Thursday, September 11, 2014

EV-D68? What’s that? What you need to know about the enterovirus outbreak

Protect yourself from EV-D68 by
washing your hands properly.
You may have heard lately about an outbreak of respiratory illness that’s making kids in a few states sick. The bug that’s causing the illnesses is called enterovirus D68, or sometimes just EV-D68.
In Missouri and Illinois, hospitals are seeing more kids than usual with enterovirus D68-related illness. A few other states are looking into cases of severe respiratory illness that may also be linked to enterovirus D68.
So what is enterovirus? It’s a type of bug that lives in our bodies, yet can make us sick. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and they have different names so that researchers and health providers can tell them apart. Enterovirus infections are common in the summer and fall, though they can happen any time of year.
The main way someone catches enterovirus is by touching something that has the bug on it and then touching their nose, mouth or eyes. You can also catch it by coming in close contact with another person that has the bug.
These bugs are very common and most people who get infected don’t become sick. Some people who get sick feel like they have a common cold, with symptoms like fever, body aches, sneezing and a runny nose.
However, babies and people with weak immune systems, such as people with HIV or those receiving cancer treatments, are at high risk to get very sick from enterovirus. People with illnesses such as asthma may also get very sick.
There is no vaccine that can protect you from this bug, but you can take steps to reduce your chance of getting sick:
  • Practice good hand hygiene: Wash your hands often. Be especially sure to wash your hands before you touch your face, after using the toilet and after changing diapers.
  • Break out the hand sanitizer: If you are not able to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol and rub a good amount onto your hands. Remember that hand sanitizer is only for when soap and water are not available and does not take the place of hand-washing.
  • Keep it clean: Clean and disinfect surfaces that are used a lot or that everyone touches, like door handles, light switches and tables.
If you or someone in your care has symptoms that cause you concern, especially a baby or someone whose immune system is not strong, it’s best to get them checked by your health care provider.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Celebrate APHA’s Get Ready Day and spread the preparedness message on Sept. 16

How prepared are you for an emergency or disaster? Have you developed a disaster plan for your family? Do you know how to protect yourself from measles, the flu or other infectious diseases? Most Americans are not prepared for public health emergencies or disasters.
APHA’s Get Ready Day is raising awareness about community preparedness. Held each year in conjunction with National Preparedness Month, the event will be observed Tuesday, Sept. 16. No matter where you live, there is always a possibility of a public health emergency, from earthquakes and hurricanes to infectious diseases.
So what can you do? First, assess how prepared you and your family are: Do you have an emergency plan? A three-day supply of food and water? Where would your family meet during a disaster if they could not go home? How would you leave town if you had to evacuate? Check out these planning tips and information on emergency stockpiling for help in getting yourself and your family prepared.
Once you are up to date, bring the preparedness message to your community on Get Ready Day. Here are a few ideas:
  • Sponsor a preparedness talk at your local senior center or hold a community meeting. Invite someone from your local health department or the American Red Cross to be a speaker.
  • Insert preparedness planning materials into your church or religious organization’s bulletin, and post information at your library.
  • Work with a local grocery store to promote preparedness and stockpiling to shoppers through displays or fliers. Pass out lists of what people should have to be prepared.
Thanks to your help this Get Ready Day, we’ll all be better prepared!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Avoid the risk from measles: Get vaccinated

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. And yet measles cases in the country hit a 20-year high this summer. How can that be?

When health officials declared measles eliminated, it was because the disease was no longer considered native in the U.S. Thanks to vaccination, measles — which once caused 3 million to 4 million cases a year in the U.S. — isn’t continuously transmitted here anymore.

But the disease is still common in many countries around the world. Unvaccinated travelers can bring measles to the U.S. with them.

Globally, 20 million people get measles each year, and about 164,000 people die from the disease. Measles can also have lasting complications, including loss of hearing or lifelong brain damage.

Measles is caused by a virus and is very contagious. It can be spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. It’s so contagious, in fact, “that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re unvaccinated, you can get measles from an infected person. Unvaccinated children and pregnant women are especially at risk for contracting measles.

Some families choose not to vaccinate their children while some are not able to get vaccinated against measles because of allergies or other pre-existing health conditions. By vaccinating your child, you protect not just him or her but you help protect others in your community who are unable to be vaccinated by slowing or preventing the spread of the disease to others.

Luckily, measles is easily preventable. Talk to your health provider about measles vaccination for you and your family.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

College students: Are you vaccinated against meningitis?

As the start of the fall college semester nears, parents and students should be aware of bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is usually a severe disease that can cause brain damage, hearing loss and other serious complications. It’s caused by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Luckily, there are vaccines that can prevent it.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends college students and young adults between the ages of 19-24 get vaccinated against meningitis, as they are more susceptible since its spread by close physical contact. College students are more inclined to be living in close quarters and sharing personal items.

Last year, several universities experienced outbreaks on campus. Many states require incoming college students, especially those living on campus, to be vaccinated for meningitis before they are allowed to register for courses. Students who received their vaccinations before their 16th birthday are encouraged to get a booster dose before heading to college to ensure maximum protection.
National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer storms can mean power outages

Rosanna Arias/FEMA
Summer storms can leave your home, your neighborhood and even your entire city or town without power. While power outages can occur any time of year, summer power outages come with special challenges, such as heat-related illness. To prepare for summer power outages, follow these tips:

•   Beware of heat stroke: Power outages mean loss of air conditioning or electric fans. If temperatures are high, don’t sweat it out. Go to a designated cooling center or friend’s house with functioning air conditioning. Heat can be especially dangerous for seniors. If you do stay at home, keep blinds and curtains closed to block out the sun. Consider buying a battery-operated fan for your emergency supply kit.

•   Store bottled water: In addition to knocking out power, summer storms can also lead to flooding and contaminated water. So it’s especially important to have water stored during the summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you drink a glass of fluid every 15-20 minutes in extreme heat. Do not drink alcohol or caffeine, as they will dehydrate you. If you use a water purification system, keep in mind it may not work during a power outage.

•   Make sure your food is safe: According to CDC, if the power is out for more than four hours, it’s best to move meats and dairy products into a cooler with ice. Move stuff to a cooler but don't open the freezer . Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food before you cook or eat it. Discard any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees. Remember: When in doubt, throw it out.

•   Unplug: The American Red Cross suggests that during a power outage, it’s a good idea to unplug all electrical equipment. When the power comes back on, the spike in electricity can cause damage to equipment like computers and televisions. Leave one light on, however, so you can know when the electricity is back on.

•   Protect against carbon monoxide: While a home generator might make a power outage easier to cope with, never use one inside a home, garage, basement or any partially enclosed area. Generators, along with any other gasoline or propane burning device, can produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas and exposure can lead to death. It’s a good idea to have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector that works without electricity.

For more summer preparedness tips, visit Get Ready’s Summer Safe Web page