Published: Sunday 29 February 2004

Yellow fever has struck Colombia, claiming the lives of eight people and infecting more than 27 others. The outbreak of the mosquito-borne illness has prompted the ministry of health in this Caribbean coast nation to declare an emergency. Fever, nausea and muscle pain are the symptoms at the acute stage. Patients then enter a toxic phase characterised by bleeding and, sometimes, renal failure. According to Pan American Health Organisation, an international public health agency, there is no specific treatment for yellow fever. Vaccination is the only prevention. Colombia has already received 1.5 million doses of vaccine from Venezuela and Brazil.

The Sunderbans region in West Bengal, the famous abode of the Royal Bengal tiger, is set to become a site for tracking cetaceans. Experts are conducting the first ever dolphin census in the waters of the Sunderbans to ascertain its exact number in the area. The dwindling populations of the Gangetic dolphin and its cousin, the Irrawady dolphin, are a major concern for conservationists. In this pilot project, the West Bengal forest department will be assisted by scientists from Orissa and experts from Bangladesh.

A medical report has provided the first official confirmation that illnesses British soldiers faced after the 1991 Gulf War were a result of the vaccines they were administered. Officials say they reached this conclusion after observing a soldier who was vaccinated but never went to war. Lance-Corporal Alex Izett suffers from osteoporosis and acute depression. He has been granted a 50 per cent disability pension. Ailments such as depression and respiratory and digestive disorders are common among war veterans in the US and the UK.

It's once again economy over environment for the Bush administration. The US interior department's Bureau of Land Management has signed a plan to open 3.5 lakh hectares (ha) of Alaska's North Slope to oil and gas development. Some of these tracts are sited in areas important for migratory birds, whales and other forms of wildlife. Geologists believe that the reserve may contain 6-13 billion barrels of oil. It is located just west of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

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