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Hepatitis A Poses Threat to Homeless Camps

Hepatitis A in Homeless EncampmentsOver the last year, Arizona has experienced a bad outbreak of the Hepatitis A virus. Like many other places throughout the country, the disease has especially affected those who are experiencing homelessness and don’t have good access to sanitary facilities to use the restroom or wash their hands.

What is Hepatitis A?

Hepatitis A AwarenessHepatitis A is a virus that inflames the liver and is highly contagious. Present in the feces of those infected, it can be spread by eating contaminated food and drinking water, through sexual intercourse, and by sharing personal items such as drug paraphernalia.
With a long incubation period of 15-50 days, it takes quite a while for people to realize they are sick – a time when they can spread the disease unknowingly as they are contagious for two weeks before symptoms show and for two weeks afterward. While not everyone who has Hepatitis A shows signs of the disease, most people do and symptoms include:

  • Fever
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Tiredness
  • Abdominal pain, especially in the area of the liver
  • Dark colored urine
  • Loss of appetite
  • Yellowing of the eyes and skin (jaundice)
  • Clay-colored feces

Once symptoms do appear, individuals feel sick for around two months with some people being ill for as long as six months. Once a person recovers from the disease, though, they have developed the antibodies which protect them in the future.

There is no treatment for Hepatitis A – just rest, good nutrition, lots of fluids, and medical monitoring. Out of the 599 cases reported in Arizona in the recent outbreak, 80% of the patients required hospital stays and 8 people died.

How do you prevent it?

The best Hepatitis A prevention is getting vaccinated against the disease and washing your hands thoroughly and often after using the restroom, before eating or preparing food, avoiding sexual intercourse with any infected person, and not sharing personal hygiene products, towels, food, drinks, utensils, cigarettes, or drug paraphernalia with other people.

If you are a member of a population at high risk of contracting Hepatitis A (people who are homeless, users of illicit drugs, or people who have recently been incarcerated) or work with such populations (including childcare workers), vaccination is an important step to take. The more people who are vaccinated against the disease, the better off everyone will be.

Why is it a problem among the homeless?

For those people experiencing homelessness, good sanitation poses a problem. With no sanitary facilities and restrooms in short supply (if they exist at all), it’s hard to wash your hands after going to the restroom and with homeless encampments set up along ditches or sidewalks, contaminated feces can exist in the same area people eat and drink. For those experiencing homelessness and drug use, their risk of contracting Hepatitis A is particularly high due to sharing drug paraphernalia and unsanitary needles.

If a person is at risk for Hepatitis A through being homeless or uses illegal drugs, they should have the vaccine in order to prevent the disease. Not only are homeless people at greater risk of contracting the illness, but cases of Hepatitis A tend to be more severe as well.

What is being done?

Though the Hepatis A Vaccine is now regularly given to children as young as one year of age, that only started here in Arizona in the mid 1990s and anyone older than that has not been given the vaccine as a matter of course. The vaccine consists of two doses being given six months apart and is vital to preventing disease in at-risk populations.

For anyone in the high-risk groups (people who have been recently incarcerated, are homeless, or are using illicit drugs), they can obtain a free vaccination from a local public health clinic. Public health workers have also been working on going out to the camps and where people hang out to vaccinate those at high risk to make it even easier to become vaccinated and prevent future outbreaks.

Unlike Hepatitis types B & C, you do recover from type A. You don’t have it for the rest of your life and if you do contract the virus, you are now immune and don’t need the vaccination.

Phoenix Heat Speeds Up the Decomposition Process

Phoenix Heat Speeds Decomposition

It is a sad reality that, here in Phoenix, people sometimes die without anyone else knowing about their passing for days, weeks, even months. In that time, the body decays and is often only found because of a foul odor, concerned family member or neighbor entering the property, or someone discovers the body outside. How decomposed that body is when found depends on many factors including hot and cold temperatures. Out here under our desert sun where it is hot for long periods of the year, bodies tend to decompose faster and create more needed cleanup when found.

How fast does a body start decomposing after death?

Once someone passes away, the decomposition of their body as they return to the earth is a natural process. Within minutes after death, the body starts cooling, flies come to lay their eggs, and the bacteria already inside us start to process dead cells and produce gas. For a short time, it can be hard to tell a person has passed away but as the interior decomposition process speeds up, the exterior also shows signs of breaking down.

Heat speeds things up

The process of decomposition is affected by many factors – the two main ones being the surrounding temperature and humidity levels. Bodies decompose fastest in hot and moist environments. With higher temperatures, the bacteria in a body produce gas at a faster rate which creates more openings in the skin for flies to lay their eggs. Heat also helps break down cell structures and the liquification of bodily fluids occur in a shorter timeline. This faster decomposition process also creates more odor leading other insects and animals to the body to help break with the breakdown process. With high humidity, the body stays moist making it easier for gas to seep through and for insects to find openings in the skin. Things stay pliable and are easier for insects and bacteria to digest.

High heat slows the process down

While heat speeds up the process of decomposition, it only does so up to a point. In extremely hot and dry temperatures, instead of decomposing, the body is mummified. With moisture from the body absorbed into the dry air, the skin grows tough and hard to break through. Fly larvae, too, die off at temperatures between 104F° and 122F°, thus slowing down the breaking down of the body tissues and fluids.

Indoor vs. outdoor heat

If a body is found indoors in hot weather, it is usually further along in the decomposition process than if left outside. Between four walls, the moisture in a body stays in the surrounding air and the body does not dry out, thus speeding along the process. Bloating, too, occurs at a faster rate and the fly larvae quickly grow as they process the remains. If left outside in the direct sunlight, however, there is likely to not be as many larvae on the body as both larvae and adult flies prefer the shade and it’s more difficult for larvae to survive in direct sunlight. Thus, they can’t process the body as quickly as they could in the shade of a house.

No matter what the temperature is, if a person dies in a modern home with few to no openings for insects to find their way through and all the windows are shut, the body breakdown will be slow. In older homes with more openings for flies and other insects to crawl through and find the body, the process of decomposition will be much faster.

We are always available to help you

Here in Phoenix, Arizona, our team sees all stages of body decomposition. With our high desert heat and numerous insects, bodies tend to break down quickly and we are called in to clean and restore the area.

If your loved one has passed without being discovered for a time, rely on professional biohazard cleaners to decontaminate the area. Even if your loved one was healthy before passing away, the byproducts of body decomposition can make other people sick and without professional equipment, the odor is difficult to remove. With us, we will fully restore the area making it safe for you and your family.

If you have any questions or need a free consultation on how we can restore your property, we are always available to help you in any way we can.

Arizona Measles Outbreak Awareness

Measles Outbreak

With the measles outbreak continuing to grow across the US, people in Arizona are at great risk for catching the disease. Though there has only been one case in Arizona thus far out of the 700 reported, between the amount of international travelers visiting our state and the lower immunity rates, especially among children, health officials say it is only a matter of time before another person becomes sick along with the strong possibility of having a wider outbreak in our community.

Widespread Immunity Forms a Protective Barrier

Whenever a critical mass of people in a population are vaccinated against a disease, typically 95%, it is difficult for a disease to get a foothold and spread. The mass immunity forms a protective barrier for those who can’t get the vaccine shot due to their young age or various health issues. When we have a population of people who choose not to vaccinate themselves or their children, though, that protective barrier begins to have holes in it and the disease can far more easily spread from one person to another.

Here in Maricopa County, a study was done on the number of kindergarten students vaccinated against the Measles. It found that only 40% of kindergarten classrooms had enough students vaccinated to prevent an outbreak. That means that 60% of our kindergarten classrooms has so many kids not vaccinated that the measles could easily take hold.

Measles is Extremely Contagious

Extremely contagious and long-lasting, the disease stays in the air and on surfaces for up to two hours after someone with the measles has touched a surface, coughed, or sneezed. If someone unvaccinated is in the vicinity, it is highly likely they will also come down with the disease. What’s more, it can take 12-21 days for symptoms to appear so you can be contagious long before you know you have the disease. With all the people traveling through our airports and visiting the state, keeping surfaces wiped down and regularly washing your hands is important for the community’s health and safety.

If you are not yet vaccinated with the measles-mumps-rubella vaccine and don’t have any health issues that would prevent you from receiving the shot, now is a great time to get it. Without this protection, you are at high risk of coming down with the disease and by being vaccinated, you will be protecting others as well.

If You Think You Have the Measles

The measles can be dangerous for people to get, especially young children, the elderly, and those with compromised immune systems. The symptoms typically include:

  • Sore throat
  • Red rash (starts on the face and spreads downward)
  • dry cough
  • Runny nose
  • Fever
  • Inflamed eyes

If you think you may have the measles, call your doctor or local health clinic before going in. You will be extremely contagious and don’t want to spread it to others. The local health department will also become involved and want a list of public places you have visited to let others know of the threat. If an outbreak does occur and you or your child are not able to be vaccinated, it is recommended you avoid public places until the threat has passed.

Professional Infectious Disease Cleanup Services

If you have questions or need professional help, give us a call or click here to learn about our infectious disease cleanup service.

How to Clean up After Your Dog Contracts Giardia or Parvo

Parvo Cleanup

For any dog lover, seeing our pets suffer from diseases such as giardia and parvo is difficult. Both dangerous to our dog’s health, giardia and parvo are also extremely infectious and difficult to eradicate from our homes and yards. If your dog has contracted one of these diseases, though, doing your best to clean the affected area so no other pets become sick and to prevent re-infection is a vital step to take.

What is giardia?

Giardia is a small, microscopic parasite that infects the intestines of both animals and humans. Though it is rarely contagious between dogs and humans due to the different types of giardia, the disease is extremely contagious from dog to dog.

A dog contracts giardia when they come into contact with infected feces and swallow or sniff a parasite. For example, the dog may become infected when they step where another dog defecated then lick themselves later, drink infected water from a pond, creek, or puddle, eat feces left by another dog, or play in contaminated soil. A dog cannot contract the parasite through blood or other bodily fluids.

Once a dog has contracted the parasite, the animal may or may not show symptoms. If they do exhibit signs, symptoms include diarrhea, gas, abdominal discomfort, vomiting, and nausea. These symptoms can prevent them from eating and the dog may lose weight and become dehydrated as a result.

If you suspect your dog has giardia, a veterinarian can tell with a simple fecal test. They will then prescribe medications to kill the parasite and treat the symptoms including administering fluids to prevent dehydration.

What is parvo?

Parvo, or canine parvovirus is a virus that attacks a dog’s intestines. This is a disease usually contracted by puppies who are not yet old enough to receive the parvo vaccine and don’t have the antibodies to fight it. Though some dogs survive the virus, many dogs die as a result and leave the virus behind ready to infect other dogs that may come into contact with the area.

Spread through a dog’s feces, parvo infects dogs that swallow even small traces of fecal matter left by an infected dog or are handled by someone carrying the virus after touching another infected dog. Once in the body, the virus kills intestinal cells, destroys the gut barrier, and impairs nutritional absorption. In some cases, parvo also affects the heart. Symptoms of parvo include bloody diarrhea, vomiting, fever, lethargy, weight loss, and dehydration. If your dog has any of these symptoms, you should call your vet immediately as parvo can be life-threatening.

Though there is no cure for parvo, dogs are given vaccines as puppies and if the series is done correctly, most dogs will be immune by six months of age. Up until that time, it’s important to keep puppies away from public areas where they can become infected such as dog parks and dog day cares. If your dog does contract parvo, the vet will treat the symptoms while the dog’s immune system fights the infection.

Cleaning and disinfecting your home

If your dog has contracted giardia or parvo, it is important to clean all the items and surfaces with which your dog has come into contact in order to prevent reinfection or another dog becoming infected by the disease. Though it’s nearly impossible to get rid of the parasites or virus completely, especially outside, you can greatly reduce the risk of the disease spreading. While the dog is sick and for several days after:

  • Often and thoroughly wash your hands
  • Items and surfaces need to be washed daily while the dog is being treated and continue for several days afterward in order to prevent reinfection
  • Don’t cross-infect clean areas of your home with objects from areas that haven’t been cleaned yet such as your shoes
  • Keep infected pets away from carpeted areas of your home

Hard surfaces

  • Wear gloves
  • Using paper towels, wipe up all fecal matter and dispose of the towels and gloves in a plastic bag then throw the bag away in the regular trash
  • Scrub all hard surfaces using hot water and soap until it appears completely clean
  • Using either a cleaner containing a “quaternary ammonium compound” otherwise known as QATS or listed as alkyl dimethyl ammonium chloride, or a solution of bleach mixed with water in a ratio of ¾ cup of bleach to one gallon of water, leave the solution on the surface for ten minutes or the amount listed on the cleaner’s instructions.
  • Wipe the surface clean then rinse with water
    Linen, bedding, towels, cloth toys
  • Wash items in a washer using laundry soap then dry on the highest heat setting for at least 30 minutes
  • If no dryer is available, air dry items outside in direct sunlight

Dishwasher-safe bowls and toys

  • Wash all items in a dishwasher with a dry cycle and heat to the highest degree possible.
  • If a dishwasher is unavailable, submerge items in boiling water for at least one minute.

Carpet and upholstery

  • Wearing gloves, clean any contaminated area with paper towels then discard in a plastic bag
  • Clean the entire affected area with detergent, carpet cleaner, or upholstery cleaner while following the directions on the bottle
  • Steam clean the area at the highest temperature possible using a cleaner with a “quaternary ammonium compound”

Outdoors

It is nearly impossible to eradicate parvo or giardia from the outdoors where your pet goes to the bathroom. Even if you bleached the grass, it still wouldn’t kill all the viruses and parasites present and would kill all your plants in the process.
When it comes to giardia and parvo, the best thing to do is to clean all possible hard surfaces then let the virus and parasite die on their own. In the meanwhile, guidelines to follow include:

  • Keep infected dogs away from other pets
  • Designate a spot in the yard for your pet to go and keep them out of all other common areas
  • Promptly remove feces from the yard after your dog uses the restroom and wash your hands immediately
  • Do not wear the same shoes inside as you do outside
  • Always wear plastic gloves when gardening
  • Disinfect all gardening tools after use
  • For giardia: If the weather is below 77 degrees, then the yard will have giardia cysts present for at least a month. If the weather is consistently hotter than 77 degrees, then the giardia cysts will have all died off after one week.
  • For parvo: The parvo virus is extremely hardy and can survive both hot and freezing temperatures. Outside, the virus will be present for at least six months to a year. Inside, it can last two months. Do not introduce another dog into your home until after the infectious window has passed.

Contact a veterinarian right away

If you think your dog has contracted giardia or parvo, take your pet to a veterinarian right away. Both diseases have serious, life-threatening implications and need to be immediately treated.

If you have any questions about cleaning your home of these infectious diseases or need professional disease cleanup, please contact us at (602) 770-4972.
Parvo Cleanup

Is Human Feces a Biohazard?

Is Human Feces A Biohazard?

When taking a walk, we all know not to touch any animal feces we come across but don’t think twice about cleaning up after our own pets. In the same way, we don’t hesitate to clean up after our family but wouldn’t touch any feces if we were cleaning up after a homeless camp or a trashed rental. So who would do that kind of cleaning and are feces a biohazard? Could you call a regular cleaning company or do you need to call a biohazard cleanup company to come take care of it?

Biohazards are any material that can possibly contain infectious diseases. For example, human feces can contain diseases such as C. diff, Hepatitis A and E, Giardia, E coli, Cholera, and Norovirus so, yes, human feces are a biohazard. These diseases can be dangerous and even fatal so it’s important to take the proper precautions when dealing with such material. While some regular cleaning companies are willing to clean minimal amounts of urine and feces, professional biohazard cleanup companies such as BioTeamAZ are specifically trained to safely and thoroughly clean up biohazards such as bodily fluids, urine, feces, viruses, and bacteria.

Human Feces Is A Biohazard, But Not A Regulated Medical Waste

Since human fecal matter is only classified as a biohazard and not medical waste, you can throw it away in the regular trash. However, if the poop contains blood, then it does become classified as medical waste and may not be thrown away in the regular trash. Whoever owns the property is legally liable for any damages or any illness resulting from improper cleanup and disposal of the poop. So your best bet is to call a professional to clean up the feces to ensure that the area is completely cleaned, decontaminated and sanitized.

It’s Not Advisable to Clean up the Human Feces Yourself

Because of all the potential biohazards that may be contained in poop, cleaning up after human feces can be dangerous work. It takes specific skills, equipment, and cleaners to make sure all feces have been removed, the area properly cleaned, and yourself protected through the whole process. If you are facing the task of cleaning up human feces in a homeless encampment, a trashed rental, a hoarded home, or after a sewage backup, hire a company trained in the proper procedures and leave it to them to complete the work. In such unsanitary conditions, the chances of the feces carrying various diseases are much higher than they otherwise would be – diseases with which you and your loved ones don’t want to come into contact. Once the feces are removed, a professional company will also have the equipment and skills needed to permanently eliminate any lingering odor. You will then have peace of mind the area is free of all biohazards and is now fresh and clean.

Don’t Rely On Regular Household Cleaning Products

When it comes to the cleaning products we can buy in a store, they are limited in the amount of bacteria and viruses they are able to kill. Professional cleaners opt instead for industrial grade chemicals that kill off a higher percentage of pathogens. Make sure that what you’re using is strong enough for what you’re using it for and follow all directions.

Questions?

If you have any questions about the cleanup of human feces or urine, give us a call and we’ll be happy to help in any way we can.

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