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.