Friday, December 28, 2007

Creating a healthy stockpile

You know that it is important to have an emergency stockpile of food in case an influenza pandemic or some other disaster hits your area. Hopefully, you've already created a stockpile, and if so, that's great. But what kinds of foods did you toss in? Are they healthy? Or are they high in sodium and sugar?

Many people mistakenly believe that good nutrition has to go out the window when an emergency situation arises and they're told to "shelter in place."

Not so, says Capt. Laura A. McNally, MPH, RD, FADA, a dietitian with the U.S. Public Health Service, who spoke with APHA's Get Ready campaign about healthy stockpiling recently.

Even when sheltering in place and dining by the glow of a battery-driven flashlight on foods that have been sitting in a plastic bin for several months, it's still possible to eat healthily, McNally says. All it takes is a little planning and some creativity.

When it comes to creating a healthy stockpile, lots of options are available today, says McNally. Ideas include low-sodium, low-fat canned soups and canned foods packed in their own juices, such as canned fruits, and low-sodium canned veggies. Don't forget healthy snack packs and plenty of water.

Check out the complete Q&A now for more great advice on healthy stockpiling.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Health officials keeping tabs on new virus strain

U.S. health officials are keeping their eyes on an emerging virus strain that has been linked to illnesses in four states.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported in November that a type of adenovirus, called adenovirus serotype 14 -- or Ad14 for short -- has been linked to severe and sometimes deadly cases of illness.

Adenoviruses have been around for awhile (there are more than 50 types) and they cause many common illnesses like colds, pinkeye and stomach flu. The new Ad14 strain, which news reports have linked to more than 1,000 cases this year, can develop into a serious respiratory infection or even death.

CDC says there is no cause for alarm, as Ad14 infections are not common and most cases aren’t serious, and says that the public “should not be concerned.” Just in case, scientists and health departments will be keeping a watch out for Ad14 to make sure there are no outbreaks.

If you want to ensure you don’t get sick from adenovirus or any other type of infection, practice healthy habits, including regular handwashing. And of course, if you develop a bad cold and your symptoms get worse, be sure and see your doctor.

Winter a wonderland for the flu

Why is it that so many of us get the flu in the winter? Is it because we spend more time indoors and pass the virus to one another? Or because we get less sunshine and vitamin D on those shorter winter days?

A study published in October finds one reason the flu virus spreads in the winter is that -- like Frosty and the Abominable Snowman -- it actually prefers the weather. Conducted by researchers at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine, the study found that the flu virus is transmitted best when it is at an oh-so-chilly 41 degrees. In fact, the virus is more stable in colder weather and in low humidity, when it stays in the air longer, the October study found.

If you live in warm area, don’t think this means you are safe from the flu, however. Your best bet for protecting yourself no matter where you live or play is to follow simple precautions: Get your seasonal flu vaccination and practice healthy habits such as regular handwashing.

As of tomorrow, winter is officially here in the United States. So as you make plans to dig out your winter shovel, snowshoes or skis, check out our Get Ready Helping Handouts for more tips on how to stay healthy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Why you don't need to worry about mercury in your flu shot

Since it's flu season, it's a good time to clear up concerns people might have about mercury. This topic comes up as some parents inquire about the safety of flu shots and, in particular, about thimerosal. This is a kind of mercury used in very small amounts as a preservative in most flu vaccines.

In the late 1990s, the U.S. Public Health Service, the American Academy of Pediatrics and vaccine makers agreed to eliminate or reduce using thimerosal in vaccines for kids as a precautionary measure. Today, almost all the childhood vaccines sold in the United States have no thimerosal or only trace amounts. The only exception is the flu vaccine.

But research shows there is no reason to worry about getting a flu shot with thimerosal. The known health risks from mercury mainly come from a type called methyl mercury. Thimerosal contains ethyl mercury, a different form of the chemical. Ethyl mercury is processed by the body differently and leaves the body faster.

The important thing to know is that "there is no convincing evidence of harm" caused by the small amount of thimerosal in flu shots, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The most you need to worry about is a little swelling and redness at the injection site due to sensitivity to thimerosal. Drug companies make a small number of flu shots without thimerosal each year and plan to make more in the future.

So don't let worries about mercury stop you from making sure that both you and your kids get a flu shot this year. Still have questions? Learn more about flu vaccines and thimerosal from CDC.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Make your holidays flu free

Hoping to stay healthy for your holiday visit to Grandma's? While there's no foolproof plan to prevent you from getting sick during the coming weeks, there are simple steps you can take to greatly reduce the chances.

For those traveling, here are suggestions to help guard against germs and viruses:

*Drink lots of water before and during your flight.
*Try to catch some sleep on the way.
*Bring a scarf or a small blanket on the plane, train or bus to bundle up with in case you get cold.
*Turn up the air on a plane or bus. It can help push away the germs that might float into your space.
*Keep to your schedule. Try not to change your daily eating, exercising and sleeping habits.

And here are tips we all should follow:
*Wash your hands often. Viruses can survive on your hands for hours and washing your hands often decreases your chances of getting sick. Use warm water, wash with soap for at least 20 seconds and, if possible, use a towel to turn off the faucet. If you are not near soap and water, an alcohol-based gel will do.
*Get vaccinated. Get a flu shot to protect yourself and your family over the holidays. October and November are the best months to get vaccinated, but it's never too late.
*Use care when cooking. Use a meat thermometer to make sure your holiday bird is cooked all the way through. Keep raw meat, poultry, fish and their juices away from other items. Wash your cutting board, knife and countertops with hot, soapy water after cutting meat. And finally, sanitize cutting boards by using a solution of 1 teaspoon chlorine bleach in 1 quart of water.

By taking a few extra precautions, you can help prevent the spread of viruses and reduce your odds of catching the flu. Enjoy a happy, healthy and safe holiday season! What additional tips do you have for travelers to avoid getting sick during the holidays?

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Drug-resistance an increasing danger to health

Drug resistance is a growing concern worldwide, especially in the context of infectious diseases. Recent news headlines have drawn attention to issues such as the global threat posed by drug-resistant tuberculosis and the increasing number of cases of multidrug-resistant staph in the United States.

Among the news stories related to drug-resistance reported recently via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

*South Africa study predicts major rise in XDR-TB
*Drug-resistant MRSA developing into medical crisis
* Number of MRSA cases in pets increasing
* Anti-TB program 'led to resistance' in South Africa
* Superbug putting schools to the test in U.S.

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, October 26, 2007

New flu vaccine means there will be plenty of shots this year

Good news! The Food and Drug Administration has approved another seasonal flu vaccine! Why is that good news? Because it means we will have plenty of flu vaccine to go around. In fact, the United States is expected to have a record supply of flu vaccine this year.

This is important because not too long ago, during the 2004 to 2005 flu season, there was a flu vaccine shortage in the United States. In response, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention stopped saying that everyone should get a flu shot and started saying "wait, not you." People started to doubt whether getting a flu shot was all that important, even though it really is. Each year, 36,000 people die and 200,000 are hospitalized as a result of seasonal flu.

In recent years, public education campaigns have called for everyone to get vaccinated. It's just good common sense and good public health. Now, with a record supply of flu vaccine expected, we can say "everyone should get a flu shot!"

One reason that we have the new vaccine to choose from this season is thanks to a special process at FDA that lets the agency "fast track" a drug review when the medication is really needed. The new vaccine, called Afluria, met that definition, so it was "fast-tracked" through FDA, and subsequently, to doctor's offices, health departments and flu vaccination clinics around the country. The new vaccine is just one kind that's available, so ask your health care provider which one is best for you.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Pandemic flu preparations

With early cases of seasonal flu already popping up, much of the recent health news has been focused on flu and what can be done to prevent it. This week, several stories took it a step further and focused on preparations for a potential flu pandemic. Among the news stories related to pan flu reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

*Kids overlooked in flu pandemic
*Millions at risk as flu pandemic conditions ripen in China, health official warns
*Experts advise companies: Plan for flu pandemic
*South Dakota capital city hires flu expert
*Scarce pandemic vaccine to be given in order

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Promising Practices to help you prepare for pandemic flu

With so much information out there about preparing for pandemic flu, how do you recognize strong advice? Well, a new tool is now available to help communities learn from one another when it comes to planning for a pandemic. And it includes great tips for individuals, too.

The Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota, along with the Pew Center on the States, created Promising Practices, an online database of more than 130 peer-reviewed practices to enhance public health preparedness. Many are geared toward people working in public health and related fields, but several are useful for personal and family preparedness planning. You can start today by asking these questions:

*How do I create a family preparedness plan?
*What food should I stockpile?
*What can I do to reduce the risk of catching a respiratory illness like influenza?
*How do I care for ill family members at home if it becomes necessary?

You can find answers to these questions and more on the Promising Practices site. Click on personal preparedness, home care or vulnerable populations to learn more.

One of the resources is a link to the Get Ready blog, which contains useful posts. Others include a video on family preparedness planning; a thorough, easy-to-read pandemic influenza guide; and a family preparedness booklet you can complete.

Preparing for an emergency can mean the difference between struggling to reclaim your life and forging ahead after a fire, a tornado or even a flu pandemic. This new resource can speed your journey along the path to preparedness.

Amy Becker, MPH, is the project coordinator for Promising Practices at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. Promising Practices was conceived and funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts. Center staff collected and reviewed materials, with expert guidance from an advisory committee of public health and pandemic influenza experts nationwide.

Where to Find Local Emergency Preparedness Info

Ok, so by now you probably know the importance of being prepared for a flu pandemic or other emergency. But do you know where to go to find information and resources in your state or hometown? Don't worry – we're here to help!

There are several good Web sites to point you in the right direction as you develop a preparedness plan for you and your family:

*Here on the Get Ready site, visit our resource section to find links to state-level resources and campaigns addressing pandemic flu.

*Ready America, a program of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, offers a clickable map to find out whom to contact in your state for information on preparedness. On the site you'll also find information about Citizen Corps, a way to volunteer and get involved in preparing your community.

*Your state or local health department is also a great place to look for resources and information about preparedness. From the CDC site you can link directly to your state health department's website.

*Another good option is to visit the Red Cross Web site to find the contact information for your local Red Cross chapter.

*If you are interested in finding local disability-related emergency preparedness resources, check out the interactive map on the National Organization on Disability Web site.

These sites will connect you to the information you need to find out what kind of disasters could happen where you live and what resources are available in your community to help you prepare for any emergency.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Flu season

With fall upon us and flu season just around the corner, there are lots of news stories about the availability of the flu shot and the role it can play in keeping us healthy. Among the news related to flu season reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

*Scientists, flu renew annual combat
*Studies show flu shot helps
*Parents feel more urgency to vaccinate children from flu
*Diseases in kids linked to flu
*Pennsylvania investigates possible early seasonal flu cases
*North Carolina residents praise drive-thru flu clinic

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, October 12, 2007

Colorado reality competition spotlights preparedness

Colorado public health officials recently took advantage of America's fascination with reality television by producing and airing their own real-life competition.

In September, the Colorado Department of Health and Environment pitted nine state residents against one another in an online competition focused on preparedness. The competition, held Sept. 20–23 in Denver, was part of the state's "What If? Colorado" campaign, which encourages residents to become prepared.

During the competition, competitors lived and were filmed as they reacted to sudden emergencies such as a severe snowstorm or power outage as well as more long-term emergencies such as an influenza pandemic. Contestants learned how to survive for a night without power and participated in a demonstration illustrating how quickly an infectious virus can spread, among other exercises. One challenged featured teams racing to kiddy pools filled with Styrofoam packing materials to find color-coded clues, writing the clues on a readiness profile and compiling a family communication plan.

The reality competition was important, state officials said, because a majority of residents are not prepared for emergencies. A survey of almost 1,000 state residents found that 73 percent do not have an emergency preparedness kit.

Episodes of the reality competition are online now and can be viewed on the What If? Colorado Web site.

Photo courtesy What If? Colorado campaign

Friday, October 05, 2007

Perplexed about pandemic? The Get Ready Glossary can clear things up!

Confused about the difference between pandemic flu and seasonal flu? Wondering what exactly H5N1 is? If you think that reading about pandemic flu and other infectious diseases can seem like reading Greek, you are not alone! While news stories and preparedness guides are chock full of technical flu and disease terms, many of us are still unsure what they all mean.

Luckily, a new tool is available from APHA to help clear up the confusion. Let the Get Ready Glossary be your guide! The new glossary, on the Get Ready Web site , features a wealth of terms with both easy-to-understand and scientific and technical definitions. So the next you are flummoxed about the difference between endemic and epidemic, drop in on the Get Ready Glossary for a quick answer!

Have other terms for us to add to the glossary? Let us know by adding your comments to this blog entry.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Dengue a global concern

With climate change and warmer weather influencing the spread of infectious disease, mosquito-borne diseases such as dengue are becoming a growing concern around the globe. Among the dengue news reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

* Dengue fever surges in Latin America
* WHO urges Asia-Pacific nations to step up dengue control
* Climate change spurring rise in dengue
* 71 dengue cases, 76 chikungunya cases, in Delhi, India
* Vietnam reports more dengue fever cases
* Pediatric Dengue Initiative and Inviragen partner to prevent dengue fever

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter .
New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, September 28, 2007

APHA holds Get Ready Day celebration

APHA celebrated its first-ever Get Ready Day in September by sponsoring a Get Ready Fun Fest at Tubman Elementary School in northwest D.C. The fun fest was held in support of APHA’s Get Ready campaign, which is working to help Americans prepare for pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious diseases.

To highlight the Get Ready theme, APHA provided fact sheets on preventing flu and infectious diseases and hosted games, such as "germ tag," that underscored the importance of handwashing. The first 20 parents at the event received first aid kits, compliments of the American Red Cross. Students also received a copy of APHA's new Get Ready Kids Fun Pack, with games on preparedness and disease prevention.

Special guests included Talon, the mascot for the D.C. United soccer team. The event was held in conjunction with the Metropolitan Washington Public Health Association.

Photos from Get Ready Day are online now.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease news: Livestock and disease

Livestock that live in close proximity to humans can help infectious disease make the jump from animals to people, which puts veterinary and public health workers on high alert for such diseases. The risks will only grow as the global demand for meat products grows, according to new predictions from global food and agriculture officials.

Recent news reports highlighted by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter show livestock diseases are common worldwide, from blue-ear pig disease in China and South Africa to bluetongue sheep disease in Montana . Among the livestock-related infectious disease news reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter:

*Greater global demand for meat could increase risk of diseases
*Additional 10,000 birds to be culled in Guangzhou, China
*Vaccination is best cure against bluetongue
*Pig disease in China worries the world
*New U.K. Foot-and-mouth case 'same strain'
*Disease concern leads Montana vet to prohibit sheep transport
*Blue-ear disease ravaging Western Cape, South Africa, pig farms
*Cue a mystery as Q fever strikes 28 in U.K.

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready News Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Plenty of flu shots available, U.S. health officials say

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention kicked off its seasonal flu vaccine campaign this week with good news: There should be plenty of flu shots on hand this year.

Although shortage and distribution issues have caused problems with flu shots in the United States in recent years, a whopping 132 million doses should be available in the United States for the upcoming flu season, according to CDC.

The U.S. flu season typically begins in October, which means now is a good time to start thinking about getting your flu shot. But because seasonal flu peaks in February, you can get a vaccination through January and beyond and still see a benefit, said CDC Director Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, at a Washington D.C. news conference.

"The vaccine works," Gerberding said. "It should be used." Sometimes people don't get vaccinated because they think the vaccine causes flu, Gerberding said, which is simply "not true."

Because kids and seniors are at a high risk for flu, it's especially important that they get vaccinated. Unfortunately, during the 2005–2006 flu season, only one in five children ages 6 months to 23 months was fully vaccinated. Vaccination rates for seniors also lagged below national targets.

If you do get sick from the flu, antiviral medications can help, especially if you have asthma or other chronic conditions, health officials said. Antiviral medications, which can be obtained with a prescription from your doctor, can make flu symptoms lighter and the illness shorter if you take them within 12 to 48 hours of showing flu symptoms.

Every year, about 200,000 people are hospitalized and 36,000 die because of seasonal flu. To find a flu vaccination clinic near you, call your local health department or pharmacy and ask for their flu shot schedule.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease news: International spread of disease

Infectious diseases aren't stopped by international borders, recent news shows. Whether it is a little-known mosquito-borne disease gaining a foothold in Europe because of an international traveler, or U.S. troops bringing home infections from Iraq and Afghanistan, news reports show how quickly and easily diseases can spread around the world.

Among the infectious disease news reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter:

*Pig Disease in China Worries the World
*Europe may see more outbreaks of chikungunya virus
*Cholera cases in Iraq keep rising
*Search in Congo for more possible Ebola victims
*Dermatologists identify North Texas leishmaniasis outbreak
*Two cases of plague strike N. Arizona
*CDC case count: 1,395 West Nile virus cases, 38 deaths so far this year in U.S.
*Texas case of severe dengue prompts warnings

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready News Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Protect yourself from infectious diseases while traveling abroad

There's nothing like traveling the world to help you broaden your horizons. But don't let the lure of international travel lower your guard: It's important to take extra steps to protect yourself from disease while traveling overseas. Tossing bug repellent or hand sanitizer in your suitcase may be just as important as remembering your passport!

Here are some steps you can take to help ensure a safe and enjoyable trip.

Make an appointment with your doctor four to six weeks before your trip to ensure that you and those traveling with you are up to date on all routine vaccinations. Depending on where you are headed, specific vaccines may be recommended or required. Yellow fever vaccinations are required for travel to countries in sub-Saharan Africa, for example.

Things to bring:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends travelers put together a "Health Kit," including prescribed medications, over-the-counter medication to prevent diarrhea, sunscreen and insect repellent, and alcohol-based hand gel containing at least 60 percent alcohol for handwashing when you don't have access to safe or clean water.

General disease risks and recent outbreaks:
To keep up to date on travel health information for the country you will be visiting, check out the destination pages on the CDC Web site and make sure to monitor the news.

Travel notices, released by CDC, describe the level of risk of a traveler of getting a disease in an affected area and what preventive measures should be taken.

Washing your hands is one of the most important ways to reduce infectious disease transmission. Wash carefully and frequently.

Health insurance:
Learn what medical services your health insurance will cover while you are abroad and what policy exclusions exist.

Health care resources:
Identify health care resources in the locations you will be visiting and resources for emergency medical evaluation before you go. This is especially important if you have chronic diseases or life-threatening conditions such as food allergies.

What to do in countries affected by avian flu:

Currently, CDC does not recommend travel restrictions to countries affected by avian flu. However, if you are traveling to a country with known outbreaks of avian flu, avoid poultry farms, contact with animals in live food markets and any surfaces that appear to be contaminated with feces from poultry or other animals.

Following some basic precautions can help ensure your travel itinerary doesn't include a trip to the infirmary!

Photo by Skip O’Donnell, courtesy iStockphoto

Friday, September 07, 2007

Student Videos Communicate Pandemic Risk

With the rise of YouTube and other popular video-sharing sites, why not tap the interest in user-created content to help spread the word about preparedness? Well, that's exactly what we did.

As part of National Public Health Week in April, APHA held a viral video contest and called on high school, college and graduate students to submit compelling, short videos about preparing for public health threats.

Three contestant teams took home the grand prize. You can watch the winning videos- "I Saw the Signs," "Don't Lose your Hat" and "The Bubble Fairy"- at

When asked about their video's preparedness message, the team of students that created "I Saw the Signs" said, "We aimed to depict the importance of getting prepared now for disasters. ...We hope that people who watch it will be motivated to get prepared for potential disasters so that they don't have to go through the heartache and suffering depicted in the video."

Congratulations to the winners!

Click on the comment feature of the blog below to tell us ideas you have on using video to help improve preparedness.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease news

Vaccines can play an important role in preventing infectious diseases and staving off disease outbreaks, although not enough people always receive recommended immunizations, recent news shows. Among the vaccine-related headlines and research reported by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter:

*Study: Few U.S. teens got new meningitis shot
*Hawaii offering free flu shots for kids
*Development of new tuberculosis vaccines: A global perspective on regulatory issues
*People with diabetes need influenza vaccinations

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready News Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Inside the ER during a pandemic: What you don’t see on TV

Ever been to the emergency room or had family or friends who've rushed to the hospital only to sit and wait –- sometimes for hours and hours -– before seeing a doctor? If so, then it should come as no surprise that overcrowding in emergency departments is a huge problem.

According to the Institute of Medicine, which released a series of reports this summer on the state of our country's emergency departments, emergency room visits grew by 26 percent between 1993 and 2003. During the same period, the number of emergency departments dropped by 425 and the number of hospital beds fell by 198,000. Every minute of the day, an ambulance is diverted from a crowded emergency department to one that is further away, and some people have to regularly wait as long as two days before getting needed care.

So what does the extra wait in the emergency room have to do with pandemic flu? Well, if today's routine emergencies are filling ERs to capacity, how can we cope with an additional 10 million hospitalizations that are predicted by the Department of Health and Human Services to occur during a severe pandemic flu outbreak? Everyday emergencies won't go away during a flu pandemic. Instead, our system will be more overburdened than ever before.

What can hospitals do? When preparing for the worst, it helps to have a bit of wiggle room. In the health care world, that idea is called surge capacity –- the ability of the health system to expand and adapt to the growing number of patients that can be expected during an influenza pandemic.

Just as we buy extra supplies and develop plans for home, hospitals, too, need additional resources to be able to expand their capacity to operate during a flu pandemic or other times of peak demand.

So where do you come in? You can help hospitals improve their surge capacity by contacting your elected officials and let them know you are concerned. Reach out to your local, state or congressional lawmakers and tell them that hospitals, along with the state and local health departments, need increased preparedness funding, staff and training so that they can be ready to handle the worst. Because in the end, it could be you or your family in need of that hospital bed.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease news

Computers and computer networks are playing a key role in helping predict and analyze infectious disease transmission, according to recent news reports. Among the computer-related headlines and research reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter:

*Online gamers rehearse real-world epidemics
*Scientists launch global computing effort to find cures for dengue, West Nile virus, hepatitis C
*Visualizing the molecules that cause infectious disease: Seeing with supercomputers
*Models of Infectious Disease Agent Study at NIH develops computational models of infectious disease

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready News Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, August 24, 2007

How to have an itch-free, disease-free summer: Avoiding West Nile virus and Lyme disease

Before you head out to your garden, lace up your hiking shoes or hop on your bike this summer, keep this in mind: Cases of infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks peak during the warmest months of the year.

Besides being an itchy nuisance, mosquitoes can transmit a number of diseases to humans, including West Nile virus. West Nile virus has spread across the United States in recent years, causing almost 4,300 cases of illness and 177 deaths last year alone. So far this year, more than 570 cases of West Nile virus have been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including 19 deaths. Symptoms of West Nile virus include high fever, headache, neck stiffness, coma, tremors, numbness and paralysis.

Also of growing concern in the United States is Lyme disease, which is transmitted by ticks and is the most common vector-borne disease in the United States. Infected ticks can cause illness in humans and pets. Lyme disease symptoms include cognitive impairment, lethargy, joint pain, severe headaches, fever and fatigue. If that doesn't hit home, get this: President Bush, a frequent biker, was diagnosed with Lyme disease this year after he developed the characteristic bull's-eye rash.

But all this doesn't mean you should stay locked up indoors. Luckily, neither West Nile virus nor Lyme disease can be transmitted person-to-person. Following a few simple precautions can reduce your risk of contracting mosquito- and tick-borne infectious diseases while enjoying nature.

To prevent mosquito-borne diseases:
* Use insect repellent every time you go outdoors. The CDC reports that repellents containing DEET and Picaridin typically provide longer-lasting protection than others. Always follow the warning labels on repellents.
* Avoid the outdoors at dusk and dawn (when mosquitoes are most active), and wear long pants and long sleeved shirts if you must go outside.
* Get rid of mosquito breeding sites by emptying standing water from flowerpots, bucket and barrels, and by changing the water in pet dishes and replacing the water in bird baths weekly.
* Keep mosquitoes out with good screens on your windows and doors.

To prevent exposure to ticks and tick-borne diseases:
* Steer clear of wooded areas with lots of leaf litter, bushes or tall grasses, and wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and long socks if you're headed to such areas.
* Tuck in shirts into pants and pant legs into socks to prevent ticks from getting inside your clothing.
* Wear light-colored clothing to help spot ticks easily.
* Check your outer clothing frequently and thoroughly while you are outdoors and when you come inside.
* Use duct tape or lint rollers to remove ticks from clothing.

If you find a tick on your body, remove it promptly with fine tipped tweezers. Lyme disease-causing ticks may be small, but they require 24 hours to 48 hours of attachment to transmit the infection.

By taking a few precautions, you can ensure that you stay itch- and disease-free during the summer season!

Photo by Chiya Li, courtesy iStockphoto

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease

Given the high percentage of infectious diseases that make the jump from animals to humans, scientists and health workers are always on alert for new cases of illnesses among poultry, livestock and other animals. Among the animal-related emerging infectious disease news reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

* Agriculture experts call for separating wild, domestic birds in markets
* Virus strikes China's pigs, stirring fears of global outbreak
* Bird flu's spread around the globe
* Influenza: Fear triggers renewed interest in interspecies transmission
* Trappers target deadly rabid raccoons on U.S.-Canadian border
*Bulgarian woman infected with rare animal disease

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Photo by Scott Bauer, courtesy USDA Agricultural Research Service

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Get Your Headphones Out- We Have Added A New Get Ready Podcast!

Episode 5: "Preparedness Across the Nation: Massachusetts Public Health Association Addresses Pandemic Flu"

The first of a series of podcasts seeking to examine the different ways that states and localities are preparing across the nation, Geoff Wilkinson, executive director of the Massachusetts Public Health Association, discusses the organization's work on pandemic preparedness, noting that vulnerable populations will pay the greatest price for a lack of preparedness in the event of a flu pandemic.

*Listen to the podcast
*Download the podcast
*Read the full transcript

Click here to check out our expanding podcast series

Give a listen, and send us your ideas on what topics you'd like to see covered in future podcasts using the comments feature on the blog below.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease: Aug 7-14

Seasonal flu time has arrived for some of the world, including Australia, which is experiencing an outbreak that has claimed the lives of six children and caused widespread concern. Among the seasonal flu news reported this week via APHA's Get Ready News Twitter are these headlines:

* Seasonal flu killed 68 U.S. children this season
* Sanofi ships its first flu vaccine of season
* Sixth child dies of seasonal flu in Australia
* Outbreak of seasonal flu in Australia prompts call for more Tamiflu
* CDC TIPS: Six habits to help prevent seasonal flu

For links to dozens of news stories and resources on emerging infectious diseases, visit the Get Ready Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Practice makes perfect when preparing for a pandemic

Hawaii is one state that is on the right track for preparing for a potential flu pandemic.

In July, report of a plane crash on Midway Island sent more than 200 medical and emergency officials scrambling to respond. Fortunately for passengers and crew, the "crash" was staged as part of a response drill designed to test coordination among agencies within the state. And as if the mock mishap wasn't enough, the simulation reported that all passengers had also been "exposed" to avian flu.

Federal, military, state and county specialists mobilized to respond during the drill. Planes transported medical specialists to Midway to treat the passengers -– some of whom had already developed flu-like symptoms. Officials quickly set up a quarantine site, decontamination station and mobile hospital at a location that was predetermined for triage during the drill. U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agents worked to secure the triage area and identified 10 patients and 50 medical specialists for quarantine or medical care. The agents followed procedures and reported all cases of flu.

Pandemic flu drills such as the one held in Hawaii are becoming more commonplace in communities and states around the country -– and even at the federal level. If there's truth to the adage that "practice makes perfect," they should serve as examples for the rest of us in our efforts to prepare all Americans for a flu pandemic.

Has your state or community held a pandemic flu drill? Share your experiences in the comments section of this blog.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease

Infectious diseases spread by mosquitoes and ticks are a continuing concern for health workers, especially during warm, wet weather, according to news headlines reported this week by APHA's Get Ready News Twitter:

Among this week’s highlights:
* CDC: 122 West Nile cases, three deaths so far in 2007
* Dengue on rise in Asia; WHO issues warning
* Lyme disease cases double in Vermont
* Mosquito control tips: No need to get fancy
* Eastern equine encephalitis virus confirmed in North Carolina County

For links dozens of news stories and resources, visit the Get Ready Twitter. New information is posted each weekday, so check back often for updates.

Photo by James Gathany, courtesy CDC/PHIL

Friday, August 03, 2007

Get Ready Trivia: Boiling water during an emergency

Suppose your water supply has been contaminated, and your local health department issues a "boil-water notice." How long must you boil water to ensure that it's safe to drink?

a) 20 minutes
b) 10 minutes
c) 1 minute

Click on the comments section of this blog entry to read the answer!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease

Pandemic flu and emerging infectious disease are a serious issue around the globe, according to news headlines reported this week by APHA’s Get Ready News Twitter.

Among the week’s highlights:
* South Africa tests first new TB vaccine in 80 years
* 35 dead of dengue in Vietnam, nearly 33,000 cases
* New bird flu outbreak in Southern Burma
* Bird flu strikes farm in Manipur, Northeast India
* Bird flu reemerges in Vietnam province

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 often for updates.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Get Ready campaign to hold song contest

Calling all musicians and people with creative talent! APHA is seeking entries for new a songwriting competition.

The contest is being held in support of APHA’s Get Ready campaign. To enter the contest, which is open to both APHA members and non-members, entrants should write and record a song supporting the Get Ready campaign. Songs can focus on specific issues covered by the campaign, such as creating a preparedness plan, stockpiling supplies or handwashing, or on overall preparedness. Creativity is encouraged. Songs can be recorded in an audio or video format.

The first-place winner of the Get Ready Song Contest will receive an Apple iPod and the second-place winner will receive a $50 gift certificate to either iTunes or

The competition will open for entries on Wednesday, Aug. 1, 2007, and the deadline for submissions is Tuesday, Sept. 4, at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Full contest details and submission instructions will be available soon on the contest Web page, so start tuning up those pianos!

U.S., global health workers on lookout for deadliest infectious diseases

The United States is joining countries around the world in being on high alert for some of the globe’s most deadly infectious diseases.

Under new International Health Regulations created by the World Health Organization, the United States is working through its state and local reporting networks to identify, respond to and share information about public health emergencies of international concern. The regulations took effect in the United States July 18.

The regulations call on WHO member countries — which include the United States — to report disease outbreaks and other public health events that have an international impact. Specifically, the new regulations add four diseases — smallpox, polio, severe acute respiratory syndrome — to the list of those that must be immediately reported to WHO.

“Today’s world of rapid air travel, international migration, emerging diseases, threats of terrorism and the potential threat of an influenza pandemic underscore the importance of the International Health Regulations,” said U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt.

The emergence of SARS in 2003 demonstrated “as no previous disease outbreak ever had” how interconnected the world has become and how rapidly a new disease can spread, according to WHO. SARS served as a wake-up call for global health officials, said Margaret Chan, MD, WHO director-general, but isn’t the main concern today.

"Today, the greatest threat to international public health security would be an influenza pandemic,” said Chan in June, when the International Health Regulations came into force. “The threat of a pandemic has not receded, but implementation of the (regulations) will help the world to be better prepared for the possibility of a pandemic."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease

Pandemic flu and preparedness are on the minds of state health workers around the nation, as evidenced by some of the news headlines reported this week by APHA’s Get Ready news Twitter.

Among the week’s highlights from the states include:
* Colorado preparedness campaign to host home reality competition
* Los Angeles County launches “Just Be Ready” preparedness campaign
* Virginia 4-H fairs forgo poultry because of bird flu fears
* Ohio county readies for pandemic flu
* Low-risk bird flu at Virginia turkey farm but not spreading

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 for updates, or sign up for our RSS feed.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Happy birthday to the Get Ready campaign!

Join APHA in celebrating the first anniversary of our Get Ready campaign. During the past year, we’ve made big strides in our effort to increase the number of Americans who are prepared for pandemic flu or other emerging infectious diseases, including:

* posting more than 80 blog entries;
* producing five podcasts;
* creating a public-friendly Web site featuring materials to help people prepare;
* starting a Get Ready news Twitter for quick updates on pandemic flu and emerging infectious disease news stories;
* debuting our own designer collection, with T-shirts, mugs and other apparel proudly featuring the Get Ready logo; and
* participating in a pandemic flu blog and summit sponsored by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

We have lots more to come, including a song contest, more podcasts and public events -- so stay tuned!

We hope by helping Americans prepare for pandemic flu and other emerging infectious diseases, it will also strengthen their preparedness for other threats to their health and lives, such as hurricanes or terrorism.

To help us celebrate our birthday, tell a friend (or two) about the Get Ready campaign! Please leave us birthday wishes, questions or suggestions by using the blog's comment feature below.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

This week in pandemic flu, emerging infectious disease

This week's pandemic flu and emerging infectious disease news, as highlighted by APHA's Get Ready news Twitter include:

* Gates Foundation may fund bird flu vaccinations
* Study links flu in pregnant women with mental illness in children
* Indonesia confirms 81st human bird flu death
* Deporting TB patients creates high risk for not completing treatment
* Human antibodies that block SARS viruses identified

For links to these and more than two dozen other stories and resources this week, visit the Get Ready Twitter.

New information is posted each week day, so check back for updates.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Get Ready gear now available!

Worried about pandemic flu but not sure how to help? APHA's Get Ready campaign has a new line of T-shirts, mugs and other material that will help you spread the word.

Show your support for public health preparedness by sporting a Get Ready T-shirt, cap or tote. Each item features the Get Ready logo, which will undoubtedly cause people to ask: "Hey, what are you getting ready for?"

The Get Ready line includes shirts, bags, hats, mouse pads and buttons. There is even a special Get Ready shirt for your pooch and bib for your baby. Organic and value-priced shirts are also available.

Wearing the Get Ready items is a great way to get people talking and help spread the word about the importance of preparing for pandemic flu and other emerging infectious diseases.

The new materials are the latest addition to APHA's Get Ready campaign, which is helping Americans prepare themselves, their families and their communities for pandemic flu and other emerging infectious diseases. The campaign, launched in 2006, includes a website , podcasts, fact sheets and news feed in addition to this blog. APHA’s affiliated state and regional public health associations are working to bring the Get Ready campaign's message to communities.

Check out the new gear at the APHA Get Ready store .

Friday, July 06, 2007

Get an ear-full of flu news!

Concerned about pandemic influenza, but don't have the time to read through pages and pages of information? APHA's Get Ready campaign can help. Download our podcast series, now featuring our latest episode, to begin learning about pandemic influenza and preparedness. Just plug in your earphones and listen on the go. There's no reading required.

Our newest episode, "For pandemic flu prevention, the best advice may be 'rub-a-dub-dub,'" reminds listeners that (in this case anyway!) their mothers were right –- wash your hands! Handwashing proves to be one of the simplest and easiest ways to prevent the spread of disease, including flu.

The new podcast adds to the growing collection of Get Ready tools that help educate the public about protecting themselves, their families and their communities against a potential pandemic, as well as advise people on other issues such as news on the seasonal flu or infectious diseases.

Other entries in the series include "Flu 101," the two-part debut podcast, which features APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, discussing the threat of pandemic flu and APHA's Get Ready campaign. "Seasonal Flu," covered in episode 3, paints an overview of the difference between pandemic and seasonal influenza.

Click here to check out our expanding podcast series:

Give a listen, and send us your ideas on what topics you'd like to see covered in future podcasts using the comments feature on the blog below.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Pandemic Flu Blog Summit Comes to a Close

APHA's Get Ready campaign thanks the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services for hosting the blog summit on pandemic influenza. Thanks also go to our partners who have participated with posts and comments. It’s been a lively five weeks!

APHA's Dr. Benjamin was pleased to participate. Read his last blog post.

While many positions were expressed, one thing is clear: There is a lot of passion around preparing for pandemic flu. Now the will, leadership and resources must follow!

Participate today or check out the summit entries and comments, including the final post from Secretary Leavitt (coming today [June 27th]!) at

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The APHA Get Ready campaign is all a’Twitter!

Can’t get enough info on emerging infectious diseases such as XDR-TB or bird flu?

APHA’s Get Ready campaign now has an online news page with links to the latest information and resources on emerging infectious diseases. Updated regularly, the Get Ready Twitter is a one-stop page where visitors can find quick, easy information on topics such as animal-borne diseases, avian flu, XDR-TB, SARS and other infectious diseases from a variety of different sources.

The news Twitter is the latest addition to the Get Ready campaign, which includes a Web site, blog, podcasts and other free resources. Created in 2006, the APHA Get Ready campaign is helping Americans prepare themselves, their families and their communities for pandemic influenza and other emerging infectious diseases. APHA's affiliated state and regional public health associations are working to bring the campaign and its message to the public.

Twitter, launched online in 2006, is a new type of online tool that is similar to a blog. But unlike blogs, which have lengthy, detailed postings and photos, Twitter only allows users to creating postings of 140 words or less. The tool is attractive to those who want to post short, quick entries throughout the day or stay up to date on what others are doing.

Earlier this year, Portland, Ore., resident Scott Hanselman successfully used his Twitter, Twittering my Diabetes, to document his daily experiences with diabetes and raise money for the American Diabetes Association.

The APHA Get Ready Twitter has an RSS feed, which means that Web users can stay up date on new posts as they are made. To subscribe to the feed, add to your RSS reader or add the feed URL to your MyYahoo! or Google news page.

Web users can also visit the APHA Get Ready Twitter directly at

Friday, June 22, 2007

Community leaders have a vital role to play in pandemic preparedness, HHS forum says

Community leaders should take steps now to make sure their residents are prepared for a possible pandemic of influenza, according to a national forum on influenza held in Washington, D.C., June 13.

Organized by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the one-day Pandemic Influenza Leadership Forum brought together about 100 leaders from the employer, faith-based, civic and health care sectors.

Among the recommendations that came out of the forum are that community leaders communicate to residents that it is critical for everyone to prepare for the possibility of a flu pandemic. Of key importance is encouraging Americans now to store food and supplies, to get in the habit of washing their hands and to stay home if they are sick, the forum emphasized. Leader can use tools and ideas, such as those provided by HHS or APHA’s Get Ready campaign, to communicate those messages to the public.

Community leaders, such as those involved with civic groups, faith-based organizations, health agencies and schools, "are in a unique position to help disseminate vital information which may save lives," said forum attendee Susan Crosson-Knutson, program development department manager of the International Association of Lions Clubs.

"Leadership at the community level is essential in encouraging people to prepare now for a pandemic flu," Crosson-Knutson said.

APHA, HHS and other health officials are concerned about pandemic flu because a severe outbreak could kill 62 million people worldwide and overwhelm the health care system.

A blog covering the forum and pandemic influenza preparedness is available online.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Can the flu vaccine prevent heart attacks?

Eat nutritious foods. Don't smoke. Exercise. We're all familiar with these heart-healthy tips. Now here's some new advice for keeping your ticker healthy: get a flu shot.

Yes, research has revealed that the annual jab not only protects you from the seasonal flu virus, but it can also protect against heart-disease deaths. The research published in the European Heart Journal shows that during past influenza outbreaks there were increases in the number of deaths from heart disease because the flu can actually trigger these deadly heart attacks.

How? The flu can cause the body to become severely inflamed, which in some patients can trigger blood clots to form in the arteries leading to the heart causing heart attacks. Individuals in lower socio-economic groups who do not have access to proper cardiac medical care and expensive medication and individuals who are at a higher risk of developing heart disease can receive an added bonus from an annual flu shot. The flu vaccine is not only inexpensive and easy to get, it could also save thousands of people from dying of heart disease or influenza each year.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HHS Summit Energizes Flublogia

In launching a five-week Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has reached out to the online community to help Americans become more prepared for a possible influenza pandemic. The last couple of weeks have featured posts by government, health, business and religious leaders on a range of topics generating many active threads and comments from the public and online pandemic preparedness community.

APHA's Dr. Georges Benjamin has been participating. See his latest entry at <>.

The blog summit comes in advance of this week’s Pandemic Influenza Leadership Forum, a one-day conference held in Washington, D.C. convened by HHS Secretary Michael Leavitt.

Watch the blog for forum results and join the conversation. The blog summit runs through June 27.

Friday, June 08, 2007

APHA poll: Americans are not ready for public health crises

Americans are overwhelmingly unprepared for a public health crisis, according to a national poll released by APHA in April.

The poll, which was released in conjunction with National Public Health Week, found that 87 percent of Americans would not be ready if a public health crisis such as an infectious disease epidemic or foodborne illness outbreak struck their communities tomorrow.

Even among those who have taken steps in the past to prepare — stocking food, buying batteries or putting together a first aid kit — many admitted that they have let their preparedness plans lapse.

The poll, which was conducted in February by Peter D. Hart Research Associates on behalf of APHA, found that many people who believe they are prepared actually are not. While 27 percent of respondents said they were ready for a public health crisis — which was defined as a serious event that causes disease, disability or death in groups of people or communities — only 14 percent had an adequate supply of food, water and medication. And fewer than half of the public said they had a disaster supply kit with items such as a flashlight, batteries, a first aid kit and a radio.

Among the other poll results were findings that:
* 57 percent of respondents said they thought a severe storm such as a hurricane, tornado or blizzard could lead to a public health crisis in their community in the next few years, while 47 percent said a crisis from a disease such as the flu is likely and 43 percent thought such a crisis could result from foodborne illness.

* only 37 percent of employers thought a major public health crisis will affect their organization in the next year or two.

* 84 percent of school adminstrators surveyed said they had evacuation plans in place for their schools and 64 percent said they had communications plans to contact students’ families in the event of a public health crisis.

Fact sheets and a checklist on preparedness are available on the National Public Health Week Web site.

Do you feel prepared? Let us know using the blog's comment feature below:

Friday, June 01, 2007

Blog summit to help Americans prepare for pandemic flu

How do you help 300 million Americans prepare for a flu pandemic? You blog, of course.

Joining APHA's Get Ready campaign in the blogosphere, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is convening U.S. leaders online for six weeks to share ideas and discuss the potential impact of a pandemic on individuals, families, communities and workplaces.

On the Pandemic Flu Leadership Blog, HHS poses questions to participating bloggers related to the threat of a pandemic who then collaborate on ideas for what can be done to help their employees, constituents, customers, congregations and clients prepare.

APHA Executive Director Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, is one of the leading authorities participating in the online discussion and posted his first blog entry May 26.

Check out the entries and join the conversation through June 27.

U.S. isolates man with rare form of tuberculosis

The recent case of an Atlanta man diagnosed with extensively drug-resistant form of tuberculosis has led to an unusual infectious disease-fighting tactic: a federal isolation order.

After the man, identified as attorney Andrew Speaker, 31, re-entered the United States following a vacation overseas, U.S. health officials placed him into isolation. Officials used the tactic because they were concerned the man would spread the disease, known as XDR-TB, to people he came in contact with.

In a May 29 news briefing, Julie Gerberding, MD, MPH, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, acknowledged that the isolation order was "unusual," noting that "we always want to balance personal liberties with the requirement to protect people's health."

"But in this situation, a precocious organism is so potentially serious and could cause such serious harm to people, especially those that have other medical conditions that would reduce their immunity, we felt that it was our responsibility to err on the side of abundant caution and issue the isolation order to assure that we were doing everything possible to protect people's health in avoiding any additional potential for exposure," Gerberding said.

CDC is working to locate and test passengers who may have flown on flights with Speaker, who was notified that he had XDR-TB while in Rome and decided to return to the United States against the request of U.S. health officials. (Read Washington Post and Atlanta Journal Constitution stories)

XDR-TB is a growing concern for public health officials worldwide because it resists nearly all drugs and can be spread when an infected person coughs, sneezes or speaks. XDR-TB is particularly dangerous to people who are HIV-positive or have other conditions that weaken the immune system. While there are about 13,000 cases of the more common, treatable forms of tuberculosis reported in the United States, so far XDR-TB cases are rare in this country.

For more on XDR-TB, visit CDC’s Web site.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Bird flu experts support bird flu vaccine stockpile

Creating a global stockpile of H5N1 avian flu vaccine may be feasible, bird flu experts from around the world agreed in late April.

Meeting at World Health Organization headquarters in Geneva, a diverse group of experts — including health leaders from countries that have experienced human H5N1 infections, representatives from countries that are funding avian flu research and vaccine manufacturers — agreed that both scientific evidence and international political commitment support efforts to establish a stockpile of H5N1 vaccine. The meeting participants also supported developing a mechanism to ensure that developing countries have access to pandemic influenza vaccine in the event of a pandemic.

"We have taken another crucial step forward in ensuring that all countries have access to the benefits of international influenza virus sharing and pandemic vaccine production," said Margaret Chan, WHO director-general. "All countries will now be better placed to protect the public health security of their people and the world at large."

WHO is now working to set up expert groups to focus on the details of how to create, maintain, fund and use an H5N1 vaccine stockpile.

Also during the meeting, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations, which represents research-based pharmaceutical companies, reported that it forecast increased manufacturing capacity for seasonal influenza vaccine in the next three to five years to meet potential growing demand.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Staying mentally healthy during a flu pandemic, infectious disease outbreak

A great deal of attention has been paid to the physical consequences of pandemic flu and the damage it could cause in terms of illness and death. But a widespread outbreak of infectious disease may also have equally damaging psychological consequences.

In the event of a pandemic, workers may become seriously ill and won't be able to go to their jobs. Children may be forced to stay home from school. If an outbreak spreads and medication or basic necessities are in short supply, panic could occur. In each case, people are almost guaranteed to feel a heightened level of mental stress, fear, frustration and other emotions.

Such mental health consequences could linger long after an outbreak passes. People who have experienced a traumatic event, such as natural disaster, disease outbreak or other health emergency, can experience feelings of fear, grief, depression or, in the long term, post traumatic stress disorder. In fact, an April study found that eight months after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast, more than half of Louisiana and Mississippi residents living in emergency trailers were suffering from major depression.

To help communities mentally cope during a flu pandemic, the American Public Health Association recommends that officials:

* monitor the mental health of the public and make sure needs are being met, among other measures.

* share simple, thorough information on reactions to stress with residents so that they know what to expect and help promote hope, resilience and recovery;

* use speeches, memorial services and television specials to help manage community distress and loss; and

Officials also need to keep in mind the needs of people who may need extra help mentally coping during an outbreak, such as seniors, parents, emergency response workers or those with pre-existing mental illness.

As with any crisis, the best way to manage is through prevention. As May is Mental Health Month, now is the perfect time to stop and think ahead about what you, your family or community might need to help cope if and when the worst happens. For resources that can help you become more prepared, visit APHA’s Get Ready or National Public Health Week Web site.