Friday, September 07, 2018

Spread the word to protect the herd: New Get Ready video shares message on herd immunity and flu

It’s almost flu season, and you know what that means: It’s time for your annual flu shot! Getting vaccinated against the flu is the best thing you can do to prevent getting sick from flu. But did you know that getting vaccinated can also help protect people around you?

It’s called herd immunity. Yes, we said “herd,” as in cows. But in this case, we’re talking about people, not cattle.

When many people in a community are vaccinated against a disease, the disease can stop spreading there. This protects people who can’t get vaccinated, like young babies, seniors who are at high risk of flu and people with weakened immune systems. When you and your family get vaccinated, you help stop the flu from reaching others.

If you’ve ever heard someone say that they haven’t gotten a flu shot and didn’t get the flu, they may be feeling the positive effects of herd immunity. But herd immunity doesn’t mean you can skip your shot!

A screenshot from the video.
People who aren’t vaccinated are at higher risk of getting the flu and passing it on to someone who may have a hard time fighting it off. Remember, herd immunity only works if everyone who can get vaccinated does!

A recent study showed that when people learn about herd immunity and local vaccine coverage, they may be more likely to get vaccinated. To help spread the word about herd immunity, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has created a short new video.

With fun animation and a simple message, it’s great to use with family and friends and in your community. Watch and share the video today!

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Ready, set, snap! Enter the AJPH Photo Contest

When disasters like wildfires, hurricanes and floods strike around the world, they make headlines. But such emergencies aren’t just far-off occurences. Disasters can happen anywhere, anytime — including your community — and they can be devastating.

September’s National Preparedness Month, organized by Ready.gov, reminds us that we need to prepare ourselves, our families and our communities for disasters now and all year long.
To raise awareness, APHA’s American Journal of Public Health is holding its third photo contest.

Open now, the contest is building on the official National Preparedness Month theme, “Disasters Happen. Prepare Now. Learn How.”

Show us your best three pictures that communicate how your community is affected by disasters, how it's preparing and how it's helping others. The winning photo will be featured in AJPH, APHA’s renowned public health journal.

Entries are being accepted only through Instagram. Submit your original photo now with the #AJPHPhotoContest hashtag and tag @americanpublichealth.

The deadline to enter is Saturday, Sept. 15.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Think you wash your hands the right way in the kitchen? Think again!

Today’s guest post is by Adam Ghering, public affairs specialist with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

Have you ever seen someone handling food in a way that you would never do yourself? Maybe they were preparing raw poultry and then immediately handled lettuce without washing their hands.

Or maybe they did wash their hands, but they dried them by wiping them on their pants. You would never do that, right? Then again, maybe there are things we all do that might increase our risk for foodborne illness.

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service recently completed an observational study in which participants were recorded cooking in a test kitchen to see if they handled food unsafely while cooking.

Preliminary results show that participants didn’t do well preventing bacteria from spreading around their kitchen or verifying that their turkey burgers were safe to eat. Check out the list of top five food safety mistakes participants made that increased their risk of illness:

• 97 percent of the time participants should have washed their hands, they failed to do so successfully. Of the 1,195 recorded points when hand-washing was necessary to control possible bacteria transfer, participants failed to wash their hands successfully more than 1,150 times.

• 48 percent of participants cross-contaminated spice containers due to lack of hand-washing. Because they didn’t wash their hands adequately, harmless tracer microorganisms that act just like human pathogens spread throughout the kitchen.

Campylobacter and salmonella, bacteria found in poultry products, have been shown to survive on food contact surfaces for up to four and 32 hours, respectively.

• 5 percent of participants transferred bacteria to salads they prepared and would have immediately served if cooking at home.

• 66 percent of participants did not used a food thermometer while preparing turkey burgers during the study. Some participants used color and feel instead to determine if the burgers were safe to eat. Using a food thermometer to measure the internal temperature is the only way to verify meat and poultry are safe to eat.

• 45 percent did not cook the turkey burger to the minimum safe internal temperature of 165 degrees. Not cooking poultry to at least 165 degrees can lead to bacteria surviving the cooking process.

The good news is that cooking food safely is in your hands and doing so can help keep you and your family healthy. Control the transfer of bacteria in your kitchen by always following the five steps of hand-washing after touching raw meat and poultry. Know that you have destroyed any bacteria in your meat and poultry by cooking to the proper internal temperature.

If you are cooking a burger, insert the thermometer through the side of the burger, and ensure the probe reaches the center of the burger, which is the coldest portion. Cook meat and poultry to these internal temperatures:
• Beef, pork, lamb and veal — steaks, roasts and chops: 145 degrees with a three-minute rest
• Ground beef: 160 degrees
• Poultry, whole and ground: 165 degrees

Once you have cooked your foods, make sure to pack the leftovers up and refrigerate them within two hours. In hot summer weather when it is above 90 degrees, refrigerate them within one hour.

For more food safety information, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854, Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time, or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.


Friday, August 03, 2018

Keeping your summer fun bite-, itch- and disease-free

It’s August, which is prime time for outdoor summer fun. Unfortunately, it’s also prime time for creepy-crawly bugs that want to feed on your blood.

While you’re outside enjoying nature and posing for your perfect Instagram post, you'll need to protect yourself from ticks and mosquitoes and the diseases they carry.

Let’s start with ticks: The biggest risk here is Lyme disease, and it’s no joke. It can cause fatigue, rashes and headaches and even spread to your nervous system if left untreated. To avoid it, wear insect repellant when you spend lots of time outside, especially if you’re in the woods or in a field. Wear light-colored clothing and socks so that you can see a tick if one gets on you.

Check your body for ticks when you come inside, and be thorough. If you find one, don’t freak out: Carefully remove the tick with tweezers using these instructions and talk to your doctor if you have a rash, fever or concerns.

Now for mosquitoes: Most people are very familiar with them, as they’ve bothered us at every summer barbecue ever. Mosquitoes carry diseases like West Nile virus, Zika, dengue and malaria, none of which you want to have. Before you head outside, put on insect repellent and do your best to wear long clothing that covers your arms and legs.

If you’re traveling outside the U.S., be sure to use mosquito bite prevention, as mosquitoes in certain areas of the world may be more likely to carry harmful diseases. Use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s travel guide to check risks at your destination.

Have a safe and bite-free summer!

Photo courtesy Lauren Bishop/CDC



Thursday, July 26, 2018

How to conserve water when there’s a drought

When there’s a drought, it’s not just the plants that suffer. People are affected too.
Climate change increases the risk of droughts, which puts stress on our water supply. When that happens, officials in your community may tell you to ease up on your water usage.

There are many steps you can take to conserve water. While they’re especially useful during droughts, you can also do them year-round.
During a drought, it's especially important to consider how much water
you use every day. (Photo by icon0.com, courtesy Pexels)

Here are a few to follow when inside your home:

Reuse your water: If it’s not soapy, take leftover water from your sink and pour it in a plant or garden.

Turn it off: Don’t leave the water running while you’re brushing your teeth, washing dishes or shaving in the shower.

Shop smart: When buying appliances, choose water-saving ones. Look for products with the WaterSense label, which are certified to be water-efficient. 

Fill ‘em up: When you have to use big water-sucking appliances like a dishwasher or washing machine, wait until they’re full.

You can take also save water outside your home:

• Plant smart: Instead of grass, plant native ground covers, shrubs and trees with lower water demand.

• Pile it on: Use mulch to help keep water in the soil and control weeds.

Keep it tight: Cover pools when not in use to reduce evaporation.

Your local and state officials will have more ideas and rules for you to follow during a drought, so be sure to pay attention. In the meantime, check out more tips here.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Things are heating up, but you don’t have to

Throughout the long winter months, we often dream of the warmth that summer brings. But what do we do when the heat is just too much?

Extreme heat can be really bad for our health. Fortunately for us, there are things we can do to make sure that we stay healthy while making the most out of the summer months.
First, stay alert. If the weather forecast is calling for super-hot days, there may be heat alerts from national and local authorities telling you to protect yourself.

In extreme heat, stay indoors. Find places with air conditioning — such as libraries, recreational centers or a friend’s house — that will keep you cool. If you have to be outside, avoid a lot of physical activity and find shade. Never, ever leave a person or pet alone in a car on a hot day.
Protect your body with what you put in and on it. Avoid sugary drinks in extreme heat. Drink water to stay cool and hydrated and eat frequent, small meals. Leave the dark clothing in your closet. Light, loose clothes reflect heat away from you and allow for cool air flow.

So why all the fuss? The fact is, extreme heat can make you really sick — and even be deadly. Look for signs like muscle spasms, dizziness, exhaustion, sweating, nausea, vomiting and fainting. They could mean that you are getting sick from the heat.

If so, cool down with a cold bath and a cool drink. If it’s an emergency, call 911.
For more tips on how to stay cool this summer, check out our fact sheet and share our heat wave graphics.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

New Get Ready mosquitoes infographic helps fight the bite

It’s summertime! Unfortunately, along with barbecues, vacation and beach days, summer also means peak mosquito season.

Our new Get Ready infographic can help you stay safe this summer!
Mosquitoes aren’t just itchy and annoying. They can carry diseases like West Nile virus, dengue, malaria and Zika. West Nile virus is the most common mosquito-borne disease in the U.S., with more than 2,000 people getting sick from it last year.

The good news is that our new Get Ready infographic has great tips to ward off mosquitoes, including what to wear, how to protect your home and ways to mosquito-proof your yard.

Our infographic is great for posting on social media and your website. You can print copies and share them at a summer health fair, on the office bulletin board or on your home fridge. There’s even space to add your organization or health department’s logo.

While you’re on the Get Ready site, check out our other great infographics, including tips on heat, storms and floods.

Friday, July 06, 2018

Calling all animal lovers! Announcing APHA's 2018 Get Ready Photo Contest

dogSometimes our furry friends love us so much they think they are one of us. If you have an animal that loves acting like a human, they could be featured in our next Get Ready calendar.

Whether your puppy sometimes likes to help out with the dishes, or your rabbit loves to dress up bunny-professional, we want to see it!

Just snap a picture of a critter doing something adorably human. It could be a pet, zoo or farm animal or creature in the wild. Then submit your photo to APHA's 2018 Get Ready Photo Contest.

If your picture gets selected, our Get Ready team will tack on a cute caption or fact about the importance of emergency preparedness and include it in our 2019 calendar.

To look back at previous photo contests, check out our 2014 calendar or 2013 calendar.

Take a look at our FAQs and rules for full details.

Submissions are open now through July 27, so get snapping!

Thursday, June 28, 2018

The wide world of grilling: Cooking safe this Fourth of July weekend and all summer long

Today’s guest post is by Adam Ghering, public affairs specialist with the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service. With Fourth of July just around the corner, grill season is officially here. Learn how to cook safely for your family or a crowd with these tips from USDA.

Long days and beautiful weather make the summer months perfect for grilling outdoors. There are many different types of grills and cooking methods to cook your meat and poultry.

Regardless of what grill you use, food safety is essential to make sure you do not get yourself or family and friends sick. Here’s a quick overview of each general type of heating source for the home grill and specific food safety tips when grilling.

• Charcoal: Using charcoal imparts a smoky flavor on the foods you’re cooking. Watch out though, as charcoal grills can get up to 700 degrees! Hot grills can quickly brown the outside of meats, giving the meat the appearance of being “done.” However, the internal portions of the meat may not be cooked to a safe temperature. Always use a food thermometer to verify a safe internal temperature has been reached.

• Gas and propane: While gas and propane grills will generally provide less of a smoky flavor compared to charcoal, they can be heated to cooking temperatures very quickly, and the heat can be controlled more precisely. If you are cleaning the grill surface with a wire cleaning brush, carefully inspect the grill for bristles that might have come off of the brush or consider using other grill cleaning methods or products. 

Check out these tips to learn more about safe grilling!
(Photo courtesy of the USDA)
• Electric: All you need is an electric outlet to start an electric grill, and it can be heated up in a uniform manner. You can partially cook food in an oven, stove or microwave before grilling to reduce grilling time, but the food must be placed on the preheated grill immediately after partially cooking.

• Campfire: With so many options for cooking techniques — grilling baskets, skewers, metal grate, Dutch oven — and the addition of that wonderful smoky flavor, campfire grilling can be an appealing option. But watch out! Fatty foods can produce grease, which if exposed to flames can cause flare ups. Cold spots in the fire can lead to cold spots in the food.

Whichever types of grilling you do, always use a food thermometer to ensure your meat and poultry is safe to eat. Fish should be cooked to 145 degrees. Beef, pork, lamb and veal — steaks, roasts and chops — should be cooked to 145 degrees with a three-minute rest time. Ground meats should be cooked to 160 degrees, while whole poultry, poultry breasts and ground poultry should reach 165 degrees.

Keep in mind that when grilling, some foods cook faster than others. You may need to keep cooked food hot — above 140 degrees — while waiting for other pieces to reach a safe internal temperature. If that is the case, create different levels of heat by positioning charcoal on one side of the grill, or turning heating elements higher on a specific side. The high heat area will allow for cooking, while the lower heat side can be used to keep food warm until serving.

If you have a question about meat, poultry or egg products, call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline or email or chat via Ask Karen or Pregúntele a Karen.
Get more tips on safe cooking outdoors with this USDA fact sheet.

Have a safe, happy and tasty Fourth of July!

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Why a preparedness bill in Congress right now will be good for your community

We all know it’s important to be personally prepared for emergencies — that’s why we have flashlights, batteries, first-aid kits and food and water tucked away, right?

But if a major disaster happens, it’s really crucial that health workers in our communities are prepared too. Just like fire departments and emergency medical personnel, workers in health departments and public health labs need to be staffed, trained and ready to help when it matters most. Which is why a bill that’s making its way through Congress right now is so important.

Once it’s approved, the Pandemic and All-Hazards Preparedness and Advancing Innovation Act of 2018, also known as PAHPA, will continue funding that’s used to support preparedness at thousands of health departments and labs in communities all around the country, including yours.

This is really important, as funding is crucial when dealing with disease outbreaks such as flu or Ebola — or in the event of biological, chemical, radiological and nuclear incidents. Clearly, we don’t want any of these disasters to happen. But if they do, we want our health workers to be prepared. After all, they are the ones who protect us, our families and our communities.

A Senate committee recently approved the preparedness funding legislation. APHA thanked the committee members for their support. The Association also called for more funding so that we can make sure our health departments and labs can do all they need to. A House committee is now working to develop its version of the legislation.

APHA will continue to advocate for preparedness funding as the bill makes its way through Congress. Stay tuned for more updates!


The U.S. Capitol building, where PAHPA was
introduced in the Senate.
(By rrodrickbeiler, courtesy iStockphoto)

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Volcanoes and people don’t mix: Why you really need to heed warnings to stay away

The closest most people will get to a volcanic eruption is a science class experiment. Mixing vinegar and baking soda can be a huge mess, but volcanic eruptions have the ability to crush entire cities. Eruptions can create lasting effects for the entire world.

For people in Guatemala and Hawaii, the hazards caused by volcanoes are all too real right now. Thousands of residents in Hawaii have been displaced as Kilauea continues to erupt, and the death toll has climbed following the eruption of Volcán de Fuego in Guatemala.

A man uses a gas mask to protect from
harmful volcanic ash in May in Hawaii.
(Photo by Grace Simoneau/FEMA)
The U.S. has over 150 active volcanoes, two of which — Kilauea and Mauna Lau, also in Hawaii — are among the world’s most active volcanoes. This may seem like a shocking number, but an active volcano is simply one that has erupted in the past 10,000 years. So while it’s unlikely that a volcano is going to erupt in your backyard, you may be living in a volcano hazard zone.

Volcanoes often show warning signs of eruption, but your time for action may be short. There are several steps you can follow to make sure you’re prepared in the event of a volcanic eruption:

  • Know what is going on around you. The Volcano Hazards Program offers real-time updates on volcanic activity in the U.S. If you live in a volcano hazard zone, sign up for alerts from the Volcano Notification System
  • Have a plan of action. Volcanoes produce lava, ash, gases and debris that cause air pollution, water contamination and bodily harm. You’ll want to have a kit ready with face masks, water, goggles, a battery-operated radio and other emergency supplies. Talk to your family about an evacuation plan including emergency contacts, places to meet and a plan for pets.
  • If a volcano erupts, it’s time to act. Always follow evacuation instructions from local authorities. Don’t linger, and don’t stick around to take photos or videos — it’s not worth your life. When outside, cover your eyes with goggles, your mouth with a face mask and as much of your skin as possible. Then seek shelter. If inside, continue to cover your eyes, mouth and skin. Close and seal all doors, windows and other points of entry. 
  • After the eruption, let your friends and family know you’re OK by using systems such as Safe and Well and social media. Avoid driving in ash and only go outside if authorities say it’s safe to do so. Take caution when clearing ash and debris from homes and cars, as ash can weaken structures and cause roofs to collapse. 

Preparing now can protect you and your family later. For more tips, check out our Get Ready fact sheet.

Thursday, June 07, 2018

Recent flooding: what to do

Listen to the radio for storm and flood announcements.
(By Mcelroyart, courtesy iStockphoto)
Recently, many states along the East Coast have experienced flooding due to high levels of rainfall. According to the Red Cross, floods can occur for many reasons including heavy rain, hurricanes or even melting snow from a blizzard. A common type of flood is a flash flood, which means that the flood develops very quickly in a short amount of time.

Floods can be pesky — not only are they dangerous, but they also can cause major damage to houses and cars. Luckily, Get Ready has your back! Here are a few tips to keep  you and your family safe:
Local media and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will announce if there is a flood warning in your area. Stay tuned to your radio or TV. If a flood is imminent, check your emergency kit to make sure it is well stocked. You can even make one for your pet! Be ready to evacuate and know the safest route to an emergency shelter. If you have time, the Red Cross suggests filling up your car’s gas tank, checking your bottled water supply and turning off any propane tanks.

It’s also a good idea to discuss an evacuation plan with your family. FEMA says to make sure that everybody, especially children, knows each other’s contact information, and to come up with a meeting point in case of separation.

Once the flooding begins, do not go outside — floodwaters move very quickly and may contain insects or other harmful parasites. It’s important to remember never to drive in a flood, as it can often lead to drowning. The Red Cross suggests that you monitor local radio, and be mindful of any water damage to electrical appliances. If you live in an area where floods are common, you may also want to consider purchasing flood insurance to ensure financial security in the event of a flood.

The powerful currents and potential water damage associated with flooding can be scary, but just like any emergency, you’re better off when you prepare. Follow these suggestions and your next flood experience will be smooth sailing!

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Get Ready Mailbag: What’s up with vector-borne diseases?

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 getready@apha.org.

I hear that vector-borne diseases are on the rise. What’s that about and what can I do about it?

You heard right. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said this month that vector-borne diseases have increased. And they’ve increased a lot. Luckily, there are things you can do to protect yourself.

But first, let’s explain what we’re talking about here. Vector-borne diseases are the diseases you get from bug bites. Most often, that means mosquitoes, ticks and fleas. They tend to get the disease from animals and then pass it on to humans when they bite.

The new CDC study said illnesses from mosquito, tick and flea bites have tripled in the U.S. More than 640,000 cases were reported from 2004 through 2016. (That’s a lot of bug bites!) We’re talking diseases like Zika, West Nile virus, dengue, Lyme disease and Rocky Mountain spotted fever.

As climate change is making the U.S. hotter, the bugs that spread these diseases are moving around to new, warmer locations in the US and infecting more people.

So what can you do? The most important way to fight vector-borne diseases is to protect yourself.

That means wearing insect repellent and long-sleeved shirts and pants. You should find and remove ticks daily from family and pets when they go outdoors. Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours from dusk until dawn.

And install screens on the windows in your home and repair screens with rips or tears.

Photo: Ticks can be the size of a poppyseed, including the five shown on this muffin, CDC says. (Photo courtesy CDC) 



Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Hurricane season is on its way, and it may be another doozy


Do you remember Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria? We sure do, and so do people in Texas, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Many of them are still recovering, in fact. The three storms were so destructive that the World Meteorological Organization has retired their names. 

Last year was one of the most active seasons for Atlantic hurricanes ever recorded. With 17 named storms and 10 hurricanes, 2017 was one for the record books.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association hasn’t released its 2018 hurricane season predictions yet, but a few other groups have. Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project is predicting another above-average season, with 14 named storms.

It’s not just the number of hurricanes we have to look out for, though. It’s also how severe they are. A study that just came out says climate change is heating up the oceans, which is making hurricanes worse. Waters in the U.S. Gulf were hotter last year than any time on record, which fueled Hurricane Harvey as it headed toward Texas, researchers say.

“As climate change continues to heat the oceans, we can expect more supercharged storms like Harvey,” says Kevin Trenberth, a senior scientist at the National Center for Atmospheric Research and lead author of the study.

With the Atlantic hurricane season starting June 1, now is the time to begin planning for your safety. Know where you’ll go if you’re told to evacuate and how you’ll get there — and never ignore orders to evacuate. Have your emergency supplies updated and ready to take with you. Make sure your family members know how to communicate and meet up. And don’t forget to make plans for your pets.

Get more hurricane preparedness tips in our Get Ready fact sheet.

Photo credit: Mariele Vargas sits with ruined furniture and personal property from her home in Jayuya, Puerto Rico, in November 2017. Her home was destroyed when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September. (Photo by Andrea Booher, courtesy Federal Emergency Management Agency)

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Donate food to Stamp Out Hunger and help prepare your community

During Hurricane Harvey last year, thousands of people were displaced from their homes and were forced to seek shelter. They also sought out food, with many of them turning to the Houston Food Bank, which provided 750,000 pounds of food and supplies a day.

Food banks play an important role in community preparedness, because they are often where people turn to for assistance after a disaster or emergency. That’s why it’s important to support food banks year-round. This weekend, it will be a lot easier to do so, thanks to a national food drive that will be coming to your door.

When your postal carriers drop by this Saturday, they will be ready to pick up more than just mail. Saturday, May 12, is the national Stamp Out Hunger food drive, during which carriers pick up food donations that are set out next to U.S. mailboxes.

Held annually since 1992, the Stamp Out Hunger food drive is the nation’s largest one-day food drive. The event is organized by the National Association of Letter Carriers with support from the U.S. Postal Service and other sponsors.

To take part, just leave a sturdy bag containing non-perishable foods, such as canned vegetables, pasta, rice or cereal, next to your mailbox before your mail comes on Saturday. Food items should be in non-breakable containers, such as boxes and cans, and should not be expired.

If you’re not sure whether your postal carrier will be taking part in the food drive Saturday, contact your local post office.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Summer, summer, summer: Oh, oh, it’s magic (but watch out for storms)

Who’s ready for summer? Bright sunshine, blue skies and warm weather are a big “yes, please!” for most people. Frankly, we’re counting down the days to the summertime merry-go-round here at Get Ready.

But with summer weather also comes summer storms. And summer storms can mean high winds, power outages, lightning, flooding and even water contamination. Way to rain on our summer parade, Mother Nature.

The good news is our new Get Ready infographic on summer storms can help you stay safe.
It’s a quick and easy rundown of some of the risks you may face and ways to avoid them.

Post the infographic on your website, share it on social media or print out a few copies. It’s great for hanging on break room bulletin boards or home refrigerators. There’s even a space for you to add your logo.

In a jiff, you’ll be ready to get out there and enjoy that summer magic.

graphic


Friday, April 27, 2018

Be aware of flooding dangers

Most of the time, brief bouts of spring and summer rain are a welcome break. After all, plants, animals and humans all need water to survive.

By Joe Center Media
But with too much rain comes flooding, which can be a huge problem. A sudden buildup of fast-flowing water can be dangerous for many reasons, with drowning the biggest concern. More than 125 people died from flooding in the U.S. in 2016, so it’s important to take caution and never drive or walk through floodwaters.

What’s in floodwaters can also be harmful to your health. Chemicals, sewage and other dangers can be present. When dealing with floodwater, wear protective clothing like masks, rubber gloves and boots. If you have a cut or rash, keep it covered with a waterproof bandage. Clean your skin well with soap and water.

The dangers don’t end when floodwaters recede. That’s because flooding can leave behind pools of water. These are perfect places for mosquitoes to lay their eggs. Empty and scrub things that hold water in your yard or neighborhood, such as buckets, planters, toys, birdbaths and trash containers. If you have water that can’t be dumped, consider using mosquito larvicide.

Floodwater in homes can also lead to mold. Mold can cause breathing problems, especially in kids and seniors. To protect yourself, clean and dry your home as soon as you can. Air out buildings by opening windows and running fans. Clean surfaces with hot water and soap. Throw away wet food, medicine or anything else you can’t clean or dry quickly. Remember the rule: When in doubt, throw it out!

Clean up any mold you find with a mix of bleach and water. Again, make sure you have protection, such as gloves, boots and masks.

It’s also a good idea to make sure that your home is ready for flooding year-round. A good first step is to buy flood insurance. Next, put together an evacuation plan and discuss it with your family. Make sure you’re stocked up on food and supplies and have them ready to go if you need to evacuate.

By being ready for flooding before and after a storm, you can make sure you and your home stay safe and healthy. Check out our Get Ready fact sheet for more tips.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Child care centers and flu: Are they prepared?

By monkeybusinessimages courtesy iStockphoto
Child care centers do lots of things to make sure the kids they watch over are protected. Safe play spaces, healthy food and an attentive adult eye are common features.

But when it comes to a serious, widespread outbreak of flu, child care centers may not be so prepared, scientists found recently.

In a study published last year, researchers surveyed more than 1,000 child care center directors about practices such as infection control, communication, immunization and health care training.

Unfortunately, the study found readiness was low: Only 7 percent of directors had taken actions to prepare their centers for a pandemic flu outbreak. The study looked at pandemic flu in particular because it has the potential to be very dangerous, especially for young children — the main users of child care centers.

Pandemic flu is different than seasonal flu for a few reasons: It’s easily spread, it’s a new type of flu most people don’t have immunity to and there won’t be a vaccine. And as the name implies, it’s happening around the world, meaning lots of cases.

Child care centers can be doing more to protect kids from the flu, the researchers said. Directors should be trained by licensed professionals, such as health consultants, to educate staff on health and safety issues. That will help to increase awareness and knowledge of the flu pandemic.

Parents should also be actively involved. Ask questions. Learn how your child care center is taking action in preventing the spread of the flu. That’s important whether there is a flu pandemic or if it’s just a regular flu season.

There are also lots of ways that you can protect your child from the flu beyond the child care center. 

Remember, an annual flu vaccination is the best way to prevent your child from flu.

Friday, April 13, 2018

Stress less with preparedness

Feeling stressed? You’re not alone. Eighty percent of Americans report at least one symptom of stress a month. And with Tax Day just around the corner, a lot of people are feeling some big-time stress right now.

It makes sense that April 16 is National Stress Awareness Day, a time for people to assess their stress and make plans to address it. Luckily, planning for disasters is one thing that doesn’t have to be stressful. More planning means less stress when an emergency occurs.

With that in mind, APHA’s Get Ready campaign is here to make your disaster planning easy:

  • Step 1: Know the risks in your area. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to preparedness. Different regions have different risks. If you live in southern California, it makes sense to be more prepared for earthquakes and wildfires than snowstorms. You never know what might happen, though, so sign up for emergency alerts to be notified when an emergency happens.
  • Step 2: Make an emergency plan for your household. Be sure everyone knows what to do, where to go and how to get in touch with each other during an emergency. It’s also a good idea to work together with members of your community. 
  • Step 3: Assemble your emergency supplies. Think about your family’s specific needs and plan accordingly. You know you’ll need food, water and first-aid supplies, but don’t forget extra litter for kitty, hearing aid batteries for grandma or allergy meds for junior. Also, be sure and create a “go-bag” that you can easily grab in a hurry.
  • Step 4: Practice! Make sure you know your evacuation routes, the locations of all your supplies and your emergency meeting locations.

Four steps later and you’re a pro! Being prepared for a disaster can help lower stress during a high-intensity time. After all, protecting your mental health is good for preparedness.

Check out the Get Ready site for even more easy planning materials.

Monday, April 02, 2018

National Public Health Week: The perfect opportunity to promote preparedness

Get your party hats on, because it’s National Public Health Week!

This year, APHA is using April 2-8 to highlight issues that are important to the nation’s health. NPHW is a week filled with fun and exciting educational activities. It’s the perfect opportunity for you to share information on preparedness so that you and your community will be ready to tackle any unexpected disaster! After all, a prepared community is a healthy community.

The theme of this year’s NPHW is “Healthiest Nation 2030: Changing Our Future Together.” Each weekday of NPHW highlights a specific area within public health:

  • Monday, April 2: Behavioral health. About 1 in 5 U.S. adults have a mental illness. Share information about mental health and disasters from Get Ready. 
  • Tuesday, April 3: Communicable diseases. Get Ready has great materials to share on this topic, including fact sheets on flu, Zika, dengue and Ebola. They’re perfect for passing out at your community or campus health fair.
  • Wednesday, April 4: Environmental health. Help maintain a healthy planet and protect human health. Our heat waves and floods fact sheets can raise awareness of threats. 
  • Thursday, April 5: Injury and violence prevention. Preventable unintentional injuries are among the leading causes of death in the U.S. Learn about policies and safety measures that can be taken to reduce them.
  • Friday, April 6: Ensuring the right to health. Everyone deserves the right to live, learn, work, worship and play in a healthy environment, free from preventable disease and disability. 

No time to plan an event? No problem! Anyone can show their support for National Public Health Week. It can be as simple as sharing a post on Facebook or Twitter, or hanging information on your workplace bulletin board or fridge.

For more ideas on how you can get involved, check out APHA’s NPHW page.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Changing our future through food safety

Today’s guest post is by Adam Ghering, public affairs specialist with the U.S Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

As National Public Health Week approaches and we work to become the “healthiest nation in one generation,” we can all practice simple food safety steps to prevent illness. For starters, following the four steps of food safety anytime we handle, prepare or eat foods can help.

Clean: Clean hands, surfaces and utensils with
 soap and warm water before cooking. Always
wash hands for 20 seconds before handling foods.
Separate: Use separate cutting boards, plates and utensils to avoid cross-contamination between raw meat and poultry and ready to eat foods.
Cook: Confirm meat and poultry are done — Don’t just guess! — by using a food thermometer to verify they have reached a safe internal temperature.
Chill: Chill foods promptly if you don’t plan to consume them immediately after cooking. Don’t leave food at room temperature for longer than two
hours.

How can we combine these food safety steps with other healthy activities? Maybe you have made a goal to eat more fruit, vegetables and lean meats. Great! But don’t forget to wash those fruits and vegetables before peeling or eating. On the other hand, don’t wash raw meat and poultry before cooking, as washing can cause cross-contamination of bacteria through your kitchen.

If you are trying to save money and eat healthy by preparing multiple meals in advance of your work week, remember that once foods are cooked, they need to be refrigerated within two hours, or within one hour if the temperature is 90 degrees or above.

The best way to quickly cool foods is to place them in small shallow containers and then into the refrigerator. Leftovers in your refrigerator are good for three to four days. When reheating, make sure the food reaches 165 degrees, as measured by a food thermometer for maximum safety. If you don’t use those leftovers in three to four days, you should freeze or dispose of them.

Foods in the freezer should be consumed within two to three months if they contain meat, and within one to two months if they don’t contain meat. These freezer storage times are for best quality, and frozen foods are safe indefinitely.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. ET, or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.

Have a healthy National Public Health Week!

Friday, March 23, 2018

Resiliency: A winning trait for communities

Resiliency. You fall, get back up and continue on with your day. But communities, not just individuals, also need to be resilient.

Recent hurricanes, wildfires and other disasters have reminded us that community resiliency plays a role in keeping neighborhoods and cities healthy, happy and safe.

Community resilience is “the sustained ability of communities to withstand, adapt to and recover from adversity,” according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. If a community can build itself back up after a disaster, life is better for the people there.

To be resilient, community leaders can work together to make plans that meet the needs and wants of community members before a disaster hits. Some easy things you can do today to help your community build resiliency include:
Photo by Michael Rieger, courtesy FEMA

  • Connect with people in your community. Get to know your neighbors! Build relationships with the people around you.
  • Learn new skills or use what you already know. If you can cook, you can help feed your neighbors in an emergency. If you can drive, you can drive people to safe locations.
  • Understand your community and its goals. Think about possible weaknesses your community may have and work together to strengthen them so when disaster hits, you’re ready.

Resilient people make up a resilient community. To be personally resilient in your daily life and deal with challenging situations, you can:
  • Take action: Even if it seems tough, make a decision and stick with it.
  • Think positively: Trust in your ability to solve issues.
  • Keep things in perspective: In the long run, things may not be as big of a deal as you think.
  • Self-care. Engage in healthy activities that you find enjoyable. Eat well, sleep well, play well. 
  • Encourage your neighbors to live a healthy lifestyle, stay informed and be prepared. You can only bounce back if you’ve planned ahead. 

For more information on how to build community resilience, check out this great toolkit from Rand.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Don’t forget your furry, feathered and finned friends! Preparing your pets for disasters

Photo courtesy Susan Polan
Are your pets ready for a disaster? Now’s the time to get them in shape!

We’re not asking you to put your pets through boot camp and run them through escape routes. But before a disaster hits, it’s important that you — the one who loves them the most — come up with food, transportation and shelter options for your pets.

That last one can be especially important to think about in advance. According to research in APHA’s American Journal of Public Health, when disasters hit, some pet owners find it difficult to find shelters that accommodate pets.

Sometimes that means that people stay behind when they shouldn’t, risking the lives of both themselves and their pets. During Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, for example, almost half of people who refused to evacuate did so at least partially because they wouldn’t leave their pets, the AJPH study noted.

And it’s not just the general public that’s affected. As many as a third of health workers may be unable to work during a disaster if they don’t have a safe place for their pets, research shows.
However, if you locate pet-friendly places to go before a disaster, you can increase your ability to find a safe place for you and your pets to go when needed. You can find directories of pet-friendly hotels online. Print out a list of those in your local evacuation area and keep it in your supplies. Home-sharing services with pet-friendly options, such as Airbnb, are another option to keep in mind.
Some public shelters accept pets as well. To find out if there is a pet-friendly shelter near you, contact your local animal shelter or emergency management office.

Pet owners should also prep an evacuation kit, sometimes called a “go-bag.” Include three days’ worth of food and water, garbage bags for clean ups, a leash, a first-aid kit, a crate or other pet carrier and a litter box and poop bags. Don’t forget toys, blankets and pet beds.

Pack so your pet will be comfortable during an emergency. It’s also important to have copies of your pet’s vaccination and medical records.

By planning ahead, you can protect your pet and yourself, too. For more tips, check out our fact sheet.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

What to do when there is a water main break

By Ridofranz, courtesy iStockphoto
A huge water main break occurred in Atlanta this week that left many residents with very little water.  Neighborhoods and major highways were flooded, and officials issued a boil water notice for everyone who uses the county water system. Children were sent home from school and businesses shut down — including Emory University, the Dekalb County Board of Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention campuses.

Water main breaks can happen any time and without notice. Which may leave you wondering what to do if this happened in your community.
  • First, it’s important that you are signed up for emergency alerts for your community. You don’t want to find out that you’re not supposed to be drinking water after finishing off a big glass. Updates are happening every minute and you wouldn’t want to miss them.
  • Don’t start using the water again until you have heard the all-clear from a community official. That’s because water can be contaminated with harmful bacteria and other substances that can make you sick.
  • Boil your water if told to. To correctly boil your water, bring your tap water to a rolling boil for one minute and then set it aside to cool down.
  • Watch out for flooding. The water main break in Atlanta caused major flooding, reaching cars and buildings. Remember to stay away from flooded areas. If you are driving and encounter a flood, turn around. It is extremely important that you never drive through flood water.
  • Create a water stockpile. Every U.S. home should have a three-day supply of water stored, with one gallon of water per person per day. This water will come in handy when you need to flush the toilet, wash the dishes, brush your teeth, wash your hands and feed your pets.
If a water main break can disrupt activities at CDC — our nation’s leading public health and preparedness agency — imagine the problems it can create for unsuspecting families and businesses.

Monday, March 05, 2018

Daylight saving time begins March 11: Use it as a reminder to check your food supplies

Spring is almost here and so is daylight saving time. And you know what that means: Time to set your clocks and check your stocks!

When you change your clocks March 11  — or when they change themselves, as so many of our electronic devices do these days — use it as a reminder to update your emergency stockpile. That way you won’t be caught in a bind when an emergency happens.

There are lots of things you should have in your stockpile, such as water, batteries and first-aid supplies. We have awesome lists and fact sheets on our website that show you everything you need and why you need to update it.

But today we’re going to talk about one particular thing you need: An emergency food supply.  Preparedness experts recommend having at least a three-day supply of nonperishable food. Here’s why.

Disasters often strike with little to no warning. You may not be able to run out to the store, and if you do there could be huge lines and frantic shoppers. It’s better for your peace of mind and safety to have your food supply ready and waiting at home.

Not sure what you need for your emergency food supply? Follow these tips:


  • Choose foods that your family likes to eat. If your family hates pea soup normally, they won’t want to eat it while sheltering in place either.
  • Avoid foods that are salty, as they will make you thirsty.
  • Ensure that the foods you stockpile don’t need to be refrigerated. Soups, pudding, peanut butter, shelf-stable milk, granola bars and cereal are all good ideas.
  • Buy food that is ready to eat or needs little preparation. Keep in mind your power may be out and you may not be able to heat things up or wash dishes.
  • Look for canned fruit packed in water or fruit juice, not syrup.
  • Don’t forget food for your family members with special needs, such as infants, seniors and pets.
  • Make sure to pack a manual can opener!


It’s smart to think ahead and imagine what dining from your stockpile will be like. What items will you wish you had on hand? Our stockpiling recipes and disaster cookbook can give you some great ideas.

Print out our shopping list before you head to the store.

For more tips on what to include in your emergency supplies, check out our website.

Friday, February 23, 2018

It’s time to bee ready for disasters!

Natural disasters and other threats to our well-being can be daunting to prepare for. Sometimes it’s hard to know how to get ready. Luckily, there are some amazing animals and insects that can inspire us!

• Black bears: It’s no secret that bears hibernate during the winter, but how do they prepare for the long, cold months? According to the North American Bear Center, one reason is because bears consume as much food and drink as possible before they settle in for the season — just like an extended Thanksgiving!

While we humans don’t spend our lives in bed during the winter, we can still take a page from the black bear book by keeping a supply of emergency food and water in our homes at all times.

Never made a stockpile before? No worry, Get Ready is here to help! Check out our campaign for free materials to help you create an emergency preparedness stockpile.

• Birds: Birds are everywhere — flying in the sky, waddling on the ground, bathing in the water — and often we don’t take a second look. Birds are fascinating creatures, and they’re excellent at preparing for natural disasters. They’re able to sense when the barometric pressure changes, and their impressive sense of direction helps them to know where to fly to escape bad weather.

Though nature didn’t give us wings, we can still approach disaster preparedness like birds. It’s important to pay attention to our surroundings and adjust our routes accordingly. Learn more about disaster preparedness while on the road.

By Michele Late
• Bees: Bzzzzzz. Compared to birds, bees are fragile. They can’t fly for hours in dangerous weather to escape storms and other threats. However, bees are excellent at building sturdy hives that are protected from the elements. When bad weather hits, bees can rely on their hive to keep them safe.

We should learn from bees and make sure our houses are both equipped with supplies and built to withstand the elements. Regular home maintenance is important when getting ready for natural disasters. Get tips on how to prepare your home for a disaster with our fact sheet.

Bears, birds and bees are just a few of the many amazing creatures we can learn a lot about preparedness from. Don’t let more time buzz by while unprepared. Get ready now!


Friday, February 16, 2018

Norovirus, an unexpected 2018 Olympic competitor

Athletic stars are not the only ones making an appearance at the Olympic Games in South Korea.

Norovirus has sickened nearly 200 volunteers and staff at the games.  

Health officials are working hard to figure out where the infections came from. Early reports have linked the outbreak to contaminated water that was used to prepare food at a training center. 

Norovirus, which can be spread through your poop, wins a gold medal for sprinting, as it quickly spreads from person to person. It’s especially common in crowded settings, which is why we hear about it on cruise ships so much. 

When you have norovirus, your stomach or intestines get upset, in a super yucky way. And it can last for days. Common symptoms include nausea, throwing up, stomach pain and diarrhea. But you can also have fevers, headaches and body aches.

By BrianAJackson courtesy iStockphoto
To avoid norovirus infection, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to: 

  • Practice good hand hygiene. Wash your hands a lot and wash them well. Remember, it doesn’t take a lot for this virus to spread. Our Get Ready hand-washing pages have great tips you can share
  • Wash your fruits and veggies. Norovirus is most commonly transmitted through food, so it’s important to be careful.
  • If you’re sick, keep your distance. Don’t prepare food for others or care for people around you if you have norovirus or its symptoms.
  • Clean and disinfect everything. Norovirus can survive outside the body for several days. If your hand touches your counter, door handle, remote or anything else, it makes it easy for people around you to catch it. Wash your soiled clothing, towels and other linens right away.

Unfortunately, if you do come down with norovirus, there is no specific medication to treat it. CDC says to rest and drink lots and lots of water. If you get really dehydrated, call your doctor, as you may need to receive IV fluids at a hospital.

But what about the Olympic Games? Two Swiss skiers have contracted the highly contagious virus but the International Olympic Committee reports that there is hope for them to get better in time to compete. As for now, the athletes have been working hard to show off their strength and skill. So let the games continue!

Friday, February 09, 2018

When’s the last time you replaced your smoke alarms?

Photo by esp_imaging, courtesy iStockphoto
With many of us spending time cozied up indoors this month, now is a perfect time to check and replace smoke alarms.

That’s right. We said “replace.” Like your car, your computer and — gasp! — your phone, your smoke alarms don’t last forever.

In fact, the U.S. Fire Administration says to replace your smoke alarms every 10 years. Like other electronics, smoke alarms can fail over time, and could be less likely to detect smoke or issue a lifesaving warning. So if you can’t remember the last time you replaced yours, now may be a good time.

One way to tell the age of your smoke detector is by checking the date it was made. For this, you’ll need to remove the alarm from the ceiling or wall. Look on the back for the manufacture date. If it’s more than 10 years old, time to shop for a new one.

During fires at home, 3 out of every 5 deaths happen in buildings without working smoke alarms.  The good news is that your risk of dying in a home fire is halved when they are working.
Regardless of the age of your smoke alarms, it’s a good idea to test them regularly. In fact, USFA says to do it monthly. You can make it easy to remember by putting a recurring reminder on your calendar.

And don’t forget about checking your smoke alarm batteries. A good way to remember is to check them with the twice-a-year clock change for daylight saving time. (Or now. Now works, too.)
Smoke alarms are already on many people’s mind after watching “This Is Us” so let’s put those thoughts into action!

For more tips on home safety, check out this graphic from Get Ready.

Thursday, February 01, 2018

Don’t let the end zone become the danger zone: How to host a penalty-free Super Bowl party

Today’s guest post is by Meredith Carothers, food safety education intern with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service.

It’s almost time for the big game, which means it’s time to get ready to host your friends for your annual Super Bowl party! And where there’s a Super Bowl viewing party, there’s also plenty of food.

By following these food safety rules from our game-winning playbook, you’ll provide the best defense to avoid letting your teammates get sacked by foodborne illness this Super Bowl. You may also get voted as MVP for best Super Bowl party host!

1. Cook: Avoid a false start — Use a food thermometer to ensure that all meats, poultry and other cooked food items have been cooked to a safe internal temperature before serving. Any previously cooked foods must be reheated to a safe internal temperature of 165 degrees F, or steaming hot, before serving.

Making sure food items are properly heated and cooked will kill bacteria that may try to tackle your guests. Here are the recommended internal temperatures for some Super Bowl party favorites:
  • Chicken wings: 165 degrees F
  • Burgers and sliders: 160 degrees F
  • Chili and other reheated foods: 165 degrees F
2. Chill: Watch the clock — Once kickoff happens, partygoers and hosts are focused on the game, or patiently waiting until the halftime show). However, don’t let the play clock expire on those party foods, and consider putting foods out in batches to ensure they aren’t staying out longer than the two-hour time limit.

Before halftime, take a timeout. Check your food with a food thermometer to make sure hot foods are still hot and cold foods are still cold. Ensure that you’re keeping slow cookers with your buffalo chicken dip or spinach and artichoke dip on the “warm” or “low” setting. Always use a cold source, such as a bowl of ice, below cold foods and check throughout the party to make sure dips and cheeses are still cold.

3. Stop the clock — After foods have been sitting at room temperature for two hours, either place them in the refrigerator, change the cold sources or throw out foods you know have been sitting since pre-game coverage.

Bacteria love temperatures between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F, and will grow rapidly if they are in this temperature environment for more than two hours. Read more about this “danger zone.”

4. Scoring the game-winning touchdown — The game is over, but that doesn’t mean you have to lose your food or your health! By following these tips at your Super Bowl party or gathering, you may be celebrating more than just a team victory.

Overall, remember to keep an eye on party foods and their temperatures, even when you’re celebrating touchdowns.

Need more food safety information? Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-674-6854 Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Eastern time. Or email or chat at AskKaren.gov.

Friday, January 26, 2018

Get Ready mailbag: Is this season’s flu shot effective?

By Sean Locke, courtesy iStockphoto
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 getready@apha.org.

Does the flu shot work this year? Should I even get it?
Thanks for your question! With this flu season shaping up to be a doozy, there’s a lot of attention on vaccination. In short: Yes, you should get your flu shot. Now, the long answer.

How well the flu shot works varies from season to season. One reason is that officials try to predict way ahead of time what flu strains will be out there during flu season. Then they make a vaccine that targets those strains. But that estimate doesn’t always match up with what really happens.

 This season, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that flu shot effectiveness will be about the same as last season, when it was 39 percent effective. If you’re saying “Whoa, that’s low. Should I even bother?” Again, the answer is yes.

That’s because even if the flu shot isn’t an exact match to the strains out there, getting vaccinated makes you a lot less sick if you do get the flu. Research shows that getting the shot means fewer people being hospitalized from the flu. And a study last year found that flu vaccination reduced the risk of healthy kids dying from flu by 65 percent.

(Side note: You may have heard people saying the flu shot is only 10 percent effective this year, which isn’t completely true. Research in Australia found that the flu shot used there was 10 percent effective against one particular strain, known as H3N2. It’s not known why that happened there. But again, that’s not a reason not to be vaccinated. The flu shot protects against other strains as well.)

As to whether you still can and should get your flu shot, it’s another big yes. It’s not too late. With flu so widespread right now, vaccination makes sense, even with the two weeks it takes for antibodies to take effect.

And don’t forget: Flu vaccination is about more than just you. When you get your flu shot, you’re protecting people around you. Babies, young kids, seniors and people whose immune systems are weakened from conditions like cancer or HIV are at higher risk for flu. Getting your flu shot can help keep other people around you healthy, too.

Friday, January 19, 2018

Have a few minutes? Help us track the flu


Flu Near You tracks influenza-like illness based on self-reports from its users. The rate of influenza-like illness has risen among Americans in recent months.


Today’s guest blog post is by John Brownstein, chief innovation officer at Boston Children’s Hospital and director of HealthMap.

If you can spare a few minutes each week, you can become a disease detective and help scientists track flu.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of Americans are hospitalized due to flu and complications stemming from the disease. Anywhere from 3,000 to 49,000 people die annually.

As you may already know, we're currently in the midst of a particularly severe flu season. Last week, the rate of Americans being hospitalized for flu nearly doubled. Flu Near You is a citizen science project developed by HealthMap of Boston Children’s Hospital and Ending Pandemics, in partnership with APHA.

Each week, we ask volunteers if they’ve experienced any of 10 symptoms that could indicate the spread of flu. Reminders come via push notifications to your mobile phone or through email. It only takes a few seconds to complete each week. All reports collected are completely anonymous.

Across the U.S., doctors and epidemiologists employed by state and local health departments work tirelessly alongside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to track the spread of flu in order to plan for the use of vaccines and antiviral medications, staff up hospitals and clinics and identify when changes in the virus occur.

Flu Near You supports these efforts by freely sharing anonymized data with many state and local health departments as well as CDC. These data help to track influenza spread at the community level and ensure that doctors and hospitals have the resources they need to help those who fall ill.

Can you spare a few minutes to report your health this week?