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November 15, 2012 (San Diego) – Fire prevention and flu prevention stages?

We just changed our smoke detector batteries with daylight savings this weekend for fire preventive measures. Flu season is among us and like fire prevention, it’s important to take cold/flu preventive measures. Emergency rooms become saturated this time of year due to those with the flu. Unfortunately this may delay those that have significant health/medical issues or injuries from getting treatment quickly according to Fire Chief Sam DiGiovanna.

Firefighting and fighting a cold or flu are very similar. Both start out small. Cold symptoms usually begin with a sore throat, which usually goes away after a day or two if caught and treated early. Fire’s start out small but develop rapidly if not caught early. Let’s look at fires and colds and how they may look alike!

Incipient (fire). This first stage begins when heat, oxygen and a fuel source combine and have a chemical reaction resulting in fire. This is also known as “ignition” and is usually represented by a very small fire, which hopefully goes out on its own before more severe stages are reached. Recognizing a fire in this stage provides your best chance at suppression or escape before it moves to the next stage!

Incipient (cold/Flu). The incipient stage is the beginning stage (or incubation period). The incubation (or ignition) period is the time it takes for a person who has been exposed to the virus to become infected (or ignited). The Merck Manual's Online Medical Library section on Influenza reports the incubation period may be from 1 to 4 days (first stage), averaging about 48 hours from exposure. If not caught early it goes to the next stage!

Free Burning (fire). The growth stage is where the structures fire load and oxygen are used as fuel for the fire. This stage the fire starts rapidly spreading to other parts of the building exposing more damage. It is during this shortest of the stages when a deadly “flashover” can occur; the most destructive and dangerous. If not caught early it develops into the next stage!

Free Burning (cold/Flu). The U.S. Library of Medicine, defines communicability as the time it takes an infectious agent to be transmitted from an infected person to another person (spreading rapidly). Once infected with influenza type illnesses, the affected person may begin shedding the virus to others one day before signs and symptoms occur and continue to be contagious after symptoms begin. This makes prevention all but impossible at this stage of the disease.

Fully Developed (fire). When the growth stage has reached its max and all combustible materials have been ignited, a fire is considered fully developed. This is the hottest phase of a fire and the most dangerous for anybody trapped within. It is completely involved and at this point efforts are generally focuses to protect any structures that may be endangered. At this point we surround the fire and let the contents burn themselves out while pouring massive amounts of water on it.

Fully Developed (cold/Flu). At this point all you can do is ride it out and let the antibiotics perform their job as the virus is fully developed. Massive amounts of fluid are required. You generally cannot do much but rest, ride it out and protect exposures (others).

Like fires, prevention is key.  The same goes for flu’s and colds, prevention!

How can I prevent flu or cold symptoms?

• The most important prevention measure for preventing colds and flu is frequent hand washing. Hand washing by rubbing the hands with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds helps to slough germs off the skin.

• In addition to hand washing to prevent flu or cold symptoms, you can also get a flu vaccine to prevent seasonal influenza. Seasonal flu activity in the United States generally peaks between late December and early March. Within two weeks of getting a flu vaccine, antibodies develop in the body and provide protection against flu. Children receiving the vaccine for the first time need two doses delivered one month apart.

• Antiviral medicine may also help prevent flu if you have been exposed to someone with flu symptoms.

• Check with your physician for additional prevention measures.

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