Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Vector-borne diseases: Small bite, big threat

Today’s guest blog from the Pan American Health Organization is in recognition of World Health Day which was celebrated on April 7. This year’s event focused on preventing vector-borne diseases such as malaria, dengue and Lyme disease. More than half the world’s population is at risk from such diseases, which are carried by mosquitoes, flies, ticks, water snails and other vectors.

Vector-borne diseases: Small bite, big threat
Insects like mosquitoes and ticks might have small bites, but their bites are a big threat. Some insects are known as vectors because they carry parasites — bacteria, protozoa, worms and viruses — inside them. With one bite, these vectors can transfer the parasites into the human body and the parasites can cause serious diseases.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito is capable of transmitting both chikungunya and dengue virus. It bites most actively two hours before and after dawn and dusk. It is present in almost the entire American continent, including Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

Chagas disease is caused by a blood-sucking “kissing bug” and can lead to problems in the heart and intestine. In the United States, chagas disease is considered one of the neglected parasitic infections, a group of five parasitic diseases that have been targeted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for public health action. The Anopheles mosquito can transmit malaria.

These diseases affect millions of people in different countries and pose a big threat to people. Other vector-borne diseases like lymphatic filariasis and leishmaniasis can cause swelling in the legs or serious deformities, respectively. Most importantly, if the person does not seek medical treatment, all of these diseases can make you sick and lead to death.

Around the world, these vector-borne diseases are making millions of people sick, especially people who live in poverty. These vectors can spread in large cities and rural areas, where there are poorly constructed houses, lack of hygiene and sanitation, and lots of people migrating for work. Global climate change, by causing more rainfall and warm weather, has also expanded the places where these insects can grow and spread diseases.

There is no vaccine for most of these vector-borne diseases, and while there is treatment for some of them, prevention is the key. Integrated vector control can decrease the risk of disease transmission. This approach, used by national and local governments, includes implementing rational insecticide usage, surveillance and actions like improving access to safe water, regular waste collection services, basic sanitation, education, hygiene and adequate housing quality.

You also can play an essential role in infection prevention. You can wear clothing that acts as a barrier to bites, use mosquito nets and proper insect repellants and cover or eliminate containers where water collects where some of these vectors breed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Don’t panic — Get ready instead!

It’s National Public Health Week, an annual celebration led by APHA. Today’s focus of “Don’t Panic” is a perfect opportunity to share information about preparedness in your community.

Disasters can strike at any time, but they don’t necessarily have to be devastating. Having supplies and knowing where to evacuate ahead of time can make a big difference. APHA’s Get Ready campaign has many resources to help people become more prepared, including fact sheets, videos, podcasts, e-cards and recipes.

In celebration of NPHW, we ask you to take steps toward getting ready for disasters. Make sure your family has a disaster plan, help a friend create an emergency kit and spread the word about emergency preparedness. Post a link to our resources on your Facebook page, or print out one of our fact sheets and post it on a bulletin board.

Take a look at the NPHW website to learn more about what’s going on the rest of the week!

Thursday, April 03, 2014

National Public Health Week is only days away: Help raise awareness of preparedness on April 8

Each year, National Public Health Week is celebrated in April to promote public health. This year, the APHA-led event will be celebrated from April 7-13. Tuesday, April 8, is raising awareness of being prepared for disasters with a focus on “Don’t Panic.”
  
Disaster preparedness starts with community commitment and action — and that’s where you come in. NPHW offers a great opportunity for you to share information and hold events around preparedness. Check out some of the great activities that are planned around the nation already:
What will you be doing to raise awareness of preparedness? Leave a message in the comments on the Get Ready Blog, and submit your event to the NPHW calendar.
 
And after your event is over, send pictures to The Nation’s Health newspaper to be included in the NPHW round-up in the July issue.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Don’t panic! April 8 of National Public Health Week to focus on preparedness

Each year, communities come together to celebrate National Public Health Week, a nationwide observance organized by APHA. This year, the event will include a day devoted especially to raising awareness of preparedness.
 
Tuesday, April 8, will be celebrated around the theme of “Don’t Panic.” National Public Health Week participants are encouraged to share disaster preparedness tips in their communities so residents can be ready for the unexpected.
 
Luckily, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has a wealth of free fact sheets, resources and tools to help you spread that message. Check out our materials page for information on natural disasters such as tornadoes and earthquakes as well as human-caused emergencies such as chemical spills or radiological disasters. There is also info for special audiences, such as parents, seniors and people with disabilities. You can even add your logo to our materials!
 
A good message to share in your community is the need for residents to have an emergency stockpile. Let everyone know they should have disaster supplies ready, including at least a three-day supply of bottled water and non-perishable foods. A first-aid kit, batteries, flashlights and other supplies are also essential. Not sure what should be in your stockpile? Print out our checklist.
 
Tell us what preparedness events you have planned for April 7-13 during National Public Health Week by sharing them on the event website.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Preparing for floods: A threat to life that can occur at any time

Did you know that we all live in flood zones? No matter where you live, there is a risk of flooding. While some areas have a higher risk than others, it’s important that we all be prepared. As this is National Flood Safety Awareness Week, now is a good time to stop and think about floods.
 
According to the National Flood Insurance program, “in the past five years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods”. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that about 90 people die each year in the U.S. from floods, which cause about $8.3 billion in damages.
 
Let’s look at some information about floods. Floods can come on rapidly or slowly build up. Flooding can spread over large areas or occur over a small area. The cause can be rainfall, a rising river or tide, or a broken dam or water main. During a flood, shallow creeks, streams or dry beds can become very deep. Roads can become rushing rivers, washing away vehicles and people.
Here are some plans to make before a flood:
  • Know the flood risks in your community and neighborhood. The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides free maps through its Map Service Center. Just enter your address.
  • Check out NOAA’s Spring Flood Outlook, which shows where and when flooding is most likely to occur in the U.S. over the next few months.
  • Have a plan for family communication and evacuation.
  • Store important documents such as insurance papers, passports, birth certificates, etc., in waterproof containers. A zippered plastic bag can work in a pinch.
  • Make sure your furnace, water heater and electric panel are elevated.
Some things to remember during a flood:
  • Be prepared to evacuate. If you do have to leave, follow official evacuation routes, as they are more likely to be safe. Pay attention to news reports for the latest information before heading out.
  • Don’t walk through moving water, as little as six inches of moving water can sweep you off your feet.
  • Don’t ever drive into flooded areas. Half of all flood-related deaths that occur each year are associated with vehicles, says NOAA. Even if it looks safe, it may not be.
  • Remember to take essentials such as medication, emergency supplies and important documents when you evacuate.
Some things to do after a flood:
  • Continue to check news outlets for ongoing information.
  • Stay away from downed power lines and damaged areas.
  • Clean and disinfect everything that got wet. Some things may need to be discarded, such as food.
For more information, check out Get Ready’s flood fact sheet, which is available in English and Spanish.