Posted in Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Highly Infectious diseases

What You Need to Know about MERS

camelsThe Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) has reported and verified the first case of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) infection in the United States. Based on this information, clinicians and health officials should consider MERS-CoV infection a possibility in people who have traveled from the Arabian Peninsula and neighboring countries. This information is particularly important to infectious disease specialists, intensive care physicians, primary care physicians, and infection specialists, as well as emergency departments and microbiology laboratories. Although there is only one confirmed case in the U.S. to date, the CDC has issued a Health Advisory. I’ve heard that camels can get MERS. I hope there is no such thing as camel-to-dog transmission!

Middle East Respiratory Syndrome (MERS) is a viral respiratory illness. MERS belongs to the coronavirus family that includes the common cold and SARS, or severe acute respiratory syndrome, which caused more than 800 deaths globally in 2003. Most people with MERS-CoV developed severe acute respiratory illness with symptoms of fever, cough, and shortness of breath.

Mers firedogUnfortunately, the morbidity rate is high–30% of the people who were infected died. Some people were only reported as having a mild respiratory illness. MERS is caused by a coronavirus called “Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus” (MERS-CoV). Generally speaking, you are not in danger if you have not traveled to or from that region or have not been exposed to someone who has traveled to that region. I’ve never been to the Middle East.

Although the origin of MERS is unknown, it likely came from an animal source. I consider that bad news. In addition to humans, camels in Qatar, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and a bat in Saudi Arabia have contracted the disease. Camels in a few other countries have also tested positive for antibodies to MERS-CoV, indicating they were previously infected with it or a closely related virus.

Here are some details about the virus:

  • People who have MERS will develop severe acute lower respiratory illness within 14 days after traveling from countries in or near the Arabian Peninsula.
  • Although similar, MERS-CoV is not the same coronavirus that caused severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) in 2003. However, like the SARS virus, MERS-CoV is most similar to coronaviruses found in bats. CDC is still learning about MERS.
  • The first known cases of MERS-CoV occurred in Jordan in April 2012.
  • The virus is associated with respiratory illness and high death rates, although mild and asymptomatic infections have been reported too.
  • All reported cases to date have been linked to six countries in the Arabian Peninsula: Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Jordan, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Oman, and Kuwait. Cases in the United Kingdom, France, Italy, Greece, Tunisia, Egypt, and Malaysia have also been reported in persons who traveled from the Arabian Peninsula.
  • There have been a small number of cases in persons who were in close contact with infected travelers. I guess the only way to be safe is to ask every single person you come in contact with whether they’ve recently traveled to the Arabian Peninsula. Not much of an ice breaker.
  • Since mid-March 2014, there has been an increase in cases reported from Saudi Arabia and the UAE.
  • Public health investigations are ongoing to determine the reason for the increased cases.
  • No vaccine or specific treatment is currently available.
  • In some cases, the virus has spread from infected people to others through close contact. However, there is currently no evidence of sustained spread of MERS-CoV in community settings.

Countries where cases have been reported:

Countries in the Arabian Peninsula

  • Saudi Arabia
  • United Arab Emirates (UAE)
  • Qatar
  • Oman
  • Jordan
  • Kuwait

Countries with Travel-associated Cases

  • United Kingdom (UK)
  • France
  • Tunisia
  • Italy
  • Malaysia
  • United States of America (USA)

How to protect yourself:

  • Wash your hands or paws with soap and water for 20 seconds. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze then throw the tissue in the trash.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth with unwashed hands or paws.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, sharing cups, or sharing eating utensils, with sick people.
  • Clean and disinfect frequently touched surfaces, such as chew toys and doorknobs.

When to take action:

  1. If you have been in close contact with a symptomatic recent traveler from this area and you develop a fever and acute respiratory illness.
  2. If you are in close contact with anyone who has a confirmed case of the virus, testing for MERS-CoV and other respiratory pathogens can be done simultaneously.
  3. If you have been exposed and develop a fever or 100 or higher.
  4. If you develop a fever above 100 degrees, or respiratory symptoms within 14 days following contact with an infected person.

When a disaster of any kind strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, Health & Welfare, Highly Infectious diseases, Measles, Rubella, Vaccinations

Reemerging Measles Epidemic Worries Health Officials

Boy with the measlesOn the heels of a record-setting flu season (278 deaths confirmed to date), health officials warn that another infectious virus has reemerged. Officials report that, already so far this year, 15 Californians have come down with a disease that was thought to have been eradicated by vaccine— Measles. Canine Distemper is similar to Measles, but dogs can’t catch the human variety.

Measles, also known as Rubeola, is a highly contagious respiratory infection that is a virus which causes a total-body skin rash and flu-like symptoms, such as a fever, cough, and runny nose. Though rare in the United States, 20 million cases occur worldwide every year.

Signs and Symptoms

While Measles is probably best known for the associated full-body rash, the first symptoms are typically a hacking cough, runny nose, high fever and red eyes. Characteristic markers of Measles are small red spots with bluish white centers that appear inside the mouth. The rash itself typically has a red or reddish brown blotchy appearance, and first usually shows up on the forehead, then spreads downward over the face, neck, and body, then down to the arms and feet. Measles doesn’t sound too attractive or comfortable.

measles firedog cdc

  • Measles is a leading cause of death among young children even though a safe and cost-effective vaccine is available.
  • In 2012, there were 122 000 measles deaths globally – about 330 deaths every day or 14 deaths every hour.
  • Measles vaccination resulted in a 78% drop in measles deaths between 2000 and 2012 worldwide.
  • In 2012, about 84% of the world’s children received one dose of measles vaccine by their first birthday through routine health services – up from 72% in 2000.
  • Since 2000, more than 1 billion children in high risk countries were vaccinated against the disease through mass vaccination campaigns ― about 145 million of them in 2012.
  • Although bacon can’t cure Measles, I think bacon improves every situation. So my advice is if you get the Measles, eat a pound.

Unfortunately, Measles is highly contagious. In fact, 90% of people who have not been vaccinated will contract it if they live with an infected person. Measles is spread when someone comes in direct contact with infected droplets such as when someone sneezes or coughs. A person with Measles is contagious from 1 to 2 days before symptoms start until about 4 days after the rash appears.

The Los Angeles Times reports that epidemiologists say we’re off to “a bad year.” To wit, this same time last year, there had been only two Measles cases.

The California Department of Public Health reported illnesses in six counties:

  • Five in Los Angeles County
  • Three each in Orange and Riverside counties
  • Four combined in the Bay Area’s Alameda, Contra Costa and San Mateo counties.

Although none of the reported cases have been fatal, Measles can be deadly. Authorities remain concerned that more people than reported may have been exposed. In fact, fears have emerged that thousands of people might have been exposed when a Measles-infected UC Berkeley student traveled on the Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) system. That’s why I don’t take public transportation. I prefer walking…everywhere!

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Measles was eliminated in the U.S. in 2000 — meaning that it no longer circulated. Nevertheless, people here can still contract the virus while traveling to locations where Measles is common, since it is airborne.

The two-part Measles immunization, which is given to kids at six months and four years old, is said to provide protection 99% of the time. According to Dr. Kathleen Harriman of the Public Health Department, said, “Fewer than 3% of California schoolchildren use the exemption.”

The reason some opt out of the vaccines, by citing exemption due to ‘personal beliefs,’ is largely due to a myth that the vaccine is dangerous. No one has died of Measles in California this year, but the illness can be deadly in cases with complications, officials said. The public health department urged people who have not had Measles or received two doses of the Measles vaccine to get immunized before traveling outside of the Americas, where the disease is under control.

Since Measles is easily eliminated with the vaccines, it only makes sense to agree to them. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The best way to prepare for the flu is to keep from catching it by having a vaccine. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training-related costs by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, Health & Welfare, Highly Infectious diseases, Pertussis, pertussis epidemic, tdap, Vaccinations

Get Your Kids a Whooping Cough Vaccine

咳・くしゃみをする子供Department of Health Services (DSHS) projections show the number of people who will get sick with Pertussis (Whooping Cough) this year could reach its highest level in more than 50 years. A bacterial infection that often starts with cold-like symptoms and a mild cough, Pertussis produces severe coughing that can last for several weeks. Coughing fits may be followed by vomiting or a “whooping” sound, which is why the disease is also called “whooping cough.” Dogs don’t get Pertussis. But they can get Kennel Cough, which is pretty serious.

What may seem like the start of a common cold could be the serious symptoms of whooping cough.At the start, typical symptoms of pertussis include runny nose or congestion, sneezing, and possibly mild cough or fever. But, after 1-2 weeks of these symptoms, severe coughing can begin and continue for weeks. Pertussis can cause violent and rapid coughing, which tends to produce a “whooping” sound between coughs, although this sound can be absent or minimal in infants. Sounds a little like woofing, to me.

Infectious Disease Medical Officer for the Texas Department of Health Services, Dr. Lisa Cornelius, said the situation is alarming. “Pertussis is highly infectious and can cause serious complications, especially in babies. So people should take it seriously.” One of the reasons the incidences of Whooping Cough have increased is because people are opting to keep their kids from getting the Tdap booster. This could be a costly mistake.

The reported incidence of infant pertussis in the United States has increased almost 17 times since 1979. More than 2,000 pertussis cases have been reported in the United States so far this year. Health officials predict the total number of cases will eventually surpass the previous high of 3,358 cases, reported in 2009.

To better protect babies, pregnant women should consider being vaccinated during every pregnancy—preferably between 27 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. This helps protect the baby before he or she can start the vaccination series at 2 months old and helps keep the mother from getting sick and infecting the baby. Fathers, siblings, extended family members, medical providers and others who will be around newborns should also be vaccinated.

Many babies get whooping cough from adults or older brothers or sisters who don’t even know they have been infected with the disease. While symptoms are usually milder in teens and adults, pertussis can be life threatening for babies because of the risk of apnea, an interruption in breathing. Pertussis spreads easily through the air when an infected person breathes, coughs, or sneezes. People with pertussis are most contagious while they have cold-like symptoms and during the first two weeks after they start coughing.

Anyone with an unexplained, prolonged cough or who has had close contact with a person with pertussis should contact their health care provider. Early diagnosis and treatment may reduce the severity of symptoms and shorten the contagious period. Doctors who suspect a pertussis infection are required to report it to their local health department within one working day. Patients who have pertussis should not go back to work or school until they’ve completed five days of antibiotic treatment.

When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services is a convenient and affordable solution to all of the training needs of your building(s). Choosing our service cuts property management training related workloads by 90% and saves you over 50% compared to conventional training! More importantly, IT SAVES LIVES.

Posted in Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, Health & Welfare, Highly Infectious diseases, Vaccinations

Resurgence of Spinal Meningitis in the U.S.

Meningitis is making an unwelcome comeback in the United States as several recent cases linked to steroid spinal injections have killed 14 people and sickened at least 170 others in 10 states. Officials with the CDC say that the infections were passed through steroid drug injections containing a fungus known as Aspergillus. So the infection is not believed to be transferred from person-to-person or canine-to-canine. The incubation period ranges from a few days to four weeks after injection.

The contaminated drug is said to have been shipped to 75 hospitals and clinics in 23 states, with cases reported so far in Tennessee (which, with 26, has the most cases), North Carolina, Florida, Michigan, Virginia and Maryland. Infected patients had each received a treatment for back pain called a lumbar epidural steroid injection. Ouch. Sounds painful!

An infectious disease expert at Vanderbilt University, Dr. William Schaffner, had this to say about expectations about the infections this year: “I’m afraid we’re going to see many more cases spread across the country.”

Labeled Methylprednisolone Acetate, the solution was produced by the New England Compounding Center in Massachusetts. The lot numbers of the potentially contaminated drug include: 05212012@68,06292012@26, and 08102012@51.

Doctors urge anyone who has undergone spinal epidural injection treatment during the past few months to seek immediate medical attention if they suspect they are suffering any symptoms. Caused by a fungus normally found in leaf mold, Fungal Meningitis can cause mild stroke-like symptoms, including slurred speech and difficulty walking and urinating. Other symptoms include worsening and severe headache, nausea, dizziness and fever. And here I didn’t even know you had to scrub leaves as well as bathroom tile to keep mold at bay!

Treatment includes high-dose antifungal medications, usually administered intravenously in a hospital, with success tied closely to the speed of diagnosis and treatment. The outbreak has raised concerns about the safety of a method used by millions to offset severe back pain. Sterile drugs and equipment are essential for the procedure because epidural injections involve inserting a needle directly into a part of the body that is an avenue for efficient germ delivery directly to the brain. That doesn’t sound good.

The New York Times and Time Magazine and USA Today report:

  • One clinic in Tennessee, where most of that state’s patients in the outbreak so far were infected, had received 2,000 vials of the drug.
  • Also in Tennessee, some hospitalized patients are recovering and walking the halls, while others are severely ill and in intensive care units,
  • In reaction to one verified infection, the North Carolina Board of Pharmacy suspended one company’s business permits.
  • Although the New England Center has not yet responded to the story, information about the steroids previously available on their website no longer appears.
  • Fungal infections are notoriously stubborn and hard to treat, requiring powerful drugs that can produce harsh side effects. Cats are also notoriously stubborn, by the way.
  • Most patients will need six months to a year of treatment to eliminate the infection.

“Given the severity of illness,” said director of the FDA office of compliance, we believe precautionary measures are warranted to protect public health.”

Unless you have recently undergone spinal injection therapy for chronic acute back pain, you will likely easily avoid this particular outbreak of Fungal Meningitis. However, according to the Meningitis Foundation of America, there are essentially two distinct types of Meningitis: aseptic and bacterial. And, unfortunately, meningitis cases are not delivered exclusively by contaminated epidural injections. To avoid contracting meningitis of any kind, observe these safety precautions:
1. Practice good hygiene!

  • Don’t share food, glasses, water bottles, water bowls or eating utensils.
  • Don’t share tissues, handkerchiefs, towels or bones.
  • Don’t share lip balm, lip gloss, lipstick or jerky treats.
  • Wash your hands or paws often with soap and hot water.

2. Beef up your immune system.

  • Eat a well-balanced diet rich in lean proteins, complex carbohydrates and fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise on a regular basis. I like taking long walks.
  • Get plenty of sleep. You don’t have to tell me twice!
  • Don’t smoke, drink or use drugs.

3. Seek medical advice about whether your children ages 11-12 are good candidates for vaccine. (Generally, vaccines are only necessary and effective if a teenager is exposed to meningitis during an outbreak, is traveling or living where a meningococcal disease is common, if the child is a military recruit, or if your son or daughter has an immune disorder or a damaged or missing spleen.)

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 Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Highly Infectious diseases

Typhus Cases Rise in the US: Are you prepared?

Let’s keep the fleas where they belong…on cats. Er, I mean…let’s prevent fleas from biting, which can lead to Typhus.

There are so many infectious diseases; the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) has to organize them on their website from A-Z. And while we’ve focused on many of these over the past several years, until now, we have yet to use the RJWestmore blog platform to discuss one that is little known but quickly spreading…Typhus. No wonder we haven’t focused on it. It’s gross. But that’s just my humble firedog opinion.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Typhus is a bacterial disease spread by lice or fleas occurring mainly in the southeastern and southern United States, most often during the summer and fall. See what I mean? Fleas are gross. So, obviously, any disease they carry is equally disgusting. Typhus is contracted by exposure to animals such as cats, opossums, raccoons, skunks and rats that have been bitten by infected fleas or lice. Health officials say that Endemic Typhus Fever is caused by a bacterium known as Rickettsiae which is not directly spread from person to person.

KTLA News at 5 reports that four Burbank residents have recently been diagnosed with Murine Typhus over the past several weeks. All were treated at area hospitals and released after having complained of brutal symptoms such as abdominal pain, backache, diarrhea, a dull red rash, extremely high fever, a dry hacking cough, joint and muscle pain, nausea and vomiting. To ward off a potential epidemic, Orange County officials set out in May of this year to track and capture feral cats, which they suspected may be spreading the disease. There have been 46 cases of Typhus in Orange County since 2006. Any cases at all are enough for concern, if you ask me. I think we should start an anti-flea campaign!

The Los Angeles Times reports that 15 cases of Typhus have been confirmed so far this year, with an additional 17 still under investigation. In 2011, 38 cases were reported in LA County. The Burbank Animal Shelter is taking action by advising people to take precautions against Typhus fever amid reports the flea-borne disease had infected several people in the city and throughout the San Fernando Valley.

Symptoms of Epidemic Typhus

  • Chills
  • Cough
  • Delirium
  • High fever (104 degrees Fahrenheit)
  • Joint pain
  • Light Sensitivity
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rash that begins on the chest and spreads to the body (except the palms of the hands and soles of the feet)
  • Severe headache
  • Severe muscle pain
  • Stupor

Prevent the Further Spread of Typhus

  • Treat pets with flea- prevention medication. I’m a big proponent of this! Keep fleas off of your canine (and, yes…even your feline).
  • Eliminate places where wild animals could find shelter and food sources on your property. Give all food to your dog. Just a suggestion.
  • Pay particular attention to where young children play, particularly if stray cats roam the area. Or you could start an anti-stray cat campaign. You could even use me as the mascot!
  • Advise children to stay away from feral cats and wild animals. Amen!
  • Wear long sleeve shirts and pants. (Admittedly, this could be difficult to do in extreme heat. But, to be safe, whenever possible, cover yourself to avoid potentially harmful insect bites.) My entire body is covered with hair and yet I get bit all of the time.
  • Use insect repellant to eliminate flea bites.
  • Do not feed wildlife or feral cats, as they contribute to the flea population. Why not extend this to all cats…just to be safe?
  • Keep your pets on a monthly flea protocol program. The best products kill fleas on pets on contact. I wear a flea collar. But some of my friends take medicine.
  • Use flea combs to check for flea fecal matter on your pets. Bathe them regularly to eliminate this disgusting accumulation. This is a great idea…especially in the heat!
  • Keep pet cars indoors and register them with local Animal Control.
  • Report dead opossums or cats to Animal Care Services for removal. Gross.
  • Trim brush, pick up fallen fruit and seal off crawl spaces to discourage wildlife from establishing residence on your property. Let your dogs take care of scraps.
  • Keep screens on crawl space covers and vents in good repair
  • When cleaning potential wildlife nesting areas, wear protective equipment including a mask, goggles and gloves.

Typhus Treatment

Perhaps the most famous victims of Typhus were Anne Frank and her sister Margo, both of whom purportedly died of the disease while in a concentration camp in 1945. However, experts agree that today, although painful and irritating, Typhus is not usually life-threatening, since it can be treated with antibiotics.

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 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system.

Posted in Health & Welfare, Highly Infectious diseases, Vaccinations

Care to Attend a Chicken Pox Party?

For safety, decline Chicken Pox Party invites.

Some adults are organizing Chicken Pox parties in an effort to expose children to the disease. The underlying theory is that children will likely contract the disease at some point, anyway, and complications are usually less intense if the infection occurs when people are young. (Wait! Chickens are giving kids some sort of terrible disease? Moronic flightless birds are taking over! Run for your lives!) Let’s review the merits of the Chicken Pox Party approach:

  • Parents offer to send others in a Facebook group a lollipop that was licked by a child with Chicken Pox. This behavior is not only disgusting, but it’s also illegal. Ummm, I have seen some parents freaked out after a dog at the park licks their kid, but this is considered acceptable?
  • Doctors caution that gathering children together is likely to expose them to secondary infectious risks including encephalitis and strep. Such parties are not based upon any real science and are not controlled or supervised by medical staff.
  • Children are at risk from secondary bacterial infections which lead to lesions caused by the condition. This can be especially troublesome for younger children who tend to touch dirty surfaces without washing and who are prone to picking at lesions.
  • Chicken Pox is an airborne virus, so licking a lollipop is not even a likely transmitter, but it can spread hepatitis and other diseases. Look, I’m just a dog, but sometimes people really astound me! This doesn’t sound safe!

 

Not surprisingly, officials from the CDC and other agencies strongly condemn people that organize such parties in lieu of giving their children the required vaccinations.

  • The vaccine and getting the actual disease both provide the body with antibodies; however the vaccine is a much more controlled and safer manner. I was hoping a drug company could develop a vaccine for “Hooverphobia Maximus,” commonly known as a dog’s somewhat irrational fear of vacuum cleaners.
  • Unvaccinated children that get the virus will typically suffer from more sores and severe symptoms from the virus than those that get Chicken Pox after vaccination.
  • The Chicken Pox vaccine is exceedingly safe, with common side effects including rash, slight fever, and soreness at the injection site. More serious side effects are extraordinarily rare. I wish the vet would explain to me the side effects of my heartworm and flea medicines. He just gives them to me without even getting into the possibilities of upset stomach or nausea!
  • Vaccinations for Chicken Pox and other diseases serve as group protection for people who cannot be immunized due to depressed immune systems.

Another risk of such parties is to accidentally expose adults who have never had it as a child. Such infections are often fatal and require treatments with antiviral drugs in order to slow the spread of the virus. Adults are often at risk for developing shingles. You mean like those things on top of my doghouse? I’m thoroughly confused. This is a disease that is the result of dormant Chicken Pox which never completely leaves a host body? Shingles produces a severe rash that can persist for weeks or months, and can even affect the eyes and other vital body areas.

What do agencies such as the CDC say about Chicken Pox?

  • Parents should closely follow the vaccine schedule for Chicken Pox. The safety of vaccines has been backed by countless studies, with links to autism and other problems which have been largely discredited.
  • The CDC recommends the shingles vaccine Zostavax® for individuals ages 60 and older. These individuals should get the vaccine whether or not they had Chicken Pox as a child.

The growing numbers of parents who are not vaccinating their children against Chicken Pox and other diseases is posing an increasing risk to public safety. Through proper education and examination of the associated science, parents should carefully consider the repercussions of failing to vaccinate their children and/or willfully exposing their children to diseases. Another obvious stop is to control those darn chickens! Are they actually entering people’s homes and spreading their germs?

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.