Friday, November 30, 2007

Pandemic flu vaccinations: No time for ‘cutsies’ in line

If a pandemic flu hits and there is a vaccine available, who will get vaccinated first? According to the federal government, people working on the front lines — such as health care workers, firefighters and police, among others — will be first in line. That’s good, because they will be the ones out there trying to help during a crisis. Also at the head of the list for receiving vaccinations are those who are at higher risk of becoming very sick, such as pregnant women, infants and toddlers.

What about the elderly, and other adults? In a severe pandemic scenario, children between the ages of 3 and 18 will be vaccinated before people who are 65 and older, according to plans that are now in place. Healthy adults between the ages of 19 and 64 will come in last.

Depending on the type of pandemic we’re faced with, however, this order may shift. For example, healthy adults could become a higher priority if the pandemic looks anything like it did during the 1918 flu pandemic, during which nearly half of all deaths that occurred were among people ages 20 to 40.

Because vaccines may not be easily available during a pandemic, vaccination won’t be the only way to fight disease. Simple acts such as washing your hands, covering your mouth when you cough or sneeze and staying home when you are sick will make a huge difference. That’s not just sound advice while living through a pandemic. It’s a good lesson for your everyday life.

Do you think the government’s plan makes sense? Is this the right order? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: More bird flu outbreaks reported in poultry

More cases of H5N1 bird flu were reported in poultry around the world this week, with at least five countries experiencing new or reoccurring outbreaks, according to headlines reported by APHA’s Get Ready news Twitter. The bird flu cases came as more and more countries work to come up with pandemic flu plans and as world health leaders struggle to reach common ground on virus sample sharing.

Among the week’s bird flu highlights reported by the Get Ready news Twitter are:
South Korea reports new low pathogenic bird flu case
Japan bans poultry from South Korea
Myanmar reports fresh bird flu outbreak
Another case of bird flu in Hong Kong
Deadly bird flu found on Saudi poultry farm
Bird flu found in market near Saudi capital
Cull ends at bird flu-hit farms in UK
UK bird flu poses no food safety risks, officials say
UK poultry owners urged to register in fight against bird flu

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Guest blog: Today is first-ever National Children’s Flu Vaccination Day

Today's blog entry is authored by Richard H. Carmona, MD, MPH, FACS, former U.S. surgeon general and chair of the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition; and Carol J. Baker, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and moderator for the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition.

This week is National Influenza Vaccination Week, which was created by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to encourage more people to get vaccinated against influenza, also called the flu, in November, December and beyond.

For the first time ever, CDC, along with Families Fighting Flu -- both members of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition -- created a day within National Influenza Vaccination Week that focuses on children. Children's Flu Vaccination Day is today, Nov. 27.

Americans are for the most part unaware that influenza can be a serious risk to the health of our children. Children are two to three times more likely to come down with the flu than adults because their immune systems are less developed. Children are also very good spreaders of the flu since they wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes less frequently than adults.

Seasonal flu is very serious. Each year, thousands of Americans are hospitalized and some even die due to the flu and its complications.

Annual influenza vaccination is safe and effective and is the best way to protect anyone from getting sick with the flu.

So get vaccinated against influenza every year, beginning in the fall and continuing through the winter -- December and beyond. Creating healthy family habits will help protect our nation from influenza each season and in the case of an influenza pandemic.

On behalf of the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition, we thank our members, including APHA, for the important work they do throughout the year to educate people about the importance of flu vaccination.

Monday, November 26, 2007

It’s not too late to get your seasonal flu shot

Still haven't gotten your seasonal flu shot? Well, now's the perfect time. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has named this week National Influenza Vaccination Week. This week is here to remind us why it is important to get our flu shots. It is also a good time to make sure that everyone who hasn't gotten their shot yet gets them through the months of November, December and into the new year.

Each year in the United States, around 36,000 people die and more than 200,000 are hospitalized because of seasonal flu. People who don't get a flu shot are putting themselves at risk for the flu, which can be a serious illness. If they get sick, they are also placing their close contacts at risk for flu. And even though our families might drive us crazy at times, we don't want to make them sick!

Getting a flu shot is the single best way to protect yourself and the people you love from seasonal flu. And there is still plenty of time left in this flu season to make getting the flu shot worthwhile.

Also, tomorrow, Nov. 27, is set aside as Children's Flu Vaccination Day. Each year, more than 20,000 kids younger than age 5 are hospitalized because of the flu. This day will focus on making sure that everyone knows how important it is that all kids get their flu shot.

Record amounts of flu vaccine are available this season, so call your doctor or health clinic and schedule a time for you and your loved ones to get your flu shots. Take the flu seriously and make sure you get ready for this flu season by getting your shot!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Time to get your seasonal flu shot!

Reports of seasonal flu cases are trickling in from across the U.S., with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention noting elevated flu activity in the Mountain and New England regions and localized outbreaks in three states as of Nov. 10. Headlines reported this week by APHA’s Get Ready news Twitter show that now is the time to find a flu clinic and get your vaccination.

Among the week’s seasonal flu highlights are:
Seasonal flu outbreaks in three U.S. states
National Influenza Vaccination Week is Nov. 26 to Dec 2 in U.S.
• Have you received your seasonal flu shot yet? Take our poll!
Flu season hits Lower Hudson, N.Y.
How to find a seasonal flu shot: Web site helps find flu vaccine
Delaware’s first flu cases of season reported
Florida flu season is under way
Central Florida worst in U.S. for seasonal flu

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready news Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Friday, November 16, 2007

When planning for a pandemic, let's not forget the kids

When planning for a pandemic, there's one item you should be sure not to leave off the list: the kids. But a recent report suggests that's exactly what's happening.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and Trust for America's Health, children are being left out of pandemic flu planning around the world. Even the U.S. flu plan does not fully address how to care for children if we have a pandemic.

Making matters worse, since 2003, nearly half of the more than 200 people who have died from H5N1 bird flu -- the strain scientists have considered being the greatest pandemic threat -- have been younger than age 19. Children are more at risk for contagious diseases, including the flu, because they have less immunity. They also are more likely to spread the virus because they come in close contact with other children.

To improve flu planning for kids, the report recommends that the U.S. government:

*include pediatricians in pandemic flu planning;
*test vaccines, medicine and medical equipment to make sure they work and are safe for children;
*store enough vaccine and medicines to treat at least 25 percent of children in the United States -- about 18.4 million people;
*teach children in school to wash their hands, cover their mouth when they cough and other ways to prevent viruses from spreading; and
*figure out what would happen if schools close for a long period of time.

If you are worried about what you can do to keep your kids safe from infections, check out this Q&A from APHA experts with tips you can use.

What special planning have you done to protect your children? Let us know by clicking the "comment" button below, and sharing your experiences!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Seasonal flu vaccinations on agenda

Seasonal flu is here, and health workers around the globe are using innovative methods — from drive-thru clinics to talking posters - to encourage people to get their annual vaccinations, as evidenced by some of the news headlines reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter.

Among the week's seasonal flu highlights are:

*Scotland uses talking posters, graffiti to promote flu shots
*Free flu shots will be given in Paris
*Children's books to help fight bird flu in Australia
*Baltimore to monitor severity of flu during season
*Banks, nurses team up to give out flu shots in Michigan
*Flu vaccination should reach more people says U.S. CDC

Have you received your seasonal flu shot yet? Take our poll now on the right-hand side of the Get Ready for Flu blog!

For links to these and dozens of other news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back regularly for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed. Our Twitter headlines can also be read on the Get Ready for Flu blog.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Help make sure the nation is ready for pandemic flu

It's important that each and every one of us takes steps to prepare for pandemic flu. But what is the government doing to help? Quite a bit, actually. In fact, a few years ago, U.S. leaders released an ambitious plan that lays out the steps that the government- along with states, communities, businesses and families- should take to get ready for a flu pandemic. It's a wise start, but the plan needs more money.

Congress has already given the plan some funding, which is being used to stockpile drugs called "antivirals" that are used to help treat people with flu. Some is being used to store vaccines that would protect people against H5N1, the strain of bird flu that is causing concern around the world. And some of the money is also being used to increase our nation’s ability to make vaccines- which are all positive steps.

Unfortunately, not enough money is going to help states and communities prepare for a flu pandemic. Funding is especially needed to make sure that there are enough health workers on hand if a pandemic occurs and that hospitals have enough medical supplies and beds. That way, you, your family and your community will be protected. And isn't that what we all want?

You can help make sure that there is enough money in place to prepare the nation for pandemic flu. Let your legislator know you support preparedness and public health by contacting them via phone, e-mail or even old-fashioned snail mail. You could even go a step further and set up a meeting with your elected official and deliver your message face-to-face. Legislators are working on budgets now, so this is the time to make your voice heard!

Won't you be my neighbor? Community preparedness and pandemic flu

Neighbors. Whether we live in a city, suburb or rural area, we've all got 'em. Whether or not we've actually met any of them is another story. But recent work by public health students at Indiana University suggests that now may be the time to whip up a batch of cookies and make a call on the folks next door, as getting to know your neighbor can play an important role in the event of a flu pandemic.

Working at the request of a community in Indianapolis, students at the university's School of Public Health developed a plan known as "Healthwatch" that can be used to link up neighbors. At the heart of Healthwatch is the idea that neighbors can work together on preparedness, communication and awareness and rely on one another during a flu pandemic. Even though the plan was created for a specific community, it can serve as a model and be used elsewhere, according to Victoria Russo, MPH, who discussed the approach during the American Public Health Association's Annual Meeting this month.

"Our world is now faced with a deadly disease," Russo said. "The impact will be local, therefore preparedness must be at the local level also."

Based on the Healthwatch plan, here are some tips that you can use in your neighborhood:

*Bring together residents on pandemic flu planning through a community or neighborhood organization, which can serve as the coordinator for the effort.

*Getting a handle on a whole community of residents at once can be daunting. Try organizing neighborhoods into smaller units, such as 10 households each (be they apartments, mobile homes or houses). Then pick a captain that will serve as the head of each unit.

*Ask residents to provide details such as how many people live in each home and contact information to the unit captain. Create a phone tree so that residents can stay up-to-date on the situation and check up on those who need help.

*Come up with a way that sick households can be identified during a pandemic, such as a flag on a mailbox or sticker on a door, and ask residents to call in their symptoms to their captains, who can relay requests for help.

*Encourage residents to plan ahead and stock up on supplies for their households now, and to think about who in their homes might have special needs, such as the elderly or pregnant women.

The bottom line? Get to know your neighbor today. Because in the event of a disaster- be it pandemic flu or a hurricane- your nearest neighbors may turn out to be your closest allies.

Photo courtesy iStockphoto

Friday, November 02, 2007

Tulane student named as winner of APHA Get Ready Song Contest

A public health student and amateur song writer has been named as the winner of APHA’s Get Ready Song Contest.

“Get Ready,” an original song written and performed by Tulane University public health student Joy Elizabeth Sadaly, was chosen as the first-place winner of the contest. Judges praised the song, which featured Sadaly performing acoustically with a guitar, for its appealing tune, creative lyrics and “great hook.”

The contest, held in summer 2007, called on APHA members and the public to write and record a song in support of the Association’s Get Ready campaign. The campaign is working to help Americans prepared themselves, their families and their communities for pandemic flu and other emerging infectious diseases.

“Pandemic Blues,” by Lance Waller, PhD, and the Sinners for Disease Control, was named the second-place winner in the contest. Waller, a biostatistics professor with the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University in Atlanta, and his friends, John Cowden and Michael Starling, performed the song using primarily guitars and a piano.

Four songwriters also earned honorable mentions in the song contest: Glenn Hildebrand, Marina Kamen, Jenifer Kirin and Douglas Slaten.

You can listen to the songs online now via the Get Ready Web site.