Friday, July 29, 2011

New fact sheets from Get Ready just in time for National Preparedness Month

With both Get Ready Day and National Preparedness Month just weeks away, now is the time to start gathering materials to use at your preparedness events.
Luckily, APHA’s Get Ready campaign has you covered. The campaign offers more than 50 fact sheets on everything from natural disasters to hand-washing — and almost all of them are also in Spanish.

Even better, the Get Ready campaign debuted more than two dozen new free fact sheets in recent weeks on timely preparedness topics. The PDF materials are perfect to hand out at community events, on campus or at work — or to share with those you care about.

Fact sheets from the Get Ready campaign also offer a perk you won’t find many other places: Personalization with your logo. The campaign provides easy-to-follow instructions on how to add your logo using Word or Acrobat.

The new fact sheets focus on topics such as:

• Natural disasters: Disasters such as volcanoes, landslides, tornadoes, hurricanes and tsunamis are hard to predict. So these new fact sheets tell you how to get ready in advance. They’re a great addition to the other Get Ready fact sheets on disasters, such as heat waves, floods and winter storms.

• Personal preparedness: Everyone needs to take responsibility for their own safety. That means avoiding infectious diseases spread by mosquitoesstaying safe at large events and knowing what to do if there is a nuclear or radiological disaster. Two of the new fact sheets are aimed just at seniors and schools.

• Indoor preparedness: Disasters and emergencies often happen while you’re inside, so several of the new fact sheets address that setting. Check out the fact sheets on home disasterssafe buildingssheltering in place and food and water safety for tips.

Get Ready Day is Sept. 20 and National Preparedness Month will be observed throughout September. Head to the Get Ready fact sheet page now and make plans to raise awareness in your community!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Only you can prepare for wildfires

In the wise words of Smokey Bear, “only you can prevent wildfires.” Smokey and his catchphrase have helped teach generations of Americans about fire safety, still an important task as every year more than four out of five wildfires are caused by people. Knowing how to prevent and be prepared for a wildfire can help keep you safe.

Wildfires can occur anywhere, and often at a moment’s notice, so it’s important to be prepared. At the same time, it is helpful to know if your area is prone to wildfires or at high risk, such as living in an area with a lot of plant life or somewhere that has severe droughts. 

At home, you can take steps to reduce your risk of wildfires by clearing plants from around your house; cleaning your gutters, roof and chimney; and using flame-resistant materials on your roof. There are also steps you can take if you know a fire is approaching, such as moving materials away from the house that may burn and shutting off the gas.

Firefighters battle a wildfire in Florida in
1998. (Photo by Liz Roll, courtesy FEMA)
Because wildfires are so unpredictable, it’s important to plan ahead. At home, you should install smoke detectors on every floor and regularly change the batteries to make sure that they are working. In addition, place emergency phone numbers by every phone in your home and program them into your cellphone.

It’s also important to discuss an evacuation plan with members of your household about where and how you will meet if there is a fire outbreak. Have an emergency preparedness kit on hand with essential supplies such as a three-day supply of water and nonperishable food, a flashlight and a battery-operated radio. This way, if there is an emergency, you will be ready to leave right away. Never ignore an advisory to evacuate if local authorities issue one.

If you are trapped inside your home during a wildfire, stay inside and away from outside walls. Close doors, but leave them unlocked. If you are in a car near a wildfire, it’s best to stay in your car. Roll up your windows, close the vents and drive slowly.

For more information on how to prevent wildfires and how to handle them if they occur, check out the American Red Cross or websites.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Prescription drugs during a disaster

When it comes to getting through a disaster, there are a few basic things that everybody needs — food supplies, water, a place to stay.

But for many people, those three things aren’t enough to safely weather an emergency. Another lifesaving basic, medicine, is often hard to come by during a disaster, turning an already bad situation into something more dangerous.

Luckily, a new program called Rx Response is working to solve that problem, acting as a central point of communication for governments, response teams, pharmacies and patients to make sure that prescription medication stays available and accessible in times of emergency.

Rx Response doesn’t deliver medicines to patients or write prescriptions, instead, the program helps “minimize barriers hindering the supply of medicines.” It also offers tools to help you get your medicine during a disaster.

For example, in the event of a disaster, the Rx Response site activates its pharmacy status reporting tool, which includes a searchable map of pharmacies in your area, color-coded to show which are reporting problems and which ones remain open. Live reports during a disaster show how medical supplies in your area are affected.

The program’s website also includes a form that you can use to print your own wallet-size card that lists your prescriptions. Keep this in a place that’s easy to reach for when you might suddenly need it, and consider sending a copy to a friend or relative as well.

There are other steps you can take to keep yourself and your family supplied with disaster essentials. Stock up on over-the-counter medicines and first aid supplies for your emergency kit and include extra doses of prescription medicines as well.

Remember, one of the biggest parts of staying safe is staying healthy — in any situation!

Friday, July 08, 2011

Lyme disease: What everyone should know

Today’s guest blog is by Monica Gaidhane, MD, MPH, who is associate editor of the International Journal of Collaborative Research on Internal Medicine & Public Health and a member of the Virginia Public Health Association.

Lyme disease is a bacterial infection that is transmitted to humans by the bite of blacklegged, or deer, ticks. About 20,000 cases are reported annually in the United States. Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania reported some of the highest number of cases in 2008.

People infected with Lyme disease often complain of several symptoms, although not everyone will have them all. One of the first signs of infection is a circular rash called erythema migrans, commonly known as the bulls-eye rash. It appears in about 70 percent to 80 percent of infected people and begins at the site of a tick bite. Infected people may also complain of fever, fatigue, headache and pain in the muscles and joints. If left untreated, an infected person may show severe symptoms, including loss of muscle tone on the face — known as Bell’s Palsy, severe headache, neck stiffness, dizziness and shooting pains.

Lyme disease can be successfully cured with antibiotics if treatment is given early in the course of illness. However, a small number of infected people can have some symptoms that can last from months to a few years. Hence, it’s important to avoid getting bitten by infected ticks and preventing infection.

Some prevention tips include:
Avoid traveling or extensive exposure to known tick habitats, such as wooded, brushy or grassy areas. 
• Take extra precautions in May, June and July, when infected ticks are most active.
• Call your local health department about tick-infested areas to avoid.
• Wear appropriate clothing and check your skin and clothes for ticks every day.
• If bitten by a tick, remove them by grasping them firmly with tweezers as close to the skin as possible and lifting gently. Ideally, ticks should be removed within 24 hours.
• Apply pesticides to control ticks around your home.
• Although deer are not infected when adult ticks feed on them, they are important in transporting ticks and maintaining tick populations. Construct fences to discourage deer from entering your property.

So whether you are hiking, camping or just strolling in the park, remember to protect yourself from tick bites to remain Lyme disease-free.

Photo credit: Public Health Image Library

Friday, July 01, 2011

Bring on the heat! How to stay safe this summer

Picnics, swimming and barbecues are a few of the activities summer brings. But it also brings heat. While a hot, sunny day may be welcome (with enough sunscreen, of course) extreme heat can be uncomfortable and sometimes deadly.

In fact, heat is the No. 1 weather-related killer, causing about 350 U.S. fatalities a year. Even though summer has just started, some parts of the country have already experienced record-setting hot days.

When temperatures hit their peak, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests:

• taking care of seniors, infants and children, and people with chronic medical conditions who are more likely to get heat stress;

• staying in air-conditioned places as much as possible, such as shopping malls, public libraries and heat-relief shelters sponsored by your local public health agencies; and

• drinking cool, non-alcoholic beverages and increasing your fluid intake.

Before heading outside, always check the forecast. The National Weather Service issues advisories about excessive heat, including a heat outlook that warns of the potential for an excessive heat event in the next three to seven days. In fact, the forecast for the upcoming Fourth of July weekend is that many parts of the East and Midwest U.S. will have temperatures in the 90s.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign has a free fact sheet with even more tips on getting ready for heat waves in English or Spanish that you can read and share in your community.

Staying informed and using common sense can help you make the most of your summer. Better yet, take the time now to know the dangers of extreme heat and get ready for a heat emergency before the sizzle starts.

Graphic courtesy iStockphoto