Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rodent Revenge

Hantavirus pulmonary syndrome, or HPS, is a severe disease people get from contact with rodents. It causes difficulty breathing and can result in death. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC notes that controlling the rodent population around your home is one of the best ways to help make sure you don’t get the disease. It is very important to seal up cracks and put down traps to prevent future rodent infestations. Houses should be checked twice a year for potential holes where rodents could enter, and all holes should be sealed up. When cleaning areas where rodents have been, be sure to use disinfectants, masks and gloves to protect yourself.

Also from the CDC - Can You get Hantavirus from animals other than rodents, or from Insects? What about pets? No-the Hantaviruses that cause HPS in the United States are not known to be transmitted by any types of animals other than certain species of rodents. You cannot get Hantavirus from farm animals, such as cows, chickens, or sheep, or from insects, such as mosquitoes. Dogs and cats are not known to carry Hantavirus; however, they may bring infected rodents into contact with people if they catch such animals and carry them home. Guinea pigs, hamsters, gerbils, and rodents from pet stores are not known to carry Hantavirus.

The Symptoms of HPS:
Early symptoms include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, especially in the large muscle groups-thighs, hips, back, and sometimes shoulders. These symptoms are universal.

There may also be headaches, dizziness, chills, and abdominal problems, such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. About half of all HPS patients experience these symptoms.

Late symptoms are seen 4 to 10 days after the initial phase of illness. These include coughing and shortness of breath, with the sensation of, as one survivor put it, a "...tight band around my chest and a pillow over my face" as the lungs fill with fluid.

Some of the uncommon symptoms include earache, sore throat, runny nose, and rash are very uncommon symptoms of HPS.

Due to the small number of HPS cases, the "incubation time" is not positively known. However, on the basis of limited information, it appears that symptoms may develop between 1 and 5 weeks after exposure to urine, droppings, or saliva of infected rodents.

Hantavirus is rare – less than 100 cases in the US per year – it can be fatal if not caught early and treated. Be sure to keep your home and any out buildings secure from all kinds of critters including rodents, snakes and insects. When you allow your home to become their home, you are at risk for not only Hantavirus, but snake or insect bites.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Women's Heart Disease Awareness Still Lacking

Despite public awareness campaigns such as Red Dress Day, almost half of all American women still don't know that heart disease is the leading cause of death in women. Research also shows that only slightly more than half of women would call for emergency help if they were having heart attack symptoms.
What are the risk factors? Risk factors are conditions or habits that make a person more likely to develop a disease. They can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse. Important risk factors for heart disease are:
• High blood pressure
• High blood cholesterol
• Diabetes
• Smoking
• Being overweight
• Being physically inactive
• Having a family history of early heart disease
• Age (55 or older for women)
What are the warning signs of a Heart Attack?
• Chest Discomfort: Most heart attacks involve discomfort in the center of the chest that lasts for more than a few minutes, or that goes away and comes back. The discomfort can feel like uncomfortable pressure, squeezing, fullness, or pain.
• Discomfort in Other Areas of the Upper Body: Can include pain or discomfort in one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach.
• Shortness of Breath: Often comes along with chest discomfort. But it also can occur before the chest discomfort.
• Other Signs: May include breaking out in a cold sweat, nausea, or light-headedness.
Fast Action Saves Lives! If you or someone you are with begins to have chest discomfort, especially with one or more of the other symptoms of a heart attack, call 9-1-1 right away. Don’t wait for more than a few minutes—5 minutes at most—to call 9-1-1. If you are having symptoms and cannot call 9-1-1, have someone else drive you to the hospital right away. Never drive yourself, unless you have absolutely no other choice. For more information, go to
10 tips for a heart-friendly kitchen:
1. Shop the perimeter of your local grocery store. This is where you will typically find fresh produce, dairy, seafood and meat.
2. Say goodbye to processed foods such as frozen meals and canned goods. These items are often very high in sodium and simple carbohydrates.
3. Use fresh herbs to add flavor to your cooking rather than salt.
4. Replace butter with olive and vegetable oil, which are both healthier and tastier. Instead of serving butter with bread, try olive oil topped with fresh thyme or basil.
5. Quit frying your foods. Baking, broiling and grilling are much healthier options. You can also try slow cooking to get the best flavors out of vegetables, chicken and fish.
6. Welcome fish and chicken into your diet. While both are low in fat, fish contains omega fatty acids, which are important in lipid management.
7. Limit red meat and pork. They are higher in fat and speed up the atherosclerosis process, or hardening of the arteries, which leads to heart disease.
8. Enjoy fresh fruit for dessert rather than high-calorie options like cake or ice cream.
9. If you drink alcohol, limit yourself to one drink per day (12 oz. beer, 4 oz. glass of wine or 1.5 oz. of 80-proof spirits). Red wine contains heart-healthy flavonoids and antioxidants, but that does not make it safe to drink in excess. Excessive drinking can lead to alcoholism, high blood pressure, obesity and stroke.
10. Watch your serving size. The key is keeping portion sizes small. Try using smaller plates. In fact, dinner plates used to be much smaller than what we are used to today.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Dangerous Creatures of the Morongo Basin

Martha Hunt, MA Health Promotions

I know it is only February but the warm winter we have been having has allowed dome of the dangerous critters of Morongo Basin to creep out of their winter slumber now and then looking for food. It is a good idea to prepare now to ‘critter proof’ your home, rather than wait until the creatures have entered your home or bitten you. So as spring is quickly approaching, the desert and its creatures will be re-awakening to begin the cycle of life again.

If you have been in 29 Palms for a while, some of these may not be so scary anymore. If you are new to 29 Palms, you think that everything that crawls, slithers, creeps or flies is going to either kill you or leave you maimed for life. Here is a brief overview of some of these critters, which in the end are not so scary after all when you learn how to avoid them.

The best form of critter prevention is to stay away from them, to eliminate all inviting, homey spots around your home such as piles of lumber and debris, and to seal all cracks and crevices that they can use to crawl into your home. A little spackle and paint does wonders as far as sealing tiny cracks and holes where the critters can enter your home.

Most critters, either poisonous or semi-poisonous, prefer nice dark, quiet, undisturbed places such as out buildings, wood or debris piles, closets, attics, etc. and they usually only wander out of these spaces when they are hungry. In fact, most critter/ human contact is purely accidental on both parts, resulting in the critter biting out of fear.

The two scariest spiders in this area are the Black Widow and Brown Recluse spiders. While it’s correct that there are no true Brown Recluses here in Morongo Basin, their first cousins live here, and at first glance can be mistaken for a true Brown Recluse. This cousin of the BR also causes necrotising bites and so should also be viewed as potentially dangerous. A necrotizing bite is a bite that doesn’t heal and continues to fester and spread from the original bite spot. BR bites can take up to 2months to heal and need to be kept clean like any open wound.

Spider & scorpion bites are rarely fatal, and when handled properly, can be easily treated as well. Black Widow bites and scorpion stings feel like a pin-prick and progresses in pain and swelling until the whole area is red, warm, and swollen. The pain may spread to other parts of the body and symptoms may also include nausea, sweating, convulsions and, in rare cases, death.

The only people seriously at risk from Black Widow bites and scorpion stings are the very young or old and those individuals with compromised immune systems. If you are bitten or stung, call your health care provider or poison control number immediately and seek help.

A bite from a Brown Recluse may go unnoticed for several hours before turning red, swelling and beginning to blister. On rare occasions, a severe bite from a BR can cause the skin to not just blister up, but to die back and leave an open sore. Heeling may take a month or longer and may leave a scar where the sore was. As with the Black Widow bites, BR bites should be promptly treated to prevent further health risks.

Regarding snakes, don’t tease snakes! They bite to defend themselves and the snake usually ends up paying for your teasing with its life. It has been estimated that as many as half of all snakebites are provoked by humans purposely scaring the snakes. Of those bites that are not provoked by people, most are below the knee and half are dry (meaning that no venom was injected).

A good rule to follow in Morongo Basin is – ‘if it rattles, it’s poisonous’. Snakes who do not have rattles in Morongo Basin are either non-poisonous or semi-poisonous (they’ll just make you ill if bitten, not kill you).

If any snake bites you or someone you are with, seek medical help immediately! Keep the victim calm, do not ice the wound and do not try to suck the venom from it. Snakebites are rarely fatal, but ALL snake bite victims need medical assistance! If you or someone around you is bitten, call 911 immediately!

Remember that the best way to avoid the dangerous creatures of Morongo Basin is to steer clear of them. Clean up the debris in your yard and get rid of those comfy hiding places that they live in. Seal all openings to your home and watch where you walk in your yard or when hiking. These creatures will try their best to avoid you and they are hoping you do the same as well.