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Monthly Archives: June 2015

Bite me: When the latest buzz isn’t a good thing

Beware of the Asian tiger Mosquito: CDC photo

The recent rains hitting the southwest has brought concerns about Mosquitoes but it is not their bite per se that are the problem, it is the hidden virus that those bites brings.

For Texas, the main virus of concern is West Nile Virus (WNV) where Harris county – which houses city of Houston – has already reported first case of WMV in May 2015.  Normally WNV occurs later in the summer. The sprayers are out but with that amount of standing water, it is impossible to eradicate.

In most people WNV has flu like symptoms but for more elderly people or immune compromised, it can lead to meningitis or encephalitis. In non-medical terms that is brain swelling.

As for preventing WNV, there is no vaccine against it and it’s treatment will only be management of the symptoms. The best you can do is to protect yourself against bites especially when the mosquitoes are active around dawn and dusk.

A Rash from Chikungunya : Wikepedia/ cc licence

There is another disease called “Chikungunya” that is spreading up from Central America via mosquitos. Symptoms of Chikungunya are typcially a fever and severe joints pains. Unlike the mosquitos that carry WNV, the ones that carry chikungunya, bite during the day.

One particularly aggressive Mosquito that carries Chikungunya is the Asian tiger mosquito which is distinct in it’s black and white looks. It can also hear it buzzing. It is not a native to US but an immigrant species. It bites everything – cats, dogs and humans.

Thinking of getting away from this by going North or East. Not so fast. There is St. Louis encephalitis virus (SLEV) to consider that occurs in more temperate zones late in the summer.

Most cases of SLEV disease have occurred in eastern and central states. Most persons infected with SLEV have no apparent illness. Initial symptoms of those who become ill include fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, and tiredness. Severe neuroinvasive disease (often involving encephalitis, an inflammation of the brain) occurs more commonly in older adults. In rare cases, long-term disability or death can result.

What about quitting the US and going somewhere far away like Australia? Not so fast. They have their own version of WNV called “Kunjuin virus” in Queensland.

So accepting mosquitos are out there waiting to bite, what can you do about them: Consumer reports did some tests. Best products are the ones with Deet as an ingredient.

For the first time ever in Consumer Reports’ tests of insect repellents, new, safer products—made with milder, plantlike chemicals—were the most effective. (Check our insect repellent Ratings and buying guide.) The top scorers outperformed products that contained deet, a chemical that did best in our previous Ratings but can cause serious side effects.

The active ingredients in the top repellents are chemically synthesized compounds that are similar to or come from natural ingredients. The secret sauce in the best-scoring Sawyer product is picaridin; in the Repel it’s oil of lemon eucalyptus. They are not side-effect-free, but “those problems are much less severe than deet,” says Urvashi Rangan, Ph.D., executive director of Consumer Reports’ Food Safety and Sustainability Center. “Still, all repellents should be used sparingly and only for the time you need them—especially on children and older people.”

That’s why an effective bug-avoidance strategy requires a full arsenal. Our new tests identify non-chemical approaches that offer some relief (setting up a fan on your back patio, for example) and those that don’t help much if at all (think citronella candles, wristbands, and “all-natural” products with geraniol, lemongrass, and rosemary oils).

Take care out there.
Galen.


 

Primer on West Nile Virus

Source: US Geological Survey

Since West Nile virus (WNV) was first isolated in 1937, it has been known to cause asymptomatic infection and fevers in humans in Africa, West Asia, and the Middle East. Human and animal infections were not documented in the Western Hemisphere until the 1999 outbreak in the New York City metropolitan area. Since then, the disease has spread across the United States. In 2003, WNV activity occurred in 46 states and caused illness in over 9,800 people.

WNV is transmitted to humans through mosquito bites. Mosquitoes become infected when they feed on infected birds that have high levels of WNV in their blood. Infected mosquitoes can then transmit WNV when they feed on humans or other animals.

WNV is not contageous from person to person and there is no evidence that a person can get infected by handling live or dead infected birds. But, to add a further level of safety, if birds or other potentially infected animals must be handled, a protective barrier (e.g., gloves, inverted plastic bags) should be used.

Most WNV infected humans have no symptoms. A small proportion develops mild symptoms that include fever, headache, body aches, skin rash and swollen lymph glands. Less than 1% of infected people develop more severe illness that includes meningitis (inflammation of one of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord) or encephalitis. The symptoms of these illnesses can include headache, high fever, neck stiffness, stupor, disorientation, coma, tremors, convulsions, muscle weakness, and paralysis. Of the few people that develop encephalitis, a small proportion die but, overall, this is estimated to occur in less than 1 out of 1000 infections.

There is no specific treatment for WNV infection or vaccine to prevent it. Treatment of severe illnesses includes hospitalization, use of intravenous fluids and nutrition, respiratory support, prevention of secondary infections, and good nursing care. Medical care should be sought as soon as possible for persons who have symptoms suggesting severe illness.

Individuals can reduce their contacts with mosquitoes by taking these actions:
When outdoors, wear clothing that covers the skin such as long sleeve shirts and pants, apply effective insect repellent to clothing and exposed skin, and curb outside activity during the hours that mosquitoes are feeding which often includes dawn and dusk. In addition, screens should be applied to doors and windows and regularly maintained to keep mosquitoes from entering the home.

Primer on Chikungunya

Source : CDC website : Chiknungunya

Symptoms

  • Most people infected with chikungunya virus will develop some symptoms.
  • Symptoms usually begin 3–7 days after being bitten by an infected mosquito.
  • The most common symptoms are fever and joint pain.
  • Other symptoms may include headache, muscle pain, joint swelling, or rash.
  • Chikungunya disease does not often result in death, but the symptoms can be severe and disabling.
  • Most patients feel better within a week. In some people, the joint pain may persist for months.
  • People at risk for more severe disease include newborns infected around the time of birth, older adults (≥65 years), and people with medical conditions such as high blood pressure, diabetes, or heart disease.
  • Once a person has been infected, he or she is likely to be protected from future infections.

Diagnosis

  • The symptoms of chikungunya are similar to those of dengue, another disease spread by mosquitoes.
  • See your doctor if you develop the symptoms described above.
  • If you have recently traveled, tell your doctor.
  • Your doctor may order blood tests to look for chikungunya or other similar diseases.

Treatment

  • There is no medicine to treat chikungunya virus infection or disease.
  • Decrease the symptoms:
    • Get plenty of rest
    • Drink fluids to prevent dehydration
    • Take medicines, such as ibuprofen, naproxen, acetaminophen, or paracetamol, to relieve fever and pain.

Car Hire, Car Hire. Pants on fire

A colleague intends to go to California on vacation with his older kids but his travel agent – how quaint – did not book the air tickets as intended so they lost out the original ultra-cheap fares.

My Augustine advice was book it yourself and gave a demo of Google.com/flights as a wonderful and quick search tool. His intent was to fly into LAX but fly back out of SFO.

My sage advice was that would cost more on the car rental where they’d charge a fee for dropping it off at a different location. “Here let me demonstrate”, I said. Ta da, The fares from pick up / drop off at LAX. Ta da, the fares from pick up LAX/ drop off at SFO.

“Quod erat demonstrandum...”Price comarison : LAX-LAX vs LAX-SFO

“Oh, What the fire truck. That is NOT what I expected”. It’s almost 50% cheaper to drop off at SFO instead of returning it back to LAX !

Just to be sure it wasn’t a breezenet site issue, we checked out Avis site direct : Same thing where it was cheaper to to LAX ->SAT instead of LAX t-> LAX. btw: The pre-pay was only a 10% saving on Avis.com not the 30%, I previously had observed.

Just to prove out my prior experience of doing a one way SAT->Houston cost me a premium. Same site/ same dates, shows that is still the case.

SAT - SAT vs SAT-IAH

I give in.

Next time, Maybe I’ll just shut up and let people deal with their travel agents. How quaint indeed.

Flood money – it all comes out in the wash

Seaworld Indonesia: photo cottonpolly.blogspot.com

So the rains in Texas are over for now. In Houston, many of my friends are dealing with the after effects of flooding. Though none of my close friends lost their cars, a few had water damage.

One Houston radio program – Car Pro on KPRH- I happened to catch was talking about the downside of this: The recycling of flooded out cars onto the used car market by unscrupulous dealers. It has happened before. It will happen again.

What will appear to be a good deal could cost you tears down the road when the water induced defects kick in. While the cars will initially have ‘salvage’ on the title, they will be bought via auctions but taken to different states where their paperwork will be ‘title washed’.

According to vehicle history report provider Carfax, it’s not uncommon for 50 percent of the cars affected by floods to return to service, some requiring only minor repairs, others a full overhaul.

The most severely damaged vehicles, those declared salvaged by their insurance carriers, can put used car shoppers at risk, as less reputable dealers, and some private sellers, try to sell them without full disclosure, or through outright fraud.

These cars are typically unloaded at auctions to be used for parts, or exported to countries with lower safety standards than the U.S. They can, however, be repaired and issued clearly marked “salvage” titles that must remain with them for the rest of their operational lives.

That is, of course, if the parties involved have gone through the proper channels. According to the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB,) it’s not uncommon for shady operators to go to states with less restrictive regulations governing vehicle registrations to score clean titles for their dirty cars, then return to sell them to unsuspecting customers.  This practice is called “title washing”.

Anyhow I recommend y’all read Car Pro article – Buyer Beware: How To Steer Clear Of Flood-Damaged Cars  and if you are in the market for a used car, be aware of this scam. If your spider senses are telling you a good deal on a low mileage car is too good to be true, it is likely not be. Get that Carfax on the VIN. It may cost a nominal amount, but will save you with peace of mind.

Trajan.

I was Lost. Now I found.

My long lost cameraDarn it. I was cleaning out my car the other day when I found this, my long lost camera, in the dashboard storage of our second car.

It was last seen it back in May 2014 after staying in three different hotels in Houston.

A few days that trip, I was looking for it and assumed that I had left it behind in one of the rooms where I have a bit of track record for doing this.

With high expectations of quickly recovering it, I contacted each one with a stock photo of the camera, the room number and dates of stay. All promptly responded and checked with their staff to confirm it wasn’t turned in.

Liking the camera and needing one for an upcoming travel, I went out and purchased a new one. This was my third camera of this same model, where #1 got dropped and damaged the lens motor and focus.

After this, I now have 3 cameras including a recent DSLR purchase

I mentioned earlier that I have left items behind in a hotel. The memory that comes to mind was sitting on the shuttle bus to the long term car parking lot of IAH only to discover that I had left my car and house keys back in the Hong Kong hotel. I remember telling myself not to forget them. On top of this, Mrs. Caesar – my potential ride and house door opener – was out of town.