Friday, January 28, 2011

What people with disabilities should know about the flu

The flu is never fun for anyone. Most people who get sick will have only a mild illness. Some people, however, are at greater risk and are more likely to experience complications.

Flu can be especially serious if you have disabilities or certain health issues, as you may require special treatment and care when you get sick. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, you’re at greater risk if you:

• have health problems that make it hard for your body to fight off infections;
• have lung problems, like asthma or bronchitis;
• have difficulty walking and moving around; or
• aren’t able to stay away from people who may be sick with the flu.

If you rely on a caregiver, you should take extra precautions. If you or your caregiver gets the flu, have a list ready of local friends, family and agencies that can help. Make sure you know at least two ways of staying in contact with others, such as phone, text messaging and e-mail. Also, ask your health care provider whether flu medicine is safe to take with regular medicine.

CDC also recommends that you:

• make sure you prevent the spread of germs by using a tissue when you cough or sneeze;
• stay away from sick people; and
wash your hands often.
If you do get sick, call your doctor. And, of course, be sure that you, your family members and caregivers get vaccinated against the flu every year. (It’s not too late to get your vaccination for this flu season!)

Preventing flu is important for everyone. But for some of us, taking extra care to stay well is especially important.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Make plans to enter APHA’s Get Ready Scholarship

APHA is pleased to announce its third annual Get Ready Scholarship. If you’re a senior in high school or a full-time college or graduate student, you have a chance to win a $500 scholarship toward your college expenses.

Let’s face it: Emergencies can happen anywhere, anytime. In recent years we’ve seen everything from earthquakes, oil spills and mudslides to pandemic flu outbreaks and the resurgence of other infectious diseases. With those emergencies has also come a renewed emphasis on being prepared. Now it’s time for students to put their skills and knowledge of preparedness to the test.

The Get Ready Scholarship, which is open to high school seniors as well as college undergraduate and graduate students, challenges entrants to write an essay on preparedness. Essay topics are listed on the scholarship Web page.

The scholarship will open online for entries on Feb. 7. Only 300 submissions will be accepted in each category. Submissions will be accepted until March 21, or until the category is filled. Six scholarships of $500 each will be awarded. Winning students also receive a one-year APHA membership.

For complete rules, visit the Get Ready scholarship Web page.

On your mark, get set, prepare!

Know a high school senior or college or graduate student? Forward them this message, link to this blog entry or share via Twitter, Facebook and other social media.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Get Ready Mailbag: Preparing for winter storms

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: Where I live, people totally panic when it snows. This year, I want to get a jump on things. What should I do to get ready for winter storms?

A: If you’re on the East Coast of the United States, then it may be a little late for that jump, given our recent storms. But there’s plenty you can do to make sure you’re ready for the next squall. Winter has only just begun, so take a few minutes now to take stock of your storm preparedness. Many of these steps can be done well before storms turn up in the forecast.

First, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, make sure your home is prepared. That means insulating water lines that run along outside walls and having your chimney inspected to make sure it’s operational if you plan to use it.

Next, prepare your car. Make sure fluids and gas are topped off and tires have enough air. If you find yourself driving in a storm — which, of course, is not advised — it’s a good idea to keep lots of gas in the tank, just in case the roads become treacherous and you need to stop for a while.

Once a storm is on the way, you’ll want to make sure you have the necessary supplies in case you can’t leave home for a few days. That means having plenty of food — include some that can be eaten without cooking in case the power goes out — as well as water. Experts recommend storing at least one gallon of water per person per day. Try shopping for these items well in advance of a storm, so you’re not left prowling the grocery store aisles as the clouds bear down.

You’ll also want to have flashlights, batteries and a radio. A battery-operated cell phone charger is also a plus.

Finally, once the storm clears, don’t try to clear all the snow at once. Shovel in small amounts and stay warm!

For more information and tips on winter storm preparation, check out our Get Ready fact sheet on winter storms (PDF).

Photo by: Michele Late (Taken in Shirlington during the 2010 winter storm!)

Friday, January 14, 2011

Post-holiday blues: Don’t let the flu get you down

Today's guest blog entry is by Carol J. Baker, MD, a professor of pediatrics, molecular virology and microbiology at Baylor College of Medicine. She is also past president of the National Foundation for Infectious Diseases and chair of the foundation’s Childhood Influenza Immunization Coalition.

With the holidays behind us, it’s easy to fall into a slump, but getting influenza — the flu — shouldn’t be one of reasons why. While each flu season is different and unpredictable, we know that every year children get sick and it’s not “just a cold.” Flu causes almost as many hospitalizations in the youngest kids as it does in the elderly; some children, even healthy ones, die. Fortunately, flu season hasn’t peaked yet — typically it does so in February. If you or anyone in your family hasn’t yet been vaccinated, do so now. This year, flu vaccination is recommended for everyone 6 months of age and older.

Despite all we know about influenza, many parents are confused about the best way to protect their children against flu and myths keep them from seeking vaccination.

Myth: The vaccine causes influenza. Fact: Flu vaccine can’t cause influenza. The virus strains in the vaccines are either killed, as in the injected vaccine, or weakened, as in the nasal spray vaccine, but it takes two weeks to receive full protection.

Myth: Healthy children don’t need flu vaccine. Fact: The flu viruses change each year. About 50 percent of the flu deaths and hospitalizations in children each year are in healthy children.

Myth: Proper hygiene, like hand-washing, and cough etiquette are just as effective in preventing influenza. Fact: Hygiene is helpful, but it’s not enough for airborne, highly contagious infections like influenza. Vaccination offers the best protection.

Today it is easier than ever to get your family vaccinated, since pharmacies, some schools and even grocery stores, can administer the influenza vaccine in addition to doctor’s offices and clinics. There are two vaccine options: an injected vaccine that is available for everyone older than 6 months of age and a nasal spray for healthy children age 2 years and older. The flu season is just beginning in most places — make sure you and your family are prepared.

Friday, January 07, 2011

The new year brings with it a new, improved Get Ready Blog

Planning ahead is a crucial component of emergency preparedness. Staying informed and knowing where to access information is key to your family’s and community’s well-being. How many times have you thought to yourself “I can’t remember what I need in my stockpile?”

Not to worry — now you can easily find all of our best recommendations by using our Blog’s new search function or linking directly to our Get Ready fact sheets. The new and improved Get Ready Blog now allows you to search through archives by using keywords or phrases.

If you want to share and download emergency preparedness fact sheets in multiple languages to share with your community, choose the “fact sheets” link and access our entire collection, which includes materials translated in multiple languages.

Stay connected to the campaign with real-time Get Ready Twitter updates directly from our blog. Remember to share Get Ready resources through Facebook, Twitter and other social networks by using the share links found at the end of every blog posting. You can stay up-to-date with what’s new on the blog by subscribing via e-mail or following our RSS feed.

The Get Ready Blog keeps you connected to the world of emergency preparedness. Now is the time to take advantage of all it has to offer!

Take our new poll on the top of our page and let us know: Do you have a stockpile in place in case of a public health emergency?