Is Yellow Fever Knocking At Our Door?

25 04 2017

The following article was passed along to me by David Olinger, the County’s Public Health Preparedness Coordinator.  It is an article that is written by Michaeleen Doucleff and published by Houston Public Media News 88.7

It is a good reminder that, even as we prepare for hazards that we know too well (like river flooding and hurricanes), everybody needs to be equally prepared for hazards that come from the public health realm.  Back in 2009, it was H1N1.  Then it was Ebola a couple of years later.  And then last year it was the Zika virus that still is hanging around causing problems.  As the author says—- is Yellow Fever the next infectious disease we will have to worry about in the Houston area?

 

 

 

Scientists love patterns.

It’s what makes science possible — and powerful — especially when it comes to infectious diseases.

Over the past 30 years, scientists have noticed a distinctive pattern of mosquito-borne diseases in the Western Hemisphere: Three viruses have cropped up, caused small outbreaks and then one day — poof! — they hit a city and spread like gangbusters.

All three viruses are carried by the same mosquito, called Aedes aegypti. All three have caused millions of cases in Latin America and the Caribbean. And all three have gotten a foothold in the U.S., causing small outbreaks.

Now there’s a fourth one lurking in the Brazilian rain forest, says Dr. Anthony Fauci of the National Institutes of Health. It’s familiar. And it’s deadly: yellow fever.

In a recent commentary for the New England Journal of Medicine, Fauci and his colleague Dr. Catherine Paules explain the pattern seen across Latin America and how the historical information could help us intercept the next epidemic.

The waves of epidemics from the three other viruses started in the 1990s.

First dengue — a nasty virus that can cause hemorrhaging — re-emerged in parts of Latin America after it had been eliminated in 18 countries.

Next up came chikungunya. The virus first appeared in the Caribbean in 2013. It hopped around the islands for a few months and then finally hit the mainland of Central and South Americas, where it caused debilitating joint pain in thousands of people.

Then last year, Zika emerged as the first mosquito-borne virus that can cause birth defects. Still today, the U.S. is seeing about 30 to 40 Zika cases in pregnant women each week.

“Now all of a sudden you start to see this very interesting clustering of yellow fever cases in Brazil,” says Fauci.

The outbreak started in December and has swelled to about 600 confirmed cases and more than a thousand suspected cases, the Brazil Ministry of Health reports. Symptoms can include fever, nausea and muscle aches. In about 15 percent of cases, the disease progresses into a toxic phase, which can include jaundice, bleeding and organ failure. There have been about 200 deaths in Brazil.

“That’s a potential threat,” Fauci says.

So far, the disease is still isolated to a rural area, Fauci says. And it’s spreading only among mosquitoes that live in the forest and not in mosquitoes that thrive in cities, called Aedes aegypti.

But that scenario could change quickly, Fauci says, if Aedes aegypti picks up the virus from infected people.

“If Aedes aegypti mosquitoes start spreading yellow fever in Brazil, there’s a possibility that you might have an outbreak in very populous areas in Brazil, such as Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo,” Fauci says.

“Whether that’s going to happen, I don’t know. But if it does, we’re going to get a lot of travel-related cases in the U.S.,” he says, “which means physicians here have to be aware of it.”

And that’s why Fauci penned the commentary: To alert public health officials and doctors so they won’t miss cases.

“This is a wake-up call,” Fauci says. “Be careful. If someone comes in with an illness that’s compatible with the yellow fever, you might want to ask them, ‘Have you traveled to this part of Brazil?’ “

But there’s another reason to keep an eye on yellow fever in the Americas. Unlike Zika, chikungunya, and dengue, the world actually has an effective way to prepare for an outbreak. We have a vaccine that is 99 percent effective.

“That’s really an amazing asset,” says biologist Erin Mordecai, who studies infectious diseases at Stanford University.

“So this is a great example of a time that we could be proactive,” she says. “We have a good vaccine, and we need to make sure that there’s enough available in the case of a large outbreak.”

And right now, that’s a bit of a problem, Fauci says. The world’s supply of the yellow fever vaccine is low. There aren’t enough doses to protect Brazil’s population of 200 million, not to mention the rest of Latin America.

“We don’t have enough vaccine. Period,” he says. “We’re going to have to make more vaccine. And that will take time.”

In the meantime, predictions that Brazil’s outbreak would burn out quickly have turned out to be wrong. The outbreak continues to grow while health officials make deep cuts into the vaccine stockpile.





Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday Scheduled for April 22-24, 2017

18 04 2017

Important information from Glenn Hegar, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts:

You can purchase certain emergency preparation supplies tax-free during the 2017 Emergency Preparation Supplies Sales Tax Holiday. There is no limit on the number of qualifying items you can purchase, and you do not need to issue an exemption certificate to claim the exemption.

This year’s holiday begins at 12:01 a.m. on Saturday, April 22, and ends at midnight on Monday, April 24.

These emergency preparation supplies qualify for tax exemption if purchased for a sales price:

Less than $3000
Portable generators

Less than $300
Emergency ladders
Hurricane shutters

Less than $75
Axes
Batteries, single or multipack (AAA cell, AA cell, C cell, D cell, 6 volt or 9 volt)
Can openers – nonelectric
Carbon monoxide detectors
Coolers and ice chests for food storage – nonelectric
Fire extinguishers
First aid kits
Fuel containers
Ground anchor systems and tie-down kits
Hatchets
Ice products – reusable and artificial
Light sources – portable self-powered (including battery operated)
Examples of items include: candles, flashlights and lanterns
Mobile telephone batteries and mobile telephone chargers
Radios – portable self-powered (including battery operated) – includes two-way and weather band radios
Smoke detectors
Tarps and other plastic sheeting

These supplies do not qualify for tax exemption:

Batteries for automobiles, boats and other motorized vehicles
Camping supplies
Chainsaws
Plywood
Extension ladders
Stepladders
Tents
Repair or replacement parts for emergency preparation supplies
Services performed on, or related to, emergency preparation supplies

Additional Charges Affect Purchase Price

Delivery, shipping, handling and transportation charges are part of the sales price. If the emergency preparation supply being purchased is taxable, the delivery charge is also taxable. Consider these charges when determining whether an emergency preparation supply can be purchased tax free during the holiday.

For example, you purchase a rescue ladder for $299 with a $10 delivery charge, for a total sales price of $309. Because the total sales price of the ladder is more than $300, tax is due on the $309 sales price.

For more information, contact the State Comptroller’s Office at Tax Help, or call 1-800-252-5555.





This Day in Texas Disaster History – April 16th

16 04 2017

April 16, 1947 – Ammonium Nitrate Explosion, Texas City, TX

The Texas City disaster was an industrial accident that occurred April 16, 1947, in the Port of Texas City. It generally considered the worst industrial accident in U.S. history, and one of the largest non-nuclear explosions. Originating with a mid-morning fire on board the French-registered vessel SS Grandcamp (docked in the port), its cargo of approximately 2,300 tons (approximately 2,100 metric tons) of ammonium nitrate detonated, with the initial blast and subsequent chain-reaction of further fires and explosions in other ships and nearby oil-storage facilities killing at least 581 people, including all but one member of the Texas City fire department; 27 of the 28 members of Texas City’s volunteer fire department and 3 members of the Texas City Heights Volunteer Fire Department who were on the docks near the burning ship were killed.

One firefighter, Fred Dowdy, who had not responded to the initial call, coordinated other firefighters arriving from communities up to 60 miles (100 km) away. Eventually 200 firefighters arrived, from as far away as Los Angeles. Fires resulting from the cataclysmic events were still burning a week after the disaster, and the process of body recovery took nearly a month. All four fire engines of Texas City were twisted and burned hulks.  It is said that one positive result of the Texas City disaster was widespread disaster response planning to help organize plant, local, and regional responses to emergencies.

Hundreds of lawsuits were filed as a result of the disaster.  The disaster triggered the first ever class action lawsuit against the United States government, under the then-recently enacted Federal Tort Claims Act (FTCA), on behalf of 8,485 victims.