Thursday, April 25, 2013

National Infant Immunization Week: Keeping children healthy

It’s National Infant Immunization Week! The observance, which runs April 20-27, promotes the benefits of immunizations and works to improve the health of children. While immunization is important for overall health, it also helps people be more prepared for emergencies.

“Immunization is a personal preparedness step that can promote day-to-day emergency readiness and build a stronger public health system,” Steve Krug, chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Disaster Preparedness Advisory Council, told the Get Ready campaign.

Immunizations are among the most successful and cost-effective public health tools to protect children against preventable diseases and keep them healthy. Each year, immunization of babies prevents 14 million cases of disease.

“Not only do (immunizations) protect vaccinated individuals, but they also help protect entire communities by preventing and reducing the spread of infectious diseases, such as chickenpox, measles and the flu,” Krug said.

Fully immunized children are better protected from diseases such as the flu or whooping cough that spread more easily when people are in close contact with each other. To check if you or your children are up to date on vaccinations, check out these immunization schedules recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

For more information on how vaccines help protect us from disease, download our fact sheet with general information on vaccines or our fact sheet on vaccinations for kids.

Friday, April 19, 2013

H7N9 influenza: What you should know now

Dr. Michael Jhung,
medical officer for the influenza division,
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
A new flu virus has recently emerged in China, putting health officials around the world, including those at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, on alert. Today’s guest blog post by Dr. Michael Jhung, medical officer for the influenza division, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, provides a status report of flu activity as of April 18, 2013, and tells you what you need to know about this novel virus that to date has led to 87 confirmed illnesses and 17 deaths.

Not long after a newsworthy 2012-2013 influenza season, flu is in the headlines again. On April 1, the World Health Organization first reported three human infections with a new influenza A (H7N9) virus in China. Since then, additional cases have been reported. Most of the people reportedly infected have had severe respiratory illness and, in some cases, have died.

Fortunately, there are currently no reported cases of H7N9 in the U.S. or anywhere outside of China. At the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, we are following this situation closely, coordinating with domestic and international partners, taking routine preparedness steps and sharing frequent updates.

Here are some things you should know about the current H7N9 situation:
  1. It is still early in the response and there is a tremendous amount that we don’t know. Our information is likely to be updated and change frequently as we learn more about H7N9. To stay informed, please visit our H7N9 page.
  2. There are no confirmed cases of human infection in the U.S., and there is currently no evidence that the virus can spread in a sustained way from person-to-person. Other than advice for travelers or people who are ill, CDC is not making any additional or special recommendations for U.S. public action specific to H7N9. Travelers should continue to visit CDC’s Travelers' Health page on H7N9 for CDC’s current travel recommendations.
  3. After the first human infections with H7N9 were detected in China, Chinese authorities detected H7N9 viruses in poultry in the same area where human infections have occurred. China is investigating cases, their exposures and their contacts closely. Many of the humans infected with H7N9 are reported to have had contact with poultry. The current working assumption is that most human infections with H7N9 have resulted from exposure to infected birds or contaminated environments. The extent of the outbreak in poultry is still being assessed, but China has reportedly begun removing birds from live markets. Shanghai is currently taking extra precautions by closing down its live poultry markets for the time being.
  4. On Thursday, April 11, CDC received the first H7N9 virus isolate from China. Since this H7N9 virus is new and has pandemic potential, we are using the virus isolate from China to develop a candidate vaccine virus that could be used to make a vaccine if one is needed.
  5. CDC also is using the virus isolate from China to:
    • Develop a test kit for detecting H7N9 infections in humans.
    • Test for the presence of antibodies against the H7N9 virus in human blood samples. This will allow CDC to see if some people already have immunity against this virus.
    • Test to see whether existing antiviral drugs —i.e., Tamiflu and Relenza — will work to treat people who become ill from H7N9.
  6. The investigation in China has not revealed any sustained — or ongoing — human-to-human spread of this virus, but non-sustained human-to-human spread of bird flu viruses has occurred in the past, most notably with H5N1. It’s likely that some limited human-to-human spread of H7N9 will occur. Sustained, community transmission is needed for a pandemic to start.
Visit for more information on human-to-human transmission

About the author:
Michael Jhung, MD, MPH, MS, is a medical officer for the Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team in the Influenza Division, National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. Jhung received his Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology from University of Michigan in 1989 and his Master of Science in Bioengineering from the University’s College of Engineering in 1994. He completed his doctorate of medicine from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in 2002, and his Master of Public Health in Epidemiology from University of Michigan’s School of Public Health in 2004.

Dr. Jhung began working with CDC’s Division for Healthcare Quality Promotion in 2005 as an Epidemic Intelligence Officer, where he conducted surveillance for healthcare-associated adverse events and rapidly responded to requests for assistance with investigation of health-care associated infections. Dr. Jhung graduated from the EIS program and joined Influenza Division’s Surveillance and Outbreak Response Team in 2009, where he has applied his expertise to responding to influenza outbreaks, providing scientific training of Fellows and staff, and contributing key findings to CDC’s pandemic preparedness plans.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Helping your neighbors in a disaster

Are you prepared to help your neighbors during an emergency? According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, in 95 percent of emergencies, the victim or a bystander provides the first immediate assistance. Being ready and knowing how to react can make a big impact and even save lives, as this week’s attack in Boston showed.

Here are some quick tips for helping those in need during an emergency:
Neighbors helping neighbors in a flood.
Photo By DAVE SAVILLE/ FEMA News Photo

    • Start by making sure that you and your family are prepared. Keep your emergency kits stocked and in a safe, accessible place. Have a plan for where your family will meet and how to contact each other if phones or electricity are down. It will be hard to help others if you are too worried about yourself and your loved ones. 
    • Get to know your neighbors. Learn more about them and spread the word about preparedness. Keep an eye out for those who will be able to assist you in helping those with disabilities, special needs or physical limitations. If there are caretakers or family who visit regularly, be sure to say hello to them as well. You could be a vital lifeline in the event they are not able to visit for several days. 
    • Prepare for company. When creating your emergency kit, add some extras in case you need to take in your neighbors or your in-laws happen to be in town that weekend. That includes food, water, blankets and other necessities, such as toilet paper. Don’t forget entertainment, either. While adults might get by with a deck of cards, kids without TV may need something to stay occupied. Activities that don’t waste batteries and are suitable for groups will work best.
    • Get certified in CPR and first aid. According to the American Heart Association, 88 percent of cardiac arrests occur in the home, but less than a third of Americans are properly prepared to administer CPR. Check with your local American Red Cross chapter or volunteer center for CPR classes.
    • Volunteer with National Volunteer Organizations Active in Disaster, Community Emergency Response Team, Red Cross or other organizations active in emergency response and preparedness. Such groups offer numerous free training opportunities ranging from CPR and basic preparedness to shelter management and urban search and rescue. Commitment levels can also vary based on skills and your availability.
    See our fact sheets on building a stockpile, activities and information for kids, and preparedness tips for people with disabilities to learn more about how you can help your neighbors in a disaster.

    Friday, April 12, 2013

    Enter APHA’s Get Ready Pup-Preparedness Photo Contest

    Do you have a dog? Is she or he photogenic? (Need we ask?) Snap a photo of your dog and enter APHA’s Get Ready Pup-Preparedness Photo Contest! The contest is using dogs as a fun way to promote preparedness. The competition comes on the tails (pun intended!) of our successful 2012 cat photo contest.

    From now until April 27, send us photos of your canine friends to enter the contest.

    Take a look at the topics covered by the Get Ready campaign — such as having a plan or not, preparing for evacuation, or driving in a disaster— and figure out how to illustrate it with your dog. We will add witty captions and share your dog’s message about emergency preparedness with the world. The winning photos will go into our Get Ready calendar.

    When you’re ready to send us your pics, visit the Get Ready website for FAQs, rules and other info on entering the contest.

    And while you’re there, check out some of the cute doggie photos we’ve received so far!

    Friday, April 05, 2013

    Pledge to be a force of nature

    Are you a force of nature? The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration want to help you become one. That’s why they created National Severe Weather Preparedness Week. Held annually each spring, the week encourages people to help their family, friends and community prepare for severe weather.
    While the week is over, the lessons it shares are good year-round. The campaign aims to get people to understand what to do before, during and after severe weather. There are three simple steps that anyone can do to get ready for weather events such as tornadoes, hurricanes and other dangerous storms:
    1. Know your risk. Figure out which kinds of severe weather can happen where you live and work, so you can make a plan to get ready for these events.
    2. Take the pledge. Be a force of nature by taking the Pledge to Prepare at
    3. Be an example. Once you take the pledge and start preparing, share your story with your family and friends. Tweet about it, write a Facebook post, make a YouTube video. By showing people that preparedness is something that anyone can do, you’ll inspire others to get ready, too!
    We want to know how you plan to be a force of nature, so tell us what you do to prepare for severe weather in the comments below!