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Jamaica Health Tips Blog

General Health

Indoor air pollution; the unexpected killer


 Over the past few months, the cries of many Jamaicans have been the sweltering heat and stifling humidity being experienced in our country.  As a result most persons are forced to stay inside, but could we be running from one health hazard into another? With indoor air pollution being one of the top public health issue on the WHO agenda, It’s critical that Jamaicans know that the air inside may put them at more risk than they believe.

 According to the WHO, 4.3 million people a year die from the exposure to household air pollution. In poorly ventilated dwellings, smoke from cooking, cleaning supplies like bleach and disinfectants, too high or too low humidity, recent remodeling, and burning of garbage around the home can increase level of toxic particles in the air. Recent researches have shown that exposure to these air toxins are high in women and children who spend most of their time in the home.

 As outlined in an article in the Jamaica Gleaner (February 2, 2014), “Consistent exposure to poor indoor air quality often leaves occupants with symptoms such as headaches, fatigue, sinus infections and asthma attacks”. In addition the air producing equipment such as the air conditions and fans will not do much good, as they only circulate the bad air inside. A study done by the MOH has reveals that there has been an increase in the number of individuals suffering from asthma, both young and old, whether they reside "in dust-prone areas or live in upscale residential communities". These symptoms can lead to dire implications and even deaths.

Now here are some simple ways to reduce indoor air pollution;

  •  Increase ventilation by opening windows and doors.
  •  Bring nature inside; NASA research has shown that indoor plants like fern, spider plant and Aloe Vera acts like an air purifier.
  • Use sliced lemons/lime and baking soda to eliminate bad odor in the kitchen rather than air fresheners.
  •  Plan remodeling (painting) during the spring time when you can open up your house to allow fresh air to come in rather than the colder time.
  • Remove garbage frequently from inside the home.

Remember the health of your family is in your hand; help them to be safe today by reducing air pollution in your homes.

 
How is the air quality in your home? 

Cockroach infestation and its public health significance

Cockroaches are one of the most repulsive and resilient pest encountered on a daily basis in a Jamaican home. These insects never seem to give us a break; they infest our furniture, laundry and most importantly our food. They normally become established in the home by an infested grocery bag(s), laundry or from simple wandering from outdoors. Cockroaches are nocturnal in nature and frequent premises where food is handled, as they like to live where they eat. During the day they will hide in cracks, crevices, voids in the wall and warm and moist areas in the home, e.g. sinks, drains, manholes, stoves, the back of the cupboard and in the refrigerator units.

Cockroaches are the type of pest that we should not ignore or take for granted. They are vectors known for numerous deadly diseases e.g. Dysentery, Typhoid, poliomyelitis and many more. These roaches are famous for crawling over faeces and other insanitary areas and then come crawling and feeding on our foods and utensils.

The four most common cockroach species that have been encountered in our island are the;

  • German cockroach (Blatella germanica)
  • American cockroach (Periplaneta Americana)
  • Brown-banded cockroach (Supella longipalpis)
  • Drummer cockroack (Blaberus giganteus)


The German cockroach may be considered to be the most successful and shows a greater resistance to insecticides as they are small and readily hid in cracks and crevices. In addition the female roaches will carry their ootheca for a long time (up to just before hatching). As a result, they may not be killed during the pest control process.
The first step you should take when dealing with a cockroach infestation is to keep your home clean and sanitary. Pest needs three things to survive; water, food and shelter and an insanitary environment provides all three.  The next step is to use a licensed pest control operator to implement the pest program or seek advice before you implement the same. This is very important because there is certain information that needs to be obtained before treatment begins and only a trained person will be competent enough. Adding to that fact, pest control chemicals are very poisonous and should be handled with caution therefore, a layman is not equipped to take on such risky task. A pest control program may include the use of baits hence, it’s crucial that adequate information is obtained from a train pest control worker. This is because the behaviour of the roaches need to be identified in order to know where you should locate your baiting station(s).

Do you currently have cockroach infestation in your home?

Ebola virus in Jamaica; what are public health officials doing?

 With the recent chaos on the media about the deadly Ebola virus, many Jamaicans seemingly are concerned with the lack of information and surveillance being conducted by the public health officials in our island. For this reason the Jamaica Health Tips Online team has seen the need to provide information to our fellow Jamaicans and the world that will help you better understand this disease.

 Ebola as outlined on the CDC website is a rare and deadly disease, it is known to affect humans and non-human primates for example; Monkey, Gorillas and Chimpanzees. There are presently five identified strains of the Ebola virus; Zaire, Sudan, Cote d’lvoire, Bundibugyo and the Reston (in non-human primates but not in humans).

 The first case of Ebola occurs in Southern Sudan in 1976 in a cotton factory. As reported by Dr Don Francis in a presentation at the University of Berkeley, California, he believes that the cotton was contaminated by urine of fruit bats in the area. As of August 8, 2014 it has been reported by several sources that there are over 3000 confirm cases with over 1000 deaths in the West Africa area.

Transmission Mode

  •  Human to human varies from; direct contact through broken skin  for example saliva, urine, vomit, blood and semen of an infected person) or through unprotected mucous membranes such as; eyes nose or mouth. Objects (like needles or syringe) used by infected person.
  • Butchering of animals infected with the Ebola virus.

The primary host is believed to be the fruit bats which infect other animals and by extension humans through butchering and the consumption of animals for food (bush meat).


Persons at high risk

  •  Health care providers e.g. nurses and doctors.
  •  Butchers
  •  Family and friends who are caring for infected persons.
  •   Funeral home workers.


Signs and Symptoms
  Fever, headache, chest pain, diarrhoea, vomiting, dry painful throat, rash, bleeding from the ear,eyes, nose and mouth, malanea (black tarry faeces) and desquamation (skin peeling). The symptoms may appear within 2-21 days after exposure, but on average 8-10 days.  

Prevention and Control 
  Practice careful hygiene, avoid funeral or burial rituals that require handling of infected bodies, avoid contacts with bats, and infected animals and humans, education of the public and proper training of health care providers, isolation of infected persons, constant re-hydration of patient(s) maintenance of oxygen and blood pressure status in patient(s) and an active quarantine and surveillance system.

Treatment
 There is no known vaccine or medicine to treat the Ebola Haemorrhagic Fever. However, several patients have recovered from their illness by just treating any opportunistic illness and maintaining patient(s) electrolytes, oxygen and blood pressure level. 

Do you think Jamaican public health officials are prepared for the Ebola virus?
Source: CDC website and http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WCM3HWsIbDE  The 2014 Ebola Outbreak: Update on an Unprecedented Public Health Event .

Chikungunya (Chik)


Chikungunya is a viral disease that causes fever and severe joint pains. It is spread to human by bite of an infected mosquito. The aedes aegypti mosquitoes spread or pass on this virus. This type of mosquito also spreads the dengue virus.
 
Symptoms
The most common symptoms are fever and severe joint pains, often in the hands, wrist and ankles. Prolong effects includes Arthritis and disabling joints pains. In some cases, joints pains can last for several months and even years. Other symptoms include headache, backache, muscles pain, nausea, fatigue and rash.

Treatment
There are no medicines to specifically treat chikungunya or vaccine; however pain killers can be taken to reduce the symptoms. It is paramount to note that only paracetamol pain killersshould be taken. Other pain killers such as Aspirin, Ibuprofen and other anti-flammmatory drugs are not recommended as they may increase risk of bleeding.

Prevent Mosquito Bites
Mosquitoes which spread Chikunyunga bites during the daytime so;
  •  Wear light coloured clothing and cover your body as much as possible.
  •  Use mosquito repellents containing DEET on exposed skin. 
  •  Use mosquito coils and electric vaporization maths both in the day and night.
  •  Use mosquito nets · 
  •  Screen (mesh) your windows and doors.

Prevent Mosquito Breeding
The aedes mosquito breeds and lives in standing water in and around the home hence do your part to prevent them from breeding.

  •  Cover all open containers such as your drums, tanks, barrels, buckets.
  •  Get rid of all old tyres, tins bottles, plastic containers, coconut shells and anything in which rain water settles.
  •  Cover trash, punch holes in tins before placing them in garbage.
  •  Keep house plants in damp soil and avoid over watering plants.
  •  Empty and wash pets water containers as twice weekly.
  •  Debush over grown vegetation on your premises as frequently as possible.

N:B see your doctor immediately if you think you or a family member might have chikungunya 
Source: MOH brochure
Do you have measures in place to protect yourself and your family from Chikungunya? 

Understanding Dengue Fever

Why are mosquitoes attracted to some people than other?

Dengue fever is an infection caused by a virus called Dengue virus. There are four different type of this virus, Dengue type 1, 2, 3 and 4.  A person can only be infected with each type once in their life. The virus is spread when a female Aedes mosquito bites an infected person and then bites other people.
The female mosquito bites only to obtain blood from its source to provide iron and other nutrients needed for the development and maturation of its eggs. The belief is true; mosquitoes do prefer to snack on some people than others. 

 There are three distinct reasons,
1· Carbon dioxide - producing more carbon dioxide and lactic acid will cause a mosquito to be more attracted to you.  So the reason we always hear a mosquito buzzing at our ear is because as we breathe out the carbon dioxide from our nostril, and they follow that track at the angel of the ear. With that said, a pregnant woman is more attracted to a mosquito since she will emit more CO2.
 
2· Body temperature – producing greater body heat will attract mosquitoes, especially if you have a chemical blood type marker. So persons with type O blood type are 24% more attractive to a mosquito.
 
3· Sweating – sweating excessively means that your body temperature is very high and this will attract a mosquito to you. Children are always victims since they are always busy playing and running about. Additional persons who sweat easily and very physical and active individuals.
 
When infected with a dengue virus you may develop Dengue Fever or Dengue Haemorrhagic Fever (severe form of Dengue which often causes death).  Here are some signs and symptoms,
1.      Sudden onset of high fever and severe headache.
2.      Pain behind the eye, muscle, bone or joint pain.
3.      Skin rash, vomiting or feeling to vomit.
N: B for Dengue Haemorragic Fever, in severe cases patients may go into a shock called Dengue Shock Syndrome. In additional they may experience fainting, difficulty breathing, bleeding from nose, mouth or gum, stomach pain and skin bruising.
To prevent mosquitoes from breeding is to prevent them from having access to water.
·        Keep all water holding or storage container closed
·        Brush your premises regularly, since mosquitoes can breed in water on the grass leaves.
·        Clean all drains and trenches to allow water to flow easily.
·        Pour cooking oil and other oil in areas where water settles.
·        Package, store and dispose of water properly. E.g. punch holes in tins.

In case you feel you have dengue visit your doctor immediately, rest and drink a lot of fluids. Use Paracetamol pain killers only; do not use pain killers such as Aspirin or medications that have Aspirin in them, since they may increase your risk of bleeding.

Do you have measures in place to protect yourself and your family from Dengue Fever? 

Hurricane awareness and preparation

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster. As we continue in the hurricane season it’s of vital importance that we put plans in place for the unexpected. It’s also never too late to know the meaning of words that are commonly used in the hurricane season, as this will ensure that the information you receive is clearly understood.

Hurricane hazards can present themselves in so many forms, so here are some important words and their meaning that is affiliated with the hurricane season. 
  • Hurricane watch: An alert for a specific area that hurricane conditions pose a threat to that area within 36 hours.
  •  Hurricane warning: Hurricane conditions (winds of 74mph or greater or dangerously high water and rough seas) are expected in 24 hours or less. All precautions should be completed immediately.  

There are five categories of hurricane, category1(74-95 mph) being the least likely to cause any damage to building structure however, it may damage primarily unanchored buildings, shrubbery, trees, coastal flooding and minor pier damage. On the contrary a category 5 hurricane (winds above 155 mph) will likely result in complete roof failure on many buildings, massive damage to structure located less than 15 feet ASL (above sea level) and within 500 yards of shorelines. In this situation it’s imperative that evacuation of residential areas on low ground 5-10 miles of shoreline is enforce.

As stated on the American Red Cross website; steps that you can take to be prepared.   
  • Build a disaster supply kit or check the kit you prepared last year. Include a three-day supply of water and ready-to-eat non-perishable foods. Don’t forget a manual can opener, battery-powered radio, flashlight and extra batteries. Your kit should also have a first aid kit, prescription and non-prescription medications, and copies of important documents.

  • Prepare a personal disaster and evacuation plan. Identify two meeting places—one near your home, and one outside your area in case you can’t return home. Make plans for your pets. Select an out-of-area emergency contact person. Be informed. Know what a hurricane WATCH means.

  • If a hurricane WATCH is issued: Listen to weather updates from your battery-powered or hand-cranked radio. Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, hanging plants, bicycles, toys and garden tools. Anchor objects that cannot be brought inside. Close all windows and doors. Cover windows with storm shutters or pre-cut plywood. If time permits, and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture or move it to a higher floor to protect it from flooding. Fill your vehicle’s gas tank. Check your disaster supply kit to make sure items have not expired. 

  • If a hurricane WARNING is issued: Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so. Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve. If you are not advised to evacuate, stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors. Do NOT use open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light. If power is lost, turn off appliances to reduce damage from a power surge when electricity is restored.  
ARE YOU PREPARED FOR A HURRICANE?
Please leave your comments!

Health and Safety in Early Childhood Institutions

It’s that time of the year again when all eyes are focus on our children, May as we know it to be in Jamaica as“Child’s Month”. So as we look forward to that time it’s imperative that we the team at Jamaica Health Tips Online focus your attention on a very critical topic which is generally taken for granted. This is the health and safety of our children in early childhood institutions. Early Childhood Institution according to the Early Childhood Regulation 2005 means; a place that care for four are more children under theage of six years for more than six hours a day.
 
 These institutions include daycare centres, basic schools, infants’ schools pre-schools and kindergartens.Almost all Jamaican infants attend an early childhood institution in the first years of their lives; hence it’s very important that they are safe and healthy during their stay. Hence here are a few things to take note of when leaving your children at these institutions.
The infrastructure must be secure and sturdy, weather tight to protect infants from rain and sun, adequately lit and ventilated and lastly floors and food contact surfaces (counters) should be repair to facilitate easy cleaning and a smooth finish e.g. tiles.
 
They should be supplied with water from a reputable source such as the National Water commission. This is to ensure that the water use for drinking is safe and adequate. 
 
The premises should be equipped with garbage receptacles that meets public health standard to ensure that the waste is stored proper stored for collection by the National solid waste agency or other approved agencies. This will prevent fly breeding and other pests and rodents proliferation which may lead to serious health implications. 
 
The physical layout ofthe premises should be of such that children have adequate play space in andout the building. The should always be on the ground floor, away from latchgates and items that may be harmful to them such as pointed edges, chemicalsetc. The premises should consist of a sick bay, changing, feeding and sleeping area and this is based on the number of infants. 
 
Toilet facility must be provided for both staff and children. One toilet facility for every 20 children and one face basin for every 40 children. These should be the height of a wheelchair so children can comfortably access them.
 
 As parents we should provide the child’s immunization card and other records to prove your child’s well being before he or she is accepted into the institution.
 
 Staff and children should wash hands regularly, especially after using the toilet facility and before eating and preparing food.
 
 Children should not be allowed to share toys that can be place in the mouth. Most importantly these toys should be washed and disinfected on a regular basis.
 
 All cribs sheets,pillow slips, beddings and equipment should be washed and disinfected at least once per week.
 
 The facility should be equipped with a fully supplied first aid kit, contact to a health facility andfire extinguishers in case of an emergency.
 
 Most importantly the facility should have sufficient staffing to adequately and comfortably attend to each child.
 
Children under 1yr – 1 staff to 5 children
 
Children 1-2 -1staff to 8 children and
 
Children 3-5 – 1staff to 10 children
 
Staff should be ingood mental, physical health, sound and good moral ethics with no prove of any criminal records.
 
Our children are our future; hence we need to protect them today so they will grow to be strong and health leaders of tomorrow. We urge every adult to help a child this child’s month. For more information on ECI you can always visit the Early childhood Commission website.
 
 
 

Ever wonder if you are sharing your home with rodents?

Rats are one of themost famous rodents known to man; their skilful and unique characteristics makethem even harder to control. Nevertheless rodents are prolific poopers, hencethis makes it quiet easy to identify an infestation. The signs of rodentinfestation will indicate four things;
 
1.      Species ( Norway Rat, Roof Rat and House Mouse.)
 
2.      Currency of infestation
 
3.      Level of infestation
 
4.      Location
 
 
Here aresome signs of rodent infestation
 
  • Droppings – are usually soft and shiny when fresh, but they become crumbly and matt black or grey in colour after 2-3 days. They are sometimes left behind in pantries, in stove ovens cupboards, drawers, bins, and anywhere else they think they might find food, or where they scurry to avoid predators. It's also not uncommon to see droppings along walls, on top of wall studs or beams, near nests, and in boxes, bags, old furniture, and other objects. The state of the droppings can tell whether or not the rats and mice might still be around.
 
  • Noises – rustling, squeaking noise are what you will hear when rodents are around. Noises are often more apparent at night as you're going to bed and they're waking up.
 
  • Urine pools or trails. Rodents are notorious for having weak bladders, and they'll dribble all over the place. House mice sometimes make things called "urinating pillars," which are small mounds consisting of grease, dirt, and yes, urine. Sometimes you'll see tiny drops of urine leading to a mound.
 
  • Odor – When rats are present they emit a particular characteristic odor. This type of odor is characteristically musty.
 
  • Nests/Burrows - rodents build nests from soft, fuzzy, or warm materials, such as fabric, furniture stuffing, quilt batting, shredded paper, grass, and twigs, and will typically stuff them into sheltered, out-of-the-way places like boxes, cabinets and closets, walls, even the subspace between ceilings and floors. Other possible mouse nest sites include dressers, behind and inside appliances, and machinery, even computer cases -- basically, anywhere it's cozy and warm. Look for newly excavated dirt. Tunnels are usually 12 to 18 inches deep and several feet long.
 
  • Grease marks. Mice can wedge through openings as small as a quarter of an inch in size. As they do, they often leave greasy smears — caused by oil and dirt in their coats — behind. The marks left by mice are fainter than those left by rats. If you find large greasy smears, you should suspect a rat infestation instead.
 
  • Gnaw marks - gnawing is a defining characteristic of all rodents. They do it to keep their incisor teeth, which grow continually, in check. Wood is a favorite,but they'll pretty much chew on whatever suits them. This includes electrical wire, which, as noted in Electrical fires, makes them a leading cause of structural fires. On wood, newer gnaws are light colored. They turn darker with age. Sometimes you won't see gnaw marks, but you'll see what looks like fine wood chips or coarse sawdust, especially along baseboards, door and window frames, and cabinets. Gnawing is use to limit tooth growth in rodent.
 
  • Holes in food packaging. Rodents will nibble into anything they can smell, including boxes and bags of pasta, rice, beans, and grain products. Dog food bags are also prime-time rodent magnets, and especially so for rats, who like the meaty smell as much as canines do. Another popular nibble, although not a food product: soap
.
  • Live and Dead Rats – One rat seen in the daytime represents nine unseen. In addition if you see rats scampering around during the daytime it means that there is a large infestation and that there is high completion for food and space because there are so many of them. A dead rat concerns of an infestation or a disease 9plague) which may decimating the population.
 
  • Tracks. Look for footprints or tail marks in dusty spots. The type of track and tail marks can tell you what kind of rodent you're battling. Mice have the smallest feet, measuring 3/8 inch or less. Rat tracks average between 3/4 to 1 inch. Rats also drag their tails, which leaves a mark between their feet tracks. If tracks are hard to spot, shining a flashlight across a suspicious area can help illuminate them.
Do you currently have rat problems in your home?
Some information sourced from www.life.familyeducation.com

Do you know if your barber and hair dresser is clean and safe.

As Jamaicans do know if our Salons or Barber Shops are clean and safe?
 
They may not be, Jamaicans tend to assume that if a hair dresser shop or barber shop is operating for years then it must be safe. But that is not true, getting haircuts, and various other services poses a risk to everyone’s health if not operated correctly. Some things to keep in mind are poorly trained technicians, and dirty or illegal instruments.
 
In Jamaica with the standards sometimes not being clear to everyone, inspectors say there are many shops which sometimes do not meet the public health standards. Sometimes in some salons and barber shops there are old and dirty equipment’s being re-used when they should have been thrown away.
 
 
 
The reality is, salons and barber shops can harbor dangerous infection-causing bacteria and viruses, including MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and even hepatitis B.
Visiting them has become a case of ‘customers beware’ and it is up to us to protect ourselves.
 
Do you know if your hair dresser or barber is practicing healthy habits?
 
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5 Tips for a healthy summer relationship

It is summer and many Jamaicans are cuddling up and doing many summer activities. Here are 5 healthy tips to keep in mind when with your spouse this summer.
 
Respect your partner- You MUST have respect for each other at all times.
2·  Understanding your partner – When in difficult times, understanding is sometimes the one thing that can save the love that exists, and when you give in to it, you will find that it’s much more fulfilling to compromise, regardless of mistakes or fault.
3· Communication with your partner – When things get rough, talk to each other. But remember, understanding and respecting each other. Be sure not to raise your voice and be aggressive. If you feel heated, take a walk, calm down and remember you love your partner. Even if you are dealing with hard issues, it is still important to talk it over. Let your partner know how special you think he is or how she makes you feel complete. Reinforce the good things that fill your life with comfort, if you want those things to live on. Make communication a common thing by reassuring each other that within the relationship exists a safe place to talk about any and everything.
4· Spontaneity –be spontaneous and see for yourself how it makes your partner feel. Try coming up from behind your spouse while he or she is doing some regular house work. Sneak up from behind them unexpectedly and caress them with suggestive tones. Find your spouse unknowing in an open room all to yourselves and walk right up to them and start to take their clothes off. Tell your spouse you want to run some errands together and take them to a hotel room. When your spouse wakes up to go to work- set aside some minutes for romance. A great start for a demanding work day!
ConfidenceBe confident, it is very attractive when someone exudes confidence in their life in general and especially in their love life. But be careful not to be egotistical. Be sure of yourself and this allows for progress, communication, effectives. This can even change the way you and your partner feel about each other. No Jamaican is born with all the right moves, or touches sexually. It sometimes takes practice and you have to be confident that you can handle it. Otherwise you’ll just end up worrying about it and that can be bad. Jump in, have some faith in yourself, ask questions when necessary, and get the ball moving!
 
 
Are you and your spouse having a healthy relationship this summer?