Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Donating blood: A New Year’s resolution you can keep

Find a new job. Eat healthier. Get fit. Tired of making — and not keeping — the same old New Year's resolutions? Here's one to consider that will only take minutes of your time, helps protect others and you can see to the finish: Donate blood.

Blood is traditionally in short supply during the winter months, making our nation's blood supply dangerously low. To encourage donors to give or make a pledge to give blood this month, our nation's blood centers — AABB, America's Blood Centers and the American Red Cross — are celebrating National Blood Donor Month 2009.

If you are at least 17 years of age — some states permit younger people to donate with parental consent — weigh at least 110 pounds and meet other donor requirements, you may be eligible to donate blood. Check with your local blood bank to find out the specific requirements in your area.

If you want to promote blood donation in your office or through your organization, AABB — formerly known as the American Association of Blood Banks — has National Blood Donor Month materials such as a fliers, posters, logos, fact sheets and newsletter templates available.

Celebrate National Blood Donor Month and the start of 2009 by donating blood and encouraging others to do the same. Make sure our blood banks are well supplied so they can help our families and loved ones in times of emergency. This is one New Year's resolution you can keep.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

High school students: Get set, get prepared and enter to win a $500 Get Ready Scholarship

It's pop quiz time again here at Get Ready headquarters, so take out those earbuds and listen up. Today's topic? U.S. teens.

Q: Which of these topics are of importance to today's high school students? a) a driver's license b) more sleep c) cell phones d) college applications e) preparedness.

The answer? All of the above. While answer "e," preparedness, may not seem like an obvious choice, it's as important for high schoolers to be as prepared for emergencies as everyone else. After all, during a disaster, everyone is at risk, regardless of age, SAT score or number of MySpace friends. And with about 17 million U.S. high school students, APHA's Get Ready campaign knows they are a serious force for change.

What can high schoolers do to support preparedness? Lots, actually: Host a preparedness video contest, hold a school food drive or set out a table with information at your local library or grocery store. Need some more ideas? Check out Get Set: An Emergency Preparedness Project Kit, an action kit for high school students that was released by the Get Ready campaign in October. More high school students than ever are taking on volunteer and community projects, and preparedness makes a great focus.

High school students can also help get engaged by spending some time writing about preparedness, whether on a blog, through the school newspaper or a letter to the editor. And thanks to our Get Ready campaign, writing about preparedness can pay off in a big way: The high school senior who sends us the best original essay on preparedness by April 6 can win a $500 Get Ready Scholarship to help with college costs. Get the full skivvy on the scholarship on our Web site, and pick up some preparedness tips while you are there.

We've thrown out the challenge, high school students, and know you are more than qualified to take it up. So now's the time to show us what you can do.

Know a high school student? Forward them this message, link to this blog entry or share our news release.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Googling for flu may be good for you

Haven't we all done it? Felt sick, typed in our symptoms and searched online, attempting to diagnose ourselves before seeing the doctor?

As you might expect, more people search on flu-like symptoms and treatments during flu season than during the rest of the year. In fact, the wizards over at Google found a correlation between how many people search for flu-related topics and how many people actually have flu symptoms. They then developed a Web tool that uses information from searches to estimate how many people have a flu-like illness. At Google Flu Trends, you can find the latest estimates on flu activity across the country.

Why would Google offer a flu tracking site when the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention already surveys doctors and patients to track the flu? It turns out that traditional flu monitoring systems take up to two weeks to collect and release information to the public. On the other hand, Google search queries (though not as scientific) can be automatically counted very quickly. During the last flu season, Google was able to estimate flu levels up to two weeks faster than CDC. Daily flu estimates can provide an early-warning system for flu outbreaks and help us take the necessary steps to protect ourselves.

Right now, the tool only monitors the flu in the United States, but Google hopes to eventually use it to help track flu and other diseases all over the world. So if you don't feel well, go right ahead and search the Web for your symptoms. Your query may just motivate someone else to protect themselves against the flu.

Query: Have you ever used the web to diagnose your symptoms?

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Friday, December 12, 2008

Get Ready Mailbag: Staying prepared during winter

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an e-mail to

Q. Since this summer, my family and I have been learning more about ways to be prepared. We even created an emergency kit and an evacuation plan. Is there anything specific we should be doing to be prepared for winter?

A. It's wonderful to hear that your family is taking steps to be prepared! The more you do now, the better prepared you will be to cope with the unexpected if an emergency situation were to arise. An emergency kit and an evacuation plan are two important items that each family should have.

Regarding getting prepared for winter, the first thing you and your family should do is get a flu shot. This will help reduce your chances of getting the flu. It's also a good idea to talk to your family and make sure everyone knows to take simple steps to stay healthy: wash your hands with soap often, cover your mouth and nose when you sneeze and cough, and avoid close contact with people who are sick from a respiratory illness.

Now is also a good time to check your emergency kit and ensure you're prepared for winter-specific needs. Make sure you have winter clothes and blankets in case you need to evacuate during cold weather, as well as batteries, flashlights and a radio in case you lose power during a winter storm.

Photo courtesy of iStockphoto

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Friday, December 05, 2008

Children’s Flu Vaccination Day is Tuesday, Dec. 9

Today's guest blog entry is by Carol J. Baker, MD, FAAP, FIDSA, moderator for the Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition; professor of pediatrics, molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine; and immediate past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases.

Have you protected your family against influenza this season?

Many Americans who receive annual influenza immunization do so at some point during October and November, with immunizations dropping off significantly around Thanksgiving. Many parents and health care professionals alike don't realize that it is beneficial to immunize against influenza in December, and even well into the New Year.

This is why the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Families Fighting Flu declared Dec. 9 the second annual Children's Flu Vaccination Day. The day is part of the CDC's National Influenza Vaccination Week, and was established to remind parents about the need to immunize all children (6 months through 18 years of age) and their contacts against influenza.

Parents may not realize that many doctors' offices still have influenza vaccine available in the winter months. Influenza outbreaks typically peak in February and continue until around May. Since the influenza vaccine takes only about two weeks to provide protection, we still have time to protect our families against this serious and potentially deadly disease.

The National Foundation for Infectious Diseases' Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition, of which the American Public Health Association is a member, applauds CDC and Families Fighting Flu for establishing this day. The coalition has a variety of educational materials about influenza and vaccination available at, including a short informational video. Spanish information is available at

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