25 Humans, More Than One Billion Animals Dead in Australia Wildfires
Twenty-five people and more than one billion animals are dead in historic Australian wildfires that are now expected to burn for months.
Conditions improved over the weekend, but hot, windy weather is expected to return at the end of the week, NPR reported Monday.
"There is no room for complacency," New South Wales (NSW) state Premier Gladys Berejiklian told BBC News.
There were 130 fires burning in NSW alone as of 4 a.m. on Tuesday, and 69 were uncontained on Monday, according to NSW Rural Fire Service.
At 4am there are 130 fires still burning across NSW. Even with the current conditions, including rain in some loc… https://t.co/NuAEi44aXr— NSW RFS (@NSW RFS)1578330902.0
Most of the deaths — at least 19 — have taken place in NSW, according to NPR. The others occurred in Victoria and South Australia. Officials are concerned fires in NSW and Victoria could combine into a "mega blaze," according to BBC News.
Meanwhile, the toll on wildlife has been even more devastating than previously reported.
Chris Dickman, an ecologist at the University of Sydney who estimated that nearly half a billion animals had perished in the flames, told HuffPost Tuesday that his estimate did not take all of Australia into account.
"The original figure ― the 480 million ― was based on mammals, birds and reptiles for which we do have densities, and that figure now is a little bit out of date. It's over 800 million given the extent of the fires now ― in New South Wales alone," Dickman explained. "If 800 million sounds a lot, it's not all the animals in the firing line."
800 million does not include bats, frogs and invertebrates. It also leaves out livestock.
"The number of cattle and sheep killed is still being tallied, but the losses are expected to be enormous," Jason Beaubien reported for NPR.
WARNING GRAPHIC. Sorry to share these images near Batlow, NSW. It’s completely heartbreaking. Worst thing I’ve seen… https://t.co/8YaCPiwRCS— ABCcameramatt (@ABCcameramatt)1578189022.0
There are also reports that officials will kill thousands of camels in northwestern Australia as they compete with humans for water while drought and fires persist, according to HuffPost.
"Over a billion would be a very conservative figure," Dickman told HuffPost of the total animal death toll from the fires so far.
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who supports coal use, has been criticized both for his immediate response to the fires and for his failure to act on the climate crisis that is making them worse.
Morrison has promised $1.4 billion for recovery over the next two years and said he would create an agency to help those who lost homes and businesses recover, BBC News reported.
The fires have damaged or destroyed more than 2,000 homes, according to HuffPost.
On Saturday, the government also deployed around 3,000 Army reservists and aircraft and naval ships to help with firefighting and evacuations. It was the largest military deployment in the country since World War II, The New York Times reported.
"The government has not taken this decision lightly," Defense Minister Linda Reynolds told The New York Times. "It is the first time that reserves have been called out in this way in living memory."
Among those rescued by the military were more than 1,000 residents and vacationers in Mallacoota, who were forced by fires to shelter on the beach last week.
The evacuees were taken by naval vessel to Hastings, near Melbourne. One of them, 23-year-old Corrin Mueller, stepped off the boat carrying a sign reading "inaction costs more" to protest the government's failure to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Australia is one of the highest per capita emitters of carbon dioxide in the world.
"We're only here because nobody's acted quick enough," Mueller told The New York Times. "And there's so much more we can still do to stop more people having to go through this."
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It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.
Where Does the Deficiency Begin?<p>Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. The question of when a deficiency starts is correspondingly controversial. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular.Not only is the pseudo-scientific literature on the "sun vitamin" experiencing an upswing, but the number of published studies has also increased enormously in recent years. For example, in 2019 <a href="https://academic.oup.com/edrv/article/40/4/1109/5126915" target="_blank">a study found that</a> Vitamin D is responsible for keeping the skeleton functional and is associated with cardiovascular diseases, type 2 diabetes and various types of cancer. <br></p>
An All-Rounder<p>Vitamin D levels in the body rise and fall according to sun exposure. If sufficient UV rays reach the skin, the body is able to produce the vitamin itself. However, the human body only derives an estimated 10 to 20 percent of its daily requirement from food.</p><p>The vitamin D that we synthesize from sunlight or food is not biologically active at first. Before the kidneys can produce the biologically active form of the vitamin, known as calcitriol, and release it into the blood, some metabolic processes must take place beforehand.</p><p>In addition, many organs have receptors to which the precursor of calcitriol binds. Further, this substance is also present in blood.</p><p>From this precursor, the organs then produce calcitriol themselves, which the body then uses for countless other processes in the body. This form of vitamin D thus regulates insulin secretion, inhibits tumor growth, and promotes the formation of red blood cells as well as the survival and activity of macrophages, which are important for the <a href="https://www.mdpi.com/2072-6643/5/7/2502/htm" target="_blank">immune system.</a></p>
Low Vitamin D, Severe COVID-19 Disease?<p>A research study carried out <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352364620300067?via%3Dihub" target="_blank">at the University of Hohenheim</a> has now established a link between vitamin D deficiency, certain previous diseases, and severe cases of COVID-19.</p><p>According to the study, "there is a lot of evidence that several non-communicable diseases (high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, metabolic syndrome) are associated with low vitamin D plasma levels. These comorbidities, together with the often accompanying vitamin D deficiency, increase the risk of severe COVID-19 events."</p><p>"This statement is completely correct," said Martin Fassnacht, head of endocrinology at the University Hospital of Würzburg. However, he qualifies that it is a pure association, "i.e. a mere observation that these events occur together.</p><p>Dr. Fassnacht is very critical of the hype surrounding vitamin D, but not because he denies the vitamin serves important functions. However, studies on humans have not been able to show that vitamin D has the healing powers many often propagate.</p><p>Fassnacht says, "If you take a closer look, the hopes that the administration of vitamin D has a healing effect have not been confirmed so far."</p>
Association Versus Intervention Studies<p>Many studies on the vitamin are association or observational studies. "By definition, these studies cannot prove the causal relationship, but only point to mere correlations," said Fassnacht. The physician tries to illustrate this with an example:</p><p>"Imagine two groups of 80-year-olds. One group is spry, active and does sports. If you compare them with another group living in nursing homes, the difference in vitamin D levels will be dramatic. Life expectancy would also be extremely different."</p><p>But to try to explain the difference in fitness by vitamin D status alone is far too simplistic. "Vitamin D levels are a good measure of how sick someone is. But not more," says Fassnacht. </p><p>According to Fassnacht, none of the intervention studies carried out to date -- that specifically examined the effect of vitamin D on various diseases -- has been able to confirm the previous association and laboratory studies or the presumed positive effect of vitamin D.</p>
Further Research Is Needed<p>"If a coronavirus infection is suspected, it is therefore absolutely necessary to check the vitamin D status and quickly correct any possible deficit," said the recommendation of the paper published by the University of Hohenheim.</p><p>"Studies are underway to see whether vitamin D helps in COVID-19 infection, but I personally do not believe that this is really the case," says endocrinologist Fassnacht. Nevertheless, he says it is of course useful to carry out these studies.<br></p><p>"I don't want to rule out that there are actually subgroups of people who benefit from an additional vitamin D dose," he says. After all, this has been proven to be the case with a severe deficit.</p><p>In view of the study situation, Fassnacht does not think much of preventive, nationwide vitamin D substitutes. "My belief that the vitamin helps somewhere is very low. But, of course, I can be wrong."</p>
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