Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to keep climate change from ruining your summer

Climate change is making summer more dangerous, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Unfortunately, increases in heat, bad air, mosquitoes and pollen can suck the fun out of summer.

In our latest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready campaign speaks with Kim Knowlton, senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council and co-deputy director of the NRDC Science Center, about how you can get ready for the effects of climate change during the summer.

“Preparedness is key,” Knowlton says. “We need to prepare for the effects of climate change.”
One of the most common myths about summer weather is the confusion between a heat wave and a typical, hot summer day. Knowlton says a heat wave means there are extremely hot temperatures that last more than two consecutive days. It’s also important to note that heat waves vary from place to place.

“There is no one heat wave definition or temperature that applies everywhere,” Knowlton says. “People who live where it’s cooler are generally more sensitive to extreme heat.”

The council has created a new fact sheet on some of the things that are getting worse during the summer months because of climate change and ways people can avoid them. Some of the tips are:
• Heat waves: Reduce, reschedule or eliminate intense activities until the coolest part of the day. Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn lowers your body’s ability to deal with heat.
• Bad air alert days: Asthma sufferers should follow their asthma action plans and keep their quick-relief medicine handy.
• Ticks and mosquitoes: To avoid insect bites, tuck in your shirt and wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when spending time outside. After spending time outdoors, check for ticks and remove them with tweezers.

Listen to our podcast with Knowlton now. For more seasonal preparedness tips, check out the Get Ready Summer Safe page

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chiku-what?! Florida resident is first to contract mosquito-borne disease within the US

U.S. health officials are on alert for a painful disease with an unusual name, after a new case was diagnosed in a Florida man in July.

Chikungunya, an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes, causes fever and severe joint pain. There’s no cure for the disease and treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. While the disease can’t be spread from person to person, it can be spread when a mosquito bites an infected person and then a healthy one.

Health officials have known about chikungunya for a long time — it was first described during an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952. As global temperatures have warmed and some types of mosquitoes have spread, the disease has spread to more than 40 countries. An ongoing outbreak in the Caribbean has been linked to thousands of cases.

Photo courtesy CDC Media Relations
In the U.S., cases of chikungunya are usually brought home by travelers who contract the disease in another country. In 2014, more than 240 cases have been imported by travelers.

But in the July Florida case, the man diagnosed with the disease had not traveled outside of the U.S. recently, meaning he caught chikungunya here. The case is the first to be confirmed in the U.S. as locally-acquired. That has put health officials on alert.

Health officials don’t know how much of a problem chikungunya will be in the United States. But as with West Nile virus, which was first reported in the U.S. in 1999 and causes annual cases across the country — with 2,469 cases and 119 deaths reported to CDC in 2013 — there is a chance that the disease will become a regular occurrence.

Photo courtesy CDC Media Relations
However, the good news is that chikungunya is not fatal and can easily be prevented. Here are some basic steps to protect you and your family from mosquitoes:
• Use insect repellent when outdoors.
• Wear clothing that covers your feet, legs and arms.
• Avoid going outside at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Want to know more on how to protect yourself? Check out our Get Ready mosquitoes fact sheet. 

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Summer means sun, fun — and hurricanes

Photo courtesy iStockphoto
The summer months can bring both beautiful and dangerous weather. Hurricane Arthur’s recent trip up the East Coast, which caused flooding and canceled Fourth of July plans, shows the importance of being prepared for summer hurricanes.

In the U.S., people living and vacationing along the Atlantic and Gulf Coast are most likely to experience hurricanes. Hurricanes can cause high winds, flooding and even tornadoes.

Follow these steps and you’ll be on your way to staying safe this hurricane season:
• Learn if you live in an area at risk for hurricanes. If you’re going on vacation, find out if the area you’re visiting is at risk for hurricanes.

• Be informed about your community’s warning system, evacuation routes and shelters. If you’re staying at a hotel in an area at risk for hurricanes, talk to the staff about evacuation plans for guests. Always comply with orders to evacuate.

• A hurricane warning means a hurricane is close. If a warning is given, cover doors and windows to keep them from breaking. Fill things like sinks and bathtubs with clean water in case water is not available. Finally, set your refrigerator on its coldest setting and fill your vehicles with gas.

• Know where to meet if someone gets separated or lost during a hurricane.

• Make sure your emergency kit is up to date and that supplies are ready to go in case you have to evacuate. Common supplies include three days of food and water, a first-aid kit, flashlights and lanterns, batteries and a battery-operated radio. For a detailed checklist, visit the Get Ready website

• If you are told to evacuate and have time, turn off gas, water and electricity. Lastly, make sure to help neighbors. 

To learn more about hurricane preparedness, read our Get Ready fact sheet.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Get Ready Mailbag: What’s the connection between climate change, health and disasters?

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

I’ve been hearing a lot lately about how climate change will be bad for health and lead to more disasters. How could that happen?

Yes, you’ve heard right. In fact, climate change is already having an impact on health and weather-related disasters. Let’s take a look at some of the health effects that you may or may not realize are caused or made worse by climate change.

• Climate change causes greater extremes in temperatures:
Heat not only feels uncomfortable, it can make you very sick or kill you. You may already know about heat exhaustion or a more deadly version, known as heat stroke. However, did you know that heat can increase blood pressure, aggravate heart disease and cause premature labor? Extreme cold can also cause frostbite and hypothermia.

• Climate change causes the spread of diseases:
Warmer and wetter climate allows some diseases and the insects that carry them to thrive in more regions and countries. West Nile virus, dengue and Chikungunya are all spread by mosquitoes, and Lyme disease is spread by ticks. As the U.S. climate changes, these diseases will affect more and more people. 

• Climate change causes more drought, flooding and food and water shortages:
Hotter temperatures, as well as too much or too little rainfall, are causing food crops to fail. This could lead to increased prices for basic food items. Drought can pollute our drinking water by causing toxins in the water to become more concentrated. Floods cause bacteria and viruses that make us sick to enter our water supply.

You can help yourself, your family and your animal companions be prepared by visiting APHA’s Get Ready website, which has a lot of helpful information.You may also want to read the new National Climate Assessment, which has a whole chapter on climate and human health.

Tuesday, July 08, 2014

Summertime crowds means being prepared

Whether you took in fireworks from the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City, on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., or in your hometown, chances are your Fourth of July celebrations were memorable.

What also might be memorable were the crowds. From parades to baseball games to county fairs, big crowds are a given at summertime events.

Even when you’re having fun, it’s important to keep emergency preparedness in mind. Large crowds can pose dangers. Luckily, you can enjoy your summer events safely by taking a few steps ahead of time.

Before you head out, review these four “P’s” for crowd safety:

 Plan: If you are meeting friends and family, plan a meeting spot in case one of you gets lost. Have a designated point-of-contact who isn’t going to the event.

• Prepare: Learn more about the location and event you are going to. Check the surroundings for the nearest exits in case you need to leave quickly. Bring maps of the area in case you need to leave via an alternate route and phones are down.

• Protect: Guard yourself and your loved ones from the heat and dehydration, wear sunblock and remember to bring extra water. First-aid supplies and sanitization wipes are important as well.

• Patience: There will be long lines everywhere and it can be overwhelming. Staying calm will make it easier to stay safe.

Learn more about crowd safety with this fact sheet from APHA’s Get Ready campaign.