sábado, 1 de febrero de 2014

Return of the Black Death: Ancient bug plagues us once again

Scientists this week warned a strain of plague that killed more than 100million people could rise from the dead and strike again.
Their chilling vision sounds like something from a fanciful Hollywood script but for the people of Madagascar, it is a grim reality.
About 40 people on the island, just off the coast of south-east Africa, have died of the plague. Characterised by painful swellings, or buboes, in the lymph nodes, bubonic plague – or the Black Death – killed an estimated 25million people in Europe during the Middle Ages.
It is most commonly transmitted by flea bites and can be treated with antibiotics, if the strain is not drug-resistant. In its pneumonic form, plague is even more lethal. It can kill within 24 hours and is transmitted from person to person through infected droplets spread by coughing.
The recent outbreak was one of the worst globally in the past few years, with the Red Cross warning Madagascar was at risk of an epidemic.
The country has problems with overcrowding and unhygienic conditions and there has been a programme in prisons to exterminate rats, fleas and cockroaches.
But should we be taken aback by the news?

‘Not really,’ said Sandy Cairncross, a professor of environmental health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine.
‘Many of the things that were life-threatening to people in Britain in the Middle Ages or even up until the 18th or 19th centuries are still fairly common in developing countries.
‘I guess some people are surprised when they find that developing countries are as backward as they turn out to be in terms of public health.’
His colleague, Brendan Wren, professor of microbial pathogenesis, said: ‘Plague is a “down but not out” disease. So you do get 2,000 to 3,000 cases a year worldwide.
‘What might be surprising is it’s endemic in parts of the US as well, particularly the forest areas in some of the national parks, thanks to ground squirrels and small furry animals that are indigenous to western parts of the country. Trappers occasionally get plague and they do die of it. Cats can carry it as well.’ Prof Wren added ‘you’ll probably never ever get rid of it in the US’.
He said: ‘To eliminate it completely, you’d need to get rid of it in all humans and wildlife, and that’s virtually impossible. The best we can say is we have the organism under control.’
The disease spreading today is caused by the Yersinia pestis bacterium and is identical to the one during the Middle Ages.
Prof Cairncross said the disease can lie dormant for long periods because it has ‘animal reservoirs’, allowing the bug to survive in various creatures before passing back to humans again.
He had a brush with plague himself while helping to build a district water supply in Lesotho, southern Africa – spotting a flea on one of the workers before discovering a dead mouse while excavating near the pipeline.
Prof Cairncross knows the value of antibiotics after his uncle died in the 1940s of leptospirosis, or Weil’s disease, after fishing in a Yorkshire river and scratching his leg in the water.
The drugs that could have saved his life were only just coming into use.
But Prof Wren says plague is highly unlikely ever to return to Britain.
‘Unless there’s a release for nefarious purposes,’ he said. ‘It is on the bio-terrorist threat agents list and that’s the only way it could come back to the UK.
But other ‘ancient’ diseases are cropping up here again.
More than 8,750 tuberculosis cases were reported last year – 3,426 of them in London, the TB capital of western Europe.
There has not been a case of cholera in England since 1893.
However, Haiti, the scene of a catastrophic earthquake four years ago, suffered an epidemic thought to have been started accidentally by UN soldiers sent to help.
Leprosy also still stalks the planet.
Mia Hadrill became determined to correct people’s mistaken beliefs after a trip to southern India, where she volunteered at a specialist hospital, followed by time spent as an intern at The Leprosy Mission Scotland.
The Londoner has now written Bela, a picture book for children to educate them about the condition.
‘I’ve heard every leprosy joke going. But in India, I learnt first-hand how misconceptions have a devastating effect on people living with it in the 21st century,’ she said.
‘Whether it is believed to be caused by divine punishment, witchcraft, or being licked by a two-headed snake, false belief can cause self-loathing, ostracism, abandonment and isolation for the many people who live with this disease around the world.’
Fuente: Metro.co.uk

Localizan un hito de los límites de la Compostela medieval

Está en Villestro e incluye un piedra con inscripciones y un monolito

Compostela fue creciendo en círculos en torno a la leyenda de una tumba. Así fue configurando los llamados Xiros, o circunferencias concéntricas que tienen el eje principal en la catedral y que se fueron configurando a lo largo de los siglos IX, X y XI. El colectivo A Rula, un grupo de entusiastas aficionados a la arqueología que centra su actividad en la búsqueda y análisis de petroglifos, acaba de localizar un conjunto de extraordinario interés cuya misión sería indicar uno de los siete caminos que salían de Santiago, justo en el límite de uno de los puntos del Xiro da Cidade otorgado por Alfonso II en el año 834.

La Pedra da Legua está a poco más de cuatro kilómetros del Obradoiro, cerca de Roxos, en la parroquia de Villestro, en las proximidades del trazado actual del Camiño de Fisterra. Está formada por una piedra con inscripciones de diversas épocas, aunque una cruz patada de tipo visigótico era como las utilizadas por los monarcas asturleoneses, por lo menos desde Alfonso VII hasta Alfonso X, según sostienen los miembros de A Rula. Hay que añadir también un cruceiro de una sola pieza y con inscripciones, de 1760, que ni siquiera está catalogado en el plan general de Santiago, y un monolito situado a unos cien metros en una finca particular.
El grupo descubridor considera «incomprensible a súa situación actual e o esquecemento total deste conxunto tan singular». Y más tratándose de lo que se puede considerar «unha das poucas testemuñas directas da formación e consolidación do señorío eclesiástico de Compostela e da propia cidade».
La Pedra da Legua está justo a unas tres millas romanas de la catedral, la distancia que una persona podría recorrer en una hora. Había referencia a ella en algunas publicaciones, como la de Manuel Vilar en relación al Camiño de Fisterra, pero se desconocía su localización exacta y estado actual. Los miembros del colectivo A Rula se encontraron en una visita al lugar con la laja con grabados debajo de la conocida como Cruz da Legua, y cerca de ella el monolito de grandes dimensiones.
Empezaron entonces las comprobaciones consultando documentación diversa en torno a los Xiros da cidade de Santiago, los archivos de la catedral y los estudios de Fernando López Alsina y Álvaro Rodríguez Resino. Tras el descubrimiento de la tumba apostólica (813) y la construcción de la iglesia bajo el patronato de Alfonso II, en la Villa Sancti Iacobi, se le agregó un primer espacio de 60 kilómetros cuadrados en el 834.
De este tiempo podrían ser algunos los escritos de la Pedra da Legua, que está bajo la maleza, en el posible paso de uno de los siete caminos de Compostela, en concreto del que se dirigía a Fisterra y Noia. En A Rula creen que el conjunto forma uno de los siete milladoiros de Santiago, que fueron sustituidos por pequeñas capillas. El de Villestro viene a alimentar el misterio, en este caso bajo los tojos.
Fuente: La voz de Galicia