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.