Posted in be prepared for emergencies, BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Vaccinations, Vaccines

National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM)

Vaccination child cartoon vector.The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) classify more than two dozen diseases as “vaccine preventable or potentially preventable.” Unfortunately, however, the incidence of these diseases has been rising recently, even in countries with a high standard of living and universal access to health care. WHO officials contend there is arguably no single preventive health intervention more cost-effective than immunization. Immunization averts an estimated two to three million deaths every year from diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), and measles. However, an additional 1.5 million deaths could be avoided, provided global vaccination coverage improves. I was glad to read that cases of rabies have decreased thanks to those vaccines.instagram_preteens_teens

In the United States, outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases often occur due to non-immunization or under-immunization among children and adults, as well as from exposure to infections brought into the country by unvaccinated travelers who returning from high-risk or endemic regions. Each August, the National Public Health Information Coalition (NPHIC) sponsors National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM) to highlight the importance of vaccination for people of all ages. Their goal is education, so everyone knows that:

  • Vaccines protect against serious diseases.
  • These diseases still exist and outbreaks do occur.
  • Vaccines are recommended throughout life.
  • Vaccines are safe.
  • Dogs get lots of vaccinations. Here is a link to a schedule for pet vaccines.

Rabies VaccineCertain vaccines are recommended based on age, occupation, or health conditions (such as asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes or heart disease). Vaccination needs should be assessed by doctors, pharmacists, or other health care providers. Immunizations are important because they protect the person receiving the vaccine and help prevent the spread of the illness, which is especially important to the most vulnerable, such as infants, young children, the elderly, and people with chronic conditions and weakened immune systems. Puppies are more prone to certain diseases than full-grown canines. Parvo is one example.

Always consult your own healthcare provider before seeking vaccinations or taking any medications.

Immunization Recommendations for Everyonetwitter_baby

The Immunization Action Coalition suggests that adults should get vaccines to protect their health, because even healthy adults can become seriously ill and pass diseases on to others. One immunization the CDC recommends for all adults, including pregnant women, is the influenza vaccine to protect against seasonal flu. Another vaccine-must for adults is the Tdap vaccine (tetanus, diphtheria, and pertussis or whooping cough) for anyone who did not get Tdap as a teen. Follow up should include Td (tetanus and diphtheria) booster vaccines every 10 years.

Immunizations for Special Groups

Glossy Pictogram "Immunizations"(The following recommendations for these groups, made by the CDC, NIAM and Vaccines.Gov, are as follows:)

  • For a complete list of childhood vaccines, see the CDC’s schedule.
  • Pregnant women should receive a Tdap vaccine each time they are pregnant, preferably at 27 through 36 weeks. For communication strategies on maternal vaccination, check out NIAM’s Toolkit: Pregnant Women.
  • College students require immunizations noted on the gov website. Students at campuses where Allied Universal provides training can access additional information in the “Your Resources” section of their Fire Life Safety Training module.
  • Adults 60 years and older should receive the shingles vaccine.
  • Adults 65 and older should have one or more pneumococcal vaccines. (What’s more, some adults who are younger than 65 years, with certain high-risk conditions, are also recommended to receive one or more pneumococcal vaccinations.)
  • Adults may need other vaccines (such as hepatitis A, hepatitis B, and HPV) depending on age, occupation, travel, medical conditions, vaccinations they have already received, or other considerations.
  • For more information about adult vaccines, see the CDC Adult Immunization Schedules.
  • Here is a link to the ASPCA schedule of recommended dog inoculations.

Remember, a convenient and affordable way to make sure you are prepared for disasters and emergencies of virtually every kind, including health crises, is to subscribe to the Allied Universal Fire Life Safety Training System, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, Health & Welfare, Uncategorized, Vaccinations, Vaccines, Zika Virus

Vaccine Matters

cartoon doctor with a syringe

In the United States, children and adults receive vaccinations for a variety of preventable diseases. We pooches receive vaccinations as well. By the way, do you know what Heartworm is? The name disturbs me. Many vaccines are recommended because they not only protect the child who is vaccinated, but also create what is commonly known as “herd immunity,” which provides protection for the broader community.

This is particularly helpful for people with weakened immune systems. While some parents worry about some of the substances found in vaccines, many such fears can be alleviated by researching information provided by the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) as well as the World Health Organization (WHO).

The basic ideas behind vaccines was first developed by Hippocrates in 400 B.C. When I was a younger pup, I thought his name was about crates given to hippos. He identified several diseases and suggested that cures could be developed. In 1798, Edward Jenner proposed a cure for smallpox might be found by inoculating healthy individuals. Known as the father of immunology, Jenner’s work later came to be called variolation, wherein healthy individuals were exposed to a disease in order to build immunity. Other medical professionals, such as Louis Pasteur and Jonas Salk, capitalized on Jenner’s seed work. These pioneers eradicated some of the world’s most dangerous and contagious diseases.

Microscope

Ground-breaking vaccinations currently available to children and adults throughout the world:

  • Cholera
  • Diphtheria
  • Hepatitis A
  • Hepatitis B
  • Herpes Zoster (shingles)
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV)
  • Influenza (the flu)
  • Invasive Haemophilus Influenzae Disease
  • Invasive Meningococcal Disease
  • Invasive Pneumococcal Disease
  • Japanese Encephalitis
  • Measles
  • Mumps
  • Pertussis (whooping cough)
  • Poliomyelitis (polio)
  • Rabies (This is one I have heard of in my circles.)
  • Rotavirus
  • Rubella (German Measles)
  • Smallpox
  • Tetanus
  • Tick-Borne Encephalitis
  • Tuberculosis (BCG Vaccine)
  • Typhoid
  • Varicella (chickenpox)
  • Yellow Fever

Preventive immunization is crucial, as some of the aforementioned diseases still result in death. For example, in 2015, a case of the measles killed the first person in the U.S. in 12 years, which many scientists blame on falling vaccination rates. Rabies kills nearly 50,000 people annually, due to incomplete vaccination efforts and the frequent interactions between people and rabies-carrying animals. That’s scary stuff!Fotolia_62710469_XS

Vaccine Success

Smallpox

Especially alarming due to its high mortality rate, Smallpox is said to have killed 300-500 million people in the 20th century. The disease is one of two to have been officially declared “eradicated.” This represents a global achievement and underscores the need for aggressive vaccine research to help combat new worldwide threats.

Polio

Polio is another disease eliminated from the U.S. due to successful vaccine programs. The disease used to cripple tens of thousands of people a year. It still remains a global threat, but is much reduced due to widespread vaccinations developed famously in the 1950s by Jonas Salk.

Vaccines on the Horizon

Developing new vaccines is tricky and requires considerable funding and forward-thinking science.

Here are some of the more pressing diseases and associated efforts to create vaccines:

  • Scientists are working quickly to develop a Zika vaccine to prevent the spread of the virus beyond primarily South America and Mexico. Since the 2016 Summer Olympics are underway in Rio, where the virus has gained traction, and with additional confirmed cases in Florida, Zika is on the minds of travelers and health organizations, alike both in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, the National Institute of Health (NIH) is already performing human vaccine trials, a promising development. On a lighter note, I qualified for the 100-meter dog paddle race, but I’m sitting this one out.
  • New emphasis is turned towards an HIV vaccine, with recent human trials released and specific research tied to the way that certain people’s bodies react to the virus.
  • In late 2015, the first-ever vaccine for dengue fever launched in several countries.
  • Researchers are still developing a malaria vaccine, and pushing forward despite recent setbacks which illustrate a short-lived duration for a recent vaccine effort.

Remember that safety is a daily priority. Following proper vaccination schedules can save lives and prevent the fast and furious spread of infectious diseases. 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 Allied Universal, which has been designed to help improve and save lives. For more information about the best system out there, or to subscribe, click here.

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, 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.

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

40-Year High in Number of Malaria Cases in the US

malaria firedogTo prevent malaria when traveling, take recommended medicines 

Malaria is a life-threatening blood disease caused by a parasite, which causes infected people to experience fever, chills, and flu-like illness. And if infected folks allow their symptoms to go untreated, they may develop severe complications and could die. Worldwide, 219 million cases of malaria are estimated to occur each year, resulting in 660,000 deaths, mostly in children under five years of age. Although dogs don’t get Malaria, they can get infected with heart worms through the bite of a mosquito carrying the larvae of the worm. Gross.

The most recent malaria epidemic in the United States was in 2011, when there were 1,925 cases reported, according to data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The highest number of cases since 1971 (more than 40 years ago), this figure represents a 14% increase over the number of reported cases in 2010, when five people in the U.S. died from the disease or associated complications.

Since most of the malaria cases reported in the U.S. were acquired overseas, Americans should use the information as impetus to take recommended medications when traveling. If your doctor advises you to take medication, people—listen! I don’t always agree with my vet’s ideas about suppositories, but we listen because he’s the expert. This is especially important for people traveling to Africa, since more than two-thirds (69%) of the cases were imported in that region, with nearly two-thirds (63%) of the cases acquired in West Africa. India had the second highest number of cases, with seasonal peaks reported in January and August.

CDC Director Tom Frieden, M.D., said, “Malaria isn’t something many doctors see frequently in the United States thanks to successful malaria elimination efforts in the 1940s. The increase in malaria cases reminds us that Americans remain vulnerable and must be vigilant against diseases like malaria because our world is so interconnected by travel.”

Uncommon in temperate climates, malaria is most prevalent in tropical and subtropical countries. That’s one of the reasons I prefer a cooler clime. One of the ways world health officials are trying to reduce the incidence of malaria by distributing bed nets to help protect people from mosquito bites as they sleep. What’s more, scientists around the world are working to develop a vaccine to prevent malaria.

In most cases, Malaria is preventable and is caused by a parasite transmitted by the bite of an infected female mosquito. Yuck. In 2010, there were an estimated 660,000 deaths and 219 million cases globally. The signs and symptoms of malaria illness are varied, but the overriding common denominator is fever.

Other common symptoms

  • Headache
  • Back pain
  • Chills
  • Increased sweating
  • Muscle pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Enlarged Spleen

Rare (serious) symptoms

  • Impairment of brain function
  • Impairment of spinal cord function
  • Seizures (fits)
  • Loss of consciousness

If left untreated, infections can rapidly spread, inducing coma, kidney failure, respiratory distress and death. Travelers to areas with malaria transmission can prevent the disease by using anti-malarial drugs, insect repellent, insecticide-treated bed nets and protective clothing. First- and second-generation immigrants from malaria-endemic countries returning to their “home” countries to visit friends and relatives tend to avoid using appropriate malaria prevention measures and thus are more likely to become infected with malaria than members of the general population. Prevention seems pretty basic—take your meds!

To BE SAFE, consult a health-care provider for information, medications, and vaccines necessary prior to embarking on international travel. The CDC provides advice about malaria prevention recommendations If a traveler experiences symptoms of malaria (such as fever, headaches, and other flu-like symptoms—while abroad or on returning home—he or she should immediately seek diagnosis and treatment from a health-care provider.

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 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 BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, Health & Welfare, Vaccinations

Southwest U.S. Sees Increase in Cases of Valley Fever

Valley Fever FiredogA fungal respiratory infection known as Valley Fever has dramatically increased in several southwestern states according to a new study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The CDC reports that the total number of confirmed cases in Arizona, California, Nevada, New Mexico and Utah is 22,000. Sounds to me like something that could affect coyotes.

Valley Fever (Coccidioidomycosis) is caused by inhaling a fungus called Coccidioides, which lives in the soil in the southwestern United States. That sounds pretty gross. It makes me wonder if it’s a good idea to dig in the dirt. Although not everyone who is exposed to the fungus will get sick, those who do succumb typically experience flu-like symptoms that can linger for weeks or even months. And more than 40 percent of patients who get ill from Valley Fever may require hospitalization at some point, at an average cost of nearly $50,000 per hospital visit.

A CDC spokesman said that Valley Fever is causing significant health problems for many people living in the southwestern United States because fungus particles spread through the air. Although it is difficult to avoid exposure to Coccidioides, people who are at higher risk should try to avoid breathing in large amounts of dust if they are in endemic areas. The CDC is releasing information about the disease to alert individuals who live in or have traveled to the southwest United States. I live and travel in the United States. But I’m not sure how to avoid breathing outside air in the Southwest.

The recent increase in cases of Valley Fever could be related to changes in weather, which potentially impact where the fungus grows as well as how much of it circulates. More research is necessary in order to understand why the number of reported cases of Valley Fever has increased. Between 1998 and 2011, Arizona and California had average increases in Valley Fever incidence of 16 and 13 percent per year, respectively. The CDC has provided grants to these two states to study Valley Fever. I wish I could locate a grant for studying the effects of bacon on canines. I can’t find anyone to fund it.

During this time period:

  • Nearly 112,000 cases of Valley Fever were reported from 28 states and Washington, D.C.
  • Sixty-six percent of cases were in Arizona.
  • Thirty-one percent were in California.
  • One percent was recorded in Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah.
  • Approximately one percent was made up of cases from all of other states combined.
  • None of the cases had to do with bacon.

“It’s difficult to say what’s causing the increase,” said Benjamin J. Park, M.D., chief epidemiologist with CDC’s Mycotic Diseases Branch. “This is a serious and costly disease and more research is needed to reduce its effects.”

The common symptoms of Valley Fever are very similar to those associated with the flu or pneumonia:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Rash on upper trunk or extremities
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain in the knees or ankles

Symptoms of advanced coccidioidomycosis include:

  • Skin lesions
  • Chronic pneumonia
  • Meningitis
  • Bone or joint infection

 

A lab test is the only way to determine whether or not any given illness is actually Valley Fever. Also of note…not everyone who gets Valley Fever needs treatment. For most people, in fact, the infection will go away on its own. That’s good news. More at risk are people who develop severe infections or chronic pneumonia. People at risk for the more severe forms of the disease are the young, old and infirm. For these groups, early diagnosis and treatment is important.

In many cases, treatment for coccidioidomycosis is not necessary, as symptoms can spontaneously resolve. Nevertheless, many healthcare providers prescribe antifungal medications, such as Fluconazole, to prevent a more severe infection from developing. It is especially important for people at risk for severe disease, such as those infected with HIV or who have weakened immune systems, to receive treatment as quickly as possible. If you suspect you may have Valley Fever, see your healthcare practitioner.

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 an interactive, building-specific e-learning training system which motivates and rewards tenants instantly! It’s 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, Uncategorized, Vaccinations

Norovirus Jeopardizes Health of Children & the Elderly

Norovirus IllAccording to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), the leading cause of acute gastroenteritis among children less than five year of age (who seek medical care) is an illness called Norovirus. The alert was announced following a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM), which showed the illness is responsible for nearly one million documented pediatric medical care visits between 2009 and 2010 in the United States. All told, the illness costs hundreds of millions of dollars in treatment each year.

Dr. Daniel Payne, an epidemiologist in the Division of Viral Diseases at the CDC said, “Infants and young children are very susceptible to Norovirus infections, which often result in a high risk of getting dehydrated from the sudden onset of intense vomiting and severe diarrhea. Our study estimates that 1 in 278 U.S. children will be hospitalized for Norovirus illness by the time they turn 5 years of age. It is also estimated that about 1 in 14 children will visit an emergency room and 1 in 6 will receive outpatient care for Norovirus infections.” This Norovirus sounds like a horrible illness. I’m glad the folks at the CDC have a handle on it.

Originally called the Norwalk virus after the town of Norwalk, Ohio, the location of the first confirmed outbreak in 1972, Norovirus is defined by The Mayo Clinic as a virus which includes: nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain and cramps, watery or loose stools, weight loss, malaise and low-grade fever. The incubation period is usually 24 to 48 hours after first exposure to the virus, and signs and symptoms usually last one to three days. However, it is worth noting that some people with the infection may show no signs or symptoms but will remain contagious and may unwittingly spread the virus to others. If you suspect you may have the virus, seek medical attention if you develop diarrhea that doesn’t abate within several days or if you experience severe vomiting, bloody stools, abdominal pain or dehydration.

NorovirusDisease

The NEJM study determined that Norovirus was:

  • Detected in 21 percent (278) of the 1,295 cases of acute gastroenteritis
  • Rotavirus was identified in only 12 percent (152) of the cases.
  • About 50 percent of the medical care visits due to Norovirus infections were among children aged 6 to 18 months.
  • Infants and 1-year-old children were more likely to be hospitalized than older children.
  • Overall rates of Norovirus in emergency rooms and outpatient offices were 20 to 40 times higher than hospitalization rates.
  • Nationally, the researchers estimated that in 2009 and 2010, there were 14,000 hospitalizations, 281,000 emergency room visits, and 627,000 outpatient visits due to Norovirus illness in children less than 5 years of age.
  • Together, hospital visits amounted to an estimated $273 million in treatment costs each year.

“Our study confirmed that medical visits for rotavirus illness have decreased,” said Dr. Payne. “Also, (it) reinforces the success of the U.S. rotavirus vaccination program and also emphasizes the value of specific interventions to protect against Norovirus illness.” There is currently no formal treatment protocol for Norovirus, other than bed rest and drinking plenty of fluids to prevent dehydration. Most people recover between 24 hours to 48 hours. A Norovirus vaccine is reportedly in development.  I am not usually a proponent of injections. But, in this case, it seems like a good idea…maybe as important as my rabies booster.

Unfortunately, Norovirus does not target children alone. Senior citizens and those with compromised immune systems are more prone to contracting the highly contagious infection, with more than 21 million people in the US succumbing each year. This week alone, more than 100 residents at nursing facilities in Nevada showed symptoms, and seven tested positive for Norovirus over a 41-day period.

Approximately 800 people have died so far from the disease. The virus spreads primarily through close contact with infected people, such as caring for someone who is ill and it also spreads through contaminated food, water and hard surfaces. The best ways to reduce the risk of Norovirus infection are through proper hand washing, safe food handling, and good hygiene. Is it just me or are those the same instructions the CDC gives for most illnesses? It seems like frequently washing my paws is an all-around great idea. For more information about Norovirus, visit CDC website at www.cdc.gov/Norovirus.

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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 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.