Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Infections are scarier than any Halloween costume, but not if you’re prepared

We don’t want you to be frightened on Halloween — except for the costumes. The Get Ready campaign can’t prevent Michael Myers or Hannibal Lector from showing up on your doorstep, but we can help prevent you from catching infectious diseases.
If you’re not careful, you might be at greater risk of catching infectious diseases such as the flu on Halloween. But fear not — you can help keep those scary viruses and bacteria away if you follow three easy steps:
  • Get your flu shot: Halloween falls right in the middle of flu season, which can make you really sick. Flu viruses can spread when someone with the infection coughs or sneezes —and with 41 million trick-or-treaters in the U.S., there’s a lot of people who could infect you.

    If you haven’t gotten your flu vaccination yet, you can find a place nearby to get your flu shot online via HealthMap. Just plug in your location and find a place that can give you the immunization you need.

    Getting vaccinated against infectious diseases is really important, no matter how old you are. Check out our Get Ready fact sheets for kids (English or Spanish), teens (English or Spanish) and adults (English or Spanish) for more info.
  • Wash your hands, cover your cough: Cover your cough or sneeze with a tissue or into your upper sleeve or elbow if you don’t have one. And before you eat any of your treats, make sure to wash your hands with soap and warm water for at least 20 seconds.

    You might be touching candy bowls, pumpkins or even your best friend’s costumes. Make sure you’re not spreading germs when you do.
  • Be careful with candy: Those wrappers are on your favorite treats to keep you safe! If you see a piece of candy that isn’t wrapped, stay away from it. Who knows where it’s been? Someone may have gotten some dangerous germs onto it.

    Also, if your friend is eating something that looks really delicious, don’t ask for a bite. Get your own! Your trick-or-treat buddy might not be as safe as you are, so avoid sharing food.
Dress up in your meanest, creepiest costumes — but infectious diseases are not only scary; they can be deadly. A few safety precautions can keep them away so you can have a night of spooky fun.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Do you know how to prevent infections?

Last week was International Infection Prevention Week, sponsored by the Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology.

Observed annually around the word, the event highlights the importance of preventing infections in patients. According to the association, one in 20 hospitalized patients will get a health care-associated infection as a result of care received in the hospital. To safeguard yourself and people you care about, the association recommends that patients clean their hands, cover their coughs, ask their health care providers to clean their hands and to speak up if they have any questions about their care.

The Association for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology has launched a new campaign for consumers, called Infection Prevention and You, to remind them to do their part in preventing infections. The campaign includes a new infographic that consumers and health care providers can share.

Preventing infections is also important beyond the hospital. Whether it’s at home, at work, at school or in your community, there are things that you can do to stay healthy.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends vaccines as an important way to ward off infections, particularly during flu season. It’s always better to prevent a disease than treat it, and staying up to date on your vaccines is one of the best ways to do so. Not only will this keep you healthy, it will prevent the spread of disease to those around you. Check out the Get Ready campaign’s fact sheet about why vaccines are important.

CDC also recommends disinfecting frequently touched surfaces often. This should be done on a regular basis, but if someone at home is sick, you should clean more often.

Be a part of International Infection Prevention Week by sharing resources for children, consumers and health professionals.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Global Hand-Washing Day works to prevent spread of disease: Events planned for Oct. 15

Today marks Global Hand-Washing Day and more than 200 million people will be involved in events around the world. The observance spreads the message that regularly washing your hands with clean, running water and soap is an important step in keeping yourself from getting sick and spreading germs to others.

Hand-washing with soap is one of the easiest ways to prevent diarrhea, a leading cause of death for children worldwide, as well as acute respiratory infections such as pneumonia.

In our newest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready Report team speaks with Alfonso Contreras, regional advisor for health promotion at the Pan American Health Organization, about the importance of proper hand-washing.

“We are talking about one of the most cost-effective procedures in public health,” Contreras says. “We don’t realize sometimes that some of the classic measures are still some of the best resources that we have in public health.”

Global Hand-Washing Day organizers are hoping to break a Guinness World Record of people demonstrating hand-washing at the same time on Oct. 15. The region of the Americas already holds the record, with more than 740,000 people taking part in 2011, but the goal this year is to have more than 1 million participants, Contreras said. Public health advocates are encouraged to take part, and planning tools are available from PAHO.

Remember, just because your hands don’t have any visible dirt on them doesn’t mean that they are clean. Here are some tips when it comes to hand-washing, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • Wash your hands several times a day, particularly before eating and after using the bathroom.
  • After wetting your hands with water and applying soap, rub your hands together. Make sure to clean the back of your hands, under your nails and between your fingers, and continue rubbing your hands for at least 20 seconds.
  • When water and soap are unavailable, use a hand sanitizer with at least 60 percent alcohol. Remember that hand sanitizers do not kill all types of germs, and should not replace routine hand-washing with soap.
Listen to our podcast with Contreras or read the transcript for more information. And make plans to celebrate Global Hand-Washing Day on Oct. 15!

For tips and tools to use at your events, check out our Get Ready hand-washing fact sheets, which are available in both English and Spanish.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Guest blog: Cold and flu symptoms? Double-check, don’t double up

With flu season underway, the Know Your Dose campaign educates people about the safe and effective use of acetaminophen, the active ingredient in many over-the-counter flu medicines. Today’s guest blog comes from Kathleen Wilson, PhD, ARNP-C, who is active with the campaign, and reminds people to take care when taking flu medicines.
Wilson is a board-certified family and pediatric nurse practitioner with 28 years of experience in providing care for patients of all ages. She has held positions in education, practice, research, administration and consultancies with extensive experience in adolescent health, behavioral health, management of children and youth with special needs and community program development. She practices in Tallahassee, Fla.
APHA is an organizational partner of the Know Your Dose campaign.

Each year, the most common question my patients ask about cold and flu season is how to avoid getting a cold or flu. Everyone has their favorite remedies and techniques for keeping germs at bay, and frequent hand-washing and use of sanitizer do help. Of course, getting your flu vaccination is important as well. But despite taking precautions to ward off the sniffles, it’s hard to avoid catching a cold or flu. Americans catch an estimated 1 billion colds every year, and roughly 20 percent get the flu.
In the coming months, the majority of people will find themselves at the local pharmacy searching for an over-the-counter medicine to relieve their symptoms. One trip down the cold and flu aisle will show you that there are countless medicines available, and what people often don’t realize is how many of their trusted cold and flu medicines contain the most common drug ingredient in America: acetaminophen. It is found in more than 600 over-the-counter and prescription medicines, including pain relievers, fever reducers and sleep aids, as well as many cough and cold medicines.
Acetaminophen is safe and effective when used as directed, but taking more than directed is an overdose and can lead to liver damage. So, I remind my patients that it is always important to read and follow the labels to know the ingredients in the medicines they take, particularly if they are taking both an over-the-counter medicine in addition to a prescription medicine containing acetaminophen.
The American Association of Nurse Practitioners is a founding member of the Acetaminophen Awareness Coalition, which formed the Know Your Dose campaign to educate patients about the safe use of acetaminophen. I advise my patients who will be using cold and flu medicines to double-check their medicine labels so they don’t double up on acetaminophen, and follow these four simple safety steps:
  1. Know if medicines contain acetaminophen, which is in bold type or highlighted in the “active ingredients” section of over-the-counter medicine labels and sometimes listed as “APAP” or “acetam” on prescription labels.
  2. Never take two medicines that contain acetaminophen at the same time.
  3. Always read and follow the medicine label.
  4. Ask your health care provider or a pharmacist if you have questions about dosing instructions or medicines that contain acetaminophen.
As a nurse practitioner, it is important that I stress these medicine safety tips when discussing cold or flu symptoms with my patients. I spend time with them to both prevent and treat illness, and when medicine is required, I also want to help ensure patients know the proper dosage.

Friday, October 04, 2013

How to be prepared for a volcanic eruption

Volcanoes can slumber quietly for centuries, only to awaken suddenly and erupt, spewing out lava and ash. Within minutes, a volcanic eruption can destroy an area and kill all life. In 1980, Mount St. Helens in Washington erupted after an earthquake, destroying about 150 square miles of forest.

The U.S. has more than 160 volcanoes, including Kilauea volcano in Hawaii, which is one of the most active volcanoes on Earth.

In the U.S., people who don’t live on the West Coast or Hawaii may not see volcanoes as everyday threats. But even if you don’t live near a volcano, you may encounter one during your travels within the US or abroad. Whether you live near or volcano or are just visiting, it helps to be prepared. According to Ready.gov, you should:
  • Familiarize yourself with community warning systems, evacuation routes and shelter locations ahead of time. Create a household evacuation plan as well as a plan for sheltering in place.
  • Avoid river valleys and low-lying areas during an eruption. Be alert for mudflows, danger from which increases near stream channels and with prolonged heavy rains.
  • Listen for advice and instructions. If instructed to evacuate, do so immediately, says the American Red Cross.
  • If you can’t evacuate, stay indoors with doors, windows and ventilation closed to protect yourself from falling ash.

For more information, download our Get Ready volcano preparedness fact sheet.