Thursday, April 30, 2020

Get Ready Mailbag: Can we go back outside already?!

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you! Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

Q: People on the news are going to restaurants, beaches and hair salons. Why I am still sitting inside? I’m ready to quit this and go back out!

A: We hear you: Staying at home to protect yourself from coronavirus isn’t fun. So it’s easy to be envious of those who are out and about. In some states, people are going out because elected leaders have decided that the risk from COVID-19 there has dropped enough to do so. But the list of places people in those states are allowed to go is still very limited.

And some health officials aren't sure those leaders are making the right decision. They’re worried it’s too soon, and that more people may get infected and die. They don’t want to put health and lives at risk just so businesses can reopen, and they don’t want to overwhelm already-strained hospitals and medical workers.

Even in states that haven’t eased their safety recommendations, some people are deciding to go against advice and venture out. That’s relatable — as we’re all going a little stir crazy — but it’s not OK. Spending time in close contact with people outside your household is not a good idea yet, especially if you live in an area where cases of coronavirus are still increasing. (And even if they’re not, that can change quickly.)

The best thing to do is wait for health officials where you live to say it’s alright to go out and socialize again. They will know if the risk has fallen enough where you live and advise you on what you can do safely. Be sure to follow recommendations from actual public health and medical officials — not your friends, not political figures and not some TV talking head. Trustworthy sources of information include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and your state or local health department.

When health officials do say it’s safe to stop saying home, you should still use your best judgment. If you’re someone who is older, or has diseases like diabetes or asthma, you will need to decide if it’s worth it, as you’re more likely to die or get very sick from COVID-19. And even if you don’t have those conditions, you can still pass coronavirus to someone you care about — like your family — without even knowing you have the disease.

Remember, even when cases of COVID-19 do fall and people start coming together again, the disease is not going away. So keep washing those hands, cleaning regularly, covering your sneezes and coughs, and wearing masks. When it comes to COVID-19, it’s better to have cautions than regrets.

Monday, January 27, 2020

Get Ready: What you need to know about the 2019 novel coronavirus

With all the news reports about a big new disease outbreak spreading in China, you may be looking for answers. In fact, you may be feeling a little freaked out. The Get Ready campaign is here to help.

Image courtesy CDC. Case counts as of Jan. 26, 2020
First off and foremost, if you live in the U.S., there’s no need to be alarmed. While there are estimated to be thousands of cases in China — mainly in Hubei province and its capital city, Wuhan, which is located in the eastern part of the country — there are few cases here in America.

The disease, which for now is being called the 2019 novel coronavirus, is in the same family as the common cold. Symptoms may include fever, cough and difficulty breathing. In severe cases, people have died, with at least 80 deaths reported in China.

Here in the U.S., doctors, hospital workers and other health professionals are on high alert for the disease. People who are sick in the U.S. can be isolated in hospitals to help prevent spread of the disease.

So why all the hullaballoo on TV and online? Part of the reason is that the 2019 novel coronavirus is a new disease that hasn’t been seen in humans before. So health officials want to find out more.

The new virus may also be similar to severe acute respiratory syndrome, a disease that killed 800 people around the world about 20 years ago. That worries health officials. But even during that outbreak, there were only eight cases of SARS in the U.S., and no deaths here.

More cases of 2019 novel coronavirus are expected to be reported in the U.S. in coming days and weeks. And it may be spread between people here at some point. In the past, health workers who are caring for sick people have been at high risk for such infections.

So you may be asking, “What does this mean for me?” Good question. In short, the risk to you and the rest of the U.S. general public is low. In fact, it’s much more likely that you’ll get the flu, which is estimated to have sickened 15 million and killed about 8,800 people since September in the U.S. alone.

Bottom line: To stay safe, keep doing what you’re supposed to do to prevent getting sick from a cold.  That includes:
• washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds;
• avoiding touching your eyes, nose and mouth with unwashed hands;
• staying out of close contact with people who might be sick; and
• cleaning and disinfecting frequently touched objects and surfaces.

And remember, if you’re sick with a cold or flu, stay home!

To learn more about the 2019 novel coronavirus, check out this info from CDC, which is being updated as more details are known.

Monday, December 09, 2019

Pass along fun and merriment this season, not the flu

The holiday season is upon us, whether we’re ready for it or not. But one thing we can be ready for this season is the flu.

Before holiday shopping, socializing and endless eating take over our lives, take a break and go get your flu shot. Bring along family members or friends who haven’t received their vaccination as well. Make it an outing, with holiday sweaters and a stop for brunch to make it festive if you have to.
The important thing is to just go get your vax. Because flu season is here, and it’s looking like it will be a bad one.You need to be protected and so do the people you care about.

Last week was National Influenza Vaccination Week, which promotes flu vaccination through the holiday season and beyond. One reason officials are encouraging flu shots now is that all that holiday partying and travel can spread the flu. That means you can 1) get the flu and 2) pass it along to people you care about, which is a gift no one wants to receive.

The flu shot is safe and takes about two weeks to be effective after you get it, so now is the perfect time to get yours.

Still not convinced? There are so, so many benefits to getting a flu shot
Flu vaccination can keep you from getting sick with the flu. Millions of illness and flu-related doctor visits are prevented each year by flu shots.
Flu vaccination can reduce visits to the hospital for flu. For seniors, getting a flu shot can lower their risk of flu-associated hospital visits by 40%.
In children, the flu vaccine can be particularly lifesaving. A study in 2017 showed that flu vaccination significantly decreases the risk of kids dying from the flu.
Flu vaccination can help prevent serious medical issues for people with chronic illnesses. In people with heart disease, flu vaccination decreases the rate of cardiac events.
Flu vaccination helps to protect women during and after pregnancy. Getting a flu shot protects babies after they’re born. It also reduces the risk of flu-related acute respiratory infections by about 40% in pregnant women.
Even if you do get the flu, getting the flu shot will mean that your symptoms will not as bad, and they won’t last as long.

For more info on vaccines and flu, check out our Get Ready fact sheets. For resources to share from CDC, including posters, FAQs and talking points, see their National Influenza Vaccination Week page.

Tuesday, November 26, 2019

Make sure your Thanksgiving guests go home with happy memories, not stomach cramps

The holidays are here, which means you’re probably getting ready to share meals and merriment with families and friends.

This can be a fantastic and yummy time of the year. But if you don’t take care while preparing all that delicious holiday food, you can put people at risk for food poisoning.

Anyone can get sick from food poisoning, but some folks are at higher risk. Kids under age 5, seniors and women who are pregnant are all more likely to get sick from food and have a serious illness.

Luckily, preventing food poisoning can be easy. The U.S. Department of Agriculture  has these tips to help home chefs create safe Thanksgiving meals:

• Wash your hands often while cooking. Use soap and water and scrub for at least 20 seconds. Dry your hands on a clean paper towel, not a dirty apron or towel.
• Prevent cross-contamination. Clean surfaces as you go, including sinks and counters. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat and other food. That way, you won’t end up with raw turkey juice in your salad. (Blech!)
• Cook the turkey to 165 degrees. Use a food thermometer to check it’s done, and never rely on those cheap pop-up ones that come with the turkey.
• Follow the two-hour rule. If all your food hasn’t been gobbled up two hours after you’ve set it out on the table, it’s time to wrap it up and stick it in the fridge. Any leftovers that are perishable should be eaten or frozen within three to four days.

For more seasonal food prep tips, check out

If you have questions while cooking your turkey, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline.
Have a happy, healthy holiday!

Friday, November 22, 2019

Are you ready for a quake? Debunking the myths and sharing the facts

We know earthquakes can be scary. They’re unpredictable and can happen anywhere. But there’s good news: Preparing for earthquakes can help keep you safe.

First, let’s debunk some common earthquake myths:

MYTH: Earthquakes don’t happen where I live.
FACT: Major earthquakes happen in all regions across the country. They can happen at any time and in any place, so it’s best to be as prepared as possible.

MYTH: The best thing to do when you feel an earthquake is to stand in a door frame.
FACT: The best plan of action when you feel an earthquake is to drop, cover and hold on.
Following these steps will give you the best opportunity to stay safe.

Now that you know the facts, it’s time to prepare. Having emergency supplies is the first step. Here’s what’s best to have in your earthquake emergency kit:

1. Water: We use water for drinking, cooking and washing. Experts recommend that everyone has at least one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days. Don’t forget your pets!

2. Food: Having shelf-stable foods — like canned goods, peanut butter and dried fruit — means they will keep longer, even without power. Healthy food in your supply can give you energy if you are asked to evacuate.

3. Small hygiene kit : Staying clean with hand sanitizer and wipes can help prevent the spread of germs.

4. First-aid kit: This is an essential! You can find small first-aid kits at many stores. If you’d like to create your own, add in gauze, bandages, antiseptic wipes and pain medication, as well as items for special needs you may have.

5. Flashlight + batteries: Earthquakes can be damaging. Losing power is common. Having a reliable flashlight with extra batteries can be helpful when it’s dark.

6. Portable cellphone charger: Your phone can be incredibly helpful for contacting emergency services, family members or even using the GPS functions if you are lost. You may not have access to a power outlet, so having a portable or solar charger is key.

Knowledge and preparedness are the best ways to prevent injury in disaster situations. Make sure you and your household have discussed earthquake safety procedures.

Help spread the word about earthquake safety by downloading and printing our Get Ready fact sheet, which is available in English or Spanish.You can even add your own logo!