Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, CDC, Disaster Preparedness, FEMA, Health & Welfare, How to stay healthy

All About MRSA

MRSA Staphylococcus aureus  CartoonCommonly known as MRSA, Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus is a staph bacterium often (but not always) contracted in medical facilities, deeming it a super bug because it is resistant to many antibiotics. What a mouthful! No wonder they had to come up with an acronym! According to the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), in recent years, MRSA has evolved from a controllable nuisance into a serious health concern. Most MRSA infections are confined to the skin or in the nose. However, the infection can also burrow deep into the body, causing life-threatening infections in the bones, joints, bloodstream, heart valves, lungs, and at surgical incision sites. It can even lead to pneumonia. I am against anything “burrowing into” my body.

Keyboard, MRSA text and StethoscopeAccording to the MRSA Survivors’ Network, more Americans die each year from invasive MRSA infections than from HIV/AIDS or H1N1 flu. MRSA was first discovered in 1961, and is resistant to methicillin, amoxicillin, penicillin, oxacillin, and many other common antibiotics. I am resistant to cats in much the same way. The bug constantly adapts and changes, which leaves researchers hard pressed to keep up. Although approximately two percent of the population has MRSA on their skin, not everyone suffers ill effects from its presence. Troubling infections are most common among people who have weak immune systems. I was alarmed to discover that MRSA can even affect dogs.

MRSA infections are transmitted from person to person by direct contact with the skin, clothing, or area (for example, sink, bench, bed, and utensil) that had recent physical contact with a MRSA-infected person. Workers who are in frequent contact with MRSA and staph-infected people and animals are most at risk of contracting a MRSA-related staph infection. These include employees who work in healthcare, corrections, daycare, or veterinary medicine-related fields. However, alarmingly, MRSA has started appearing in healthy people who have not been hospitalized. This type of MRSA is called community-associated MRSA, or CA-MRSA.

Virus attack AThe good news (Finally!) is that Congress recognizes the threat to public health, approving $160 million in new funding to the CDC in fiscal year 2016, to combat antibiotic-resistant bugs. With the funding, the CDC will:

  • accelerate outbreak detection and prevention in every state;
  • enhance tracking of resistance mechanisms and resistant infections;
  • support innovative research to address current gaps in knowledge; and
  • improve antibiotic use.

Most staph skin infections, including MRSA, appear as a bump or infected area on the skin that might be:

  • Red
  • Swollen
  • Painful
  • Warm to the touch
  • Full of pus or other drainage
  • Accompanied by a fever

Fotolia_94616183_XSThe CDC suggests taking these personal hygiene steps to reduce your risk of contracting a MRSA infection:

  1. Maintain good hand and body hygiene. Hand washing remains one of the easiest, most effective ways to prevent the spread of any and all germs.
  2. Keep cuts, scrapes, and wounds clean and covered until healed.
  3. Avoid sharing personal items such as towels and razors.
  4. Seek medical attention early if you suspect you might have an infection.

Remember that health safety is a daily priority. So be sure to think about ways to #BeSafe all of the time. A convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind is to subscribe to the RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

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Posted in CDC, Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, Health & Welfare

West Nile Virus Cases on the Rise

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), state health departments have reported 3,142 cases of West Nile Virus in the United States so far this year (134 of which were fatal). Particularly alarming is the fact that the number of severe cases so far in 2012 is the highest reported since 2003. West Nile virus infections in people, birds, or mosquitoes have been reported by 48 states. The CDC also reports that two thirds of the cases have come from seven states (Texas, Mississippi, Michigan, South Dakota, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and California) with almost 40 percent of all cases reported from Texas. And from what I hear about Texas, I’ll bet their cases of West Nile are really big!

“This year’s outbreak is the largest to date and certainly the most serious,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases.

Although experts disagree about the exact reasons for the severity of this year’s outbreak, they all agree that unusually high temperatures are likely a contributing factor. I think unusually high temperatures are responsible for a lot of things…like excessive panting, for example. Although the total case numbers continue to increase, CDC officials remain unconcerned, believing that this year’s outbreak may have already peaked in mid- to late-August. If this holds true, we can expect outbreaks to taper off during or after October.

Here are some vital statistics about West Nile Virus:

  • The virus is commonly found in Africa, West Asia and the Middle East.
  • Although experts do not know exactly how long West Nile has been in America, officials with the CDC believe the virus has been in the eastern United States since 1999.
  • Four out of five people infected with West Nile virus do not show any symptoms.
  • According to the CDC, a relatively small number of infected dogs and cats showed no symptoms after infection. However, some infected cats exhibited mild, nonspecific symptoms during the first week after infection, such as a slight fever and slight lethargy.
  • People over the age of 50 and those with weakened immune systems are at a higher risk of becoming ill if they become infected with the virus.
  • Up to 20 percent develop flu-like symptoms such as fever, headache, body aches (and occasionally) a skin rash on the trunk of the body along with swollen lymph glands. Symptoms of mild disease may last a few days.
  • Approximately one in 150 develops severe symptoms such as headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness and paralysis. Symptoms of the severe disease may last several weeks, although neurological effects may be permanent. Rarely, death can occur.
  • The incubation period of West Nile virus in humans is three to 14 days.
  • Mosquitoes initially contract the virus by feeding on infected birds and then spread the disease to humans they bite.
  • The virus is not transmissible through casual contact.
  • There are rare instances of West Nile virus spreading through blood transfusions, organ transplants and from mother-to-baby during pregnancy or through breast milk.

To reduce the risk of exposure to West Nile, take these simple steps:

  1. Maintain screens on windows and doors. I don’t have a screen on our doghouse. Maybe I should rethink that strategy.
  2. Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Common breeding sites include old tires, flowerpots, clogged rain gutters and water bowls.
  3. Use insect repellant containing DEET, Picaridin or Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus.
  4. When you are outside, wear long pants and long sleeves. I’ve tried this. But it is very uncomfortable over my fur.
  5. Stay indoors at dusk and dawn when many mosquito species are most active.
  6. Protect your pets!

For more information about West Nile Virus, check out free online resources available from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the CDC and the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJWestmore, Inc. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, CDC, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Floods, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

What is the “Holistic Approach” to Disaster Recovery and Planning?

Group gathered around a table, everyone holding a puzzle piece
The Holistic Approach to Disaster Planning & Recovery Brings everyone to the table.

What do we mean by a “holistic” approach to disaster recovery and planning? I’ve heard of holistic dog food, but even that isn’t good enough for me. I demand ground rib roast!! In broad terms, a holistic approach simply means the properties of a system cannot be described by its separate parts—the system as a whole influences the parts. Just consider me. A brilliant white smile and thunderous bark don’t define me. You have to look at the whole package.

With disaster recovery and planning, considering a disaster as a whole system promotes broader planning and better cooperation among different groups. For example, with flood planning, engineers could have procedures in place to divert water toward a historical or shopping district area instead of a  parking lot or open area capable of more safely handling overflow. If the building flood planners fail to converse with other members of the city utilities, emergency responders, neighboring properties, etc, they might make plans that would cause more damage to surrounding assets and possibly their own property. A holistic approach brings more information to the table, allowing better planned prevention as well as recovery. I like “bringing things to the table” as well. Pork chops. Chicken gravy. A squirrel.

An example of the need for a broader approach can be seen in the aftermath of the recent Japan earthquakes. As the production capacity of many Japanese plants is rebuilt and comes back online, segments of the Japanese economy were captured by other countries following the disaster. A holistic approach would have demanded better integration between emergency management teams and economic development individuals, who could have worked together to focus efforts on top economic priorities. This would have kept needed resources in the area following the disaster. I like to have integration with several groups, including the local butcher shop, a tennis ball manufacturer, and my favorite salon. That’s synergy!

For some areas of the world that don’t frequently experience disasters, complacency can prevent the formation of a holistic approach. For me, complacency is vitally important. Somebody has to occupy that grassy spot in the sun! Paradoxically, a major disaster can also slow down the development of holistic methods, as individual stakeholders often feel repeated disaster occurrences are less likely, despite the fact that this is not necessarily true.

Key benefits of the holistic approach:

  • Better communication is encouraged when different agencies or groups confront disasters together. Resources or labor can be pooled together avoiding costly duplications of efforts. If disaster recovery is too fragmented, then many cases of “left hand not talking to the right” can occur. Do people’s hands literally talk to each other? Does this occur during sleep? Why can’t humans have four legs like a normal animal!?
  • Major disasters don’t discriminate. They affect large swaths of individuals and businesses. A holistic approach encourages a true community response, where actions are taken by the community for the community, with less emphasis on special interest groups or people with hidden agendas. An example of this is the rebuilding efforts in Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina, where groups worked together to clean debris and save houses as part of a broader longer-term affordable housing plan.
  • Holistic approaches mean a country, state, or city is more resilient to the effects of disaster and able to quickly regain former capacities. After my doghouse was ruined, I rebuilt. Now it can withstand a Category 5 hurricane!
  • The holistic approach covers mental and emotional states instead of just the physical safety of disaster victims. Such focus allows individuals to quickly return to society, providing an economic benefit to their immediate area.

For disaster recovery and prevention, a holistic method means more than just cooperation. It’s also a way to get more out of the efforts of every group and individual, which is a stark example of the whole being greater than the sum of the parts.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives.  For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, contact RJ Westmore, Inc. Our new Version 2.0 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit RJWestmore.com for more information and remember to BE SAFE.