Posted in BE SAFE, Disaster Preparedness, epidemics, How to stay healthy

#BeSafe from the Flu

flu 2015 Firedog 2According to reports from the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC), this year’s strain of Influenza (flu) has already hit epidemic proportions across the United States, with at least 15 associated deaths of children so far this season (most in Texas, Minnesota, Ohio, Florida and California.) The most common strain thus far, is known as Influenza A (H3N2). Sounds pretty scary. But I guess any illness with an official name and number is creepy.

A contagious respiratory illness, the flu can cause mild to severe illness, which can result in hospitalization or even death. Most at risk are the elderly, young children and other people with weaker-than-average immune systems. Most health professionals contend the best defense against catching the flu is to get vaccinated each year. Apparently, dogs can catch the flu, too. But we are susceptible to different strains than our human counterparts.

Carefully monitoring flu activity across the country, the CDC reports: “As of late December, all national key flu indicators are elevated and about half of the country is experiencing high flu activity. Flu activity is expected to continue into the coming weeks, with increases occurring especially in those states that have not yet had significant activity.

The United States experiences epidemics of seasonal flu each year, and right now all of CDC’s influenza surveillance systems are showing elevated activity. Influenza-like-illness (ILI) has been over baseline for the past several weeks, virological surveillance shows a lot of flu is circulating, and the hospitalization surveillance system shows increasing hospitalizations rates, especially in people 65 years and older. Also, the surveillance system that tracks mortality shows that the country is in the midst of this season’s flu epidemic. During influenza seasons, ILI increases first, and then hospitalizations increase, and then increases in deaths occur, so what is being observed is a typical pattern for the flu season.”

Flu 2015 FiredogAlthough this year’s flu season started a few weeks earlier than usual, pharmacists across the country don’t expect the virus to peak until early to mid-February, which means there is still time to get vaccinated, as the shot generally takes two weeks to reach full effectiveness. I don’t understand why some people are afraid of needles. Even my young son, JR, gets boosters without a whimper. As you weigh the pros and cons of vaccination, it might help you to consider the differences between symptoms of a common cold and the flu:

Common Cold

  • Often begins with a sore throat, which usually lasts for just one or two days
  • Nasal symptoms, runny nose, sneezing and congestion follow
  • A cough manifests by day four or five, typically due to sinus drainage and associated nasal congestion
  • Fever is uncommon in adults but slightly more common in children
  • Symptoms generally last for up to one week

Flu 2015 Firedog 3Influenza (Flu)

  • Persistent sore throat
  • Fever (100-102 degrees, which is typically higher than for a cold)
  • Severe headache
  • Severe muscle aches
  • Fatigue, weakness
  • Extreme exhaustion
  • Congestion
  • Cough
  • Chest discomfort
  • The Swine flu is also associated with vomiting and diarrhea.

Although many symptoms overlap, people who catch colds are more likely to suffer far less and rebound much more quickly than those who succumb to the flu. Also of note, while people who vomit often think they have the flu, stomach pain and diarrhea are far more likely to be the result of food-borne illness (food poisoning) than attributable to a case of the flu. I think this is interesting, because people are always saying they have the flu when they are probably suffering from bad Chinese food.

Five Ways to Avoid Catching the Flu

  1. Wash your hands – Even if you are exposed to the flu (by touching a germ-infested counter top at a doctor’s office, for example) if you clean your hands before you touch your face, there’s little chance the germs can reach your eyes, nose, or mouth, all of which are the usual ways they enter your system and start wreaking havoc.
  2. Try not to touch your faceLiveScience.com reports that the average person touches his or her face some 3.6 times per hour. Since cold and flu germs pass from infected surfaces to orifices such as the nose and mouth, the best way to guard yourself is to keep your hands in your lap. Also, try to avoid habits like biting your nails.
  3. Keep surfaces clean – From your home to your cubby a work, the importance of cleanliness cannot be overstated. Take time to disinfect your keyboard, telephone and desk. In fact, set up a reminder to thoroughly wipe down surfaces each time you eat. You might also want to use disinfectant spray or wipes. She always said it’s good to keep things clean. I guess Mother knows best.
  4. Moisturize Your AirWomen’s Health Magazine reports that very humid air might be toxic to flu viruses. Although scientists aren’t quite sure why, one possibility is that droplets that contain the virus shrink quickly in arid environments, allowing them to float around longer. In moist air those same droplets might remain heavy and fall to the floor faster.
  5. Stay home – Although we aren’t recommending you become a hermit, you will lessen your chances of getting sick if you stay away from large crowds. Also, if you are sick, stay home from work so you won’t infect your co-workers. If you’re sick, you probably won’t be at your best, anyway. So take care of yourself and go back to work when you are back in top form. Makes sense to me.

We hope that this blog post will help you take steps to stay healthy in 2015 and beyond. The RJWestmore Training System by Universal Fire/Life Safety Services has been designed to help improve and save lives. Visit RJWestmore.com to read about the many ways proper planning can make a difference in numerous aspects of your professional and personal life.

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, 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, 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.