Friday, April 29, 2011

Congratulations to the 2011 Get Ready Scholarship winners!

Six students have been chosen as the recipients of the American Public Health Association’s annual Get Ready Scholarship.

The scholarship, which is awarded in conjunction with APHA’s Get Ready campaign, encourages high school, undergraduate and graduate students to recognize emergency preparedness as a public health issue. Hundreds of students from across the nation applied, but only six were chosen.

Drum roll, please. The winners are:
• Katherine Double: Bear Creek High School, Lakewood, Colo. (High school level)

• Amy Miller: Yukon High School, Yukon, Okla. (High school level)

• Alex Ghenis: University of California-Berkeley, Berkeley, Calif. (Undergraduate level)

• Katelyn Somers: University of Maryland, College Park, Md. (Undergraduate level)

• Alana Massey: Yale University, New Haven, Conn. (Graduate level)

• Leanne Piña: University of Texas, Houston, Texas (Graduate level)

Each of the winners receives a $500 scholarship for school-related expenses and a one-year APHA membership. Winners were determined through an essay contest on various topics ranging from planning a successful Get Ready Day event and assessing their university’s emergency plan to discussing the role of social media as a tool for emergency preparedness.

“We are very pleased that for the third straight year, we have been able to not only help educate these dedicated students about the importance of emergency preparedness in their own communities, but also to provide financial assistance that will allow them to further their education,” said Georges C. Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA.

Excerpts from the winning entries can be viewed online.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Are your infant’s shots up to date? April 23-30 is National Infant Immunization Week

It’s often said that a baby’s smile is contagious. Who can resist a cute little baby face? When babies smile, we are assured that they’re happy, healthy and safe. That’s why we strive to keep them smiling. And that begins with protecting them from diseases through routine vaccinations.

April 23-30 is National Infant Immunization Week, organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Celebrated since 1994, the week draws attention to the many benefits of vaccination and reminds parents to make sure their children’s shots are up to date.

Vaccinations are particularly important for infants, as children’s immune systems are most vulnerable during their infancy. Health officials recommend that infants receive a series of vaccinations for diseases such as measles, mumps and the flu, a full list of which can be found online or at the doctor’s office. Falling behind on vaccinations can be dangerous, as a 2009 outbreak of whooping cough in California showed. During that outbreak, 10 infants died and 8,000 people became sick.

The recommended series of childhood immunizations prevents about 10.5 million cases of infectious illnesses annually and 33,000 deaths just in the United States, a study found. So it’s important that infants don’t miss out.

Parents who worry about being able to pay for their children’s vaccinations can call 800-232-4636 toll-free to find a facility that provides immunizations through the Vaccines for Children Program, which provides vaccines at no cost to children whose parents can’t afford them.

Promotional materials for National Infant Immunization Week, including posters, proclamations and certificates, are available on the event website. The CDC site also provides an online schedule that parents can create for their child as a reminder.

The next time you look on a baby’s face, keep the National Infant Immunization Week slogan in mind: “Love them. Protect them. Immunize them.” That way, your baby will keep smiling for years to come.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Looking back at this flu season

May is just around the corner, and that means the end to the “official” flu season in the United States. That doesn’t mean we’re all now safe from the flu — flu cases are still occurring in every state and are widespread in New York and Maine — but it does mean the peak of cases has likely passed.
So now that the season has ebbed, it’s a great time for health officials to look back and see how things are going on the flu front. While official end-of-season evaluations aren’t in, there are some good findings in weekly U.S. surveillance reports. As of April 9, 91 flu deaths among children had been reported for the season, compared to 282 last flu season. Surveillance also shows 5,700 reported flu-related hospitalizations this season, compared to more than 7,500 last season.

Why the change? One possible reason is the H1N1 virus. The virus, which reached pandemic levels in 2009, was included in this season’s flu vaccine formula and therefore more people may have been protected. Cases of the virus have also waned worldwide, and it’s no longer considered a pandemic. H1N1 flu hasn’t disappeared, however. Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that during the most recent week data was collected, 28 percent of U.S. flu cases were typed as the 2009 H1N1 influenza A strain.

The flu season news is not all good: Overall deaths from flu and pneumonia have been above the “epidemic threshold” for at least 11 weeks, with 8 percent of all deaths from a 122-city surveillance system linked to the two diseases. Drug resistance is also a continuing concern for health officials, who are monitoring flu virus samples for evidence of increasing resistance to drugs commonly used to fight the flu.

What this all means for next flu season is uncertain, as flu seasons are notably unpredictable. Annual U.S. deaths during the past four decades have ranged from 3,000 a year to 49,000 a year. So no matter what the final numbers for this flu season show, it’s important that once the new season rolls around this fall that we all line up again for our flu vaccinations.

Friday, April 08, 2011

Simple devices can help prevent disasters at home

There’s no place like home, the old saying goes, and for most of us, it rings true. That’s why when a disaster happens at home, such as a fire, it can be particularly devastating. To keep our homes safe and sound — as well as those who live inside them — it’s important to have the right equipment.

Smoke alarms: According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, four out of every 10 home fire deaths occur in homes without smoke alarms. Install smoke alarms on every floor of your home, including the basement, and particularly near rooms in which people sleep. If you use battery-powered smoke alarms, make sure you replace the batteries regularly. Test all smoke alarms monthly to ensure they are working properly.

Fire extinguishers: Make sure your home has a fire extinguisher. For the home, a multi-purpose extinguisher that can be used on all types of home fires is the best choice, according to National Fire Protection Association. The group recommends an extinguisher that is large enough to put out a small fire, but not too heavy that you can’t lift it.

Carbon monoxide detectors: Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless gas that can cause sudden illness or death when inhaled. Common sources include improperly adjusted gas appliances, furnaces, wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. To detect dangerous levels of carbon monoxide in your home and reduce the risk of poisoning, purchase a carbon monoxide detector. Batteries in carbon monoxide detectors should be replaced twice a year.

Radon test kits: Radon is a naturally occurring colorless, odorless gas that, when inhaled at high levels, can lead to lung cancer. Radon can seep into your home through cracks in the foundation and is usually found within lower levels of homes and in basements. Low-cost, do-it-yourself radon test kits are available in hardware stores. You can perform either short tests — two-90 days — or long tests — more than 90 days. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency can tell you the right method of testing and acceptable levels of radon for your home.

By properly using these simple, low-cost devices in your home, you can help prevent a disaster. For more tips about living injury-free, visit APHA’s National Public Health Week website.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Fire safety at work: Staying safe and injury-free

If a fire were to start while you were at work, would your company or office be ready to get everyone to safety? A minor fire in the workplace can quickly turn into a disaster. But a few precautions can help you reduce risks and protect you and your co-workers.
First, employers should make sure all employees are aware of the location of the emergency exits and fire extinguishers and that they know how to use them. Staff members should also know the fire evacuation route and where the safe meeting place is located. If your workplace has workers who are disabled, elderly or will need assistance when evacuating, make sure they are a part of your evacuation planning. If your business serves customers, such as a store or restaurant, incorporate evacuating the public into your planning. Regular fire drills are a must.

Before a fire occurs, it’s also a good idea to take some time and see if things are ship-shape around your workplace. Make sure exit lighting isn’t burned out and that stairways aren’t blocked. Be sure to check on fire extinguishers regularly to ensure they are not expired or have not been tampered with.

If a fire alarm goes off when you are at work, don’t wait to see if it’s a drill — exit immediately. If there’s smoke, crawl underneath it to reach the nearest exit, and cover your nose and mouth with a cloth. If you reach a closed door, use the back of your hand to feel the bottom, middle and top. If it is hot, do not open it; find another exit. When you have safely exited the building, do not re-enter until you receive the all-clear.

By being prepared and following evacuation advice, you and your co-workers can be better protected from injuries during a fire. Preventing injuries is the focus of this year’s observance of National Public Health Week, which has a theme of “Safety is No Accident: Live Injury-Free.” The event, to be held April 4–10, offers tips and guidance to help you promote living injury-free at home, at work, at play, on the move and in your community.