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Health and Safety for UMVIM Teams Serving the Gulf Coast


Health Alert

Feb. 03, 2006
by Roger Boe, MD
Consultant, United Methodist Fellowship of Health Care Volunteers (UMF/HCV)
E-mail: boeroger@cableone.net

This week, we learned that a number of returning UMVIM team members from the Gulf Coast relief effort have contracted cellulites. Some cases have been severe. Cellulitis is a bacterial infection of the skin and underlying tissues. It usually starts with a cut or other break in the skin that becomes red, swollen, tender, painful, and often drains pus. The two main causes are strep, the same agent that causes strep throat, and staphylococcus.

A recent problem has been the development of methicillin resistant staph, or MRSA, which causes a much more serious infection and is very difficult to treat. Because of this possibility prompt treatment is required, urgent treatment if spreading rapidly or associated with fever. The best treatment is prevention.

• Keep your hands clean by washing well with soap and water or using an alcohol hand gel.
• Keep cuts and scrapes clean and covered with a bandage until healed
• Avoid contact with other people's wounds or bandages
• Avoid sharing personal items such as towels or razors.

Widespread flooding and accumulation of pools of stagnant water have increased the number of mosquitoes in the Gulf area. There is increased risk of West Nile virus and dengue fever from infected mosquitoes. Only two insect repellants are of proven value, DEET (30%) and Picaridin, a new agent marketed by Cutter under the name Advanced. Unfortunately the strength of Advanced (7%) is too low to be as effective as 30% DEET. Another effective preventive method is to spray clothing with permethrin, which is odorless, non-toxic and lasts through several washings.

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Health Safety and Protection for UMVIM Teams to the Gulf Coast
URLs specific to Health/Safety … follow-up information to the above article and others that are important reminders.

Skin Infections/Illness

Mold Protection:

General Information:

…and from the UMVIM, NCJ newsletters, the following safety and protection information.

UMVIM Teams to the Gulf Coast


The following series of Safety and Protection messages were developed, collected and circulated through the UMVIM, NCJ office with the noted dates, last entry first. We are grateful to Lorna Jost, UMVIM, NCJ Coordinator for sharing them with the rest of our UMVIM community.

If others would like to contribute, please email Lorna: umvim-ncj@brookings.net

- Dec 1, 2005 -


Safety and Protection: Respirators - The Mississippi Volunteer Packet has the wrong respirator under tools.  R-95 is correct recommendation. There is no R-59. 3M R95 Particulate Disposable Respirators are designed to provide worker protection against solid and liquid particles including those containing oils, acid gas and organic vapors. Cooper Safety sells this basic respirator for $22.68 in a box of 20. With exhale valve exhale valve $53.56 for 20. 3M offers a full line of N95 particulate respirators. All are NIOSH approved for protection against solid and liquid particles - excluding those that contain oil.  Cooper Safety sells this basic respirator for $14.50 in a box of 20.  With exhale valve $17.50 for 10.

(R95 is correct.  That will offer all the protection you need.  You probably could just purchase most any disposable respirator at LOWES or HOME DEPOT.  The main concern is dry wall dust and/ or mold/ mildew. Chris Bowers / Mississippi Conference Disaster Response Call Center / 866-435-7091)

- Nov 17, 2005 -


Safety and protection: My concern lies with the suggestion that after using a mask instead of placing it on top of our head we put it in a zip lock bag.  My feeling was that if a used mask was placed in a zip lock bag mold spores from the front of the mask would dislodge and migrate to the inside of the mask ...... rendering it ineffective when used again.  Masks are designed to be a used once.  Following is her reply to the question of mask use.

Your gut instinct is correct.  Putting them in a plastic bag will allow for the inside to be contaminated as well.  They are disposable and in the types of conditions they will be used in there... should be treated as such.

- Nov 8, 2005 -


Safety and protection: I'm just back from Waveland, worked at the distribution center ... what volunteers need to take of course depends on what they are doing, but, concerning face masks I would add instructions as to how to wear and store those masks when working in debris.  If you put on a mask and then, when you talk to someone, put it atop your head, it is contaminated.  Never contaminate your mask by allowing it in contact with any surface other than your face. And take a supply of masks WITH you.  One mask won't last 5 days. ~Gail Schwandt

- Oct 20, 2005 -


Safety and protection: It is strongly suggested that you take proper equipment/ protection when working in the Gulf Coast areas for hazards that you might encounter - including asbestos protection, masks that protect against dust, mold. We are starting a list of safety and other suggestions, from returning volunteers in this and future updates - also be sure to check with your host contact for their suggestions!

1. I am not sure what would be safe with asbestos - that is an airborne biohazard and we are not equipped to deal with that. I do know for black mold respiratory masks with R62 rating are recommended. ~ Heather Klason, MN Disaster Response Coordinator (heisrisen@meltel.net)

2. I am an architect and have had training in the abatement and removal of asbestos.  According to EPA and OSHA standards, asbestos containing materials (ACM) should only be removed or disturbed by persons who are trained and certified to safely handle and dispose of it. It can be dangerous if a sufficient amount of it is breathed.  Special HEPA respirators are needed by persons working with it.  Some exceptions might have to be made due to the scope of the problem at hand.  Certification is issued by the various states. I am retired and have not kept up my certification to abate asbestos up to date. Asbestos was used as a building material through the middle 1970's, when the potential problems involved with it came to light.  It was used widely until then because it one of the most effective insulating materials we have ever had, and it was cheap. I hope I have shed some light, and not caused a problem.  E-mail me if I can be of further help. ~ Ed Kirk (eckirk@famvid.com), Chatham United Methodist Church, Chatham, IL

(I would assume that an architect, engineer or contractor who is asbestos certified in the state(s) where it is being found will be used by UMCOR to advise and assist those who are working with it - but apparently this might not always be the case and I want people to be aware of this.~Lorna) 

- Oct 19, 2005 -


Safety and protection: It is strongly suggested that you take proper equipment/protection when working in the Gulf Coast areas for hazards that you might encounter - including asbestos protection, masks that protect against dust, mold. We will start listing safety suggestions from returning volunteers in the next updates - also be sure to check with your host contact for their suggestions!

From being there recently I would suggest the usual; masks, heavy rubber gloves, leather gloves, boots that go to the knee or higher, and be sure to have not only tetanus but Hep A & B shots. I actually even took along some general antibiotics.  Also need to watch for lead poisoning and watch for snakes in with the flooded items.

Asbestos -- the Department of Labor has work place standards and the EPA (I believe EPA) has standards for removal and disposal. I don't know the precise requirements (I do know that standard workplace masks are not acceptable based on my legal work in that area -- asbestos over 5 microns is a serious problems and the masks are neither sealed nor protect to 5 microns), but you should be able to get them from the EPA office. Alternatively, I could try to track them down from friends in the work place safety field. Mold -- I don't know, but I suspect you could find out from the City of New Orleans or Red Cross -- both dealing in N.O. probably have a lot of experience in those areas.


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