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Mysterious Lung Disease in China
By Gudrun Heise
With an unknown lung disease apparently spreading in China, could there be a new outbreak akin to SARS? Not necessarily. Authorities have yet to identify it. And many respiratory illnesses are caused by viruses.
SARS stands for "Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome." It is one of the most dangerous, recent diseases, which is often fatal. The first cases were diagnosed in 2002 in China and it spread from there. Experts say that was due in part to the rate of modern tourism and travel in general. More than 8,000 people contracted SARS across 30 countries, and about 1,000 people died. But until that outbreak SARS was an unknown illness. Studies showed that it was a Coronavirus. Researchers think the virus spread from animals to humans.
The Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) was discovered in 2012. As with SARS, MERS is a type of Coronavirus. A Coronavirus can infect animals and humans. In humans, MERS mainly affects the respiratory system. The initial symptoms are similar to those of influenza — coughing, fever and shortness of breath. Later, patients can develop a lung infection and even kidney failure. But the illness can present itself and develop in different ways, depending on the patient, and can sometimes be fatal, as in 2015 in South Korea and China.
MERS is most common on the Arabian Peninsula, from where it gets its name. Studies suggest that it's often been spread from camels to humans. There is no vaccine against MERS or any other form of treatment.
Commonly called "bird flu," avian influenza is caused by the H5N2 virus, but there are variations of it. The "H" stands for hemagglutinin, a protein which helps the virus dock onto cells in a respiratory system. The "N" stands for neuraminidase. The virus needs a form of neuraminidase to reproduce itself and spread in an infected body. Bird flu often spreads in wild geese, but it can also spread on common poultry farms. In those cases, most of the affected birds die from the virus. The infection is caused by a range of viruses, including the influenza A virus.
Most types of bird flu do not affect humans. The only types that have so far been shown to spread from birds to humans are H5N1 and H7N9. Those two types can cause serious infections in humans and can be spread by infected birds. It has not been shown to spread from human to human. Humans can become infected through close contact with infected birds.
But all these viruses change and mutate constantly and that makes them even more dangerous.
Legionnaires' disease is a severe form of lung infection. Symptoms include coughing, shivering, headache and high fever. In very bad cases, it can cause a patient to become confused or disorientated.
It is said the disease is spread via air conditioning systems, which distribute the bacteria. It is not transmitted from human to human.
Legionellosis was first discovered at a meeting of war veterans, the "American Legion," hence its name. The meeting was held in Philadelphia, where a number of the attendees became sick with an unknown lung illness. Two weeks after the meeting, further cases were diagnosed. In total 221 men were infected and 34 of them died. It was later determined that a bacteria known as legionella pneumophila was found in the air conditioning of a hotel and is said to have caused the outbreak.
But unhygienic water systems, such as showers in bathrooms, can also transmit the disease. Legionnaires' disease is found around the world. It is especially dangerous for people with weak immune systems. It is treated with antibiotics.
Reposted with permission from DW.
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By Harry Kretchmer
By 2030, almost a third of all the energy consumed in the European Union must come from renewable sources, according to binding targets agreed in 2018. Sweden is helping lead the way.
Sweden is a world leader in renewable energy consumption. Swedish Institute/World Bank
Naturally Warm<p>54% of Sweden's power comes from renewables, and is helped by its geography. With plenty of moving water and 63% forest cover, it's no surprise the <a href="https://sweden.se/nature/energy-use-in-sweden/#" target="_blank">two largest renewable power sources</a> are hydropower and biomass. And that biomass is helping support a local energy boom.</p><p>Heating is a key use of energy in a cold country like Sweden. In recent decades, as fuel oil taxes have increased, the country's power companies have turned to renewables, like biomass, to fuel local 'district heating' plants.</p><p>In Sweden these trace their <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank">origins back to 1948</a>, when a power station's excess heat was first used to heat nearby buildings: steam is <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/engineering/district-heating-system" target="_blank">forced along a network of pipes</a> to wherever it's needed. Today, there are around 500 district heating systems across the country, from major cities to small villages, providing heat to homes and businesses.</p><p>District heating used to be fueled mainly from the <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140" target="_blank">by-products of power plants</a>, waste-to-energy plants and industrial processes. These days, however, Sweden is bringing more renewable sources into the mix. And as a result of competition, this localized form of power is now the country's<a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0360544217304140#fig3" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer"> home-heating market leader.</a></p>
Sweden is using smart grids to turn buildings into energy producers. Huang et al/Elsevier
Energy ‘Prosumers’<p>But Sweden doesn't stop at village-level heating solutions. Its new breed of energy-generation takes hyper-local to the next level.</p><p>One example is in the city of Ludivika where 1970s flats <a href="https://www.buildup.eu/sites/default/files/content/transforming-a-residential-building-cluster-into-electricity-prosumers-in-sweden.pdf" target="_blank">have recently been retrofitted with the latest smart energy technology</a>.</p><p>48 family apartments spread across 3 buildings have been given photovoltaic solar panels, thermal energy storage and heat pump systems. A micro energy grid connects it all, and helps charge electric cars overnight.</p><p>The result is a cluster of 'prosumer' buildings, producing rather than consuming enough power for 77% of residents' needs. With <a href="http://www.diva-portal.org/smash/get/diva2:1232060/FULLTEXT01.pdf" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">high levels of smart meter usage</a>, it's a model that looks set to spread across Sweden.</p>
<div id="d7bf9" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="8757b138d5570bec9d6aad18074a429a"><blockquote class="twitter-tweet twitter-custom-tweet" data-twitter-tweet-id="1273556364263071744" data-partner="rebelmouse"><div style="margin:1em 0">Read more about Western Harbour and book a visit: https://t.co/ujSmVs9rNK 🏡🌳🌊 https://t.co/C5PuPziqIM</div> — Smart City Sweden (@Smart City Sweden)<a href="https://twitter.com/SmartCitySweden/statuses/1273556364263071744">1592474473.0</a></blockquote></div>
Scaling Up<p>A recent development by E.ON in Hyllie, a district on the outskirts of Malmö, southern Sweden, <a href="https://www.eonenergy.com/blog/2019/February/sweden-smart-city" target="_blank">has scaled up the smart grid principle</a>. Energy generation comes from local wind, solar, biomass and waste sources.</p><p>Smart grids then balance the power, react to the weather, deploying extra power when it's colder or putting excess into battery storage when it's warm. The system is not only more efficient, but bills have fallen.</p><p>Smart energy developments like those in Hyllie, Ludivika, and renewable-driven district heating, offer a radical alternative to the centralized energy systems many countries rely on today.</p><p>The EU's leaders have a challenge: how to generate 32% of energy from renewables by 2030. Sweden offers a vision of how technology and local solutions can turn a goal into a reality.</p>
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By Jessica Corbett
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