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2013 Flu at Epidemic Proportions

Tuesday, January 15th, 2013

Major media outlets across the country, such as ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN and Fox News, 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.

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 Allied Universal Training System by Universal/Fire Life Safety Services. Our new Version 3.0 system offers the best emergency training system on the market.

All About Vaccines

Tuesday, December 27th, 2011

In light of recent anti-vaccine rhetoric, it’s important to review the very positive role vaccinations have played in maintaining public health throughout the years. The community is always better served by the prevention of diseases instead of treatment, which can overwhelm the healthcare industry—particularly in case of epidemics.

There is a very long list of vaccines for a variety of debilitating diseases such as: cervical cancer, diphtheria, influenza, Lyme disease, pertussis, rabies, tuberculosis, and yellow fever—just to name a few. Likely the biggest vaccine triumph is the eradication of smallpox, a disease which once killed one out of every seven children in Europe.

In addition to savings lives and improving well-being, vaccines also save society money, as the cost of a single dosage is many times less than the time and resources required for treatment of the associated disease.

How do vaccines work?

  • The human body is attacked by pathogens and produces antibodies every day.
  • Antibodies become a sort of “memory cell” in the body to help ward off future attacks.
  • Vaccines contain a weakened form of a disease that, when injected, does not produce the disease itself but encourages antibodies and subsequent memory cells.
  • These memory cells can remain in the system for decades.

There is a long history of distrust of vaccines in the United States. In 1879, a gentleman named William Tebb created the Anti-Vaccination Society of America. Skeptics still remain, refusing childhood vaccinations for their children due to concerns about the risk of autism, ADHD and hyperactivity.

  • Some individuals contend that vaccinations do not stop diseases at all, and that factors including better sanitation practices, reduced poverty, and better education work together to lower disease rates.
  • Any link between vaccines and autism has been thoroughly discredited.

Let’s review two notable vaccines, one developed half a century ago, and another which is currently in the news:

The poliomyelitis viral disease, commonly known as polio, afflicted hundreds of thousands of people annually before the development of a vaccine:

  • Scientist Jonas Salk created the safest and most effective polio vaccine in the 1950s, which instantly saved thousands of lives. Salk was hailed as a hero, as the country came to a standstill to celebrate the news.
  • The polio vaccine is heralded as a major scientific achievement, an example of how hard work and diligence can conquer problems.

Gardasil is the brand name of a relatively new vaccine that prevents the human papillomavirus virus, (HPV), which can lead to cervical and other genital area cancers:

  • According to the National Cancer Institute, nearly two thirds of cervical cancer deaths can be prevented through widespread adoption of the vaccine.
  • Controversy surrounds some states and school districts which call for mandatory HPV vaccinations.

Looking towards the future, advances in medicine will likely reverse the likelihood of many diseases. Research into HIV and advanced smallpox vaccines, as well as DNA-based solutions, are an example of this type of treatment, which has generated significant interest.

Despite unproven claims about vaccines, booster shots play a vital role in limiting the spread of some of the most crippling diseases in the world. For more information about preventable diseases, vaccine schedules and the importance of following all recommended guidelines, visit the CDC’s site at www.CDC.Gov.

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