship with the woman he would go on to marry, but for the country as a whole, which was, at long last, having a national conversation about mental health. Optimism abounded. As Prince Harry would later tell me, he thought he was out of the woods. But as he now knows – as we all now know – you can never predict what is just around the corner. Mental health, like so many other elements of life, has no absolutes. The work Harry has done on himself since – and the work he has done in understanding mental health more generally – is reflected in The Me You Can’t See, the documentary series he has been quietly working on with Oprah Winfrey and Apple TV+ for the past two years. The five-parter, which will premiere on the streaming service later this month, will put to bed any suggestions that the Duke of Sussex regrets the interview with Oprah that was aired in March. The entire series is based on a conversation between the two about mental health, the pair shepherding the way for experts and sufferers – including a few well known faces – to talk about some of the most misunderstood illnesses and conditions: schizophrenia, OCD, PTSD and the effects of unresolved trauma. If one of the criticisms of the mental health movement has been an unwillingness to talk about these more complex conditions such as psychosis, then this series will be a ray of light for those who often feel ignored by the mainstream conversations that tend to focus on anxiety and depression (debilitating conditions, of course, but not the only debilitating conditions). Both the Duke and Oprah know that star power can draw people to these subjects, and so there will be conversations with the likes of Lady Gaga, who has suffered PTSD, and Glenn Close, whose sister has bipolar disorder and whose nephew has schizoaffective disorder. But Prince Harry has been adamant that this is not simply a space for celebrity confessionals. They have also spent time speaking to people around the globe about their experiences, all of whom the Duke is fiercely protective of, knowing, as he does, how hard it can be to talk openly and in public about mental health issues.
Denmark's foreign minister defended democratic values alongside Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen on Monday, drawing criticism from China which considers fiercely democratic, self-ruled Taiwan its "sacred" territory. China has never renounced the use of force to ensure eventual unification with Taiwan, an island it views as a breakaway province. Denmark and all but a handful of countries recognise Beijing over Taipei as part of Beijing's "one China" policy.
Explainer: What is the deadly ‘black fungus’ seen in Covid patients in India?. Usually very rare, mucormycosis has a high mortality rate and is difficult to treat
Jason Kelk has spent more than 13 months in intensive care at St James' Hospital in Leeds after contracting COVID-19 in March last year. After making "huge strides" in his recovery in recent months, Mr Kelk's wife Sue had started making plans for his return home by launching a crowd-funding appeal to help convert their property. "He's having quite a few problems," Mrs Kelk said.
Man tests positive to Covid in Melbourne days after completing hotel quarantine in South AustraliaThe man, aged in his 30s, tested positive Tuesday morning after returning to his home in Melbourne’s north on 4 May • NSW restrictions: what you can and can’t do under new coronavirus rules • NSW Covid hotspots: list and map of Sydney case locations People wait for a Covid-19 vaccination at Melbourne’s Convention and Exhibition Centre. A Victorian man has tested positive for coronavirus after completing two weeks in hotel quarantine in South Australia. Photograph: James Ross/AAP
Opponents of Sadiq Khan on Monday vowed to hold his “feet to the fire” after increasing their strength on the London Assembly. The Conservatives, Greens and Lib-Dems each picked up one seat on the 25-member scrutiny body charged with holding the mayor to account. There were no changes in the 14 constituency seats on the last results in 2016, with Labour retaining nine seats – including marginal areas such as Barnet & Camden and Ealing & Hillingdon – and the Tories five, including increasing their slender majority 10-fold in Havering & Redbridge.
Controversial Republican gives scornful reaction to Boris Johnson’s latest measures
Boris Johnson told the public: 'Your efforts have so visibly paid off.'