Thursday, April 14, 2016

Zika is officially linked to microcephaly, CDC says

Photo: CDC/
 Division of Vector-borne Diseases
It’s official: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika virus causes microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

CDC scientists reviewed the evidence that’s been collected so far on Zika and this week confirmed the link to microcephaly, a birth defect in which a baby is born with a small head and other possible developmental problems.

But wait, didn’t we know that already? Well, sort of. Since reports of microcephaly spiked in Brazil in 2015, scientists have strongly suspected the link to Zika. But there wasn’t enough science or review for U.S. health officials to say with 100 percent surety. And now they have.

“This study marks a turning point in the Zika outbreak,” said CDC Director Tom Frieden. “It is now clear that the virus causes microcephaly.”

CDC’s Zika guidance for pregnant women hasn’t changed: Pregnant women should avoid traveling to areas where Zika is being spread, among other recommendations.

To help share the facts on Zika, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has created an easy-to-understand Zika fact sheet. It’s been updated this week to share the new finding from CDC. You can download the fact sheet now to share in your community and with friends and family.

Monday, April 11, 2016

ICE: Setting up in-case-of-emergency contact on your smartphone

Locked iPhone with Medical ID
photo: Patrick Benko
Did you know that your smartphone could help save your life in an emergency?

Say you’re hurt in a tornado or flood, for instance, and you slip out of consciousness. You’re rushed to the hospital, where medical teams heroically treat your injuries. There’s no one there to share your medical information or tell people who to contact. So now what?

That’s where having ICE — or in-case-of-emergency — information on your phone comes in. ICE is contact information for a trusted person. With a little planning ahead, your phone can share medical details and contact information with emergency workers, even if you can’t.

You can add ICE information easily in your phone contacts. Just add a new contact like you normally would. Pick your emergency person and include their phone number, email and other info. Then name that listing as ICE. Voilà! Your ICE information is now on your phone for emergency workers to find, right there under the letter “I.”

But how will emergency workers get access if your phone is locked? Good question.
If you have an iPhone with iOS 8 or higher, there’s an ICE feature within your Health app. It will share information under the “Medical ID” option on your phone’s emergency screen even if the phone is locked. Here’s how to set it up:

  1. Choose the “Health” app. 
  2. On the bottom panel, select “Medical ID.”
  3. Accept the disclaimer by choosing “Create Medical ID.”
  4. Fill out all the requested information, including details on allergies and blood type.
  5. Choose “done” on the top right corner of the page to save your information.

Want to see if it works? Lock your phone and slide to unlock. Choose “Emergency.” On the bottom left-hand corner, “Medical ID” will appear. Click on it to see your saved information.

If you have an Android phone, there are apps you can download to share ICE and medical information on your locked phone as well.

Another easy idea that will work for any phone is to add an ICE phone number directly on your home screen image. That way it shows anytime someone turns on your phone. Just download an app that allows you to add text to photos, add the number and save the image as your home screen wallpaper.

Still not convinced? Luckily, you can also let emergency responders know your medical conditions and ICE info the old-fashioned way, with a paper card in your wallet.

Wednesday, April 06, 2016

It’s National Public Health Week! Show your commitment to preparedness and celebrate public health

National Public Health Week is here, and health advocates around the nation are celebrating.

NPHW is a week filled with fun, informative events to help you and your community get healthy. From providing access to healthy food to strengthening access to health services to helping your community prepare for disasters, there are many ways you can support health this week.

Organized annually by APHA, NPHW is being held April 4-10 around the theme of “Healthiest Nation 2030.” The goal is to help Americans and the nation become healthier by 2030, and you can be part of that change.

Hundreds of events are being held nationwide. It’s not too late to plan your own. NPHW is a great opportunity to share health and preparedness information on campus, at health fairs, in your workplace, at schools and in health facilities. Get Ready makes planning easy with free fact sheets on flu, vaccinations, Zika, weather preparedness and more. And check out our NPHW fact sheets, too.

Join us online for our annual NPHW Twitter chat on April 6 at 2 p.m. EDT. People across the country will be tweeting together about how America can become the healthiest nation. Use the hashtag #NPHWchat to join the conversation.

And for all the students out there, you definitely don’t want to miss our virtual town hall on Friday, April 8, aka Public Health Student Day. You’ll have an opportunity to ask questions about the future of health in America with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy.

For more ideas on how you can get involved, check out the NPHW website. Thanks for joining with us to create a healthier nation!

Friday, April 01, 2016

Climate change, droughts and health: NPHW emphasizes preparedness

This National Public Health Week — which is going on right now! — we’re focusing on making the U.S. the healthiest nation. Getting there means we need to address a number of issues, including climate change. Climate change and extreme weather are threatening U.S. health, and if we don’t do something about them there’ll be increases in disease, injury and death.

One of the big effects of climate change that scientists are worried about are droughts, which could make water supplies scarce. Droughts can even cause more cases of West Nile virus, research shows.
Both before and during droughts, there are steps we can all take to conserve water:
  • Reduce shower times and use high-efficiency showerheads to use less water and conserve energy.
  • Use energy-efficient washing machines and make sure to wash full loads of laundry instead of more frequent small loads.
  • Turn off your sprinklers when it’s raining. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends checking your lawn by stepping on the grass and seeing if it springs back as an indicator of whether it needs more water. Pay attention to local restrictions on water use during droughts.
  • Educate your community about the importance of water conservation and why everyone needs to do their part.
Learn more about climate change and health on the NPHW website, and check out NPHW events being held in your area this week.

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Spring is here! Use USDA’s new food preparedness graphic to clean out your fridge

Spring cleaning is about more than just cleaning out your closets. It’s also a good time to clean out your refrigerator, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The Get Ready team spoke with USDA public affairs specialist Kristina Beaugh, MPH, on how you can make sure the food in your fridge is safe. Beaugh is part of USDA’s food safety education staff.

USDA has a new refrigerator food safety infographic. What does it say about the importance of an organized refrigerator?
With the start of spring, many people will be looking to clean and organize the house from top to bottom. It’s important to remember your refrigerator during your spring cleaning regimen. Keeping your refrigerator clean and organized helps to reduce your risk of foodborne illness and can also minimize the amount of food that spoils. USDA’s “Your Fridge + Food Safety” infographic is a great tool to keep handy while you’re cleaning. It goes over everything from temperature and storage to how to keep your fridge clean and fresh.

Step-by-step, take us through the process of turning an unsafe, messy fridge to an organized, safe, risk-free one.
The first step is to make sure your refrigerator is set to the right temperature. Refrigeration slows bacterial growth on your food, so it’s important to keep your fridge and freezer at a temperature that will keep your food safe and help it to stay fresher longer. Your refrigerator should be set to 40° F or below, and your freezer should be set to 0° F or below. You can measure your fridge’s internal temperature with an appliance thermometer.

Next, it’s time to store the food. Did you know that where you store certain foods could have an effect on their safety and freshness? It’s true! Here are some helpful guidelines:

  • Raw meat and poultry should be stored in a sealed container or securely wrapped on a plate to prevent juices from contaminating other foods.
  • Sealed crisper drawers provide an ideal storage environment for fruits and vegetables. Some refrigerators may allow you to customize each drawer’s humidity level. If so, vegetables require higher humidity, while fruits require lower humidity.
  • Never store perishable foods in the door. The temperature of doors changes frequently. Instead, use the doors to store things like juice, water and condiments.
  • Perishable foods like eggs, dairy and raw meat and poultry should be stored on shelves in the main compartment where the temperature is more stable.
  • Food stored in the freezer is safe indefinitely. Although quality may suffer with lengthy storage, frozen food is safe forever.
If you’re ever left wondering how long different foods last in the fridge and freezer, don’t worry — you’re not alone. A general rule of thumb for refrigerator storage is three to four days for cooked foods, one to two days for poultry and ground meat and up to five days for whole cuts of meat. For storage information on more than 400 foods and beverages, download the FoodKeeper app. It’s free and it’s available for Apple and Android products.

And finally, keeping your refrigerator clean isn’t necessarily the last step, but rather a step you should remember all year long. Wipe up spills immediately, and clean surfaces thoroughly with hot, soapy water. Sanitize your refrigerator with a diluted bleach solution — one tablespoon unscented bleach to one gallon of water. To keep your refrigerator smelling fresh and to help eliminate odors, place an opened box of baking soda on a shelf.

Where can readers find out more?
If you have additional questions about food safety or organizing your fridge, you can call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854. Or chat live with a food safety specialist at from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Eastern time Monday through Friday, in English or Spanish.

USDA’s “Your Fridge + Food Safety” infographic