Friday, November 25, 2011

Holiday travels: Don’t get sick when you travel overseas

With the holiday season now upon us, it’s important to reflect on your health and safety when traveling. Thanksgiving is typically the heaviest-traveled U.S. holiday, and kicks off the holiday travel season. While taking trips can be fun, it can also come with increased risk for diseases and illnesses, especially when visiting other countries.

Each year, thousands of Americans travel abroad to visit relatives or simply to get away. With this in mind, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention  ecommends that people taking trips plan ahead and check for government recommendations on international travel immunizations well before leaving the country.

Having at least a basic understanding of what to look for and what to do if illness occurs is an important part of planning for trips. No one wants to get sick on a trip, but it’s important to be proactive. General symptoms to keep in mind include headache, fever, diarrhea and extreme fatigue.

If you feel sick while overseas and have access to the Internet, the Department of State’s Doctors and Hospitals Abroad website can help you find health care resources in the country you’re visiting. Remember to follow up with your primary doctor once back in the states.

Many illnesses can be avoided by following these simple tips:

• Wash your hands before eating, after using the restroom or petting animals and after handling food.

• Wear insect repellant for mosquito and tick protection.

• Only eat and drink water that has been properly handled or treated.

When traveling, remember to be proactive, be prepared and be protected — the three “Ps” of safe and healthy travel. Safe journeys!

Photo courtesy iStockphoto

Friday, November 18, 2011

Antibiotics save lives, but only when used properly

It’s Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, a week dedicated to promoting appropriate antibiotic use. Antibiotics save lives and help fight illness. But in recent years, we’ve seen growing biological resistance to antibiotics due to their overuse and misuse. This is a major problem.

An antibiotic is a medicine that kills bacteria or stops it from spreading. It treats bacterial infections, not viral infections. So if you have a cold or flu symptoms, antibiotics won’t work. Plus, taking antibiotics when they are not needed increases your risk of getting an infection later that resists treatment.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, talk with your health provider about antibiotic resistance. Take it exactly as your doctor tells you, and complete the course even if you begin feeling better. If you don’t take all the pills and you stop treatment too soon, some bacteria may survive and re-infect you.

Get Smart About Antibiotics Week, Nov. 14-20, aims to educate people, raise awareness about this growing health problem and provide tips for ensuring their safe use. Many organizations are participating in this effort, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Get Smart: Know When Antibiotics Work campaign, along with partners such as the American Public Health Association.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign offers a range of resources to help you stay safe and prevent the spread of disease. Simple things like washing your hands and knowing what materials to have on hand when dealing with emergencies can help you avoid getting sick.

Knowing the facts and staying healthy are the greatest weapons against bacterial infections. Get Smart About Antibiotics Week is a important way to help make sure you, your family and friends play it safe.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Do you have it in you? Enter the APHA Flu Near You Challenge today!

Today’s guest blog is co-authored by John Brownstein, PhD, and Mark Smolinski, MD, MPH. Brownstein is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School and co-founder of HealthMap, an online disease tracking tool. Smolinski is director for global health threats at the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

On Oct. 30, attendees at APHA’s 139th Annual Meeting were given a special treat after a screening of clips from the movie “Contagion.” The APHA Flu Near You Challenge was announced to a capacity crowd at a session featuring distinguished panelists Georges Benjamin, MD, FACP, FACEP (E), executive director of APHA, and Larry Brilliant, MD, MPH, president of the Skoll Global Threats Fund.

The Flu Near You Challenge, online at, invites APHA members to leverage their social networks to recruit dedicated users to help track the flu on Flu Near You, the nation’s first online, crowdsourced, open flu symptom surveillance system. A total of $150,000 in cash and other awards will be available during the challenge. The more people you recruit and the more weekly surveys they submit, the better your chances of winning a cash prize or award!

During the Annual Meeting, more than 200 APHA members stopped by the HealthMap booth in the Expo Hall and registered for the challenge. By the end of the meeting, more than 550 APHA members had registered, either in person or online. One lucky challenge registrant was the winner of an iPad at the meeting’s closing session on Nov. 2.

Recruiting Flu Near You users is easy. For tracking and recruiting purposes, each entrant receives a unique personalized link and a widget that can be pasted into emails and posted to social media platforms. Entrants can recruit anyone who resides in the U.S. and is at least 13 years of age to become a Flu Near You user. Users simply have to complete a weekly survey that takes just 10 seconds to fill out. Participating in Flu Near You is voluntary and all displayed data will be anonymous.

To see how you’re stacking up against other APHA members taking part in the challenge, watch the online challenge leaderboard. Remember that you can count your own Flu Near You surveys toward your individual and group prize total, so don’t forget to fill out your first survey ASAP.

Stay tuned for more tips and tools as well as updates on additional prizes. Do you have it in you? Don’t wait to join the APHA Flu Near You Challenge today!

Visit the APHA Flu Near You Challenge website for full details, including rules and regulations and frequently asked questions. APHA is also now accepting applicants for its Flu Near You Fellowship.

Photo: From left, Smolinski and Brownstein at the launch of APHA’s Flu Near You Challenge at the Annual Meeting

Friday, November 04, 2011

APHA’s Get Ready campaign says Set Your Clocks: Check Your Stocks with the time change on Nov. 6

Think back to the last emergency you experienced: It might have been one of this year’s many earthquakes, or a storm, hurricane or wildfire. You may have lost power, or have been forced to evacuate. When you pulled out your emergency supplies, were they all there and ready to be used?

For many people, the answer to that question is “no.” With the busyness of everyday life, it’s easy to forget about those things you only need once in awhile.

But when an emergency or disaster strikes, the last thing you want to find is that your stockpile of batteries has corroded, or that all your flashlights have gone missing. An emergency is not the right time to be running out to the store, and which in some cases, may put you in danger.

That’s why you should use this weekend’s clock change as a reminder to refresh your emergency supplies. When daylight saving time ends this Sunday and you go to change your clocks, take some time to check your emergency supplies as well. That’s the message of the Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign.

Set aside a few minutes to see that everything you need is in your stockpile and that nothing has gone bad or leaked, such as food and water. Every American should have at least three days of food and water stored at all times, including one gallon of water per person per day. Your stockpile should also have basic supplies such as flashlights, batteries, a radio and first aid supplies. Other items, such as a battery-operated cellphone charger and lanterns, are also useful. Check out this Get Ready checklist (PDF) to see what you need to add to your supplies.

The Set Your Clocks: Check Your Stocks website is full of information you can use to build your emergency stockpile, or to encourage others to do so. Resources include PDF fact sheets on why it’s important to have emergency suppliesbudget stockpilingstockpiling for pets and water stockpiling.

You can even add your organization’s logo to the fact sheets and share them at community events.

Taking a few minutes this weekend to set your clocks and check your stocks can save you a headache or even worse later and keep you and your family safe. (And don’t forget to check your smoke alarm batteries!)