Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Looking for an easy way to make a difference? Give blood!

APHA Executive Director Dr. Benjamin
is all smiles after giving blood!
If you want to help your community be prepared for emergencies, there are lots of things you can do.

Getting ready at home is the first step, but often people want to do more. (Check out our recent post about volunteer opportunities.) If you don’t have time to volunteer, a great way to help out is to donate blood.

January is National Blood Donor Month. Donating blood is a good way to help your community. Just one donation — a pint — of blood can save the lives of three people. Every year, about 4.5 million people will need blood transfusions, so every drop counts!

The American Red Cross  has information about where to find a blood drive near you. You can also find information about hosting a blood drive and check if you are eligible to donate.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

2013 Get Ready Scholarship opens Feb. 4!

Are you a high school, college or graduate student interested in emergency preparedness? Have we got a scholarship for you!

APHA’s Get Ready campaign is happy to announce that it is once again running its scholarship competition. Now in its fifth year, the essay contest will be open to high school seniors as well as full-time undergraduate and graduate college students.

Our essay questions this year focus on preparedness in schools, states and within the health work force. We start accepting entries on Monday, Feb. 4, but you can take a look at the essay topics now by visiting our scholarship page.

The scholarship contest will close on March 25, or when we receive 300 essays for each category. We receive hundreds of essays every year, which means that you should plan to write your essay early to be sure you get in.

The two best essays from each category will each win a $500 scholarship.

For complete rules, check the Get Ready Scholarship rules page.

To see a list of previous winners, and read parts of their essays, check out our Get Ready Scholarship past winners page.

We hope you’re ready to write, because we’re excited to read your creative essays!

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Staying safe in big crowds: Seven quick tips

Maybe you’re going to the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C., this week, or perhaps you were lucky enough to score tickets to the Super Bowl in February.

Big events can be a lot of fun and a cause for celebration — but large crowds can also be scary if things go wrong. Here are some tips to help you stay safe:

  1. Know what you’re in for. How many people are expected at the event? Will you have to go through security? Can you bring food and water with you? Will you need to take medication at the event? Planning for these issues ahead of time will help everything run smoothly during the event.
  2. Check the weather. If you’re going to be outside in the cold, prepare with warm clothes, paying special attention to your hands and feet. Or for events in hot weather, remember sunblock, dress lightly and don’t forget to drink a lot of water!
  3. Take a look around you. Once you get to the event, check out your surroundings. Take note of emergency exits, restrooms and the location of a medical tent or first aid station. If an emergency happens, head calmly to the nearest exit.
  4. Pick a place to meet. If you’re with a group of people, pick a time and a place to meet, and be as specific as possible. Don’t rely on cellphones — if your battery dies or cellphone towers are overwhelmed, you’ll be glad you had a plan!
  5. Protect yourself. Big crowds can also mean a bigger chance of getting sick. Make sure your vaccinations are up to date before you go to the event. Bring hand sanitizer if possible and wash your hands after touching surfaces such as door handles and railings. And if you are coughing or have a fever, do everyone else a favor and stay home. 
  6. Let someone know if you feel sick. If you start to feel dizzy, overheated or nauseous, ask for help immediately. Be sure to let people know if you have medical conditions or allergies. A friend or event official can make sure you get medical attention as soon as possible.
  7. Be patient. With big crowds, you may have long waiting periods for security, bathrooms, food and even entering and exiting the event. Have patience with event staff and other people — they don’t like waiting in long lines, either!

Check out our fact sheet about event safety (PDF) for more advice.

And remember: Have fun, stay safe!

Friday, January 18, 2013

How to use the National Day of Service to help your community get ready

Saturday, Jan. 19, is the fourth annual National Day of Service, a day for Americans to give back to their communities by volunteering for any cause that matters to them. The National Day of Service was created in 2009 to honor the work of Martin Luther King Jr.

If you haven’t decided how you’re going to serve your community, enter your ZIP code on the National Day of Service website to find events near you. Emergency preparedness-related events can be found under the “health” and “community resilience” categories.

If you don’t find a volunteer event near you, consider donating your time to an organization that is working to keep your community ready or to help it recover after an emergency.

The American Red Cross depends on volunteers to do a lot of its emergency relief work — 96 percent of its work is done by volunteers, in fact! Volunteers do everything from helping neighbors after a fire or natural disaster to working at blood drives. Check out our blog post about volunteering during a disaster to get an idea of what it’s like. For more information about volunteering for the Red Cross, visit the organization’s website.

If you want to help your community prepare for emergencies, consider joining a local Community Emergency Response Team. Volunteers receive training in basic emergency response skills, such as fire safety and search and rescue missions. To find a local chapter, enter your ZIP code on the Community Emergency Response Team website.

The Medical Reserve Corps is another way to get involved in your community. The corps has volunteer roles for nurses, doctors and other public health professionals, but also looks for people with different skills, such as communications and logistics. Corps volunteers meet regularly to practice emergency response drills and can be called to respond when a health or other emergency occurs nearby. Learn more about volunteering and look for a chapter near you via the Medical Reserve Corps website.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

New podcast: Flu season update from CDC

A potrait of Dr. Michael Jhung from the CDC
Dr. Jhung, MD, MPH, MS,
Medical Officer for the CDC
Have you noticed that a lot of people are talking about the flu right now? It’s on the news, and as more people come down with the flu this year, it’s on everyone’s minds, too.

More than 40 U.S. states are reporting widespread flu activity in what has turned out to be an early start to the 2012-2013 flu season. The Get Ready campaign spoke with Michael Jhung, a medical officer for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, to get the scoop on this year’s flu season in the latest episode of our Get Ready Report podcast.

Jhung said that this year’s flu season is off to “quite an early start,” and that this year could turn out to be worse than last year’s flu season.

Why worry about the flu? Jhung reported that the flu kills anywhere between 3,000 and 49,000 people in the U.S. each year, and makes thousands more severely ill.

“Influenza puts several hundred thousand people into the hospital every year in the United States,” he said. “Even if you don’t end up in the hospital with influenza, it’s really a miserable experience to be pretty much incapacitated for the few days to week of influenza symptoms.”

If you’ve been lucky enough to avoid the flu so far this year, you can increase your chances of staying healthy by getting a flu shot. That’s right — it’s not too late!

“There is a lot of flu activity out there right now, and there is every reason to go out and get vaccinated if you haven’t been vaccinated already,” Jhung said.

If you are looking for the flu shot, check to find a location near you.

Jhung also explains during the podcast why some flu seasons are worse than others, and talked about how the CDC monitors flu every year. Plus, he has other useful tips for keeping yourself healthy after you’ve gotten your flu shot.

Check out the podcast for more helpful information about the flu. You can listen to the episode or read the full transcript. And don’t forget to subscribe to our podcast for free via iTunes!

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Protect yourself from norovirus this winter

Norovirus image courtesy CDC/ Charles D. Humphrey, PhD
Norovirus infections are on the rise in the U.S. and around the world right now.

Sometimes called stomach flu or “winter vomiting,” norovirus infections cause vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. The sickness can last from one to three days.

Norovirus spreads when people come in contact with surfaces or eat food contaminated with bodily fluids from a sick person. The virus is very contagious, and an infected person can pass it on even before they start feeling sick and for up to three days after they feel better. The virus spreads quickly in places where people live or play closely together: day care centers, schools, nursing homes, hotels and cruise ships.

The norovirus is more active in cold weather, so cases usually peak during the colder months, but some officials are saying that cases are higher than ever this season. Outbreaks have been reported in California, Oregon, Georgia, Maine, West Virginia and on several cruise ships. More than 1 million people are thought to have been infected in the U.K. this winter — 72 percent more cases than last year.

The most common way that norovirus spreads is through food that has been handled by an infected person. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 50 percent of food-related illness each year is caused by norovirus contamination.

There is good news, though: Norovirus infection can be prevented! Here are some steps to take to save yourself from this yucky virus:
  1. Wash your hands with soap and water. You should wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with hot, soapy water. This is especially important to do before and after you eat or prepare food, after using the restroom and when taking care of someone who is sick. We have great fact sheets to help hand-washers of all ages.
  2. Don’t make food for other people if you are sick.
  3. Wash fruits and vegetables well and cook seafood thoroughly. 
  4. If you or a loved one gets sick, make sure to wash clothes, sheets and towels in hot water.
We hope that these tips help you stay infection-free this winter!