MERS Outbreak Over in South Korea

South Korean health officials declared an end to an outbreak of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS), which has killed 36 people in the country and caused widespread social and economic disruption since it emerged in May.

The declaration came as U.S. researchers announced that an experimental MERS vaccine has shown promise in animal studies.

The deadly virus first appeared in Saudi Arabia and nearby countries in 2012, leaving hundreds dead and health officials scrambling to contain it.

The recent South Korean outbreak was the only one to emerge outside the Arabian Peninsula.

Officials in Seoul were initially criticized for a slow response during the early days of the outbreak.

But quarantine measures were soon introduced that confined nearly 17,000 people to their homes and kept the disease from spreading outside of medical facilities.

Botswana records another foot and mouth disease outbreak

The Ngamiland area in north-western Botswana was on Thursday put on high alert as some cattle appeared to show signs of the foot and mouth disease (FMD). Ministry of Agriculture spokesperson Jeffery Peko confirmed the suspected FMD cases, saying the movement of cloven hoofed animals and their fresh products within and out of the Ngamiland area has been suspended with immediate effect.

Botswana recently announced that it has recorded a suspected outbreak of FMD in Chobe district in northern part of the country.

France acts against olive disease outbreak in Corsica

A bacterial infection ravaging olive trees in the far south of Italy has spread to Corsica, where emergency measures are being implemented.

Xylella fastidiosa, spread by insects, was found at Propriano in southern Corsica. The bacterium can also attack citrus trees and vineyards.

France has destroyed plants around the infected bush found in Propriano.

Xylella is one of the biggest disease threats to plants worldwide, the European Commission says. There is no effective treatment for infected plants and new Commission regulations say the only solution is to destroy them and establish Xylella-free buffer zones around them.


Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) – Update

Between 18 and 23 May, the National IHR Focal Point for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia notified WHO of 4 additional cases of Middle East respiratory syndrome coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection, including 1 death.

Spain and Italy hit by devastating ‘olive ebola’ outbreak

Spanish olive groves are at risk of being wiped out by a strain of “olive ebola” which has ravaged the crop in Italy.

The bacteria Xylella fastidiosa, believed to have originally come from the United States, has torn through southern Italy since it first appeared in late 2013.

Dubbed “olive ebola” by a Blanca Landa, a researcher at the Institute of Sustainable Agriculture, is threatening to wipe out decimate entire groves across southern Spain.

“It is unforgiving. The Italian farmers we met told us they had taken better care of their olive groves than their children and now they are irrevocably damaged. In barely a year it can wipe out an entire plantation.”

It is causing serious concern for Spanish officials as Spain is the biggest olive oil producer in the European Union.

There is no cure for the disease, which causes “olive quick decline syndrome”, and all affected trees must be felled.


Drought in Spain

Extremely dry conditions in Spain have caused a failure in the olive harvest. Spain is by far the biggest producer of olive oil in the world, accounting last year for around 50% of the total production worldwide. However farmers in southern Spain believe their crop of olives this year is down by as much as 80%, and some think it is inevitable that the price of this increasingly sought-after commodity will rise.