Tag Archives: Influenza


We are smack-dab in the middle of flu season, and unless sick people stay at home until they feel much better, we are all potential candidates to catch this “bug.”  There are several types of influenza;  the seasonal flu activity usually peaks in January or February.  However, it can sneak up on you as early as October, until the month of May.  There are many precautions we can take to avoid being ill from this virus.  The best preventative measure is to get the flu vaccine.  

Vaccines vary according to the strain of flu that is prevalent every season.  However, the Centers for Disease Control provide the vaccine that is deemed proper for the expected type of flu that is anticipated to be widespread.  Everyone six months of age to the elderly should get this vaccine.  Those age 65 and older and children younger than age 2 are more likely to have complications from the flu. 

Flu viruses are a contagious respiratory illness.  It can cause mild to severe illness, and sometimes, the flu can lead to death.  At last report, in our state of Texas, twelve persons have died from complications of the flu.  One of those persons  lived in my small hometown, and was only 47 years old.  She had the swine flu.  Complications from the flu may be pneumonia and dehydration.  

When you are around someone who is sneezing, coughing, or talking to you, experts say that you are exposed to the flu because their germs land in your mouth or nose.  Yuk!  If you touch a surface or object that has the flu virus on it, and then touch your mouth, eyes, or nose, you hve found another way to contact the virus.  That’s why it is important to keep your hands clean.  Keep some hand sanitizer in your pocket or purse, and another container in your car.  Remember, when leaving a public restroom or any other public place, elevator, escalator, or using shared equipment in your place of work, watch what you touch,  and wash or clean your hands often.  (And stay away from anyone who is sick as much as possible.) 

Flu and the common cold have similar symptoms.  We want to help you understand the differences.  First, flu symptoms: 

  • Fever, body aches, cough, and fatigue.
  • A 100°F or higher fever, or feeling feverish (some persons with the flu do not run fever).
  • Runny or stuffy nose
  • Headaches and body aches
  • Cough or sore throat
  • Almost never causes upset stomach, except:
  • Nausea, vomiting and/or diarrhea (most common in children)
  • Chills. 

Cold symptoms: 

  • Colds rarely cause fever or headaches.
  • Runny nose.
  • Stuffy nose.
  • Sneezing, coughing. 

The flu can be much worse than the common cold.  Seek medical attention immediately if you have any of the following: 

  • Sudden dizziness;
  • Confusion;
  • Pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen;
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath;
  • Seizures;
  • Purple or blue discoloration of the lips. 

If you think you have the flu, go to your doctor, who can test to see if your illness is the flu.  Please stay at home until you are completely over it.  Some of the flu-like symptoms can improve, but later come back with fever and a worse cough.  Avoid contact with your co-workers until you are well.  Your family members can use antibacterial spray and wipes to help avoid catching the flu, and if they have been vaccinated, this will be most  helpful.  Face masks can help both the patient and caregiver avoid those germs floating around in the air.  Face masks and latex gloves  are also very useful for persons with underlying health problems to use when traveling.

One additional clarification:  Stomach “flu” is really gastroenteritis, not the flu. 

Source:  Flu.gov                  NIH National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


Although we at Texas America Safety Company and Blog4Safety focus on work-related safety most of the time, we feel it is our responsibility to warn y0u when health issues come up.  As most of you know, flu season is just around the corner, and for workers, it is a devestating issue when it spreads among workers.  Here are some facts from the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

Influenza (Flu) Facts

  • Influenza (the flu) can be a serious disease that can lead to hospitalization and sometimes even death. Anyone can get sick from the flu.
  • People with flu can spread it to others. Influenza viruses are spread mainly by droplets made when people with flu cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can land in the mouths or noses of people who are up to about 6 feet away or possibly be inhaled into the lungs. Less often, a person might get flu by touching a surface or object that has flu virus on it and then touching their own mouth or nose.
  • Some people, such as older adults, pregnant women, and very young children as well as people with certain long-term medical conditions are at high risk of serious complications from the flu. These medical conditions include chronic lung diseases, such as asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, heart disease, neurologic conditions and pregnancy.
  • Since health care workers may care for or live with people at high risk for influenza-related complications, it is especially important for them to get vaccinated annually.
  • Most healthy adults may be able to infect others beginning 1 day before symptoms develop and up to 5 to 7 days after becoming sick. Children may pass the virus for longer. Symptoms start 1 to 4 days after the virus enters the body. That means that 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 persons can be infected with the flu virus but have no symptoms. During this time, those persons may still spread the virus to others.
  • Annual vaccination is important because influenza is unpredictable, flu viruses are constantly changing and immunity from vaccination declines over time.
  • CDC recommends an annual flu vaccine as the first and best way to protect against influenza. This recommendation is the same even during years when the vaccine composition (the viruses the vaccine protects against) remains unchanged from the previous season.

Flu Vaccine Facts

  • The seasonal flu vaccine protects against the influenza viruses that research indicates will be most common during the upcoming season. Traditional flu vaccines (called trivalent 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.
  • Flu vaccines CANNOT cause the flu. Flu vaccines that are administered with a needle are currently made in two ways: the vaccine is made either with a) flu vaccine viruses that have been ‘inactivated’ and are therefore not infectious, or b) with no flu viruses at all (which is the case for recombinant influenza vaccine). The nasal spray flu vaccine does contain live viruses. However, the viruses are attenuated (weakened), and therefore cannot cause flu illness. The weakened viruses are cold-adapted, which means they are designed to only cause infection at the cooler temperatures found within the nose. The viruses cannot infect the lungs or other areas where warmer temperatures exist.
  • Flu vaccines are safe. Serious problems from the flu vaccine are very rare. The most common side effect that a person is likely to experience is either soreness where the injection was given, or runny nose in the case of nasal spray. These side effects are generally mild and usually go away after a day or two. Visit Influenza Vaccine Safety for more information.

Cover your mouth with tissue if possible when sneezing or coughing.  The most important advice is to sneeze into your elbow if you must sneeze, and don’t have a tissue.  If you work in healthcare, wear a face mask and gloves when around patients with the flu or other contagious illness.  Keep hand sanitizer handy to kill germs when you aren’t near a lavatory.  It’s hard to know if you are coming down with the flu, as sometimes you feel well before you are aware that you may be contagious.  The main thing for those who work, is to please stay home when you are ill.

Most everyone is going to come in contact with germs either through shared office equipment, telephones, elevators, traveling by bus, plane, or cab.  Our children and teachers also are exposed through school germs.

We hope this year will be a “light” season for the flu!  Getting vaccinated will help.

Source: CDC



In the U.S., influenza is widespread over eighty percent of the country.  There are three particular strains that are circulating – the  H3N2, is the dominant one this year, and can cause a more serious illness.  Because vaccines were given for both A and B strains of influenza, the third strain doesn’t respond to those shots.  

Some persons became infected before receiving the vaccination, or shortly after the vaccination.  The flu shot takes time to become effective.  Doctors state that even if you get a strain not included in the flu shot, the vaccination should reduce the severity of the illness.  The flu is spreading earlier and faster this year. 

Anyone who is at least 6 months old should get a flu vaccine this season.  Those to whom it is especially important to receive the vaccine are:

  1. People with certain medical conditions, including asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease.
  2. Pregnant women.
  3. Persons 65 years and older.
  4. People who live with or care for others who are at risk of developing serious       complications such as asthma, diabetes, and chronic lung disease. 

Flu is a contagious respiratory illness caused by viruses infecting the nose, throat and lungs.  Some cases are mild to severe; however, the flu can be lethal.  Symptoms include fever, cough, sore throat, tiredness, chills, head and body aches, runny nose, and occasionally diarrhea and vomiting.  Some people with these symptoms, however, may not have the flu.  Many are being treated for bronchitis or severe allergies. 

The flu is spread through contact with bodily discharges.  When someone infected sneezes or coughs around them, chances are they will also become infected.  Things that we touch, such as elevator buttons, phones, keyboards, salt shakers, and other items in public places make us all susceptible to it. 

If you are ill, cover your mouth and nose when you cough or sneeze.  Wash your hands very often, and keep hand sanitizer handy.  Use disinfectant sprays in the home to kill germs.

Last, but not least, stay home if you are sick.  Do not be in a rush to return to school or work until you have been fever-free for at least 24 hours.  During seasons that bring contagious diseases, it’s not a bad idea to stay home and away from crowds as much as possible.  Some folks may be coming down with something, yet are unaware of it until they actually get sick. 

Stay well, my friends!



We will go ahead and be straightforward and recommend that you get your flu shot if you haven’t already, even though the flu season has not been as bad so far!  Although it is the normal time of year for flu, confirmed cases doubled just this month, even though in most states the influenza activity remains regional rather than widespread.  California and Colorado are the only states that report widespread flu activity so far.  Experts are unable to explain why the season has been fairly mild, but it is beginning to circulate, and situations can change at any time.  The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently announced that this year’s season had the latest official start since 1987-88. 

Shots are still available at public health centers.  The vaccination usually takes about two weeks to become effective.  Some factors that may figure in on why the flu has been kept under control are milder weather, and the fact that more persons took got their immunizations last year.  Ones who are more susceptible to catch influenza are children under 6 months, older patients, and those who have underlying chronic illnesses.  Physicians also state that flu is unpredictable, and there’s many things about the flu that are puzzling to them, as well. 

Many persons confuse symptoms such as vomiting, diarrhea, and other stomach or intestinal problems to be influenza.  Seasonal flu normally is a respiratory disease, and not one of the stomach or intestines.  Most persons are contagious from one day before symptoms develop and five to seven days after symptoms disappear.  Young children and those who have weakened immune systems may be contagious longer.  The illness lasts usually one to two weeks.  Please stay at home if you are ill, until you are sure you are no longer contagious.  Germs are spread through coughs, sneezes, and droplets in the air, and also any germs on surfaces that persons may touch.  That is why “washing your hands” is preached so often!  Keep some hand sanitizer in your car or purse, so you can clean your hands every time you return to your car from shopping or running errands.

Hundreds of thousands of people each year are hospitalized with influenza.  Between 3,000 and 40,000 people die during any influenza season, depending on the strain that’s circulating, according to Jeffrey Duchin, M.D.  He is chief of the Communicable Disease Epidemiology and Immunization Section at Seattle & King County Public Health.  Dr. Duchin says “This is a serious health problem for both adults and children, yet  it’s preventable.  There’s a way to avoid unnecessary doctor’s visits, to avoid unnecessary antibiotics, and to avoid hospitalization – through vaccination.”  Complications from influenza include bacterial pneumonia, ear/sinus infections, and dehydration, especially for persons with chronic health problems. 

As we know from the past, influenza strains are worldwide – no country is immune from it.  The H1N1 pandemic of 2009 taught  much about the importance of vaccines and staying out of the public when we are sick.  The H1N1 virus was a very deadly strain, causing  a global disease outbreak.  Let’s hope this time of the year brings the lowest figures ever regarding influenza.  Each person can help prevent it through innoculation, and staying home when ill in order not to expose others to illnesses we may have.










An important observance  during  August – National Immunization Awareness Month,  provides the opportunity to remind the entire community of the importance of immunization.  The most important responsibility school children’s parents have is to be sure that their kids’ vaccinations are current.  College students, adults and the entire community need to pay attention to the value of immunization.  Vaccines have reduced and, in some cases, eliminated many diseases that once routinely killed or harmed tens of thousands of infants, children, and adults.  

Each year, approximately 200,000 American citizens are hospitalized because of influenza.  An average of 36,000 persons die annually due to influenza and its complications.  Most are people 65 years of age and over.  Annually, there are approximately 40,000 cases of invasive pneumococcal disease in the U.S. and one-third of these cases occur in people 65 and older.  About half of the 5,000 annual deaths from invasive pneumococcal disease occur in the elderly.  The entire community can be protected through high immunization rates because this interrupts the transmission of disease-causing bacteria or viruses.  Persons who are immunized are also protecting those people who cannot be immunized for medical reasons. 

Since 1994, the Vaccines for Children (VFC) program has allowed eligible children to receive vaccinations as part of routine care.  The VFC program provides publicly purchased vaccines for use by all participating providers.  They are given to eligible children without cost to the provider or the parent.  The VFC program provides immunizations for children who are uninsured, Medicaid recipients and others that can be given at their doctors’ offices.  VFC also provides immunizations at participating federally qualified health centers and rural health clinics.  The program has contributed to high immunization rates and thus reduced delays in immunizations and, subsequently, the risk of serious illness or death from vaccine-preventable diseases. 

Free immunizations have already begun, in order for parents to have their school children ready to walk into classrooms the very first day of school.  Every year, many parents have failed to do so, only to be angry that their child cannot be registered to attend school until they have had their shots.  When free protection is offered, there’s no reason to delay.  Children who have received their vaccinations have a greater chance for not missing school due to sickness, which in turn, helps their parents avoid missing work. 

Take the time now to get school children up-to-date on their immunizations.  Adults, start thinking about getting your flu shot, as the season will soon be here.   We are fortunate to live in an age where so many devastating illnesses have been eradicated.  The Centers for Disease Control’s National Immunization Program (NIP) strives to prevent disease, disability, and death in children and adults through vaccination.  NIP is committed to promoting immunization at every stage of life, providing leadership on vaccines and immunization, strengthening and communicating immunization science, providing immunization education and information, and improving health in the U.S. and globally.

Source: CDC


The first global pandemic that had occurred in 40 years hit worldwide last year!  A nasty virus called “H1N1 Influenza” spread throughout the globe.  Influenza is a contagious respiratory illness caused by influenza viruses.  It can be mild or severe, and can cause death in older persons, youngsters, and those who have certain underlying health conditions.  The H1N1 virus did not seem to affect older citizens as much as young adults, some of them in good health. 

Signs of influenza are body aches, chills, dry cough, fever, headache, and stuffy nose.  “Stomach flu” is not influenza.  There are certain antiviral medications that your healthcare provider may wish to prescribe for you.  Prevention is the key: annual flu vaccine.  Scientists make up a different vaccine each year because strains of influenza vary from year to year.  Experts are predicting we will see more of the H1N1 bug, as well as other viruses.  The 2010-2011 flu vaccine will protect against the 2009 H1N1 strain and two other influenza viruses.  If you take the shot, and still get the flu, the severity of it should be reduced. 

Symptoms of the common cold, which strikes more than one billion victims per year in the United States, are scratchy throat, runny nose, and sneezing.  Bed rest, fluids, gargling with warm salt water, using lozenges and throat sprays are common treatments for colds.  Colds are usually milder than flu and most often do not result in serious health problems.  Some over-the- counter medications might help.  Antibiotics will not kill viruses or prevent bacterial infections.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children not be given aspirin when they have a viral illness such as a cold.  Contact your pediatrician for best advice. 

When it comes to the common cold or influenza, here are some ways to help you  prevent and/or cope with either one of them: 

  • Avoid touching shared telephones, computers, stairway rails, doorknobs, money, and after doing so, wash hands properly!
  • Use alcohol-based disinfecting products for your hands.
  • Wash hands frequently, and teach your children to do so as well.
  • Try not to get too close to someone who is sneezing, coughing.
  • Stay away from others if you are sneezing or coughing.
  • If you have to sneeze or cough, sneeze or cough into your elbow, not hands.
  • While you are ill, stay home, DO NOT PASS GO, and get plenty of rest and drink lots of fluids.  Don’t take your germs to work or school, get well first!

Other respiratory viruses that curculate during flu season are non-flu viruses that include rhinovirus – one source of the common cold, and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) which is the most common cause of severe respiratory illness in young children and persons age sixty-five and older.

If you haven’t had your flu vaccine yet, think seriously about getting one.  Let’s try to stay ahead of the “bugs” this year!

Sources: Centers for Disease Control

Nat’l Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases


If you are not among the lucky ones that are going to the spectacular country of Canada for the 2010 Winter Olympics, get out the hot chocolate, popcorn, candy and other goodies and get ready for some excitement and beautiful scenery.   British Columbia, Canada, is home to the 2010 Olympic Winter Games from February 12 through 28, and the Paralympic Winter Games from March 12 through 21.  Host venue cities are Vancouver, Whistler, and Richmond.  The official torch is already crossing Canada.

Officials have been preparing for months, and Canadians are excited to welcome athletes and fans from all over the world.  The government is taking serious precautions with safety, health and security concerns for all visitors and athletes, as well as their own citizens.

One of the health issues is the spread of the H1N1 virus.  The World Health Organization is sending a representative to monitor for potential disease outbreaks, but officials feel the threat has passed.  However, British Columbia health officials have been planning for the possible impact it would have on the games since before the pandemic was declared in June.  In their planning, they decided to keep a large supply of antiviral drugs on hand, just in case.

To avoid a major outbreak, the best practices are to continue with these sanitary protocols: washing hands often, covering coughs and sneezes, and when sick, don’t get out in public.  Persons traveling to the games need to be watchful for exposure to sick persons, and not touch surfaces if they can keep from it.  Those with children should be extra cautious in protecting them from the illness.  Keeping hand sanitizer in ones’ bag or purse will serve as a reminder to keep your hands clean.  First and foremost, persons planning to attend need to get both the seasonal flu shot and H1N1 shot.  Hopefully, the athletes will have had theirs.  More than 100 staffers of the U.S. Olympic Committee are getting their H1N1 vaccines before they head to Vancouver.  Athletes are saying there may be more “elbow bumps” than hand shaking this time!

The Canadian organizers of the games have contingency plans for staffing should the virus affect regular staff members.  A security team of 750 officers will be on stand-by in case of illness or emergency.  There is a pool of volunteers that can be ready in short-order time.  Although they can’t make it a requirement, all staff members and volunteers have been asked to take the vaccine.  Many teams are arriving this month, and will have the opportunity to take the vaccine in time for it to be effective, if they haven’t already taken it.  Public health nurses will be at the athletes’ villages, as well as venues, including hotels where officials and sponsors will stay to monitor for illnesses.

We wish the country of Canada much success in keeping athletes, their families, and all the visitors to the Olympics both safe and well.  There are many security issues that they are dealing with, as well as health concerns.  With the very best athletes representing their home countries, this is a time for focusing the eyes of the world toward the good sportsmanship that is displayed by those who have worked so very hard to achieve their goals.  We wish good traveling and health to all those who are fortunate to attend these Winter Olympics, in addition to the excitement of seeing the true beauty of Canada.


If you haven’t had your seasonal flu shot, it’s time!  In the latest reports from the Texas Department of Health Services, there is an increase in flu-like illnesses and lab-confirmed cases in one-half of the state’s regions.  This means that the state’s influenza activity is classified as “widespread”.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) flu activity classifications range from none to sporadic, local, regional, and widespread.

Here is information from the CDC, effective this week:

  • There are 26 states with widespread influenza activity, which is very unusual at this time.
  • Almost all of the viruses so far have been identified as H1N1.
  • Visits to physicians for flu-like illnesses have increased nationally.
  • For the past six consecutive weeks, influenza-like illnesses are higher than expected during this time of year.
  • Hospital rates for influenza illnesses in adults and children are similar to or lower than seasonal flu rates, but are higher than expected for this time of year.
  • There have been 49 pediatric deaths from H1N1 flu reported to CDC since April 2009, including three this week.

Early results from clinical trials, which began in mid-August for children’s H1N1 vaccine have been excellent, especially for the age group 10-17.  Experts feel that only one dose will be required to protect children from this virus.

Two separate vaccinations are required, one for seasonal flu and the other for H1N1.  One will not protect you from the other.  If you haven’t gotten your shot yet, please do so.  The H1N1 vaccine should be ready by early to mid-October; however, there will be special groups that will receive theirs first: children, pregnant women, healthcare workers, and those who are more susceptible to infection.  It won’t be long, though, so get the seasonal flu shot, and as soon as the new vaccine is available, get it.

In the meantime, take the precautions that healthcare professionals have been advising all along: wash your hands often, keep hand sanitizer with you for when you can’t wash your hands, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze or cough, and stay away from crowds if possible.  If you become ill, don’t go to work or school.  It’s going to take individual awareness to overcome these viruses that are lurking.


With all the talk about the H1N1 virus, there are some other bugs out there, and we’re not talking about big cockroaches!  These bugs can be anywhere: at your home, grocery store, the gym, and your place of work.  Because they have developed a resistance to antibiotics, more and more persons are becoming infected with various germs that the antibiotics once knocked out with ease.  Helen W. Boucher, M.D., a specialist in the division of infectious diseases at Tufts Medical Center in Boston, says “drug resistant bacteria have developed mainly because of our overuse and misuse of antibiotics, leading us to a crisis point.” She also said that they are seeing bugs today that resist all antibiotics.

Here are a few supergerms that you may not be aware of, and what to do:

  • Strains of flu: bird flu, swine flu, and seasonal flu.  Get flu vaccines when available, and practice good hygiene, especially washing your hands very often with soap and water.  Stay away from crowds when you don’t feel well.
  • Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA).  There has been much more said about staph infections in the last few years.  Staph can be a deadly infection.  Athletes need to be careful not to share towels or equipment.  In a gym, don’t hesitate to wipe down equipment you plan to use with an antibacterial wipe.  Daycare centers and schools may harbor this bug, so teach kids to wash, wash their hands!  Any public place you visit, especially hospitals, we caution you to be extra vigilant about what you touch.  Most of us carry staph on our skin, without ever developing a problem.  Staph causes skin and soft-tissue abcesses.  Cover the places and seek medical attention to ensure this infection doesn’t get into your system.
  • Clostiridium difficile (C.diff.) This is one that most people don’t know anything about, unless they have worked in a hospital or had a family member that has experienced it.  C.diff. is a very aggressive killer of hospitalized patients.  Persons who have had a single dose of antibiotics for a sinus or urinary tract infection may come down with this bug, which is a toxic bacteria in the intestines.  Bleach is one of the best things to wipe surfaces in order to kill this bug.  Hospitals and nursing homes are facilities where this germ thrives.  Wash your hands often and don’t touch anything the patient has touched.

One way to help keep your body from becoming antibiotic resistant, is to not take them unless you absolutely have to.  Ask your doctor for the shortest course of antibiotics.  Be proactive: if you have to take an antibiotic, take a probiotic at the same time to build up the healthy bacteria in your body. Wash your hands the right way.  And if you or someone you know is hospitalized, don’t be shy about asking the caregiver to wash their hands, as if their hands are not clean before they put on gloves, the gloves will be contaminated, as well.

Now that we’ve warned you about some of the “little monsters” lurking out there, we hope you have a great day, and a “germ-free” one!

H1N1 Vaccines To Be Available By Fall

It was announced Monday by US Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Bill Hall, that there will be approximately 45 million doses of the vaccine available by mid-October, which will be enough to immunize the priority groups that include pregnant women, children under age 4 and public health workers.  This total falls about two-thirds short of earlier estimates of vaccine that would be developed by this time.  It is anticipated, however, that approximately 20 millions doses can be produced weekly.

Vaccine testing of children began August 19th in five universities in the United States.  Dr. Karen Kotloff, lead investigator of H1N1 studies at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, stated that children are tested in the same way that standard licensed flu vaccines are tested in adults.  Medical professionals’ children are many of the ones that have enrolled to be tested.  These 600 young persons are divided into three groups: 6 to 35 months; age 3 to 9 years; and age 10 to 17 years old.  One-half of them receive 15 micrograms of antigens, which are the same as the  three strains of seasonal flu vaccine.  The other one-half receive 30 micrograms of antigens to determine if a higher dose is needed.  Because adults over age 50 have more immunity to H1N1, and children have very little immunity to it, experts believe that the amount of vaccine needed may vary according to age.

As fall approaches, with school openings and various sports activities starting, it is imperative that school officials are prepared to stop the spread of the virus by preparing their students to protect themselves as much as possible.  Parents, as well, can teach their younger students to cover their coughs and sneezes, not drink after anyone else, and wash their hands very often.
Everyone should take the seasonal flu shot as soon as it becomes available. Also, be sure to stock up on N95 masks just in case.

Source: ABC News