Friday, April 27, 2012

Flu Fridays: Flu vaccine safety

Not only is it our favorite day, Flu Friday — it’s also World Immunization Week.

In general, vaccines are one of the best tools in medicine: The World Health Organization reports that 2 million to 3 million lives are saved every year thanks to vaccines.  

Vaccines also have lower rates of complication than most medications. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that there is about a one in 1 million chance that someone will have a severe reaction to common vaccines like MMR (aka, measles, mumps, rubella) or hepatitis B.  

What about flu vaccine safety? CDC recently released a video about the safety of the influenza vaccine that answers a lot of common questions, such as safety of the flu shot for young children, pregnant women and people with egg allergies.

(Spoiler alert: Yes, the flu shot is safe for almost everyone!)  

Check out the video below to find out more.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Be “a force of nature” and help others learn about severe weather preparedness

April 22-28 is the first Severe Weather Preparedness Week in the U.S. The Federal Emergency Management Agency and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are calling on you to “Be a Force of Nature” and spread the word about preparedness in your community.

How can you be a force of nature? There are three simple steps:

  1. Know the severe weather risks in your area.
  2. Make a plan to be prepared. Visit to take the Preparedness Pledge and make your plan.
  3. Tell others what you’re doing to get ready.

Don’t forget to check out our Get Ready fact sheets, which can help you get ready for all kinds of severe weather and are available in both English and Spanish. You can also watch this short video from FEMA and NOAA for more information:

Leave a comment on our blog and tell us what you’re doing to become a force of nature for severe weather preparedness in your community!

Friday, April 20, 2012

Flu Fridays: How is the flu shot made? (Part 2)

Happy Flu Friday!

In our previous Flu Friday post, we talked about the process of deciding what types of flu will be covered by the seasonal flu shot. Today, we’ll take a closer look at how the shot is made each year. But first, here’s a little background on how vaccines protect you from diseases.

Vaccines work by tricking your body into thinking it has an infection. This is because vaccines contain dead or weakened forms of the bacteria or virus that they are trying to protect you from. Even though these bacteria or viruses are too weak to make you sick, when your body notices these invaders, the immune system kicks in. Your body builds up defenses against the invaders so that when you come in contact with a full-strength virus such as the flu, your body already knows how to fight it off.

There are two ways to get your flu vaccination: Via a shot or a nasal spray. Flu shots have inactive — or dead — viruses, while the nasal spray form of the vaccine contains weakened viruses. Whether you get your vaccine in a shot or a nasal spray, the vaccine helps your body prepare to fight the most common strains of flu each season.

But back to the making of the flu vaccine: As we discussed previously, seasonal flu vaccines contain three strains of viruses. After the strains of flu are chosen, scientists then have to grow enough of the viruses to make millions of doses of the flu vaccine that are used every year. This process can take up to six months or more because the viruses are grown in a very delicate place: The inside of a chicken egg!

[Flu researcher inserting virus into a chicken egg.
Image courtesy CDC/Taronna Maines]
In the lab, viruses are injected into each egg, and then the eggs sit at a perfect temperature for the virus to spread. After a few days, the viruses are removed from the egg and killed. Proteins from the dead virus are separated out. It’s these proteins that go into your flu shot. (Even if you have an egg allergy, the flu vaccine is probably safe for you — here’s why:

Labs around the world start working on the vaccines during the summer months so that the seasonal flu vaccine is ready to go by the start of the flu season in the fall or winter. After you get your flu shot, it takes a few weeks for your body’s immune system to protect you from the flu, which is why it’s best to get your seasonal flu vaccine as soon as it becomes available!

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Check out our newest Get Ready fact sheet: Disaster preparedness on the road

Do you know what to do if you’re in a car when a tornado hits? What about an earthquake? (Hint: Don’t park under a bridge or overpass!)

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, so we thought it would be a great time to mention our newest fact sheet about safe driving during disasters. It’s full of information to get you ready to drive in any type of emergency. We’ve also included tips about what to keep in your car so that you’re prepared for disasters even when you’re on the go. Click on the fact sheet below to download a PDF in English. You can get a Spanish version of the fact sheet and check out all of other topics on our Get the facts page.

Image of the first page of the Get Ready fact sheet "Safe travels: Disaster preparedness on the road."

After you check out our fact sheet, you should check to see if your town has an evacuation route. And while you’re at it, sit down with family and loved ones to plan a place to meet once everyone gets away from the disaster area safely.

Being prepared for emergencies on the road will help you remain calm, drive safely and arrive alive.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Announcing the winners of APHA’s Get Ready Emergency Stockpile Recipe Contest

Last week, during National Public Health Week, APHA’s Get Ready team prepared and tasted all of the entries into our Emergency Stockpile Recipe Contest. Announced in March, the contest challenged cooks to come up with a healthy, tasty recipe they could make from non-perishable foods that they would have in their emergency stockpile — no cooking or heating allowed.

Overall, judges were impressed by the creativity and taste of the recipes. We’re proud to say that our Get Ready Blog readers have definitely raised the bar on eating well during an emergency!

The votes are in, and we’re very pleased to announce our winners:

Easy Orange Curry Chickpeas
Submitted by Jess Apfe of  Berkeley, Calif.

Our staff was really impressed by this recipe — several people remarked that they would serve this dish “even if it wasn’t an emergency!” Aside from the great taste, we also liked that the recipe was high in fiber and protein and great for vegans or gluten-free eaters.

Black Bean Casserole
Submitted by Sandy Dulany of Springdale, Ark.

This was another popular dish. It was easy to prepare, and the addition of peanut butter added a nice touch of sweetness. As Dulany wrote with her submission, emergencies are more than just tornadoes, so it’s important to get ready for anything that comes your way. “Think snowstorms, power outages,” Dulany wrote. “Life happens — be prepared!”

Aloha Chicken Poppers
Submitted by Kadija Anna Bridgewater of Deerfield Beach, Fla.

Brigewater describes her Aloha Chicken Poppers this way: “An easy-to-prepare chicken salad with a sweet taste of Hawaii. It is served on crackers, and is sure to be a hit with the whole family!” It was definitely a hit with APHA’s Get Ready team!

Troubled Times Trifle
Submitted by Heather Anne Kennedy of Troy, Ohio

This dessert was popular with the Get Ready team, who liked the taste as much as its preparation. We loved that the directions included steps for kids to help out, as preparing food could be a fun way to distract children during an emergency. And we loved Kennedy’s story: “My grandfather always said that a good trifle recipe could settle disputes, reconcile friends and perhaps even stop a war — it’s perfect in good times and in times of crisis.”

All four of our top winners will receive a three-day emergency kit from the American Red Cross.

We had so many great recipes that we selected four runner-up recipes as well:

Emergency AAC Rolls
Submitted by Kellie Foglio of Salem, Wis.

We loved that Kellie included alfalfa seeds, which she turned into sprouts using water and a little sunlight. Fresh greens during an emergency!

Southern Style “Barbeque”
Submitted by Jennifer Short of Terra Alta, W.Va.

If you add BBQ sauce to a can of tuna, it tastes like barbeque chicken! Who knew?

Black Bean and Corn Salad
Submitted by Judy Wu of Evanston, Ill.

This black bean salad was tasty, easy and vegan-friendly.

Curried Chicken and Artichoke Salad
Submitted by Mary Marlowe Leverette of Columbia, S. C.

Thanks to this recipe, the Get Ready team was convinced that we need to add canned artichokes and curry powder to our emergency stockpiles!       

Our four runners-up will take home a Get Ready apron to wear during their next emergency (or any day) cooking session.

Don’t these recipes sound delicious? Head over to our new recipe page to get the full details and get some great ideas to improve your emergency culinary skills.                    

Friday, April 06, 2012

Flu Fridays: How is the flu shot made? (Part 1)

Happy Flu Friday! Here at Get Ready, we spend a lot of time talking about the importance of getting your flu shot every year. But have you ever wondered how the vaccine is made?

There are actually two parts to making a flu shot: First, experts decide what types of flu will be included in the flu shot for the next year. Then, vaccine manufacturers start making the flu shots so that by the time the next flu season starts, millions of doses will be available. Today we’ll talk about the first part of the question: How do they decide what goes into a flu shot?

Image courtesy
CDC/ Doug Jordan, M.A.
Every year, in more than 100 countries around the world, health workers and scientists collect samples from people who are sick with the flu. These samples are sent to five international labs, chosen by the World Health Organization, that test the samples and find out what strains of influenza are most common. (In case you were wondering, the five labs are in the U.S., England, Australia, China and Japan.)

In the beginning of the year, WHO calls a big meeting with all of these international flu researchers. They figure out which types of influenza viruses were most common over the past year and then decide which strains should be included in the next seasonal flu shot. The formulas can change every year, which is why it is important that you get a new flu shot every season.

This big WHO vaccine composition meeting just happened in February. Participants decided that next year’s flu shots should protect people against two kinds of influenza A, H1N1 and H3N2, and one kind of influenza B. To learn about the difference between influenza A and B, check out our blog post about what causes the flu. You can also learn more about the vaccine selection process from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Once WHO makes its recommendations, vaccine companies around the world start making flu vaccines for the next season. While WHO recommends specific vaccine viruses for vaccine production, each country makes its own decision for vaccine licensing in its country. Making the new vaccine can take six to nine months, which means that companies are already starting to make your flu shot for next year!

Want to learn more? Check out Part 2 on how the flu shot is made, where we take a closer look at the flu shot manufacturing process.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Are you heading to the Olympics this summer? Add one more thing to your packing list

Did you know that it’s National Public Health Week? There’s a different theme every day, and today’s theme is communicable diseases. We thought this would be a great time to talk to travelers headed to the upcoming Olympic Games in London about protecting yourself from infectious diseases.

What do sporting events and international travel have to do with infectious diseases? Plenty, say the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Last month, CDC asked travelers to help prevent a major measles outbreak in the U.S. by making sure their vaccines are up to date before they travel to the Olympics or any other major sporting event this summer.

CDC is worried because measles is more widespread in Europe. Officials believe that if Americans who aren’t vaccinated travel to the huge gatherings this summer, they could easily become infected and then bring measles back to the U.S., creating an outbreak here. “Disease knows no borders,” said Rebecca Martin director of CDC’s Global Immunization Division, in a recent USA Today article.
Image courtesy CDC/Judy Schmidt

This isn’t the first time that big sporting events caused concern about spreading disease. In February, two people with measles went to the Super Bowl Village in Indianapolis before Super Bowl XLVI. Fourteen people came down with measles afterwards — and only one of them was up to date on their MMR vaccination, which protects against measles, mumps and rubella.

The MMR vaccine is very effective, and it’s the best way to prevent you and your loved ones from getting the measles. The vaccine works best when two doses are given about a month apart. If you are traveling to Europe this summer for big gatherings such as the Olympic Games or the Euro 2012 soccer championship — or even if you’re going just for sightseeing — now is the time to get your shots!

CDC has information about the measles and the MMR vaccine and also general information about vaccines for travelers.