The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. Government are hoping to provide enough information to keep Americans prepared in case the threat of Swine Flu reaches higher proportions.  The death toll in Mexico has risen to 149 at the latest count, on Monday, April 27.  Cases in Mexico have been more severe, and affected young adults, which has not been a normal occurrence in most influenza cases.  Usually, the elderly and children are more susceptible to complications from flu.

This is not a time for panic; however, there are precautions that persons can take.  First of all, we all need to try to stay as healthy and strong as possible through proper diet and exercise.
If we can avoid crowds for a while, we need to do so.  Infected people may infect others beginning day one, before symptoms develop and up to 7 days after becoming ill.  You may be able to pass on the flu to someone else before you know you are sick, as well as while you are sick.

Some viruses live for 2 hours or longer on surfaces: tables, doorknobs, desks, keyboards, telephones, and money.  If you don’t wash your hands thoroughly, you can pick up those germs by touching your nose, mouth, or eyes.  Face masks not only protect you from breathing particles in the air from someone who has the virus, but they also keep you from touching your eyes, nose, and mouth.  Having a supply of face masks and disposable gloves at work, or at home, if you are caring for a sick person, is a good way to protect yourself.

Not just at this time, but also during seasonal outbreaks of flu or other infectious diseases: remember to:

  • Wash hands with warm soap and water
  • Keep hand sanitizer handy
  • Avoid crowds
  • Stay home if you are sick
  • Teach your children to wash their hands often


SWINE FLU UPDATE – April 29, 2009

Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Spain, Britain and Germany are reporting cases of Swine Flu.  Sadly, the United States reported its first death as a result of the illness, a 23-month old toddler from Mexico City.  She had traveled from Mexico to Brownsville, Texas, became ill, and died Monday night in a Houston hospital.  Doctors theorize that Mexico has had more deaths from this type of flu because it has been circulating among its citizens longer.

We must realize that deaths from influenza are not uncommon.  In the United States alone, 36,000 persons die per year from flu-related illnesses.  The concern regarding this new strain, which combines pig, bird, and human viruses is that persons may have limited immunity to it.

Medical and scientific teams are working steadfastly to develop a new vaccine, but it is going to take time to produce initial shots for human safety testing.

At this time, things are very unpredictable.  The last thing we need to do is panic.  The media constantly reports numbers of cases worldwide; however, many of those are suspected cases, and not confirmed ones.  Testing must be done at certain laboratories to actually confirm the type of flu the person has.

So, use common sense.  The advice given by professionals is to wash hands frequently; stay out of crowds as much as possible.  Cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and if you feel you are getting flu-like symptoms, see your physician.  If you become sick, stay at home.  We all must do our part to curb the threat of a potentially serious health problem.


Following two confirmed cases of Swine Flu, and a possible third case, the Texas Department of State Health Services has closed fourteen schools in the Schertz-Cibolo-Universal City ISD.  The confirmed cases included students at Byron Steele High School, and were reported as mild.  Following many more reports of flu-like illnesses in the south Texas area, TDSHS will be conducting further investigations.

In Dallas, County Health Department officials are doing what they can to curb the threat of the illness affecting their city.  They have not received an advisory from the CDC, but are already taking action.  Dallas is a major hub for buses, with at least ten busing operators coming from Mexico, the country hardest hit by this influenza.  Mexican companies are sanitizing incoming buses, and questioning whether they should wear face masks, or hand them out to their passengers.  The representatives of the county health department are handing out literature to travelers, and inquiring if they are feeling ill, and if so, advising them to get treated if they are sick.  There are three suspected cases of Swine Flu in Dallas; all three are Dallas residents; however, they are not related and do not live near one another.

We are sure there will be much more news in the next few days regarding other states being affected by this threat.  Hopefully, with the information the government and media are providing, folks will know what to do to stay well, and take all precautions to avoid contacting this influenza, as they do whenever there is an outbreak of any illness.



One of the key ways to protect oneself from the spread of germs is to wear a facemask or N95 respirator.  Swine Flu Masks are available in many different designs for a comfortable fit.

The symptoms of the Swine Flu are typical of other strains of flu: coughing, fever, sore throat, sneezing, body aches, and some reports of diarrhea and vomiting.  In Mexico, the outbreak has become very serious.  Pharmacies have sold out of facemasks; there have even been reports of persons stockpiling them and asking twenty-five times the price of them.

If the Swine Flu progresses through the United States and other countries, now is a good time to instruct those who are taking care of sick family members on the proper use of facemasks or respirators.  Healthcare givers, such as nursing home attendants, hospital and emergency staffs are already well trained in the use of personal protective equipment.  Here are some safety tips for using respirators or facemasks:

  • If you must have close contact with the sick person (holding a sick child), spend the least amount of time possible in close contact and wear a facemask (for example, surgical mask) or N95 disposable respirator.
  • Breathing through a facemask is easier than an N95 respirator for an extended period of time; however, the respirator filters out germs that can be inhaled around the edges of a facemask.
  • If you help a sick person with respiratory treatments using a nebulizer or inhaler, as directed by their physician, you should wear an N95 respirator.  These treatments should be given in a different room of the house, if possible.
  • After you remove a facemask or N95 respirator, wash your hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer.  Hot water and soap is preferred.
  • Used facemasks and N95 respirators should never come in contact with anything else and should be properly disposed of.
  • If a reusable fabric facemask is used, it should be laundered with normal laundry detergent and tumble-dried in a hot dryer. Use this type of protection as a last resort; disposable protection is preferred.

The best way to avoid illness is to stay as healthy as possible and keep away from those you know are sick.  If you think you may have this virus, see your doctor as soon as possible, and get treated.  So far, the cases of Swine Flu in the United States have been mild.


On April 26th, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano wants to assure Americans that health officials are taking appropriate steps to minimize the impact of an outbreak of Swine Flu, by issuing a “declaration of emergency preparedness”.  This follows reports of approximately twenty cases of this type of flu in 5 states: Texas, California, New York, Ohio and Kansas.  As of today, Mexico has reported this same strain of flu has killed eighty-six people and sickened approximately 1,400 people, since April 13.

Public Health experts are puzzled by the differences experienced in the two countries.  In Mexico, several of the victims were between 20 and 40 years old and died of severe pneumonia from this flu-like illness.  It is unusual to be this acute to healthy young adults.  In the U.S., patients ranged from ages 9 to over 50, and thus far, the cases have been mild.  Canada has reported today four confirmed cases of the virus, said to be mild cases.  However, it would seem that throughout the countries involved, persons who have traveled to Mexico are thought to be ones that have carried the virus to their homes.

Swine flu is a respiratory illness in pigs that is caused by a virus; however, it rarely kills very many of them.  Thought to be only affecting those people who work on farms and have direct contact with pigs, this outbreak is different.  According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, this is a mix of human virus, bird virus from North America and pig viruses from North America, Europe, and Asia.  The Mexican virus samples match the U.S. virus samples.

It is also the opinion of the CDC that the seasonal flu shot in the United States this year won’t likely protect against the latest swine flu virus.  Ironically, there’s a vaccine for pigs, but not humans.  Twelve million doses of Tamiflu will be moved from U.S. government stockpiles to states that can receive their shares as needed.  World Health Organization Director-General Margaret Chan said the outbreak of the never-before-seen virus has “pandemic potential”, but it is still too early to tell if it would become a pandemic – an epidemic that spreads in humans around the world.  

Symptoms of this virus are almost the same as any other type of flu: fever, cough, fatigue, lack of appetite, and some experiencing vomiting and diarrhea.  Routine precautions to prevent the spread of infectious diseases should be taken: washing hands often, covering nose and mouth when coughing/sneezing, avoiding close contact with sick people.  If you are sick, stay at home and limit contact with others.

Respirators and Face masks have been issued to citizens in Mexico City, in hopes of decreasing the spread of this virus.  Many church services and places of public entertainment have been closed, as well.  By taking immediate action, officials are hoping to catch this disease before it reaches pandemic proportions

Source: Associated Press


Studies show that most employees that have been injured on the job want to go back to work as soon as they possibly can, following their recovery.  Businesses, large and small, should have Return to Work policies in place and be sure that all employees understand them.

Employers should consistently demonstrate concern for their welfare and treat all employees the same.  At the time an employee seeks medical attention, the physician should give him/her a prognosis as to when they can regain their full time employment.  Companies may set a limit on transitional periods, i.e., 90 days, that the employee can perform lighter duties in order to resume some type of work plan.

There are also studies that show the following:

  • The longer an employee stays off work, the less likely they are to return.
  • It is to the benefit of the employer to prevent replacing the worker, by offering transitional work to the injured worker, in order to avoid a possible lawsuit, and face increased workers compensation costs.
  • It is better to accommodate the person with on-the-job light duties than for them to work from home with restrictions.
  • Companies with good return to work programs reduce lost workdays and have employees that want to return to work.
  • Those employees who miss 6 months’ work are 50% more likely to not return.
  • One-fourth of employees who miss 1 year of work will probably not return.
  • If they are off 2 years or more, there is little chance of their return.

Companies that have disability programs that enable their employees to fulfill some form of duties prove to the employee that they are reliable and capable, and an asset to the employer, letting them know that their expertise makes them valuable employees.  This also enables employees be self-sufficient.

“Early” Return to Work Programs decrease temporary total disability payments, as employees that are back on the job are earning wages again.  The American Medical Association encourages their members to release employees to work as soon as they are medically able.  It is proven that employees heal more rapidly and their treatment time is reduced, if the doctor releases them as soon as possible.  This early return to work plan also serves as a cost reduction on Workers Compensation premium rates for the employer, and in certain cases, reduces legal costs.

Everyone needs to be on an even playing field in all walks of life.  Employers that treat their employees fairly when they have been injured on the job are rewarded by employees that want to get back to their job and will do a good job for them.  Successful safety programs and practices reduce injuries, making everyone happier, both the employer and employee!


As we become more health conscious and think about the quality of the air we breathe, here is some information about what we can do to improve indoor air quality.  Listed below are sources that may create poor air quality:

  • Carbon Monoxide
  • Asbestos
  • Pressed Wood Products/Formaldehyde
  • Lead
  • Pesticides
  • Radon
  • Secondhand Smoke/Environmental Tobacco Smoke
  • Bilogical Pollutants
  • Chimneys, Stoves, Heaters, Fireplaces
  • Respirable Particles

The best way to improve air quality is to remove the sources of pollution or reduce emmissions, such as sealing or enclosing asbestos and adjusting stoves to decrease their emmissions.  Ventilation systems should be installed that bring in and circulate the required amount of outside air.  In your home, opening windows when possible to allow fresh air to come inside is a great way to freshen things up.  High quality air cleaners are built into whole house systems, but can be very expensive.  Sometimes there are factors outside our place of work that contribute to unhealthy air being brought into buildings.  Engineers or builders have guidelines on ways to eliminate such problems when designing or remodeling offices or other workplaces.

Sources that cause many health problems in the workplace may be dust, fragrances, or smoke.  Good housekeeping practices, ventilation systems, managing pesticide applications and microbal contamination are very important for schools, offices, and other workplaces.  Workers may complain of asthma, allergies, or headaches, and report chronic issues to their managers.  For serious concerns, The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) conducts an Health Hazard Evaluation at the request of employees or employers to determine if any substance normally found in the place of employment has potentially toxic effects, including air quality.

Source: EPA


The beginning of a modern environmental movement started on April 22, 1970, with the theme, Earth Day.  Approximately 20 million Americans participated to reach the goal of a healthy, sustainable environment.  At this time, separate groups that had been fighting against polluting factories, power plants, toxic dumps, oil spills, loss of wilderness and extinction of wildlife realized that they shared common goals.  Through the years and with the help of the internet, the efforts of those concerned with the environment have multiplied.  April 22, 1990, more than 200 million people in 141 countries mobilized to raise the status of environmental issues.  This led to the 1992 United Nations Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro.  Matters such as global warming and clean energy have now emerged, as well.

Earth Day is the only event celebrated simultaneously throughout the world by people of all backgrounds, faiths and nationalities.  There are now more than one-half billion people that participate in Earth Day network campaigns every year.

Earth Day 2009, April 22, will mark the beginning of The Green Generation CampaignTM, which will also be the focus of the 40th Anniversary of Earth Day in 2010. With negotiations for a new global climate agreement coming up in December, Earth Day 2009 must be a day of action and civic participation, to defend The Green GenerationTM’s core principles:

  • A carbon-free future based on renewable energy that will end our common dependency on fossil fuels, including coal.
  • An individual’s commitment to responsible, sustainable consumption.
  • Creation of a new green economy that lifts people out of poverty by creating millions of quality green jobs and transforms the global education system into a green one.

Are you doing your part to keep your little corner of the world green?  There are things each of us can do to preserve our country’s beauty, protect our wildlife, and keep our air clean.  In exchange, if we do the things required to improve our environment, won’t we also be making the world a safer place, as well?  It is our focus to ensure that persons whose jobs are to contend with cleaning up pollution or other acts of negligence of the earth remain safe as they do their job.

We are given the opportunity to keep our towns, states, and country beautiful and protect the environment. Let’s make every day a “Safe” Earth Day!

Wikipedia, Earth.net


Yes, that’s right, most people think that working in an office is a pretty cushy job, but have you ever looked around?  There are potential accidents just waiting to happen, when you really check it out!

As a person who has worked in offices all my life, I think back to several things that I did that could have resulted in injury………..like, having a file cabinet tip over on me because it was top heavy and I was working out of the bottom drawer.  Or not using the correct posture when lifting heavy boxes, my back still hurts!   I’ve had many coworkers trip over a low file drawer that got left out.  (Once, I witnessed an engineer set fire to a wastebasket he was sitting on while talking to his secretary, dropping ashes from his pipe into the trash. Boy, did he get a hotseat!)

There are many simple things that can be done and don’t require a lot of extra time to keep our office employees safe.  Also, office workers should pitch in and report any potential risk hazard to their supervisor, whether it’s a slippery floor, too-dark area, or electrical problem, in order for it to be taken care of before someone gets hurt.

Here are several questions regarding office safety, and we want you to see how many apply to your office:

Office Safety

  • Are your file cabinets top heavy?
  • Are boxes, papers and books stored safely on top of files?
  • Are lights turned on in dark work areas?
  • Are there broken lights?
  • Are drawers left open on desks and file cabinets?
  • Do people tilt back in their chairs?
  • Are there signs to watch your step at elevators?
  • Are spills cleaned up promptly?
  • Do you see people standing on their chairs, desktops, to reach something high, rather than use a step stool?
  • Do electric cords stretch across floor?
  • Are power strips used correctly?
  • Are fire exits clearly marked, and are employees familiar with them?
  • Is there enough space under desk or workstation for employee to take cover in an emergency?
  • Are fire drills conducted regularly?
  • Are coffee makers, griddles, heating elements, safely placed and inspected on a regular basis?
  • Are storage areas clean and neat?
  • Are handrails and stairways well lighted?
  • Does your office have a good housekeeping program?
  • Do employees leave open food, i.e., cookies, crackers, in their desk?
  • Is the floor or carpet in bad condition? Uneven floors can be fall hazards.
  • Do people leave wastebaskets or boxes in walkways?
  • Do you see persons wearing dangling jewelry or floppy clothing while running a shredder?  Guys with ties shouldn’t try this.

We know part of your answers will be no and some yes, but hopefully they apply in a way that shows you have a safe office!  Typically, though, we all need to pitch in and keep our workspace clean, neat and safe for our fellow workers.  Try placing safety posters that relate to the work being done in each area to convey a good safety theme.   Posters work wonders!


This week, April 19-25, is National Volunteer Week.

National Volunteer Week is a time to thank one of our nation’s most valuable assets — volunteers — and call the public’s attention to all that they do to improve our communities.

Sponsored nationally by the Points of Light Institute, National Volunteer Week began in 1974 when President Richard M. Nixon signed an executive order establishing the week as an annual celebration of volunteering. Every president since has signed a proclamation promoting National Volunteer Week. The theme, “celebrating people in action,” truly captures the meaning behind this signature week — honoring the individuals who dedicate themselves to taking action and solving problems in their communities.

What would small communities do without volunteers?  Persons who work on city councils, hospital boards, and many other types of community boards receive no pay, but do it because they want to serve.  Many places of entertainment utilize volunteers, such as museums, theatres, art shows and others.  Most cities have annual festivals or celebrations and depend on volunteers for to ensure their success.

Young students volunteer on summer projects; rather than spending their time going swimming, to the mall, or other fun things, they are swinging a hammer, painting, or performing other duties such as helping repair homes for folks that otherwise can’t afford them.  Students also volunteer in many ways by collecting for worthwhile causes, or running a race for financial pledges to help on special projects.

Lately, there have been many fires in Texas and Oklahoma; news reports revealed that the only ones fighting part of these devastating fires were volunteer firemen and women.  In some cases, there was assistance from professional support teams.  However, most of the time, smaller communities rely on their volunteer firemen and first responders.

Hospital volunteers help their hospital meet budget by doing all types of clerical work at no charge.  They also hold fundraisers in order to buy needed equipment, thereby freeing up the hospital to make other purchases.  Church members are permanent volunteers, doing all they are able to do to help out their communities in times of troubles.  And what on earth would we do in times of destruction: fires, tornadoes, hurricanes, just to name a few, if it weren’t for the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and many other groups that depend on their volunteers to help them provide needed relief?

Whether doing a small thing, such as reading to someone in a nursing home, running errands, or cooking a meal for a family with a sick member, one can never know what that act of kindness means to others.  Anyone who can spare an hour or so any time should give volunteering a try.  The best reward a person can receive is knowing that they have given a part of themselves to make the world a better place.