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Communicable Diseases – Tuberculosis

At Global Medical Services, many of our paramedics work in oil and gas camps in Northern British Columbia, as such, we encourage them to be prepared for whatever they may come across in these remote regions.

Throughout the year, we profile various diseases and afflictions to help further their understanding in the hopes they will be prepared should they come into contact with one of these diseases.

This week we are profiling a known transmissible disease that an individual may encounter in their career as a paramedic, nurse or other health care provider. It is our hope that this profile will allow you to quickly
diagnose common or rare diseases should you come across them.

Tuberculosis is a common, and in many cases lethal, infectious disease. Tuberculosis is caused by Mycobacterium, bacteria which are spread through the air like the common cold. 

Tuberculosis typically attacks the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. Most infections are asymptomatic and dormant, but about one in ten dormant infections eventually progresses to become an active disease which, if left untreated, kills more than 50% of those so infected.

In the active stage, a person often shows symptoms of the disease. Active bacteria will usually infect the lungs or airways but may also affect several organs (lymph nodes, kidneys, etc).

Global tb cases

Risks

Weakened immune system – A healthy immune system can often successfully fight TB bacteria, but your body can’t mount an effective defense if your resistance is low. A number of diseases and medications can weaken your immune system, including: HIV/AIDS, diabetes, kidney disease and cancer treatment.

International connections – TB risk is higher for people who live in or travel to countries that have high rates of tuberculosis, such as: Sub-Saharan Africa, India, China and Mexico. 

Poverty and substance abuse – If you are on a low or fixed income, live in a remote area, have recently immigrated, or are homeless, you may lack access to the medical care needed to diagnose and treat TB. Long-term drug or alcohol use weakens your immune system and makes you more vulnerable to tuberculosis.

Prevention

If you have active TB, keep your germs from spreading. It generally takes a few weeks of treatment with TB medications before you’re not contagious anymore. Follow these tips to help keep your friends and family from getting sick: Stay home, ventilate the room, cover your mouth and wear a mask.

Symptoms

For active TB, symptoms usually include swollen and sore lymph glands, weakness or feeling very tired, weight loss, lack of appetite, chills, fever, night sweats. For active TB in the lungs and airways (pulmonary TB), symptoms usually include a bad cough that lasts longer than three weeks, pain in the chest, coughing up blood or sputum (phlegm).

A Journey North

My second trip to north this year has come to an end and I’m back to sunny Vancouver. Sunny you say? It is actually beautiful and sunny as I write this on the 9th of November and I can barely believe my eyes.

This trip was longer than usual – 3 nights instead of 2 – and was great. Things got off to a good start with an uneventful trip to Ft. Nelson. While cool, at -12, it was sunny and clear.

I had the pleasure of driving to camp with Ginette, one of our PCPs. She has been a regular in camp for the past year and knows the road well. She handled all the radio duties while I drove. The road conditions could not have been better for gravel roads. They are frozen solid and very firm. With little snow on them, I had to be conscious of my speed. 80km/hr is the max and after all the emails I’ve sent reminding people not to speed it was time for me to walk the walk.

When we finally made it to camp, some 2.4hrs later, it was almost time for dinner. We greeted the other members of the team and found our rooms.

The food in camps can be interesting. Because the workers are typically doing labour intensive work, there is usually lots of food available and there is usually gravy! This night was no different – gravy was on order. I’m afraid it wasn’t my favorite meal but it was quickly forgotten with a prime rib dinner on day 2.

The next day I had my first rig tour. It was fascinating to climb the stairs to the rig floor. We were lucky enough to be there when the action started. The drill bit had to have a bearing replaced. As the drill was removed, the men got to work. This is not a job for those afraid of getting dirty! There is black colored fluid everywhere.

The guys move quickly and efficiently to replace the broken part and within a few minutes the bearing has been replaced and drilling resumes. If you ever get a chance to tour a drilling rig don’t pass it up.

The following day I headed was due to head to Ft. St. John. I good drive out and was in Ft. Nelson with plenty of time to spare. I visited the local library to get internet access – Rogers doesn’t work in Ft. Nelson – and reconnect to the world. After a couple hours I headed to the airport. The first thing I did was drop my rental keys in the drop box.

At check in, I was notified that the plane was going to be 2 hours late and did I want to leave the airport? Yes, I’d love to leave the airport but sadly I don’t have access to my truck anymore. Oh well, I guess I had better get comfy.

The plane arrived ‘early’ when it landed after 1.5hrs instead of two. The fun continued in Ft. St. John when the rental agency was closed. After a wait someone arrived and I was off to camp again. This drive was not as idyllic as my drive with Ginette. It was dark (8pm) and snowing. What a great combo! The good news is that for the most part the snow was not sticking to the ground and I made it camp. I had a good visit with Mark, the night ACP.

This morning started with breakfast with the whole team – night and day medics. We had a good visit and I had a chance to catch up with a safety advisor I had met nearly 5 years ago on my first trip to camp. By 10 in the morning it was time to hit the road again for the airport. I’m happy to report that my flight back to Vancouver was uneventful.

While I always enjoy my trips up north, getting home is even better.

Until the spring!

– Tom

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Communicable Diseases – West Nile

At Global Medical Services, many of our paramedics work in oil and gas camps in Northern British Columbia, as such, we encourage them to be prepared for whatever they may come across in these remote regions.

Throughout the year, we profile various diseases and afflictions to help further their understanding in the hopes they will be prepared should they come into contact with one of these diseases.

This week we are profiling a known transmissible disease that an individual may encounter in their career as a paramedic, nurse or other health care provider. It is our hope that this profile will allow you to quickly
diagnose common or rare diseases should you come across them.

The West Nile virus is a disease mainly transmitted to people through the bite of an infected mosquito. Mosquitoes transmit the virus after becoming infected by feeding on the blood of birds which carry the virus. It can infect birds, humans, and other animals (including horses, dogs and cats).

The virus is found in both tropical and temperate regions alike and since 2002 the virus has claimed 42 lives in Canada.

west nile cases canadaWest Nile is considered to be the most widely distributed vector-borne disease in North America, and has been detected in B.C.

In most cases, those who have been infected by the virus have no symptoms, or mild flu-like symptoms. For every five people infected with West Nile, one has mild illness usually lasting three to six days. Meningitis or encephalitis develops in about 1 in 50 people who are infected with West Nile, more commonly in those over age 50.

Occasionally the virus can cause serious illness and even death – in up to 4.5 percent of cases.

Research suggests health care providers should be on the lookout for severe muscle weakness as it is a common symptom. Other symptoms can include:

  • Sudden sensitivity to light or an inability to perform routine tasks
  • Extreme swelling or infection at the site of a mosquito bite
  • Convulsions or seizures
  • Fever and severe headache
  • Stiff neck
  • Confusion

Protect Yourself Against Mosquitoes

Mosquitoes

  • Wearing light-coloured, loose fitting clothes with long sleeves and pants when possible
  • Applying DEET-based mosquito repellent
  • Using mosquito nets when mosquito populations are high
  • Emptying any source of standing water (a perfect breeding ground for mosquitoes) every two days
  • Removing old tires and cover rain barrels with netting as these can also attract mosquitos
  • Filling in depressions in the ground and check flat roofs for standing water
  • Checking for mosquito larvae in lagoons, dugouts, and standing water on rural properties
  • Avoiding scented lotions or perfumes (mosquitoes are attracted to sweet smells)
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