Friday, July 30, 2010

Stay connected and safe from disease while on the go with APHA manual

In our oh-so-connected world, keeping up with information is a regular pastime. Whether it’s deals at your favorite store, weather conditions or news from halfway around the world, thanks to technology, we can now keep up on-the-go with just about everything that’s important to us. Add now, through APHA, you can add disease information to that mobile checklist.

APHA’s Control of Communicable Diseases Manual — one of the most widely recognized reference books on infectious diseases — recently came out in mobile form. That means whether you are a parent, teacher, health care provider or traveler — or just someone who is really into weird-sounding diseases — you can quickly look up info on infectious disease wherever you are.

While the Control of Communicable Diseases Manual is aimed at health professionals, you don’t need an MD or MPH to be intrigued by its entries, which include diseases such as malaria, smallpox and hepatitis A. The manual shows how diseases travel in communities and provides information about their identification, reporting, control and prevention. (It also has a lot of really cool facts, like that malaria can be transmitted by organ transplants and that hepatitis A has been linked to outbreaks in lettuce and strawberries.)

If you’re a parent, having this information at your fingertips can provide peace of mind and help you and others stay healthy. Frequent travelers to other countries with infectious diseases not common in the United States will also find the manual especially useful.

And chances are, pretty much whatever smartphone or mobile device you’re using, Control of Communicable Diseases Manual for Mobile + Web will work for you, as it’s available for iPhone, BlackBerry, Android, Windows Mobile and Palm devices. (Yeah, we’ve got it covered.)

Check out the manual online and browse the free sample chapters. You’ll soon be wondering how you were ever mobile without it.

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Friday, July 23, 2010

Protecting yourself from dengue means avoiding mosquitoes

Since 1934, there hasn’t been an outbreak in Florida of dengue, which in the United States is usually associated with overseas travel to tropical locales.

Yet within the past year, there has been a surge of cases of the disease in the state among people who’ve caught it without leaving America: As of the end of June, 12 "locally acquired" cases of the disease have been reported in the Key West area, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported this month. And that’s on top of the 27 cases linked back to Key West in 2009.

Because of the Florida cases and an outbreak in the Caribbean, dengue has been getting lots of attention in the news. But health experts say there is no reason for Americans to panic.

So, first off, the facts: Dengue is a viral disease that is transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. You can’t catch it from someone else, and it’s not usually fatal. General symptoms include high fever, intense headache, muscle and joint pain and loss of appetite. If you catch dengue, CDC recommends you take acetaminophen, rest, drink plenty of fluids and consult a physician.

While there is no vaccine for dengue, the best way to fight the fever is to protect yourself from mosquitoes. Our recent Get Ready blog entry on mosquitoes has some great steps to follow to avoid being bit, and our new dengue fact sheet has even more information.

Wondering why this is happening now? Experts suggest that climate change may contribute to the spread of dengue, which may help explain the recent Florida cases. With increases in heat, rainfall and humidity, the United States and other nations in the Northern Hemisphere could see more such mosquito-borne tropical diseases within their borders. So whether you live in or are travelling to at-risk parts of the world, remember to take precautions against mosquitoes and listen to information from health officials.

Credit: Photo by Lydia Bilby, courtesy iStockphoto

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Friday, July 16, 2010

School’s out! How about some preparedness fun?

School’s wrapped up for the year, leaving your kids with more time on their hands and you scratching your head on how to keep them busy for the long stretch ahead.

For great ideas this summer, look to APHA’s Get Ready campaign. Our educational, fun and portable activities for kids are perfect for printing out and taking to the pool or park. For example, the Get Ready Kids Fun Pack includes brain teasers, connect-the-dots, a crossword puzzle and word scramble.

For more active fun, download the Get Ready Games Guide (PDF), which includes step-by-step instructions on how to make your own games, like Get Ready Bowling or the Pin the Tissue on Sneezy Sam. They can help you keep any child occupied and learning for hours.

Make the activities interactive by using our checklist of necessary items for any emergency, or take our quiz to see how well-prepared your family is.

Now that summer is here and school distractions are out of the way, it’s also a good time to use the Get Ready Kids Guide to flu and learn together what you and your family need in order to be prepared before flu season returns this fall.

Photo Credit: iStockphoto

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Friday, July 09, 2010

The heat is on: Surviving the summer sizzle

The warmest weather so far this year has arrived. As the mercury hits its heights, it’s important to know how to prepare for and survive summer temperatures. People can naturally cool their bodies by sweating, but excessive heat can be dangerous — even deadly — and should be taken very seriously.

Heat-related illnesses and injuries can be avoided by learning to take caution when participating in outdoor activities and recognizing the warning signs of too much sun exposure. Public health officials urge residents to follow these basic prevention measures to avoid heat-related illness:

• Wear lightweight, light-colored clothing.

• Force the fluids. If you’re working or exercising outside, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends drinking up to 32 ounces of cool fluids every hour.

• Stay indoors if you can. Air conditioning is the best defense against the heat. If your home does not have air conditioning, find out if there are emergency cooling centers in your community, or spend some time at the mall or a museum.

• Know the warning signs of heat sickness. Symptoms vary, but typically include muscle cramp, fatigue, headache and nausea.

• Pay attention to the weather forecast. The National Weather Service issues heat-related alerts. Be aware of the weather forecast before you leave your home so you’re better prepared for the day ahead.

• Lend a hand. The elderly are more susceptible to the heat and sun’s wrath. If you know elderly people, offer to get groceries or accompany them on errands so they don’t have to withstand the heat alone. Check up on them periodically.

Even if you’re a fan of the hot weather, you’re still vulnerable to the summer sun. The American Cancer Society advises to stay mindful of UV rays and lather on sunscreen when spending time outdoors. Check out the Environmental Working Group’s Sunscreen Guide to find out what protection is best for you.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers a fact sheet (PDF) in English and Spanish (PDF) on how you and your family can stay protected before and during a summer heat wave and what to do in case you show signs of symptoms.

Keep it cool!

Photo Credit:Photo by Gene Chutka, courtesy iStockphoto

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Friday, July 02, 2010

Shoo fly: Mosquito, don’t bother me!

Summer is here. While visiting the beach and tantalizing your taste buds at backyard barbeques, don’t forget about the little insects that can sneak up on you when least expected — mosquitoes. Mosquito bites can be irritating, but sometimes these pesky pests can carry much more than an itchy bite. Some may carry disease.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 32 people died in the United States in 2009 due to West Nile virus, and 720 people reported symptoms of the virus. West Nile virus, spread by infected mosquitoes, is a serious, yet preventable disease that everyone should be aware of in warmer months.

Another mosquito-borne disease causing renewed concern in the United States is dengue fever. It’s usually found in tropical regions, but has returned to the U.S. mainland. Infections have occurred in Florida, and it may spread as changes occur in climate and global travel increases.

So there’s more than one good reason to avoid mosquito bites. What to do? CDC offers a Fight the Bite Guide (PDF) that gives tips on protecting yourself from mosquitoes and avoiding infections. Here are a few things to get started:

• Repel ‘em: One effective way to keep the mosquitoes at bay is to apply repellent. Repellents with DEET and Picardin have longer lasting protection, according to CDC. Pay special attention when using repellents on children and read the labels before applying.

• Keep your home mosquito-free: That unassuming baby pool in your backyard with the three-day-old water is a breeding ground for mosquitoes. The mosquitoes love to lay their eggs there (yuck!) so eliminate any standing water in your area.

• Protect your community: Help keep your neighborhood safe by cleaning up places where mosquitoes live and lay eggs, and learn more about controlling mosquitoes and the spread of disease where you live.

While your chances of getting sick from just one bite are low, you should still be mindful that even one bite could pose a serious, even deadly, health risk. So protect yourself and your loved ones, and enjoy the summer.

Photo Credit: Photo by James Gathany, courtesy Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Public Health Image Library

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