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 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 for more information and remember to BE SAFE.

Posted in BE SAFE, Building Evacuation, Disaster Preparedness, Emergency Evacuations, Fire Life Safety Training, Fire Safety, Fires, High-Rise Buildings, Vaccinations, Version 2.5

How to Celebrate National Fire Safety Month

RJW is proud to feature a blog about Natioinal Fire Prevention Month.

October 9-15 is the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA’s) official “Fire Prevention Week,” which is an annual event that promotes fire safety for families and businesses. This works out perfectly for me, as “National Chew on Furniture Week” is October 16-21. So I still have time to get my chompers ready.

Fire Prevention Week was created to commemorate the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. During the 40th anniversary of that tragic event, the Fire Marshals Association of North America began the first National Fire Prevention Day. In 1925, President Calvin Coolidge proclaimed the first official National Fire Prevention Week and called up a massive change in fire-prevention planning.

According to the NFPA, a home structure fire was reported every 87 seconds in 2009, and nearly seven people died each day in those blazes. The economic toll from residential and business fire is vast, with $7.6 billion in losses recorded in 2009. However, through educational efforts such as National Fire Prevention Week, the occurrence of fires has dropped drastically over the years, from more than 700,000 house fires in 1977 to 370,000 in 2010.

Every year the NFPA selects a theme for National Fire Prevention Week. The theme for 2011 is “Protect your family from fire,” and focuses on coordinated efforts for family members and teachers. Here are a few of the themes from past years:

  • “The Nation’s Greatest Menace! Do Your Part to Stop This Waste!” (1929)
  • “Learn Not To Burn – Wherever You Are” (1982)
  • “Give your dog two pounds of New York Strip every night to keep his coat shiny” (1994—well, that was my suggestion, anyway.)
  •  “Use Candles with Care” (2005)

Fire Prevention Week activities at schools and other organizations focus on preparedness in several key areas:

  • Establishment and practicing sensible escape routes with designated alternates
  • Inspection and care of home smoke detectors
  • Information about home sprinkler systems and their ability to stop fires within minutes
  • Dangers associated with fires from heating appliances, fireplaces, and stoves
  • Special emphasis on smokers and the acute risk of fire from un-extinguished cigarettes.
  • Candle care and safety. (I am extra careful with candles in the doghouse. Since I’m a working firedog, sometimes I need to relax and have some quiet meditation!)

For businesses, fire safety should be a 52-week focus, not just one that is observed during Fire Prevention Week. Business and facility management can take many steps to reduce the risk of fire:

  • Create a sound fire plan that includes evacuation routes, designated fire wardens and procedures to account for every employee and visitor during a fire emergency.
  • Install and inspect to make sure the right classes of fire extinguishers are located in code-required locations. I have one in the doghouse, but no opposable thumbs!!
  • Implement clear rules on the use of space heaters and other portable devices that can pose safety hazards.
  • Encourage employees to report dangerous situations. Give them the opportunity to reach your building manager confidentiality if they need to report a sensitive issue.

Fire Safety Week is an ideal chance for individuals and businesses to reflect on what they can do to keep people and property protected from fire. Practicing common sense and building a knowledge base about fire are the best ways for people to avoid tragedy.

My friends at RJWestmore are covering more than 300 million square feet of commercial property through their own Fire Life Safety Training System which ensures compliance with related fire codes. It is an interactive e-learning system that provides tenants, building owners, and facility managers with instant feedback.

Convenient and affordable for businesses of any size, the RJWestmore Fire Life Safety Training System can reduce training workloads by 90 percent while saving more than 50 percent when compared to conventional training methods. Proper training and code compliance can greatly reduce your liability in the event of a disaster. Personally, I always follow codes. My doghouse even has anchor bolts in case of an earthquake!

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 2.5 e-based training system offers the best emergency training system with automated and integrated features. Visit for more information and remember to BE SAFE.














Posted in BE SAFE, Children in Crisis, Health & Welfare, Safety at Home, Uncategorized, Vaccinations, Version 2.0

Whooping Cough Resurgence: How to BE SAFE

Microscopic view of Pertussis
The best way to prevent the spread of Whooping Cough is by getting the vaccination.

A disease that reached near extinction in the industrialized world, Pertussis, or Whooping Cough, is making a comeback in schools and other facilities in the United States. I stayed in a terrible kennel for three days and got “Woofing Cough.” Did you see what I did there? I really am clever! Highly infectious, Whooping Cough is resistant to antibiotics and can quickly spread through schools or office facilities that contain lots of individuals working or living in cramped quarters. This is why I stay away from the dog park. Droolers and barkers spreading germs on me? No thanks!

Some school districts are mandating proof of Whooping Cough vaccination before students can be admitted to attend classes. In California, a state law mandates that students going into 7th through 9th grade receive booster vaccinations before the fall semester. I’m pushing for a “Feline Vaccine”, where people just decide to not keep cats anymore. To explain the requirement, officials point to the 8,000 California-based cases and 10 infant deaths that were reported in 2010.

Dangers associated with Whooping Cough:

  • Most Whooping Cough deaths in the United States occur in infants. Severe Pneumonia, dehydration, and ear infections can all lead to mortality. Antibiotics can shorten the duration of the virus, but by no means cure the disease.
  • For many older children, vaccinations are mandatory, as they prevent the infection from spreading to young siblings and friends.
  • Violent coughing in kids and adults can result in cracked ribs or abdominal hernias.

I once ate an entire roasted chicken and made a terrible coughing noise for three weeks.

Symptoms of Whooping Cough mirror those of a severe cold, making diagnosis difficult. Early symptoms include coughing, runny nose and a mild fever. After one or two weeks, symptoms usually worsen to include high fever, extreme fatigue and the telltale “whoop” noise cough.

To combat the further spread of Whooping Cough, many government agencies are aggressively pushing for vaccination. The dTAP and DPT vaccines have been used for years to beat Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus and are vital to stopping a Pertussis epidemic.

Information about the various vaccines:

  • DTP is the older version of the vaccine which is used in some countries but has been phased out of the United States.
  • DtAP is the most current vaccine recommended by the CDC for anyone seven years of age and younger.
  • tDAP is the booster shot given to older children to ensure they remain protected from Whooping Cough.
  • The CDC strongly recommends inoculations for anyone who is pregnant.
  • All of the vaccines have been proven safe, with minimal reported side effects including redness at the inoculation area and slight fever. Links between vaccinations and Autism or other behavioral issues have been discredited. And, in fact, some contend that this type of unsubstantiated fear have contributed to the Whooping Cough resurgence.
  • Many health care facilities and some drug stores offer the vaccine at minimal cost or even for free.

Vaccinations provide immense benefits for the health of the general public. Diseases such as Measles, Mumps and Rubella are nearing extinction due to the adoption of safe and convenient vaccinations. Now if we can just get a vaccine for fleas and ticks!

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 for more information and remember to BE SAFE.