Friday, August 30, 2013

Back-to-school preparedness tips

School’s back in session, so now’s a good time to brush up on ways to keep kids safe from disasters and other emergencies.

• Practice good hand hygiene: Teach your children to wash their hands after group activities and most importantly after using the restroom and before eating. The Get Ready campaign has great fact sheets about hand-washing that you and your kids can read together.

• Get a flu shot! Everyone ages 6 months and older should get a seasonal flu shot every year, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Remember to stay home when you are sick to prevent spreading flu. While you’re at it, make sure that your children are up to date on all of their other shots. Be sure you’re immunized, too, so you don’t pass along diseases to young children. Adults should especially be sure to stay immunized against pertussis, also known as whooping cough, as they can transmit it to infants.

• Prepare for an emergency: Disasters can happen suddenly, meaning there is a chance you can get separated from your child during an emergency. As parents, it’s a good idea to learn about the emergency preparedness plans at your children’s schools and get involved in the planning process. Make sure your child knows his or her address, your emergency meeting place, the full names of parents or guardians and important phone numbers.

• Make getting prepared fun: The Get Ready campaign has free games and puzzles kids can play to learn about preparedness, as well as fact sheets written at their level. Great for use in classrooms as well!

For more information, check out and share our Get Ready parent’s page.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

August is National Immunization Awareness Month

The back-to-school rush is well underway. In fact, for some students, summer vacation is already over. With August observed as National Immunization Awareness Month, it’s a perfect time to think about vaccinations and remind family, friends and co-workers to catch up on their shots.

Immunizations save lives and protect communities. Thanks to vaccinations, many disease threats have been eliminated or greatly reduced in the United States.

Immunizations aren’t just for babies. In fact, they can help everyone protect themselves from serious diseases and illnesses. For example, young kids need shots to protect them against diseases such as polio and hepatitis, while older kids need immunizations for meningitis and HPV.

Access the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s immunization schedules to see which immunizations are right for you and your family.

For more information on immunizations, check out our Get Ready vaccination fact sheet. Also, download and share our vaccination fact sheets with information on kids, teens and adults.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Most don’t wash their hands long enough

Do you spend enough time washing your hands? If you’re like most people, probably not, a recent study finds.

The study, conducted in a U.S. college town, found that only about 5 percent of people wash their hands for as long as is recommended. That means that about 95 percent of us aren’t washing our hands long enough!

Researchers discovered that about 67 percent of people use soap when washing their hands, 23 percent wet their hands but skip the soap and another 10 percent of participants don’t wash their hands at all after using the bathroom. (Yuck!)

So why do these findings matter?

Many people don’t understand how important hand-washing is for preventing the spread of diseases. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that poor hand-washing practices contribute to half of all foodborne illness outbreaks. Visitors to Yellowstone National Park this summer are being urged to practice good hand hygiene among other steps to protect against a spike in gastrointestinal illness that has struck in and around the park. 

Washing your hands is also one of the best ways to prevent spread of the flu.

By frequently washing your hands, you wash away germs that you have picked up from other people and surfaces or from animals and their waste. Washing your hands properly not only protects you from getting sick, but also protects other people, too.
Now that you understand how important hand-washing is, here are a few tips on how to do it right:
  • Wet your hands using warm water.
  • Wash with soap for at least 20 seconds. (A good guide is to sing the “Happy Birthday” song twice.)
  • Rub your hands vigorously together and scrub all skin surfaces.
  • Be sure to rinse all of the soap off your hands.
  • When soap and water aren’t available, alcohol-based hand sanitizer can tide you over until you reach a sink.
For more tips and our fact sheet series, visit the Get Ready hand-washing page.

Thursday, August 08, 2013

Take care with pigs while at the fair: Swine flu a risk

Are you heading to your state or county fair this summer? If so, take precautions when interacting with the pigs. Babe and Wilbur may be cute, but pigs can pose a risk to your health because of a virus they can carry, known as swine flu.

In June, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that swine flu infections — known as H3N2v — had been detected in four people who had visited a fair in Indiana. This isn’t the first time such cases have occurred — swine flu cases in people were linked to fair pigs last year as well.

Symptoms of swine flu infection are similar to seasonal flu, and can include fever and respiratory symptoms, such as cough and runny nose. Other symptoms can include body aches, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea.

Because agricultural fairs bring many pigs into close contact with each other, the risk of spreading the swine flu virus is higher between pigs and people. Swine flu is thought to spread from pigs to people when sick pigs cough and sneeze, but pigs that don’t look sick may also be able to spread the virus.

Take extra caution near pigs if you have young children, are pregnant, older than 65 or have underlying health issues. CDC recommends that people at high risk for flu complications avoid pigs at fairs altogether.

Here are some recommendations to protect yourself against the virus:
• Avoid close contact with pigs. If you must come in close contact with them, wear protective clothing such as gloves and masks that cover your mouth and nose.
• Wash your hands often with soap and warm water before and after exposure to pigs.
• Don’t take food or drinks near pigs. Do not eat, drink or put anything in your mouth when in pig areas.
• Do not take toys, pacifiers, cups, baby bottles, strollers or other children’s items into pig areas.

For more information about swine flu, visit CDC’s website.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Tips for staying safe from disasters while you travel

Summer is one of the most popular times to travel. Whether you are traveling on your own or with family and friends, it’s important to stay safe by preparing for potential emergency situations. In our latest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready campaign shares advice for travelers from Michael MacNair, president and CEO of MacNair Travel Management.

Travelers need to consider a range of issues before they set off on their journey, including potential security issues at their destination, unexpected delays and disease risks.

“The biggest thing that is affecting travelers right now is weather,” MacNair told the Get Ready campaign.

To ensure that you and your family are prepared for an emergency before you travel, MacNair advises that you keep the following in mind:

  • Make an emergency travel kit that includes a flashlight, extra batteries, non-perishable snacks, a water purification kit and extra cash, including the currency of your destination country.
  • Make two copies of your passport, one to take with you and one to keep with a contact at home. 
  • Research your destination for the weather forecast, regional customs, required immunizations and political climate
  • Keep track of updates and changes from your travel agency or provider.

Listen to the new podcast or read the transcript for more tips from MacNair.

Remember: It’s important to be prepared for anything, especially when you are away from home. Safe travels!