Note:  We originally posted this article on February 19, 2009.  Ironically, we are now in the middle of a Swine Flu virus, that has caused the World Health Organization to raise the pandemic threat level to Phase 5, the second-highest level in the worldwide warning system.

Pandemic Influenza is when a new influenza virus emerges for which there is little or no immunization in the human population- a global disease outbreak, which causes serious illness and spreads person to person worldwide.  Planning for Pandemic Influenza by business and industry is essential to minimize the impact of a pandemic.  It is essential to have a contingency plan.

Employers should develop a Pandemic Preparedness Plan by:

  • Knowing Federal, State, and Local Health Department Pandemic Influenza Plans.
  • Preparing for operations with reduced workforce.
  • Ensuring their suppliers/customers that they will continue to operate.
  • Developing a company policy that does not penalize employees for being sick; thereby encouraging them to stay home when they have symptoms such as fever, runny nose, muscle aches, or upset stomach, rather than exposing other employees.
  • Understanding that their employees may need to take care of other ill family members.
  • Considering enhancement of technology and communications equipment in order to allow employees to work from home.
  • Cross-training employees in order to be prepared for absence of workers.
  • Keeping their employees informed of their preparations in case of a widespread disease, making them feel safe about their work, and able to be off if necessary due to illness.

It is also important that employers educate their employees on coughing etiquette, hygiene, and using personal protective equipment when necessary.  This could mean gloves, goggles, respirators, and other means of preventing the spread of germs.  Hand sanitizer, tissue, and soap should be provided.  Employees should be discouraged from using each others’ computers, phones, and equipment.  Washing hands often is one of the most important ways to keep down the spread of germs.

Another important measure of prevention is the flu vaccine.  Sometimes it takes a few months for the proper vaccine to be developed after there is an outbreak; however, whatever flu vaccine is available should alleviate the severity of the illness.  Note: there is no vaccine for this type of flu; scientists are working round-the-clock to prepare a vaccine to be ready for human testing.  In the United States, thousands of courses of Tamiflu and Relenza, have been sent to states reporting confirmed cases of swine flu.  The government has a stockpile of the courses ready as needed.  These two anti-viral medications are the best known to treat influenza.


It’s not too late for us to remind you that May is Motorcycle Safety Awareness Month, and the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is encouraging all drivers to “Share the Road” with motorcyclists, and be alert when driving, to help keep them safe.

Motorcyclists, as well, are reminded to make themselves visible in case other drivers aren’t looking out for them.  They are small vehicles and can be hidden in a blind spot.  More vulnerable than passengers in vehicles, research has shown that per vehicle per mile traveled, motorcyclists are 37 times more likely to die in a traffic crash than occupants in cars.  With that in mind, these tips from the Motorcycle Safety Foundation are well worth reading:

Ten Things All Car & Truck Drivers Should Know About Motorcycles

1. There are a lot more cars and trucks than motorcycles on the road, and some drivers don’t “recognize” a motorcycle; they ignore it (usually unintentionally). Look for motorcycles, especially when checking traffic at an intersection.

2. Because of its small size, a motorcycle may look farther away than it is. It may also be difficult to judge a motorcycle’s speed. When checking traffic to turn at an intersection or into (or out of) a driveway, predict a motorcycle is closer than it looks.

3. Because of its small size, a motorcycle can be easily hidden in a car’s blind spots (door/roof pillars) or masked by objects or backgrounds outside a car (bushes, fences, bridges, etc). Take an extra moment to thoroughly check traffic, whether you’re changing lanes or turning at intersections.

4. Because of its small size a motorcycle may seem to be moving faster than it really is. Don’t assume all motorcyclists are speed demons.

5. Motorcyclists often slow by downshifting or merely rolling off the throttle, thus not activating the brake light. Allow more following distance, say 3 or 4 seconds. At intersections, predict a motorcyclist may slow down without visual warning.

6. Turn signals on a motorcycle usually are not self-canceling, thus some riders, (especially beginners) sometimes forget to turn them off after a turn or lane change. Make sure a motorcycle’s signal is for real.

7. Motorcyclists often adjust position within a lane to be seen more easily and to minimize the effects of road debris, passing vehicles, and wind. Understand that motorcyclists adjust lane position for a purpose, not to be reckless or show off or to allow you to share the lane with them.

8. Maneuverability is one of a motorcycle’s better characteristics, especially at slower speeds and with good road conditions, but don’t expect a motorcyclist to always be able to dodge out of the way.

9. Stopping distance for motorcycles is nearly the same as for cars, but slippery pavement makes stopping quickly difficult. Allow more following distance behind a motorcycle because it can’t always stop “on a dime.”

10. When a motorcycle is in motion, don’t think of it as motorcycle; think of it as a person.

Source: Motorcycle Safety Foundation and NHTSA


The custom of honoring the graves of the war dead began before the end of the Civil War, but the national Memorial Day holiday (or “Decoration Day,” as it was originally named) was first observed on May 30, 1868, on the order of General John Alexander Logan for the purpose of decorating the graves of the American Civil War dead. As time passed, Memorial Day was extended to honor all those who died in service to the nation, from the Revolutionary War to the present. It continued to be observed on May 30th until 1971, when most states changed to a newly established federal schedule of holiday observance.

Every day should be Memorial Day.  More than 260,000 persons who served our country are buried at Arlington Cemetery, officially designated as a military cemetery by Secretary of War Edwin M. Stanton, June 15, 1864.  There are also four courts that hold up to 5,000 niches each for cremated remains of military personnel.

The Tomb of the Unknowns holds three unidentified soldiers – a World War I soldier interred in 1921, World War II soldier interred in 1958, and a soldier from the Korean Conflict also interred in 1958.  In 1984, a soldier from the Viet Nam War was interred there; however his remains were disinterred in 1998, and identified and buried near his home.  That tomb will remain empty.  The 3rd U.S. Infantry (The Old Guard) began sentry of the Tomb of the Unknowns April 6, 1948, 24 hours per day, 365 days per week.

We salute all the veterans who have served our country in past wars, and those men and women who bravely serve us today in Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the world.  Thanks to them, we can celebrate our freedom and safety every day.


At today’s (May 22) closing session of the World Health Organization’s week-long annual congress, WHO chief Margaret Chan stated that countries need to be prepared for the H1N1 flu virus.  It is being closely watched in the southern hemisphere, where winter season is starting.

She stated that because it is a subtle, sneaky virus, it could mix with seasonal flu and mutate in “unpredictable ways”.  It is an airborne virus the same as the common flu, and is still showing up in new countries on a daily basis.  The latest totals show approximately 11,000 people have contacted the virus in 42 countries.  The largest groups now are Japan – 294; Spain – 113; and Britain – 112.

In a related press release, the CDC in Atlanta, Georgia reported that various tests have shown that persons over 60 seem to have a built-up immunity to the virus.  Cases in the United States have affected younger persons, up to ages 50+.  Much more research will need to be done regarding the theory about the over-60 age group.

The CDC says we are not “out of the woods” yet, and still need to be vigilant in watching this virus.

Source: Reuters
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention


Most Americans believe they can start their summer tan a little faster by going to tanning beds, however, they don’t realize that without proper protection, those tanning beds can cause serious burns not only to the skin, but to the eyes.  Research shows that UV radiation levels of a tanning bed are 100 times that of the natural sun.  The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) requires tanning facilities to furnish clean, UV-blocking goggles to all consumers.  Without these protective eye goggles, the New Jersey Society of Optometric Physicians warns that using a tanning bed without protective goggles is the “equivalent to staring at the sun.”

Some tips if you choose a tanning bed:

  • Request goggles when using tanning beds;
  • Use proper skin care.
  • Don’t overdo it!

According to a recent ABC News report: persons are still very complacent when it comes to using sunscreen.  According to a survey done by Consumer Reports National Research Center, 31% of Americans don’t use sunscreen, while 69% are occasional users.  Dr. Doris Day, Skin Cancer Foundation spokeswoman says there are many places on the body that are frequently overlooked when using sunscreen: back of neck, neck and chest area, side of face, tops of feet, and top of head.  Sunscreen with at least 15 SPF should be applied an ounce at a time before getting in the sun, and reapplied hourly.  The American Cancer Society states that more than 1 million skin cancers are diagnosed annually in the U.S.  It is of the utmost importance that children’s skin is protected from the sun.

When you go outdoors for work or play, remember to wear ultra-violet absorbing eyewear, (auto darkening safety glasses), which provides the greatest measure of UV protection when outdoors; wear a hat; and plenty of sunscreen.

Source: Prevent Blindness America
ABC News
Skin Cancer Foundation


Every year during this holiday period, law enforcement agencies join forces day and night, coast-to-coast, to deliver the most successful seatbelt enforcement campaign ever.  The “Click It or Ticket” National Enforcement Mobilization dates are May 18 – 31, and August 21 – September 7, 2009.  Started by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, most states are onboard in stressing the importance of wearing seatbelts and using proper child seat restraints.  Many persons who died in traffic crashes were not wearing seatbelts.  In the United States, motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for 15-20 year olds.

With the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, law enforcement agencies are launching campaigns to let drivers know, especially teenage drivers, that there will be tickets written for all persons under 18 who are not wearing seatbelts, whether they are in the front or back seat, and that children less than five years old and under 36” tall must be safely secured in a child seat.

Similarly, Texas law states that if any passenger under age 17 is not wearing a seat belt- front or back seat- the driver will be ticketed.  Since 1999, the Texas Department of Public Safety has had a Zero tolerance policy regarding seatbelts and child safety seats.  Violations can result in fines up to $200, plus additional court costs.

A September, 2008, report published by the NHTSA, showed that seatbelt use was 84% in passenger cars, 86% in vans and suv’s, and 74% by truck occupants, which indicates that seatbelt use is improving every year.  This followed daylight observations in 1800 sites nationwide.  States with primary seatbelt laws averaged 13% higher at 88% use of seat belts, than states with secondary seatbelt laws, which had 75% use of seatbelts.  Primary seatbelt law states allow citations for seatbelt violations alone.  Secondary law states are allowed to issue seatbelt tickets if the vehicle is stopped for another violation.

So, whether in your state it’s “Buckle Up, America, “Buckle Up, your state”), “Click It or Ticket”, it’s a good idea to follow the law and do all you can to keep yourself and your passengers safe.  Your holiday will end on a better note if you don’t have to go to court to pay a fine when you get home.  After you buckle up, drive carefully, watch for the other drivers, and have a safe holiday!

H1N1 UPDATE – MAY 18, 2009

The World Health Organization Health Assembly began today and will go through Friday, five days less than normally held because health ministers are monitoring H1N1 outbreaks in their own countries. 

As of Sunday, 8,480 persons have been ill from the virus in approximately forty countries.  Seventy-five deaths have resulted so far, most in Mexico.  Chile announced its first case Sunday.  Japan’s Health Minister confirmed more than 120 definite cases today. 

There have been 6 deaths in the United States: 3 in Texas, 1 each in Washington and Arizona. In New York City, a beloved Assistant Principal died last night.  He had had symptoms of the virus for a week before his school was closed last Thursday.  He was hospitalized and placed on a ventilator.  It is suspected that the virus, as well as complications all played a part in his death.

The World Health Organization’s main focus will be combating the outbreak of the virus as well as holding discussions on developing a vaccine.  In Southern Hemisphere countries, the annual flu season will soon begin.  If a new vaccine is to be developed for the H1N1 strain, production for seasonal flu would be switched to production for the H1N1 virus vaccine.

In the U.S., we are not hearing of as many cases, and school closings have slowed down.

However, we must remain alert to the symptoms of many types of flu:

  • High fever
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

If symptoms persist, see your doctor, stay away from others, and wash your hands frequently with soap and water, or alcohol sanitizers.

Source: AP

H1N1 UPDATE – FRIDAY, MAY 15, 2009

Although the majority of confirmed cases of H1N1 have been relatively mild, persons need to still be careful if they come down with symptoms of flu, like high fever, coughing, sneezing, etc.  It was announced by Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Thursday evening that three schools in Queens have been closed for a week, following the information that hundreds of students at Susan B. Anthony middle schools and one elementary school had been sent home sick this week.  Four students and an assistant principal have been diagnosed with confirmed cases of H1N1 virus.  Fifty-five year old assistant principal Mitch Wiener is in critical condition and on a breathing tube.  He is experiencing dehydration, kidney failure and a lung infection.  His case is the most serious illness in New York City since the beginning of H1N1 cases began in April.  The only underlying illness he has experienced before is gout, according to his sons.

The Susan B. Anthony schools are approximately two miles from St. Francis Preparatory School, where an estimated 1,000 students, their relatives and staff became ill following a trip to Mexico, taken by several of the students.  Most of the cases were mild and very similar to seasonal flu.

In a related story, the World Health Organization warned today against a false sense of security from the apparent mild and waning outbreaks, as the worst may not be over.  The WHO bases its alert scale on the way the virus is spreading in a sustained way throughout countries, not the severity of its effects.

Thus far, approximately 7,520 cases of H1N1 virus have been confirmed in 34 countries.  It contains a strain of genetic mixtures of bird, swine and human viruses.  Several countries are sharing samples of the cases in their areas with scientists in order for a vaccine to be developed that will be successful in preventing this virus, that spreads through coughs, sneezes, and air droplets, the same as seasonal flu.  Most persons suffer only mild symptoms and the many are able to recover without drug treatment.  Tamiful and Relenza have been effective against the strain.

We continue giving the same advice as major health organizations: wash your hands, cover your face when you cough or sneeze, and stay at home if you become ill.

Remain aware of the symptoms and don’t ignore them, just in case it could be something more serious.


It’s almost time for one of the biggest car racing events in the U.S., the Indianapolis 500!  The largest single-day sporting event in the world, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a permanent seating capacity of 257,000 and additional infield seating, which raises the capacity to approximately 400,000.  Thousands more race fans look forward to watching it on television during the Memorial Day holidays.  This year’s race will be held Sunday, May 24th.

The Indianapolis 500 was first run May 30, 1911, which drew an astonishing 80,200 spectators, who paid $1 each to see this open-wheel race.  The winner of the race was Ray Harroun, who drove a Marmon “Wasp”, which was equipped with his invention – a rear-view mirror!  He was the only driver in the race to drive without a riding mechanic.  It was the responsibility of the mechanic to let the driver know when traffic was coming and keep a check on the oil pressure of the car.  The “Wasp” sits on display with approximately 75 other interesting and historic race vehicles at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, on the grounds of the speedway.

There is a fascinating history behind the race.  Here are two of the many traditions of the Indy 500:

  • Gasoline Alley.  The garage area is still known as Gasoline Alley, even though gasoline hasn’t been used since a 1964 terrible crash that killed drivers Dave MacDonald and Eddie Sachs.  In 1965, they were fueled with safer, less volatile methanol.
  • Milk.  This tradition began in 1933, when winner Louie Meyer hurried to his garage and grabbed a bottle of buttermilk from an icebox.  A photographer just happened by and snapped a picture of Louie enjoying the milk.  Indiana dairy people thought this would be a great publicity idea and sold the idea to the speedway, who has let them provide a bottle for the winner every year since then.

Speedway historian Donald Davidson believes that the pace car was introduced in the 1911 race.  According to Mr. Davidson: “they thought there were too many cars for a standing start, that it would be safer to lead them with a passenger car and release them with a flag.  We think that’s the first mass rolling start for a race anywhere.”

This year’s pace car (safety car) will be a Chevrolet Camaro, to be driven by Josh Duhamel.  The pace car or safety car limits the speed of cars during a caution period, which is caused by debris, collisions, or weather.  At the end of the caution period, the pace car exits at the proper place on the track and the cars may resume racing.

If you are among the lucky ones to see this great event, be sure to take some noise protection earplugs and sunscreen!  Probably one of the most exciting parts of the day will be the traditional “Lady/Ladies and Gentlemen, Start Your Engines!”


The National Safety Council is working to encourage businesses to adopt policies regarding their employees’ use of cell phones while driving.  They are also asking legislators in all fifty states to ban the use of cell phones and messaging devices while driving.

Accidents happen almost every day involving cars, but other means of transportation are just as dangerous, when in the hands of someone who is more concerned with a phone conversation or text message than doing their job.

Friday, May 8th, fifty people were hurt in a trolley collision!  The conductor admitted he was “texting” at the time of the collision.  Although the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority bans operators from using cell phones, it seems this person who was responsible for the safety of others was using his cell phone anyway.

Last September, twenty-five persons were killed and more than 135 injured when a train collided head-on with another train.  The engineer was using his cell phone to send and receive text messages on both morning and evening shifts that he was working.  Reports from the National Transportation Safety Board indicated that during a two-hour period, he sent 24 messages and received 21; later that day, he received 7 more and sent 5- the last one less than 25 seconds before the crash.  The Federal Railroad Administration is developing a coast-to-coast monitoring system that will furnish a positive train control system to save lives by having the capability to intervene in the case of human error.  This system will take approximately five years before being ready.

Is there any cell phone conversation or text message that can’t wait until you get out from behind the wheel?  It seems such a simple thing: to call someone rather than wait until you are home, but think about the cost to yourself, or maybe others if you become distracted.  If you are a passenger in a car, bus, plane, or train, do you want your life to be in the hands of a person whose attention is diverted by some phone conversation?

The next time you get behind the wheel, we hope you will give this message some thought.  Pay attention to the road and other drivers.  That message can wait.