Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | January 20, 2015

Measles Watch 2015

Measles Firedog 3A measles outbreak, which reportedly began at Disneyland, in Anaheim, California between December 16 and 20, 2014, has spread to individuals in several other states and Mexico, according to health officials. That’s a pretty hefty price to pay for visiting “the happiest place on earth!” The largest patient-cluster is currently located in California, with 45 confirmed cases, and at least six other infections identified in other parts of the United States and Mexico. Health officials have contacted people who may have come in contact with the virus, asking them to voluntarily stay in quarantine in their respective homes until the threat of potential infection has passed. Staying home if you may have been exposed to the measles makes a lot of sense to me. All of the confirmed cases, to date, were contracted by individuals who were never vaccinated for the virus. Although dogs can’t catch the measles, we can contract a related ailment, known as distemper. So make sure your canines are vaccinated.

Measles Firedog 1People who have the serious yet preventable ailment will experience symptoms including fever, dry cough, runny nose, watery eyes and a pervasive red rash. Spread through the air, usually via coughing, sneezing and/or other close contact, the measles could potentially rise to epidemic proportions because the illness is contagious for up to four days before the rash ever appears. So carriers can spread the virus without even being aware that they are infected. This is significant, as health officials note the outbreaks have begun to affect people beyond the original outbreak area.

CBS News reports, “Health officials report an increase in cases among people who did not visit the parks, indicating that the illness is now spreading to others exposed in their communities.” This is a serious concern, as it implies the illness will be far more difficult to contain than originally thought.

Measles Firedog 2To date, here are confirmed cases, according to the CDC:
• California: 45 confirmed cases
• Mexico: one case
• Utah: two cases
• Washington state: two cases
• Colorado: one case

At least partially to blame for the spread of the virus is the declination in parents agreeing to have their children vaccinated. Kindergarten measles vaccination rates have been falling almost every year since 2002 in California. A Los Angeles Times analysis published last fall reported that the rise in vaccine exemptions among kindergartners because of parents’ personal beliefs was most prominent in wealthy coastal and mountain communities, such as South Orange County and the Santa Monica and Malibu areas. I’ve never understood this phenomenon. My wife and I have JR vaccinated because we figure the benefits outweigh the risks.

Last year, in a report written for the Journal of the American Medical Association-Pediatrics, Dr. Mark Grabowsky, a health official with the United Nations, wrote: “The greatest threat to the U.S. vaccination program may now come from parents’ hesitancy to vaccinate their children. Although this so-called vaccine hesitancy has not become as widespread in the United States as it appears to have become in Europe, it is increasing. Many measles outbreaks can be traced to people refusing to be vaccinated; a recent large measles outbreak was attributable to a church advocating the refusal of measles vaccination.”

Measles Firedog 4While some hesitancy may be understandable, given alarming information available relative to potential, albeit very rare side effects of preserved booster shots, the risks must carefully be weighed against the benefits. Measles can lead to blindness and encephalitis, an infection of the brain. Also called rubeola, measles can be serious and even fatal for small children. While death rates have been falling worldwide as more children receive the measles vaccine, the disease still kills more than 100,000 people a year, most under the age of five. With their parents’ permission, children are typically immunized with a first dose of vaccine at 12 to 16 months and a second at 4- to 6-years-old.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy. One convenient and affordable way to do so is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | January 14, 2015

#BeSafe from the Flu

flu 2015 Firedog 2According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), this year’s strain of Influenza (flu) has already hit epidemic proportions across the United States, with at least 15 associated deaths of children so far this season (most in Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and California.) The most common strain thus far, is known as Influenza A (H3N2). Sounds pretty scary. But I guess any illness with an official name and number is creepy.

A contagious respiratory illness, the flu can cause mild to severe illness, which can result in hospitalization or even death. Most at risk are the elderly, young children and other people with weaker-than-average immune systems. Most health professionals contend the best defense against catching the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Apparently, dogs can catch the flu, too. But we are susceptible to different strains than our human counterparts.

Carefully monitoring flu activity across the country, the CDC reports: “As of late December, all national key flu indicators are elevated and about half of the country is experiencing high flu activity. Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks, with increases occurring especially in those states that have not yet had significant activity.

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year, and right now all of CDC’s influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated activity. Influenza-like-illness (ILI) has been over baseline for the past several weeks, virological surveillance shows a lot of flu is circulating, and the hospitalization surveillance system shows increasing hospitalizations rates, especially in people 65 years and older. Also, the surveillance system that tracks mortality shows that the country is in the midst of this season’s flu epidemic. During influenza seasons, ILI increases first, and then hospitalizations increase, and then increases in deaths occur, so what is being observed is a typical pattern for the flu season.”

Flu 2015 FiredogAlthough this year’s flu season started a few weeks earlier than usual, pharmacists across the country don’t expect the virus to peak until early to mid-February, which means there is still time to get vaccinated, as the shot generally takes two weeks to reach full effectiveness. I don’t understand why some people are afraid of needles. Even my young son, JR, gets boosters without a whimper. As you weigh the pros and cons of vaccination, it might help you to consider the differences between symptoms of a common cold and the flu:

Common Cold

  • Often begins with a sore throat, which usually lasts for just one or two days
  • Nasal symptoms, runny nose, sneezing and congestion follow
  • A cough manifests by day four or five, typically due to sinus drainage and associated nasal congestion
  • Fever is uncommon in adults but slightly more common in children
  • Symptoms generally last for up to one week

Flu 2015 Firedog 3Influenza (Flu)

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Fever (100-102 degrees, which is typically higher than for a cold)
  • Severe headache
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Chest discomfort
  • The Swine flu is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.

Although many symptoms overlap, people who catch colds are more likely to suffer far less and rebound much more quickly than those who succumb to the flu. Also of note, while people who vomit often think they have the flu, stomach pain and diarrhea are far more likely to be the result of food-borne illness (food poisoning) than attributable to a case of the flu. I think this is interesting, because people are always saying they have the flu when they are probably suffering from bad Chinese food.

Five Ways to Avoid Catching the Flu

  1. Wash your hands – Even if you are exposed to the flu (by touching a germ-infested counter top at a doctor’s office, for example) if you clean your hands before you touch your face, there’s little chance the germs can reach your eyes, nose, or mouth, all of which are the usual ways they enter your system and start wreaking havoc.
  2. Try not to touch your faceLiveScience.com reports that the average person touches his or her face some 3.6 times per hour. Since cold and flu germs pass from infected surfaces to orifices such as the nose and mouth, the best way to guard yourself is to keep your hands in your lap. Also, try to avoid habits like biting your nails.
  3. Keep surfaces clean – From your home to your cubby a work, the importance of cleanliness cannot be overstated. Take time to disinfect your keyboard, telephone and desk. In fact, set up a reminder to thoroughly wipe down surfaces each time you eat. You might also want to use disinfectant spray or wipes. She always said it’s good to keep things clean. I guess Mother knows best.
  4. Moisturize Your AirWomen’s Health Magazine reports that very humid air might be toxic to flu viruses. Although scientists aren’t quite sure why, one possibility is that droplets that contain the virus shrink quickly in arid environments, allowing them to float around longer. In moist air those same droplets might remain heavy and fall to the floor faster.
  5. Stay home – Although we aren’t recommending you become a hermit, you will lessen your chances of getting sick if you stay away from large crowds. Also, if you are sick, stay home from work so you won’t infect your co-workers. If you’re sick, you probably won’t be at your best, anyway. So take care of yourself and go back to work when you are back in top form. Makes sense to me.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy in 2015 and beyond. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | December 30, 2014

How to #BeSafe in 2015 

new-years-resolutions firedogNew Year’s Resolutions. Most people write a few down, even if they have no intention of ever following through. That could be the reason dogs don’t participate in the practice. Well, it could also be because we don’t have opposable thumbs. But, whatever the reason, according to USA.Gov, the 10 most popular resolutions (for people) are to:

  • Lose weight
  • Volunteer to help others
  • Quit smoking
  • Get a better education
  • Get a better job
  • Save money
  • Get fit
  • Eat healthier
  • Manage stress
  • Manage debt

BeeSafeAs good as those aspirations are, we propose they fail to incorporate one of the most important goals anyone could make—to #BeSafe! So, as our gift to you for 2015, we have prepared a list of our suggestions for 10 New Year’s Safety Resolutions:

  1. Create/update home and workplace emergency preparedness kits. The contents of your kit will vary depending on individual needs. Set aside a three-days-per-person supply of foodwater and other essentials. Local officials and relief workers will be on the scene after a disaster but they cannot reach everyone immediately. Help could arrive in hours or it could take days for relief workers to get to you. So take responsibility for yourself. This is good advice even outside the arena of safety.
  1. Develop and practice an emergency preparedness plan. The Ready Campaign and Citizen Corps encourages households, businesses and communities to prepare for emergencies by making plans to be self-reliant for three days without utilities and electricity, water service, access to a supermarket or local services. If you own or manage a facility, make sure tenants and employees are well-informed of emergency procedures. Develop a plan and run periodic drills. Practice makes perfect. I love running drills…or running anything, for that matter.
  1. Don’t play with fire. When fires break out, the potential for loss is high if occupants are untrained and proper fire life safety systems are not utilized. So take precautions to make sure you are fire safe, whether you are located in an area with a high risk of wildfire; visiting, living or working inside a high rise building; or just hanging out at home. We can’t really emphasize this enough. Fire is dangerous stuff. Be careful.
  1. Learn CPR. Sudden cardiac arrest, the leading cause of death in adults, accounts for 325,000 annual adult deaths in the United States. Prompt, effective administration of CPR/AED and first aid can mean the difference between life and death. Did you know you can’t call the Heimlich maneuver the Heimlich maneuver anymore? I guess Heimlich’s family got mad they weren’t making any money off of the deal. So now it’s called the Abdominal Thrust. Not quite as catchy.
  1. Take advantage of available vaccines. Because people are starting to second-guess the wisdom of vaccinating their children, once eradicated diseases such as polio and TB are reemerging. Do your due diligence, researching booster shots your pediatrician suggests. But refusing every vaccination could put the rest of the population at risk. I don’t know why people refuse to get shots. We give JR boosters all of the time and he doesn’t even cry.
  1. Learn how to determine whether any given disaster would be best handled by evacuation or sheltering in place. Since every natural or manmade disaster is unique, you won’t be able to predict the best course of action. But, you can educate yourself about the various types of emergencies and how to respond most appropriately in any given situation. Safe Room
  1. Wash your hands often. Use soap and water or hand sanitizer to prevent spreading germs. During flu season, this is especially important! The CDC likens hand washing to a “do-it-yourself” vaccine. Effective hand washing involves five simple and effective steps, including wet, lather, scrub, rinse and dry. Regular hand washing, particularly before and after certain activities, is the best way to remove germs, avoid getting sick, and prevent the spread of germs to others. I try to keep my paws as clean as possible.
  1. Be mindful of safety risks associated with natural disasters. Extreme heat, mudslides, flash floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes pose significant and very specific safety-related issues. So the best way to prepare is to research the risks that pertain to your geographic location.
  1. Eat better and move more. Why are these suggestions on a list of safety tips? Because many health-related issues are brought on by lack of exercise and poor diet. So, eat right and keep moving to beef up your immune system. Doing so will help you avoid contagious bugs such as Influenza, and prevent you from developing serious health conditions like Diabetes. I can always get behind anything that has to do with eating or exercise.
  1. Be careful when you travel. This is important for several reasons:
  • Remain alert at the airport to help circumvent terrorist activity. When you fly, pay attention to suspicious activity and refuse to watch bags for anyone you don’t know.
  • Research the potential health risks associated with your destination (West Africa, relative to Ebola), and take proper precautions.
  • Don’t drink and drive!
  • Do not text while driving. Did you know that people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to get into an accident than those who resist the urge to pick up their cellphones while driving? More than 1.6 million automobile accidents that occurred last year in the U.S. were related to texting while driving (National Safety Council). Put the phone down or pull over to use it. It can wait.

We hope that this blog post will help you make safe choices in 2015 and beyond. One convenient and affordable way to do so is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | December 19, 2014

How to #BeSafe this Holiday Season

Part 3 of a 3-part series

Firedog Holiday TravelTo date, our series has covered safety relative to choosing, displaying and decorating Christmas trees, working with wrapping paper, and guidelines for being safe at work and home. I don’t know about you, but I’ve learned a lot about how to #BeSafe during the holidays! This week, we will conclude our three-part series by focusing on travel, shopping and food safety. Our thanks to Universal Services of America, Food Safety.Gov, Web MD, TSA and the Consumer Product Safety Commission, for contributing to our holiday safety series.

Holiday Travel Safety

  • Drive slowly when visibility is reduced. It’s better to arrive alive even if you get to your destination a bit late.
  • If you’re flying, prepare for crowds. Arrive at the airport in plenty of time, so you won’t be bothered by long lines. I wonder if Snoopy has to deal with this when he’s battling the Red Baron.
  • If you notice an item that has been left unattended, alert airport security. Don’t ever agree to watch luggage for someone you don’t know.
  • For instant access to TSA information anywhere, anytime, use the MyTSA app.

Firedog Holiday Shopping SafetyHoliday Shopping Safety

  • If you choose to shop online, do so only with well-known businesses. Research websites for legitimacy and track record. Since I don’t have opposable thumbs, online shopping is difficult for me. I guess that’s a good thing.
  • Conduct transactions on a secure server only. Look for the padlock device on the browser’s status bar. URLs should change from http to shttp or https when you begin checking out online. To confirm the site you are using is secure, make sure the page is encrypted before you enter payment information.
  • At the mall, park close to your destination, in a well-lit area. Take note of where you park, so you won’t get lost.
  • Don’t carry multiple bags as you walk around the mall. This could attract thieves who could follow you back to your car. If your packages become cumbersome, it’s time to head to the car to drop them off. When you get to your vehicle, lock packages in the trunk, out of sight.
  • As you shop, carry your purse close to your body and/or stow your wallet inside a zippered pocket. I don’t carry a purse. But my wife does. I guess I should pass this info onto her.
  • Report suspicious activity and/or unattended packages to store/mall security or law enforcement.
  • Pay by credit card, rather than check/debit card, to reduce the risk of having fraudulent purchases made against your bank account. Although most such funds are refundable, depending on your financial institution, your money could be tied up far longer than might be convenient…especially during the holidays.
  • To make sure all debit and credit card charges are legitimate, keep receipts and compare them to your monthly bank and/or credit card statement.
  • Avoid being overcharged. Review your receipt regardless of your method of payment.
  • Keep car keys handy.
  • Lock your doors as soon as you get inside the vehicle. 

Firedog Holiday Safety FoodHoliday Food Safety

  • Wash hands with warm water and soap for 20 seconds before and after handling any food.
  • Wash food-contact surfaces (cutting boards, dishes, utensils, countertops) with hot, soapy water after preparing each food item. As much as I would like to advise having the dog lick your plates clean, washing them in soapy water would admittedly be far more hygienic.
  • Rinse fruits and vegetables thoroughly under cool running water.
  • Use a produce brush to remove surface dirt.
  • Do not rinse raw meat and poultry before cooking in order to avoid spreading bacteria to areas around the sink and countertops.
  • Use a food thermometer to make sure meat, poultry, and fish are cooked to a safe internal temperature.
  • Bring sauces, soups, and gravies to a rolling boil when reheating.
  • Don’t eat uncooked cookie dough. It may contain raw eggs, which can harbor salmonella.
  • Thaw frozen food safely in the refrigerator, under cold running water, or in the microwave—never at room temperature.
  • As a general rule of thumb, leftovers should be used within three to four days, unless frozen. After four days, you could always give leftover meat to the family pet. Just a suggestion. J
  • For fire safety, keep flammable materials far from open flames. Fire safety is important. So try to remain focused even in the midst of holiday stress.

We hope that this blog series has helped inform you about ways to #BESAFE this holiday season and always, by taking necessary steps to improve your health and safety. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | December 9, 2014

Holiday Safety and Security Tips Part 2 of a 3-Part Series

holiday safety firedogHoliday Safety Part 2 of a 3-Part Series (Featuring Guest Blogger Angela Burrell of Universal Services of America. To see her original post, click here.) As a courtesy to our guest, I have dispensed with my usual “firedogisms” in this post, but will resume my canine commentary in next week’s blog. 

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, home holiday decorations cause more than 400 holiday fires each year, resulting in $15 million in property loss and damage. Nothing is as sad as a news story about a child dying in a Christmas tree fire or a father falling off of a ladder while decorating the exterior of his home. As our holiday gift to you, we would like to offer some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

firedog safety holidayLast week, we examined safe practices for choosing, displaying and decorating Christmas trees as well as working with holiday paper. For part two of our series, we are happy to welcome guest blogger Angela Burrell, who is the public relations manager for our strategic partner, Universal Services of America. Her blog post covers holiday workplace safety home safety guidelines, and basic safety rules. Next week, we will conclude our three-week series by focusing on holiday travel, shopping and cooking.

Universal Services of America reminds you to keep the following safety and security tips in mind as you celebrate the holiday season. Regift them to family, friends, colleagues, co-workers and building occupants to let them know you care. Happy holidays!

Seven Workplace Alerts

  • Report all solicitors or suspicious persons to security immediately.
  • Be suspicious of unfamiliar people claiming to be repair persons, as thieves are apt to disguise themselves.
  • Make sure your receptionist clears any workers or contractors before allowing them into your office.
  • Question visitors who wander throughout your offices. Legitimate guests will appreciate your offers of assistance, while potential solicitors or thieves will be deterred.
  • Lock all personal items in a desk or file cabinet. Employees should never leave purses or wallets exposed where they can easily be stolen.
  • Close doors when the office is empty, and secure all valuables in a desk or closet when unattended.
  • Request a security or buddy escort to your car if you are working late and feel vulnerable.

Seven Basic Fire Rules

  • Fires peak, particularly in kitchens, during the holidays – so remain alert when preparing meals and keep potholders and food wrappers at least three feet away from heat sources.
  • Monitor candles and fireplace fires, and extinguish them before leaving the house or bedtime.
  • Test your smoke alarms and carbon monoxide detectors, ensuring that they work at optimal level year-round. Replace batteries, as needed.
  • Know where your exits are located and hold regular fire drills that include practicing at least two evacuation routes from every area or building.
  • Notify the property manager about exit lights that are broken or vandalized.
  • Never prop open self-closing doors, as they are designed to keep flames and smoke from spreading.
  • Keep exits and stairways free from obstructions at all times. Don’t store things on or under stairways, or on landings.

Six Home Safety Guides

  • Refresh your holiday lights; consider buying energy-efficient LED types that are cooler than conventional incandescent lights.
  • Limit the number of lights strung together and use appropriate ones for outdoors or indoors.
  • Turn off lights or decorations before bedtime, or set automatic timers for six or eight-hour increments to conserve energy.
  • Consider installing motion or lighting sensors that turn off automatically when no one is around.
  • Ask a neighbor to collect mail or have the post office hold it if you plan to travel for an extended period.
  • Let strangers who knock know you are home without opening your door. Do not feel compelled to donate to solicitors.

Five More Tips and Resources

Next week, check back, as we will finish our series about holiday safety. We hope that this blog post will help inform you about ways to #BESAFE this holiday season, and always, by taking necessary steps to improve your health and safety. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | December 3, 2014

How to #BeSafe this Holiday Season

Part 1 of a 3-part series

Holiday Safety 2014cAccording to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, home holiday decorations cause more than 400 holiday fires each year, resulting in $15 million in property loss and damage. Nothing is as sad as a news story about a child dying in a Christmas tree fire or a father falling off of a ladder while decorating the exterior of his home. As our holiday gift to you, we would like to offer some tips to keep you and your loved ones safe this holiday season.

This week, we will look at safe practices for choosing, displaying and decorating Christmas trees as well as working with holiday paper. Next week, we will feature a guest blogger, whose entry will cover holiday workplace safety, basic safety rules and home safety guidelines. Finally, we will conclude our three-week series by focusing on holiday travel, shopping and cooking.

Holiday Safety for 2014

Christmas Trees

Choosing your tree

  • Many artificial trees are fire resistant. If you choose to go with a fake tree, choose one that is rated as such.
  • If you decide to go with a live tree, freshness is key. A newly cut tree will stay green longer and be less of a fire hazard than a dry tree…not to mention it will look nicer than one that is dead and brown.
  • To check for freshness, remember that a fresh tree is green, and fresh needles are hard to pull from branches. They also do not give when bent between your fingers.
  • When the trunk of a tree is bounced on the ground, a shower of falling needles shows that tree is too dry. Keep looking.
  • The trunk of a freshly harvested tree should be sticky with resin.
  • I advise keeping lots of water in your tree bucket. Dogs like to drink from it…though (for safety), we really shouldn’t.

holiday safety 2014eDisplaying your tree

  • Before deciding where to put your tree, think about more than whether it is located near a picture window. Instead, make sure you choose a place in your home that is clear of all sources of heat including fireplaces, radiators and lamps. You might also want to consider where it won’t tempt your pet, since we tend to consider Christmas trees indoor plumbing!
  • Heated rooms dry out trees rapidly, creating fire hazards. So make sure your home remains relatively cool. But use common sense. If you’re cold, the tree probably will be too. It is alive, after all…if you choose a live one instead of a plastic fake version.
  • When prepping the tree, cut off about two inches of the trunk to expose fresh wood for sufficient water absorption. Trim away branches as necessary to set your tree trunk in the base of a sturdy, water-holding stand with wide spread feet. Keep the stand filled with water while the tree is indoors. And this isn’t just so Fido has another cool water option. It’s actually to keep the tree alive as long as possible.
  • Place the tree out of the way of traffic and do not block doorways. If necessary, use thin guide-wires to secure a large tree to walls or ceiling. These wires are nearly invisible but will keep the tree safe even in the event of an earthquake or other natural disaster.

Decorating

  • Artificial snow sprays can irritate lungs if inhaled. If you like the look of a flocked tree, just make sure you avoid potential injury by reading container labels and carefully following directions. I’m not one for flocked trees. They block the fresh pine scent.
  • Interior Lighting. Use only lights that have been tested for safety. Identify these by the label from an independent testing laboratory.
  • Check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets or repair them before using. Lights are so cheap these days, you can afford to pitch them and start from scratch instead of looking for a single burnt out bulb to replace.
  • Fasten outdoor lights securely to trees, house, walls or other firm support to protect from wind damage.
  • Use no more than three standard-size sets of lights per single extension cord.
  • Turn off all lights on trees and other decorations when you go to bed or leave the house. If they are not properly displayed, lights could short and start a fire. It might be tempting to leave them on. But resist the urge. Safety first!
  • Use colored spotlights above or beside a tree instead of fastened onto it.
  • Keep “bubbling” lights away from children. The bright colors and bubbling movement could tempt curious children to break the light, leaking poisonous liquid and posing an electrical hazard. I’ve never seen bubbling lights. But they sounds scary.

Wrapping-related Safety

  • If you decide to make paper decorations, choose papers, glitter and adhesives that are not flammable. Or, better yet, encourage the kiddos to work with something other than paper if they plan to hang it from the tree.
  • Don’t place trimming near open flames or electrical connections.
  • Remove all wrapping papers from tree and fireplace areas immediately after presents are opened. This is particularly important during parties and Christmas morning, when distractions abound.
  • Do not ever burn papers in the fireplace. A flash fire may result as wrappings ignite suddenly and burn intensely

Next week, check back, as we will continue our three-week series about holiday safety. We hope that this blog post will help inform you about ways to #BESAFE this holiday season, and always, by taking necessary steps to improve your health and safety. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | November 18, 2014

November is National Diabetes Month

Paper bag with the word diabetes filled with healthy foodsDiabetes mellitus refers to a group of diseases that affect how the body uses blood sugar (glucose). Vital to health because it is an important source of energy for the cells that make up muscles and tissues, glucose is the brain’s main source of fuel. I wonder if bacon has glucose? I am sure I could run on it. People who have diabetes suffer not only from the ill effects of the disease itself but are also at risk for many other serious associated conditions. To educate the general public about the disease and help increase fundraising efforts for prevention and treatment, the United States observes National Diabetes Month every November. On an unrelated note, I have heard that International Bacon Day is Sept. 5.

Although specific causes differ, any patient whose system has chronically elevated levels of glucose has some form of diabetes. According to the American Diabetes Association, diabetic conditions include:

  • Type 1 Diabetes: usually diagnosed in children and young adults, this was previously known as juvenile diabetes. Only five percent of people with diabetes have this form of the disease. In type 1 diabetes, the body does not produce insulin, which is the hormone which converts sugar, starches and other food into energy. With the help of insulin therapy and other treatments, even young children can learn to manage this condition and live long, healthy lives.
  • Type 2 Diabetes: once known as adult-onset or noninsulin-dependent diabetes, this is a chronic condition that affects the way the body metabolizes glucose. With type 2 diabetes, the body either resists the effects of insulin or fails to produce adequate insulin to maintain normal glucose levels. Although type 2 diabetes is more common in adults than in kids, type 2 diabetes increasingly affects children as childhood obesity rates increase. Although there is no cure for type 2 diabetes, the condition can be managed by diet, exercise and healthy body weight. In some cases, diet and exercise are insufficient to manage blood sugar levels, so treatment includes medications or insulin therapy.
  • Gestational Diabetes : occurs during pregnancy but often resolves after the baby is delivered. According to the Mayo Clinic, gestational diabetes affects how a pregnant woman’s cells use glucose. One of the main concerns about gestational diabetes is that high blood sugar can negatively impact the health of both mother and child. The good news is that most expectant mothers can help control gestational diabetes by eating healthy foods, exercising and, if necessary, taking medication. In gestational diabetes, blood sugar usually returns to normal soon after delivery. Unfortunately, women who have had gestational diabetes are at an increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
  • Pre-Diabetes: a serious health condition that increases the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke, pre-diabetes is a condition in which blood sugar levels are higher than normal, but not high enough to classify as full-blown diabetes. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that 1 of every 3 U.S. Americcan adults have prediabetes. That is 79 million Americans, aged 20 years or older. The vast majority of people who are living with prediabetes do not know they have it. This is unfortunate, since (without lifestyle changes to improve health), 15% to 30% of people with prediabetes will develop type 2 diabetes within five years.

canine diabetes

According to the CDC, 29.1 million people (9.3% of the U. S. population) have diabetes. What’s more, the CDC reports there are approximately 8.1 million people who have the disease but remain undiagnosed. Because that figure represents 27.8% of the affected group, education and intervention are critical.

Asses your risk:

  • Are you age 45 or older?
  • Are you overweight?
  • Does one or both of your parents have diabetes?
  • Has one or more of your siblings been diagnosed with diabetes?
  • Is your family background African-American, Hispanic/Latino, American-Indian, Asian-American, or Pacific-Islander?
  • Did you have gestational diabetes or did you give birth to a baby weighing 9 pounds or more?
  • Are you physically active less than three times a week?
  • Is your diet made up of candy, cookies and cake? (That isn’t part of the official checklist. But it seems like a reasonable assessment question to me.)

Take action

Research shows that modest weight loss and regular physical activity can help prevent or delay the onset of type 2 diabetes by up to 58% in people who are prediabetic.

  • Modest weight loss means 5% to 7% of body weight, which is 10 to 14 pounds for a 200-pound person.
  • Getting at least 150 minutes each week of physical activity, such as brisk walking, also is important.
  • A free lifestyle change program is available through the National Diabetes Prevention Program, Led by the CDC, the plan can help participants adopt healthy habits needed to prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Lay off the sweets. (Again, not an official bullet point on the CDC’s list. But it couldn’t hurt.)

We hope that this blog post will help inform you about ways to #BESAFE by paying attention to your blood sugar levels and taking necessary steps to improve your health and safety. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | November 4, 2014

How to #BeSafe from Enterovirus 68

Massive media coverage about Ebola has effectively buried attention about an infection that is far more widespread: Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68). As much news coverage as Ebola has gotten lately, you would think everyone is at risk! One of more than 100 non-polio Enteroviruses, EV-D68 was first identified in California in 1962, and belongs to a large family of viruses that cause an estimated 10 million to 15 million infections in Americans every year. In an alert distributed by the Business man pointing the text: EnterovirusWorld Health Organization (WHO), as of September 16, 2014, 130 laboratory-confirmed cases of EV-D68 have been reported in 12 U.S. states, including Alabama, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Missouri, New York, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. Investigations into suspected clusters in many other states are ongoing.

Since that time, NBC News reports that two California children have died from symptoms associated with the virus. In general, infants, children, and teenagers are most likely to get infected with Enteroviruses and become ill because they do not yet have immunity from previous exposures to these viruses. The same is true for adults, although they are less likely than children to exhibit symptoms. So that means you could have Enterovirus without even knowing it.

Diagnosed through lab tests, the virus is located in infected respiratory secretions, such as saliva, nasal mucus, or sputum, and likely spreads from person to person when an infected person’s coughs, sneezes, or body parts touch a surface that is later touched by others. According to Live Science, on average, people touch their faces 3.3 times per hour. I find that dogs touch their faces far less than this…probably because we don’t have opposable thumbs.

Symptoms of EV-D68 infection – Most people who are infected with non-polio Enteroviruses do not get sick, or they experience only mild illness. According to the CDC, these are the symptoms associated with Enterovirus, from mild to severe to unusual:

Mild Symptoms:

  • Mild to severe respiratory illness
  • Fever
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing
  • Cough
  • Body and muscle aches

Severe symptoms:

  • Wheezing
  • Difficulty breathing, especially in children who have asthma
  • Skin rash
  • Mouth blisters

Less common symptoms:

  • Myocarditis (infection of the heart)
  • Pericarditis (infection of the sac around the heart)
  • Encephalitis (infection of the brain)
  • Paralysis

Rare symptoms:

Poliovirus, bound to the poliovirus receptor (PV, CD155).Although no anti-viral medications have been approved for use with EV-D68, people with respiratory illness associated with the virus should discuss symptomatic treatment options with their doctors. People with severe respiratory illness may need to be hospitalized. And that is true whether their respiratory illness is a result of Enterovirus or completely unrelated.

Six Steps to Take to Avoid Enterovirus

  1. Wash your hands often, with soap and water, for at least 20 seconds.
  2. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands. Avoid close contact such as kissing, hugging, and sharing cups or eating utensils with people who are sick.
  3. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  4. Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as toys and doorknobs, especially if someone is sick.
  5. Stay home when you are sick.
  6. Buy bacon. Okay, that won’t help Enterovirus. But it will make you feel better whether or not you’re sick. At least it works for me.

We hope that this blog post will help inform you about ways to #BESAFE in light of Enterovirus as well as other, more widespread health concerns such as influenza and the common cold. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | October 29, 2014

Ebola: What You Should Know

ebola cdcAccording to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the first case of Ebola in the United States was laboratory-confirmed on September 30, 2014, in specimens obtained from a man named Thomas Eric Duncan, who had traveled to Dallas, Texas from West Africa. Although Duncan did not have symptoms before leaving West Africa, he developed them approximately four days after his arrival in the U.S.

He sought medical attention at Texas Presbyterian Hospital of Dallas after experiencing Ebola-like symptoms. Based on his travel history and symptoms, the CDC recommended the hospital test for Ebola while Duncan awaited results in an isolated medical facility. Lab specimens tested at the CDC and also at a Texas laboratory confirmed Ebola in Duncan, who died on October 8.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC offer these key facts about Ebola:

  • Formerly known as Ebola Hemorrhagic Fever, Ebola is a severe, often fatal illness in humans. So I gather that pets can contract Ebola and spread it but it doesn’t kill us.
  • Ebola was first discovered in 1976 near the Ebola River in what is now the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Since then, outbreaks have appeared sporadically in Africa.
  • The virus is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.
    • Blood or bodily fluids (including but not limited to urine, saliva, sweat, feces, vomit, breast milk, and semen) of a person who is sick with Ebola
    • Objects (such needles and syringes), which have been contaminated with the virus
  • Ebola is not spread through the air or by water, or in general, by food. Whew. However, in Africa, Ebola may be spread as a result of handling bush meat (wild animals hunted for food) and during contact with infected bats. I think even uninfected bats should be avoided at all costs.
    • There is no evidence that mosquitos or other insects can transmit Ebola virus. That’s good news.
    • Only mammals (for example, humans, bats, monkeys, and apes) have shown the ability to become infected with and spread Ebola virus.
  • There are five identified Ebola virus species, four of which are known to spread the disease in humans.
  • Ebola has an incubation period of up to 21 days.
  • The average fatality rate is around 50%. (Case fatality rates have varied from 25% to 90% in past outbreaks.)
  • Community engagement is key to successfully controlling outbreaks. Good outbreak control relies on applying a package of interventions, namely case management, surveillance and contact tracing, a good laboratory service, safe burials and social mobilization. Thus, our reason for sharing about it on the RJ the Firedog blog post.
  • Early supportive care with rehydration, symptomatic treatment improves survival. There is as yet no licensed treatment proven to neutralize the virus but a range of blood, immunological and drug therapies are under development.
  • There are currently no licensed Ebola vaccines but two potential candidates are undergoing evaluation.

Unfortunately, several associated Ebola scares have alerted Americans to the risk of contracting the deadly disease. Two nurses at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital in Dallas who treated Mr. Duncan — Nina Pham and Amber Joy Vinson — have contracted Ebola. Since one of them traveled on at least two planes before being diagnosed, and cruise ship passengers were exposed to an airline worker described as being “tangentially at risk,” hundreds were potentially infected and are currently being monitored. I had to look up the word, “Tangentially.” It means a loose association.

Although officials have not determined exactly how Pham and Vinson became infected, they have focused on their use of personal protective gear, and have called for meticulous protective practices and stringent infection control for treating future patients.

In response to all of the above, Pentagon officials announced the formation of a 30-person military medical team to respond to future Ebola cases in the United States and “provide short-notice assistance to civilian medical professionals.” Sounds like a good idea!

While any case of Ebola diagnosed in the United States naturally raises concerns, and even one death is too many, there are a myriad of other health scares that pose a far greater risk than that of Ebola. In fact, the risk of catching Ebola is still far less than the risk of dying from the flu, which killed 53,667 Americans in 2010. So you may want to read our flu posts.

In fact, Matthew Herper of Forbes Magazine asserts that, “For anyone who is not a healthcare worker treating an Ebola patient, the risk of (contracting Ebola) is probably zero. The news that a potentially exposed health care worker who had gone on a cruise ship was, in fact, not infected should drive this fact home.”

The Chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Paul Offit, agrees: “This is not influenza or measles. It’s not spread by the respiratory route. If you’re sitting next to someone on a plane, you’re not going to catch it. People should take note of the fact that Duncan’s family never got sick.”

But what about if you are traveling to an area affected by an Ebola outbreak? In this case, the FDA recommends the following six precautions:

  1. Practice careful hygiene. For example, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer and avoid contact with blood and bodily fluids.
  2. Do not handle items that may have come in contact with an infected person’s blood or bodily fluids (such as clothes, bedding, needles, and medical equipment).
  3. Avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling the body of someone who has died from Ebola.
  4. Avoid contact with bats and nonhuman primates or blood, fluids, and raw meat prepared from these animals. Sounds like a good idea, anyway.
  5. Avoid hospitals in West Africa where Ebola patients are being treated. The U.S. embassy or consulate is often able to provide advice on facilities.
  6. After you return, monitor your health for 21 days and seek medical care immediately if you develop symptoms of Ebola.

In response to public concern, our strategic partner, Universal Protection Services, is alerting clients and employees about signs and symptoms of not only Ebola, but infectious diseases in general. What’s more, they are advising employees to get flu immunizations early in the season, practice regular hand washing and to use hand sanitizers. Is it just me or is hand washing a good idea even if Ebola wasn’t on the table?

By sharing their tips, tools and precautions with our friends and subscribers, our shared goal is to promote the wellbeing of everyone and to help keep workplaces and environments as healthy as possible. For detailed information about infection control, download these free Universal resources:

Infectious Diseases

Flu Pandemic

We hope this blog post has reassured you that, despite excessive media coverage, your risk of contracting Ebola is actually quite low. Nevertheless, we want to make sure you remain informed about anything and everything that concerns public health and welfare, because we want you to #BESAFE. One way to do so is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

 

Posted by: RJ the Fire Dog Blogger | October 15, 2014

Happy Breast Cancer Awareness Month

Breast cancer graphicEach October, our nation observes Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Based on data prepared by BreastCancer.org, within the next 12 months, some 230,000 women and 2,000 men will be diagnosed with breast cancer in America. During National Breast Cancer Awareness Month, we recognize all those who have experienced the anguish associated with breast cancer and amplify ongoing efforts to improve care and bring attention to this disease. I’ve read that dogs don’t get breast cancer but we can contract tumors in our mammary glands.

According to the American Cancer Society, “Cancer starts when cells in a part of the body start to grow out of control. Cancer cell growth is different from normal cell growth. Instead of dying, cancer cells continue to grow and form new, abnormal cells. Cancer cells can also invade (grow into) other tissues, something that normal cells can’t do. Growing out of control and invading other tissues are what makes a cell a cancer cell.”

The American Cancer Society defines breast cancer as, “a malignant tumor that starts in the cells of the breast. A malignant tumor is a group of cancer cells that can grow into (invade) surrounding tissues or spread (metastasize) to distant areas of the body. The disease occurs almost entirely in women, but men can get it, too.”

BREAST+CANCER+AWARENESS+16X9Statistics about Breast Cancer:

Fortunately, there is good news. (Whew. I was beginning to wonder!) There are currently more than 2.8 million breast cancer survivors in the United States, including women currently being treated as well as those who have completed treatment. When breast cancer is caught early, treatments are highly successful and survival rates increase. That IS good news. In fact, death rates from breast cancer have been declining since 1989, with the most significant statistical decreases in women who are younger than 50. These decreases are believed to be the result of early detection through screening, increased awareness, and improved treatment.

10 Steps to take to reduce your risk of breast cancer

  1. Maintain a healthy weight. Seems like a good idea even aside from cancer risk.
  2. Stay physically active. I can always get behind this!
  3. Limit how much alcohol you drink. Water is always a healthy choice. I like mine in a bowl.
  4. Follow a healthy diet. I think healthy diets can include lots of bacon.
  5. Seek alternative methods for hormone replacement therapy.
  6. If you smoke, quit. If you don’t smoke, don’t start.
  7. Breastfeed your baby.
  8. Consider taking part in clinical trials.
  9. Find out if you have genetic risk factors. (The most common cause of hereditary breast cancer is an inherited mutation in the BRCA1 and BRCA2 genes.) If you have inherited a mutated copy of either gene from a parent, you have an increased risk of developing breast cancer during your lifetime. Discuss possible genetic testing, which can identify mutations, with your physician.
  10. Schedule regular mammograms. Ask your doctor about recommended frequency

Whether you or someone you know has breast cancer, or if you would just like to support the effort to increase awareness about the disease, we hope you will find a way to “go pink on purpose for breast cancer” this month. To support the cause, we have “gone pink on purpose” on the RJW social media networks.

The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to helping improve and save lives. Visit our website for ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

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