Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, Health & Welfare, Influenza, Vaccinations

What’s New About the Flu?

咳エチケットWith the incidences of reported flu cases across the country officially reaching epidemic proportions, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) recommends the influenza vaccine as the best means of defense. In the meantime, health officials are scrambling to cope with the outbreak. To date this year, 50 children have died from the flu, with hundreds of adult deaths reported across the country from the virus and associated complications. The illness has sickened more than 6,600, which is the number of lab-confirmed flu cases nationwide. Health officials estimate actual infection rates are much higher. Unfortunately, The University of Texas reports that this year’s strain can also affect pets.

Flu Facts.com describes influenza as: “a highly contagious respiratory infection caused by influenza viruses. The virus usually enters the body through mucus membranes in the mouth, nose, or eyes. When a person with the flu coughs or sneezes, the virus then becomes airborne and can be inhaled by anyone nearby. You can also get the flu if you’ve touched a contaminated surface like a telephone or a doorknob and then touch your nose or mouth. Of course, the risk of infection is greater in highly populated areas like schools, buses, crowded urban settings and kennels.

sick puppy

Here are Some More Facts about the Flu

  • Flu season typically peaks in the United States between October and March, with February historically its most active month. February is coincidently my favorite month to eat bacon, followed closely by January, March, April, May, June, July, August, September, October, November and December.
  • Seasonal flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by a number of flu viruses, including H1N1, which killed 284,000 people worldwide in 2009 and 2010.
  • A Wausau, Wisconsin man, aged 43, died just this week from H1N1, after being sent home with from his doctor’s office with instructions to drink plenty of fluids and rest.
  • Between 5 percent and 20 percent of people living in the U.S. get the flu each year.
  • Symptoms can be mild or severe and include fever, a cough, sore throat, weakness, headache and aches and pains in the joints and muscles around the eyes. You might not realize that the stomach flu is an entirely different virus than the one we’re talking about here.
  • Serious complications include (but are not limited to) bacterial pneumonia, ear or sinus infections, dehydration or worsening of chronic health conditions.
  • To date, since October 1, 2013, the CDC has documented 1,583 laboratory-confirmed cases.
  • Although there is currently no vaccine created specifically for the current strain of H1N1, getting an annual flu shot remains the first line of defense against the virus.
  • The virus is widespread in Oklahoma, Arkansas, New York, Texas, Connecticut and Kansas.
  • To be considered an epidemic, influenza and pneumonia must kill above 7.3 percent.

“We’re seeing pretty substantial increases in activity, but they’re not unexpected,” Dr. Michael Jhung, a medical officer in the flu division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “We see pockets of high activity in several states and pockets of low activity in others, but we expect every state will get hit.”

Antiviral treatment is an after-the-fact recommendation for patients with confirmed or suspected influenza, who are:

  • Hospitalized
  • Have experienced complications
  • Have a progressive illness
  • Are at higher risk for complications
  • Are adversely affected to illness. I would qualify in this group.

The New York Times reports that scientists are reducing the uncertainty of flu outbreak prediction by using computer models. Last year, one team carried out flu forecasts in real time. Now, they are making predictions about the current outbreak. If you are curious about your geographic location, check out their predictions for yourself. Another helpful tool for finding outbreak locations is the site, FluNearYou.org

Hospitals and public health workers could someday use flu forecasting to prepare vaccine supplies and ready hospital beds. The advanced warning would be useful not only for the regular seasonal flu, but also for pandemics (new strain sweeping across the country and causing higher-than-normal rates of disease and death). I think the only thing that should sweep the nation is a broom!

How Flu Vaccines Work

Flu vaccines cause antibodies to develop in the body about two weeks after vaccination. These antibodies provide protection against infection with the viruses that are in the vaccine.

The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines are made to protect against three flu viruses; an influenza A (H1N1) virus, an influenza A (H3N2) virus, and an influenza B virus. In addition, this season, there are flu vaccines made to protect against four flu viruses (called “quadrivalent” vaccines). These vaccines protect against the same viruses as the trivalent vaccine as well as an additional B virus. That is all a mouthful. But the bottom line is that doctors are working to create a vaccine for the specific strain affecting folks today.

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.

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Posted in Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, Health & Welfare, Influenza, Vaccinations

Influenza 2013 Hits Epidemic Proportions

Sick kidMajor media outlets across the country, such as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, Fox News and VetStreet.com, are reporting that this year’s nationwide cases of influenza have made it a full-blown epidemic. The threshold set by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) officials for any outbreak to be ranked as an epidemic is when the associated death toll reaches above 7.2 percent.

“While we can’t say for certain how severe this season will be, we can say that a lot of people are getting sick with influenza and we are getting reports of severe illness and hospitalizations,” says Dr. Joseph Bresee, Chief of the Epidemiology and Prevention Branch in the CDC Influenza Division.

As of last week, deaths attributed to the flu and pneumonia hit 7.3 percent, with nine of the 10 United States’ regions experiencing elevated flu activity. These figures confirm that seasonal flu has spread across the country—reaching high levels five weeks earlier than normal. The remaining two U.S. regions (comprised of the Southwest and California) report “normal” flu activity. From what I’ve read, “normal flu activity” seems pretty rough. I’d hate to contract the abnormal version of it.

To date, higher than average flu outbreaks have been reported in at least 47 states, including the deaths of 20 children and two adults. Particularly alarming about this outbreak is that flu season generally begins more toward the end of January or beginning of February. So this year’s predominant strain of H3N2 (Influenza A) not only hit earlier but is much stronger than usual. And while vaccine shortages have been reported across the country, Influenza A is among the strains covered by this year’s vaccine.

To reduce your risk of illness and help prevent the spread of the flu in your home and place of work, follow these precautions:

According to the CDC, flu symptoms include the following: fever, cough, sore throat, nasal congestion, body aches, headache, chills and fatigue. If you contract the flu and have underlying medical problems, call your doctor immediately for possible prescription of an antiviral drug.

Antiviral treatment, started as early as possible after becoming ill, is recommended for any patients with confirmed or suspected influenza who are hospitalized, seriously ill, or ill and at high risk of serious influenza-related complications, including young children, people 65 and older, people with certain underlying medical conditions and pregnant women. Treatment should begin as soon as influenza is suspected, regardless of vaccination status or rapid test results and should not be delayed for confirmatory testing.

The CDC offers free print materials which feature flu recommendations, downloadable at http://www.cdc.gov/flu/freeresources/print.htm. When a disaster strikes, prior planning and clear decisive action can help save lives. For the latest emergency management training for facility/building managers, check out the RJWestmore Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

Posted in Biological Warfare, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fires, Floods, Health & Welfare, Hurricanes, Influenza, Swine Flu, Terrorism, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0

The DHS Will Use New Technology to Announce Threats

New Sample DHS Alert System Snapshot
The Dept of Homeland Security will use social media to announce two tiers of alerts.

Very shortly, news network viewers and their canine companions will no longer find out about updates via color-coded threat levels from the Department of Homeland Security. The current threat-level chart will be replaced by a two-level threat system known as the National Terrorism Advisory System. The first threat level will be coined “elevated,” and would warn about a credible threat, but not list possible targets. (As far as I know, the Midnight Bark will remain unchanged.)

A distinct difference to the previous system is that the two-level system will provide a start and end date for the threat. The second level will be “imminent” when law enforcement officers working with DHS determine a credible threat will very likely be attempted against certain targets. This level of alert would continue for not more than seven days, but could be extended. DHS will also incorporate social media alerts into the two-level system, recognizing the reach and the importance of such networks in the fast sharing of information.

First put into use in March 2002, the current system (officially known as the Homeland Security Advisory System), was established in response to the devastating 9/11 terrorist attacks. The system initially came under frequent criticisms, with many individuals claiming the threat level was often raised for political motives to incite citizen unrest. Others claimed the threat level did not move sufficiently to recognize actual threats, and was often held at an elevated status level.

According to DHS, the risk of terrorist attacks on U.S. soil remains, and citizens are encouraged to remain vigilant and report suspicious behavior. Loud barking is another option for alerting folks about potential threats. Law enforcement is continually training for possible attacks, even participating in testing exercises to measure readiness.

This type of readiness was evident in the thwarted New York’s Time Square bombing attempt in 2009, where a quick-thinking street vendor alerted authorities to a smoking van. The terror alert system reminds citizens about the threat of terrorism and encourages common sense as well as a broader sense of civic responsibility.

Government officials announced that terror alerts and information about threats will be distributed via two primary social networks when deemed appropriate, Twitter and Facebook. The department’s Twitter alerts page is @ntasalerts. The Department of Homeland Security’s Facebook page can be found at Facebook.com/HomelandSecurity. In some cases, distribution of specifics regarding an alert could jeopardize ongoing investigations. In such cases, information about terror threats might not reach the public until after the alleged terrorists are captured and the threat has been mitigated. If you haven’t yet found me on Twitter, be sure to check out my tweets @rjthefiredog.

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.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Earthquakes, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, Going Green, Health & Welfare, High-Rise Buildings, Hurricanes, Identity Theft, Influenza, Swine Flu, Travel, Tsunamis, Uncategorized, Version 2.0, Winter Weather Hazards

11 Safety Tips for 2011: How to BE SAFE in the Coming Year

 

road sign with with "2010" red-lined and "2011" with an arrow
BE SAFE in 2011
  1. Be prepared…for everything and anything! At home and at work, the most important step you can take to ensure your own safety as well as the safety of coworkers, employees, family and friends, is to prepare. For ideas, look to FEMA’s recently announced “Resolve to be Ready in 2011” campaign, which features several suggestions for disaster preparedness. What’s more, our own blog posts provide food for fodder. And, as everyone knows, I love food of any kind…fodder or otherwise.
  2. Drill. A timely example of how preparation is critical for saving lives occurred at a San Antonio CPS office building which caught fire on December 20.  According to news’ reports, all 400 of the building’s occupants were forced to evacuate the building before 9 a.m., at which point the company’s emergency evacuation plans were put into effect. No doubt benefiting from the safety plan and associated regular fire drills, preparation paid off as every employee escaped without injury. I’m a big fan of drills, myself. But the guys at the firehouse didn’t appreciate the Chinese Fire Drill I started when we were on a recent call.
  3. Protect yourself from cyber-terrorism. As we rely more and more on all things electronic, we must be diligent to guard ourselves against identity theft. Four out of five victims of Identity Theft encounter serious issues as a result of the crime, such as lowered credit scores, bankruptcy, foreclosure, or even prison time. So protect your Internet passwords by creating them randomly and changing them frequently. This isn’t a huge risk for me, personally, since I don’t have opposable thumbs.
  4. Guard against health risks. Although the flood of sensational news’ stories about Cholera, the Swine Flu and SARS have ebbed, you still run the risk of contracting viruses and bacteria if you fail to take precautions to remain healthy. One of the easiest ways to do this is to regularly and thoroughly wash your hands (or paws, whatever the case.) Also, take advantage of vaccinations designed to protect you against illnesses such as Influenza or Respiratory Syncytial Virus.
  5. Consider your location. Since different types of disasters occur depending on your location, pay attention to geography and history when you prepare for natural or man-made disasters. If you live on the coast, for example, plan for tsunamis. If you get snow, make winterizing a priority. If you live near a fault line, make sure you are ready for earthquakes. No matter where you live, you should probably stock up on kibble and rawhide chews.
  6. Heed storm warnings. While some natural disasters, such as earthquakes, come without warning, many others are relatively easy to predict. So, if you live in an area where hurricanes or tornadoes are common, follow forecasts. And when an event is anticipated, take necessary steps to ensure your own safety as well as that of emergency workers, who might be put in harm’s way if they have to brave the elements in order to rescue you. In other words, don’t sit on your roof in a flood. This is especially true if you live in a doghouse.
  7. Do the right thing. Don’t cut corners. Take a cue from the recent Shanghai Fire, which some believe resulted from contractors who cut corners. Applicable to all areas of life, doing what’s right will help keep everyone safe in 2011 and beyond.
  8. Go green. You don’t have to be a hippie to understand the importance of protecting our planet. Today, millions of electronics are shipped to developing countries where they are dissembled, often in a crude manner, which exposes workers and the environment to contaminants such as mercury, sulfur, and lead. This practice puts us all at risk. So do your part this year to Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. You can start by sharing your leftovers instead of throwing them away. Every little bit helps! So I’ll do my part to reduce the refuse.
  9. Travel safely. Try to be patient if you fly. While it might be inconvenient to take off your belt, shoes and jewelry at the security gate, and possibly undergoing a TSA pat-down, these safety measures are in place to keep us safe.
  10. Fight fire with fire prevention. The surest way to fight fire is to prevent it. The National Fire Protection Association has sponsored Fire Prevention Week each year since the Great Chicago Fire roared through Chicago in 1871. This year’s push is to install smoke alarms. So if you haven’t installed them in your commercial property building or at home, do so today!
  11. Keep learning. Our corporate mission is to save lives through training with the motto “Be Safe!” The RJWestmore Training System 2.0 is a fully integrated system which allows property management companies to manage one site or an entire portfolio, with all users in the same system.

If you own or manage commercial property, by enrolling in the system, please consider our system, which trains occupants, floor wardens, and fire safety directors. What’s more; all user training and testing is recorded. Get quick access to building-specific Emergency Responder information and other resources. We hope you’ll allow us to do our part to help keep you safe in 2011 and beyond.

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 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.

Posted in BE SAFE, Health & Welfare, Influenza, Uncategorized

Cholera: An Infectious Disease

CDC Public Health Matters Brochure Cover
Cholera: Treatment and Symptoms

Cholera Outbreak

The recent outbreak in Haiti has put Cholera into the spotlight. With more than 150 dead, the epidemic has spread rapidly throughout the nation, which was ravaged by an earthquake in January, 2010. Prior to this outbreak, the disease had not been seen in Haiti since the early 20th century.

In this blog post, we will explore the deadly disease and discuss how outbreaks can occur.

The Facts about Cholera:

  • Cholera is a gastrointestinal infection caused by the Vibrio Cholerae bacterium which infects the small intestine and causes massive watery stools, resulting in extreme dehydration.
  • It is endemic to the Indian subcontinent.
  • The first pandemic of the disease occurred from 1816 to 1826 in India, killing millions.
  • The disease is a major cause of death throughout the world.
  • Typical mortality rates with prompt treatment are less than 1%, but spike to 50% if left untreated.
  • And I thought it was rough to paper-train JR!

How do people get Cholera and why does it spread?

  • It is transmitted via the fecal-oral route, typically through consumption of contaminated water or food.
  • Direct person-to-person transmission is unlikely, but does take place. I’m not so sure about dog-to-dog transmission.
  • In developing countries such as Haiti, the water sanitation infrastructure is severely lacking. Residents are too often forced to retrieve water from natural sources such as rivers which are easily contaminated.
  • Does this mean the family and I should stop drinking out of the toilet bowl?

What is being done in Haiti?

  • Charities and sponsoring corporations are working together to produce facilities that produce 10,000 gallons of fresh, clean water each day.
  • Oral Rehydration Therapy is the main form of treatment for Cholera. For humans, this is usually done via IVs. For canines, bowls do just fine.
  • Healthcare workers in the infected Artibonite Region are distributing information about the importance of hand-washing and drinking only treated-water.
  • Authorities at the Pan American Health Organization say it is too late to administer the Cholera vaccine, as 80% of the population is already carrying the disease.
  • Health aides are being set up in many communities to help prevent outbreaks through use of fast antibiotic and rehydration therapies.

A disease or condition is considered an “outbreak” when it reaches more cases than typical during a certain amount of time. The Cholera crisis in Haiti has been termed an “outbreak” because of the extreme number of cases as well as the time elapsed since the disease was last identified en masse in the country. Outbreaks of various diseases occur regularly. For example, Californians currently have a Whooping Cough problem and Brazilians have developed Antibiotic-Resistant Bacteria. At the doggy daycare where we stay when our humans are on vacation, they often battle kennel cough.

Disease outbreaks and natural disasters require similar response methods. Both require proper planning and prevention. But when, despite our best efforts disaster strikes, then an organized and informed response is the best way to control the damage.

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.

 

Posted in BE SAFE, Health & Welfare, Influenza, Swine Flu, Uncategorized

Simple Suds for Staying Healthy

Keep your paws or hands clean for good health!

Our last blog post focused on the winter flu and other ailments. We also discussed the benefits of flu vaccines as a compelling form of prevention. Today’s post will investigate other effective ideas to keep you healthy.

One of the simplest ways to stay well is to wash your hands. Yes, this blog is going to be about those silly human animals with hands instead of paws. Whatever! This easy task is so essential to good health, that the CDC has created an interactive training course focused entirely on hand hygiene.

In the workplace, you touch things all the time. Elevator buttons, door handles, phones, keyboards, other dog’s noses…There are a host of touch-surfaces. To wash hands properly, you need soap. So what exactly is soap? Soap is an evil substance made by people who want to clean dogs. Ummm, I mean it’s made by combining essential oils or fats with an alkaline substance such as lye. The two ingredients are heated and mixed together and work to neutralize each other. Fragrance and other materials are also added to the mixture. (My favorite fragrance of all time has to be “Parfum de Bacon.”) Then the soap is dried into a mold. Soap works as a detergent and surfactant that mixes with and dissolves oils and dirt so it will wash down the drain.

Everyone thinks they know how to wash their hands. But few know how to wash them right:

What about antibacterial soaps?

Despite aggressive marketing, many studies show that regular soap is as effective for removing germs and bacteria as antibacterial options that contain Triclosan. In addition, most antibacterial soaps need to remain on hands for two or more minutes to take full effect. People who are waiting for a sales meeting aren’t likely to wait that long for their turn at the public restroom sink. And remember, since the common cold is caused by a virus instead of bacteria, antibacterial soaps won’t provide an added benefit for the prevention of colds.  I like to get sanitized by lying on my back in a big pile of mud. In dog world, this does the trick.

Make sure you are washing your hands the right way.

Building owners can encourage tenants to wash hands the right way:

  • Hands and forearms should be lathered with soap for at least 15-20 seconds, which is longer than you might think!
  • While warm water is more effective for removing oils from your hands, it is not actually hot enough to “kill” bacteria, which thrives in very high temperatures.
  • Proper drying is important not just because no one wants a damp handshake, but also because drying helps remove contaminants that are suspended in water droplets.
  • Encourage washing of hands after restroom use and before and after taking lunch or snack breaks. They might also want to wash after playing fetch with the office dog, who knows where that mouth has been!

Paper Towels and Air Dryers:

Many building owners and facility managers have held debates about the use of air dryer vs. paper towels. While the environmental advantage typically goes to the air-drying option, paper towels take a win in the hygiene department. Paper towels are one-time use and so do not require pressing of a communal button. Also, studies have found that air driers, especially very high-speed models, can actually forcefully blow germs up to a few feet. I would love a full-body sized dryer. Nobody likes that wet dog smell…not even me.

Alcohol Sanitizers:

Some facility managers have started providing alcohol sanitizing spray or gel sanitizer products for visitors and staff. While this is a good idea, remember that it’s important to remember that hand sanitizers are not as effective as hand washing for removing dirt.

Alcohol-based rubs are a good alternative for sanitation when water isn’t available. Here are some tips for maximizing effectiveness:

  • Apply the right amount – a nickel-sized application is about right. It’s certainly not a case of “more is better” like when you are talking peanut butter!
  • Work quickly. Alcohol evaporates quickly. So rub vigorously to disinfect the front and back of your hands as well as your wrists.
  • Don’t dry off your hands! Much of the germ-killing is accomplished while the alcohol evaporates. So let the sanitizer go to work.

For disease prevention, it’s important to think of Mom’s words: “Don’t forget to wash your hands!” This time-tested advice is especially important in a workplace where common areas increase your odds of picking up or transmitting disease.

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.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Influenza, Swine Flu, Uncategorized

Sickly Sounds of the Season

Take steps to arm yourself against catching the flu.

Hack! Shiver! Sneeze! Cough!

While winter often brings to mind holiday parties, gift exchanges and fireside chew toys, it’s also a miserable time for those unfortunate souls who get sick. The typical air inside an office building is circulated less than 12 times an hour, compared to 15 times per hour on a plane. Think about that the next time you worry about getting sick from “stale” cabin air. I traveled in the cargo hold of a jetliner once, and it was freezing!  Next time I’ll bring a blanket!! With flu vaccines resulting in employees taking 45% fewer sick days, more companies are taking notice and getting involved in prevention.

When most people think about winter diseases, the first thing that comes to mind is influenza. It’s estimated that 5 to 20 percent of U.S. adults come down with seasonal flu every year. While we pets enjoy having our owners at home, they typically lie in bed and watch bad daytime TV when they’re ill. According to the CDC, 119 million doses of flu vaccine had been distributed this year as of September 24. That amount is a substantial increase of 30 million doses, compared to the amounts which were sent the same time last year.

Although analysts at the CDC are predicting a milder flu season this winter, they are still stressing that everyone gets vaccinated. Keep an eye on us pooches too! Canine influenza affects millions of dogs, so take us to the vet when we are coughing!

You may ask, “What about H1N1, the “swine flu?” It’s still out there, although research estimates that 59% of the U.S. population is now immune.

Respiratory Synctial Virus, commonly known as RSV, is another very common lung and respiratory tract infection. It’s so prevalent that researchers state almost all children age two and under have had the disease. While it is the biggest threat to smaller children, and especially premature infants, RSV can also cause problems for adults, sending individuals who have heart or lung disease to the hospital. As a building owner or manager, you can take steps to educate RSV-infected individuals about the benefits of staying at home, away from tenants and employees who are parents of small children. I know I like to look out for the puppies. So please do the same for little babies!

What can property-owners and managers do to mitigate the effects of winter illness?

  • Set up a flu vaccine clinic at your building. Many private companies will provide qualified nurses, consent forms and the latest vaccine. Another event to consider is a mobile treats bar attended by qualified experts from the bacon and steak industries…
  • Distribute information about recognizing the symptoms of flu and other winter diseases.
  • Consider new HVAC systems that better circulate and clean the air.
  • Adopt policies regarding sick employees, including work-from-home arrangements for vital staff.

A real focus on workplace health can pay immediate and long-term benefits. Healthier employees mean more productive and profitable tenants who might need additional office or industrial space. Healthy people also have more energy for walks and trips to the dog park!

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.