Thursday, January 15, 2015

Bring home the magic from your theme park vacation, not the measles

CDC/ Cynthia S. Goldsmith;
William Bellini, Ph.D.
Disneyland is known as “the happiest place on earth” — except if you’ve got the measles. In December, the popular California theme park became the host of a measles outbreak.

On Jan. 7, the California Department of Public Health reported measles cases among seven people who visited Disneyland or Disney California Adventure Park sometime between Dec. 15 and 20. According to news reports, there are now at least 26 cases of measles in four states that are linked to the outbreak and it may travel farther. At least one person infected in the outbreak traveled on a plane to visit family not knowing she was sick. Her travel could have exposed many more.

It’s a small, small world when it comes to disease transmission, and crowded places like theme parks are the perfect spots for spreading disease. Being surrounded by lots of people also means being surrounded by their germs. But Mickey’s not to blame. While the United States officially eliminated measles in 2000, unvaccinated travelers can bring measles with them from anywhere in the world, including the United States.

That doesn’t mean you should avoid theme parks, however. Getting vaccinated against preventable diseases is the best way you can keep yourself, your loved ones and your community healthy. Vaccines are available to protect us from measles and more than a dozen other serious diseases. Babies and young children — common theme park visitors — are especially susceptible to diseases. That’s why it’s so important to get children vaccinated at an early age.

As a parent or caregiver, make sure you learn about recommended child vaccination schedules and talk about them with your doctor or health care provider. Not vaccinating your children not only leaves them vulnerable to dangerous diseases, but threatens the health of fellow children who are either too young to be vaccinated, are unable to be vaccinated or have not been fully immunized. You want your child to take home souvenirs and happy memories home from vacation, not an infectious disease, right?

Help keep public places happy and safe for all. Check out Get Ready fact sheets for more general information about vaccines, and the importance of vaccines for kids, teens and adults.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Looking for a 2015 calendar? Free Get Ready calendar available now!

It’s a new year and you know what that means…time for a new calendar! If you don’t want to get stuck with a year’s worth of so-so scenery or creepy teddy bears, never fear — we’ve got you covered, and in the cutest possible way.

The Get Ready 2015 Tips from Tots Calendar is available online now for download, and it’s absolutely free. Featuring cute tots and preparedness tips, the calendar makes a great addition to your bulletin board, office wall or refrigerator.

You’ll look forward to each new month with our calendar’s adorable photos, which were submitted as part of our 2014 photo contest. And you’ll learn great preparedness info that can help keep you safe. Eight-month-old Dominic will advise what to do if you’re caught in a blizzard in February, while Jesse, age 7 months, will remind you not to forget your hat and sunscreen as you head outside in June. And there are 10 more months to go!

Print the Get Ready 2015 Tips from Tots Calendar for yourself and share copies with your friends and family so they can be prepared for disasters, too.

Friday, January 09, 2015

Flu season intensifies across the US

The following originally appeared on APHA’s Public Health Newswire blog.

Flu cases are on the rise. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest edition of FluView, its weekly influenza surveillance report, U.S. flu activity is increasing in strength and expanding its reach to more areas of the country. As of Dec. 27, 43 states reported “high or widespread influenza activity,” resulting most commonly from drifted influenza A viruses, or H3N2.

Data from CDC’s FluView on the 2014-2015 flu season also shows that 3,441 laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated hospitalizations have been reported since Oct. 1; for the week of Dec. 27, 5.9 percent of all clinic visits were for patients seeking treatment for influenza-like illness, an elevated level for the sixth week in a row; and 21 influenza-associated pediatric deaths have been reported.

These trends are consistent with what CDC officials have seen over the past several flu seasons. With January or February typically being the worst months for flu, activity could continue to rise.

There are many ways you can protect yourself and others from the flu, including:
  • Getting your annual seasonal flu vaccine, which is the best way to reduce your chance of getting the flu. It’s not too late to get vaccinated.
  • Washing your hands often with soap and water, and covering your nose and mouth with a tissue if you cough or sneeze.
  • If you do experience flu-like symptoms, staying home and limit contact with others.
Do you live in a state with high or widespread flu activity? Visit Flu Near You, administered by Healthmap of Boston Children’s Hospital in partnership with APHA and the Skoll Global Threats Fund, or download the Flu Near You app to track the outbreak and protect yourself and your community. Flu Near You is a free website and app that uses weekly surveys to track flu symptoms around the country.  Register to see flu activity in your area, find nearby locations offering flu vaccines and connect with local public health organizations.

You can also find out more about flu prevention at APHA’s Get Ready campaign, including fact sheets and other helpful resources.

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

January is National Blood Donor Month

Since 1970, January has been known as National Blood Donor Month. It’s a perfect time to encourage people to start the New Year off right by giving the gift of life. How can you help? Glad you asked.

During the month of January, instead of the usual New Year’s resolutions, make a commitment to donate blood or host a blood drive at your  school, work, community center or place of worship.

Did you know that every two seconds someone receives a unit of blood? Hospitals and organizations such as the American Red Cross work hard to make sure that blood is available for patients who may need it to save their life. Blood can’t be manufactured or created in a lab; it can only come from ordinary people like us — office workers, business executives, college students, parents and grandparents, and people from every walk of life. Blood donors share a common goal — the desire to help others.

On average, approximately 44,000 blood donations are needed daily for surgeries, diseases and trauma. Because of cold weather and busy post-holiday schedules, winter is a difficult season to receive blood donations. So your January blood donation is especially appreciated.

Weather-related disasters and emergencies can strike at any time, and the blood used in an emergency is already on the shelves before events occur. Blood donations like yours will make sure that supplies are available when they’re needed most.