Wednesday, August 31, 2016

CDC shares tips to protect Americans from the Zika virus

What do you need to know about Zika? That depends on who you are, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

APHA’s Get Ready Report podcast recently spoke with Ben Beard, PhD, branch chief for the Bacterial Diseases Branch in the Division of Vector-Borne Disease at the National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Infectious Diseases, to find out how to protect ourselves from the disease.

Since 2015, more than 8,500 people in U.S. states, territories and Washington, D.C., have been diagnosed with Zika, according to CDC. Most of those cases have occurred in Puerto Rico, where a public health emergency was declared last week.

Beard shared information that can benefit all Americans, especially pregnant women, travelers, outdoor workers and people living in areas where Zika might be spreading. Zika can be spread by mosquito bites, through sexual contact or from a pregnant woman to her fetus during pregnancy or delivery.

Beard recommended that Americans protect themselves from Zika by:
  • using mosquito repellent and wearing clothing to cover their arms and legs,
  • avoiding travel to places where Zika is being actively transmitted, and
  • protecting themselves during sex by using condoms or other barrier methods.

Beard said that public health professionals have an important role to play, especially as parents and kids begin back to school plans.

“There is a really unique opportunity for public health authorities, as school seasons start, to work with schools to make sure that risk of Zika transmission can be minimized,” Beard said. “Public health authorities in school districts can proactively and collaboratively establish direct communication channels and clearly define each partner’s roles and responsibilities.”

Listen to our podcast with Beard now.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Vaccines are awesome! Spread the word during National Immunization Awareness Month

You don’t have to be superhuman to have the power to protect yourself and your community from infectious diseases. You just have to be immunized!

August is National Immunization Awareness Month, and it’s the perfect time to learn about vaccinations for both you and your family.

Getting vaccinated doesn’t only protect yourself, it also helps protect your whole community. Ever heard of herd immunity? If most of your community is immunized against a disease, then that disease won’t have the chance to break out and spread. That means that people who are unable to get certain vaccinations, like very young babies or people with immune system problems, can still be protected.

To achieve community immunity, it’s key that every person who can be vaccinated gets their shots. Make sure the members of your “herd” get the memo with our National Immunization Awareness Month e-card.

Vaccines are important for all ages of people, that’s why each week of National Immunization Awareness Month has a different theme: adults, pregnant women, babies and young children, and preteens and teens.

  • Adults: Vaccinations don’t end once you grow up. Find out what vaccines adults need with this helpful quiz.
  • Pregnant women: Vaccines can transfer immunity to fetuses, so that babies are protected once they’re born. See what’s recommended for pregnant women.
  • Kids and teens: For schoolchildren, getting updated shots should be right next to buying new pencils and paper on the to-do list. Parents can find out what vaccines their kids need via the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website. 

For even more tips and tools to share, check out the National Public Health Information Coalition site.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Olympics 2016: Crowd preparedness is no game

Image: CDC/Dr. Edwin P. Ewing, Jr.
The 2016 Summer Olympics, now underway in Brazil, is sure to bring new records, joyful victories and lots of shiny metals. It’ll also bring something else: crowds. Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to attend at least some of the games.

Whether you’re lucky enough to be in Rio watching the competition or just tuning in from home, the Olympic games are a good reminder that we all should be prepared for crowds.

Use these tips to go for the gold in crowd preparedness and safety this summer:

  • Know before you go. Whether you’re gathering for a sporting event, parade or fireworks show, be aware of your surroundings, and get familiar with what’s happening in the neighborhood you’re headed to. Print out maps beforehand and know your transportation options in case you have to leave the area quickly.
  • Look out for friends and family. Have an emergency plan and meeting place, and make sure the people you’re traveling with are prepared for emergencies, too. 
  • Be a good sport. Stay aware before, during and after your trip. Pay attention to weather forecasts, local news and emergency alerts so you know you’re ready for any situations that may come up.
  • Ready, get set, spray. Summertime means mosquitoes. Protect yourself and the people close to you.

Follow these tips and stay in the know to protect yourself in crowds this summer. For more tips, check out our crowd safety fact sheet. If you’re prepared, you’ll have more time and energy to root for Team USA!

Friday, August 05, 2016

Food banks and disasters: New Orleans’ Second Harvest shows the vital role community food banks play during emergencies

Do you know the connection between food banks and disasters? It’s an important one, but it’s not something everyone is aware of.

Image: Win Henderson/FEMA
We wanted to learn about the topic from an expert, so the Get Ready campaign spoke with Natalie Jayroe, president and CEO of Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana.

Jayroe told us about the work of the food bank, which is the largest hunger-fighting organization in Louisiana and helps 210,000 people a year.

She also told us about the role it plays during disasters, such as the vital services it provided after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, when Second Harvest became the “largest food bank in the world’s history.” The food bank even has an agreement with state health officials to help out in the event of a pandemic.

“We are very comfortable with the fact that we are a disaster response organization,” Jayroe told us.
Find out more about the important emergency role food banks play and get tips on how you can help out. Read our Q&A with Jayroe online now.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Don’t get sick while taking a dip: Protect yourself from swimming-related germs

During a day at the pool, you wear sunscreen to prevent sunburn, but what do you do to prevent an infectious disease? The public water we swim in, from hot tubs to water playgrounds, can contain germs that can make you sick.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently looked at inspection information for public aquatic venues in five states. In 1 in 8 of the inspections, swimming was shut down immediately because of health and safety concerns. Kiddie and wading pools were the highest offenders.

But, wait, you may say. Aren’t these pools being treated? Although chlorine is widely used to kill dangerous germs, some bacteria have developed strong tolerance and can live for hours or even days in chlorinated waters. They can cause diarrhea and infections of the eyes, ears, chest and lungs.

So how can you protect yourself? Before you head out to your public pool, look up inspection results online. Once you’re at the pool, give the water a good once-over. Make sure you’re swimming in good quality water and that there are no foul odors. Pool water should be clear, with the main drain at the bottom visible. If something doesn’t look right, let someone in charge know, and don’t enter the water.

But it’s not all about the pool. You should never leave the water dirtier than you found it. CDC has steps for swimmers to take to prevent spreading germs:
  • If you have diarrhea, skip the pool until you’re better.
  • Keep your mouth closed underwater and never swallow pool water.
  • Shower with soap before you swim and wash your hands after bathroom breaks.

If you’re a parent, CDC recommends a few more steps:
  • Check diapers and take young kids to the toilet often.
  • Change all diapers away from the pool in the bathroom or changing room.
  • Wash your children with soap, especially around their bottoms, before they swim.

For more tips, check out CDC’s steps for healthy swimming