Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have you heard? There's a new bug in town

Well, new to us, that is. And it’s called Bourbon virus.

Bourbon virus is named after the first recognized case of the disease from Bourbon County, Kansas. The symptoms of Bourbon virus include:

  • High fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Nausea

Scientists believe the virus lives inside some ticks and/or mosquitoes. You could catch the virus if an insect that is carrying the virus bites you. At this time, there is no vaccine or treatment for Bourbon virus. So how can you protect yourself from catching this new bug?

Ticks that carry diseases (like Lyme disease or Bourbon virus) can attach themselves to any part of your body. However, most of them are found in hard-to-see areas such as the groin, armpits and scalp.

Continue to do the things you would do to avoid catching other tick-borne diseases such as Lyme disease.

  • Take a bath or shower as soon as possible after coming indoors from wooded, bushy areas and trails.
  • Check your entire body (a full body check) for ticks; remember the hard-to-see areas.
  • Do a full body check on children, especially their scalp and hair.
  • Don’t forget to examine your gear.
  • Ticks can hitchhike a ride on the fur of pets, so check them carefully as well.
  • Run clothes through a dryer on high heat.

Scientists also suspect  mosquitoes may carry the Bourbon virus. Here are some tips from APHA’s GetReady website on how to protect yourself from mosquito bites.

  • When possible, wear clothing that fully covers your arms, legs and feet. Wearing light-colored clothing is even better, as mosquitoes are attracted to dark and bright colors.
  • Avoid using scented fragrances or scented lotions that may attract mosquitoes.
  • Avoid outdoor activities during peak mosquito hours from dusk until dawn.
  • Install screens on the windows in your home, and repair screens with rips or tears.
  • Mosquitoes lay their eggs in water, so regularly get rid of any standing water around your home, such as water that has collected in flower pots, trash cans, rain gutters or swimming pool covers.

There’s more on how you can protect yourself from mosquito-borne disease at APHA’s Get Ready website.

Practicing habits that protect yourself, family and animal companions from diseases that are carried by ticks and mosquitoes is always a good idea. And those habits will also help to protect you from Bourbon virus.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Avoid winter driving dangers with tips from Get Ready

If you live in an area that has snow, ice and cold, planning and awareness can help you stay safe when driving.
Last winter, the average temperature in the continental U.S. was a chilly 31.3 degrees. ( Low temperatures combined with rain, sleet and snow make a perfect recipe for slippery, dangerous roads.
When staying home isn’t possible, consider a few of these winter driving tips from AAA:
  • Make certain your tires are properly inflated.
  • Keep your gas tank at least half full to avoid gas line freeze-up.
  • Drive slowly and give yourself time to adjust to conditions. Accelerating, stopping and turning happen more slowly on wet roads.
  • If you’re stuck in the snow, stay inside your car. Your vehicle provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to find you. Don’t try to walk in a severe storm, as you can get lost.
  • Avoid driving when tired.
APHA’s Get Ready campaign has even more tips for staying safe while driving, both in winter and year-round. Among them? Keep preparedness supplies in your car, including jumper cables, up-to-date maps, emergency flares, a first-aid kit, flashlights, blankets, batteries, a battery-operated radio, a manual can opener and a cellphone charger. Keep bottled water and non-perishable foods stocked in your call as well.
Before you head out on the road, it’s always a good idea to check the weather. If there’s a winter weather alert, here’s how to tell them apart, according to the American Red Cross:
  • Winter storm outlook: Winter storm conditions possible in the next two to five days.
  • Winter weather advisory: Winter weather conditions are expected to cause significant inconveniences and may be hazardous.
  • Winter storm watch: Winter storm conditions are possible in the next 36 to 48 hours.
  • Winter storm warning: Life-threatening, severe winter conditions have started or will begin within 24 hours. People in a warning area should take precautions now.
For more winter preparedness tips and fact sheets, visit Get Ready’s Winter Ready page. Winter officially begins Dec. 21, so now’s the time to get ready!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Healthy tips for healthy hands

It’s time to talk hand hygiene. What’s hand hygiene, you ask? Well, it refers to things you can do — like washing your hands and using hand sanitizer — to keep your hands clean and protect your health.

While hand-washing is important all the time, you should especially wash your hands more often during cold and flu season. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention suggests other important times to wash your hands:
  • Before, during and after you prepare food
  • Before eating food
  • Before and after caring for someone who is sick
  • Before and after treating a cut or wound
  • After using the toilet
  • After changing diapers or cleaning up a child who has used the toilet
  • After blowing your nose, coughing or sneezing
  • After touching an animal or animal waste
  • After handling pet food or pet treats
  • After touching garbage
Some people should wash their hands more frequently. People who get sick more easily, such as seniors or people with weakened immune systems, should clean their hands more often. Children should, too. They like to get close to each other when they play, share toys and often put their hands and other objects in their mouths.
It’s important to teach kids to wash their hands and help make it fun. Choose a song your children like, time how long 20 seconds takes and let them sing the song for that amount of time while they wash their hands.
So, what is the right way to wash your hands?
  • First, wet them with clean water.
  • Apply and spread soap over all parts of your hands.
  • Rub your soapy hands together for at least 20 seconds.
  • Rinse and dry well.
If you can’t wash your hands with water, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol. Apply and spread the sanitizer to all parts of your hands and rub your hands together until they are dry.

Be sure to visit the Get Ready campaign’s hand-washing page for great information and materials on hand-washing. Everything on our website can be downloaded free.

The World Health Organization says that, globally, “simple hand-washing could save up to 1 million lives each year.” That’s a very serious number. However, the important thing to remember is that hand-washing is one of the most important things you can do to stay healthy.

Monday, December 08, 2014

It’s not too late: Dec. 7-13 is National Influenza Vaccination Week

Dec. 7-13 is National Influenza Vaccination Week, an observance organized by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to highlight the importance of annual flu immunizations.

It’s a particularly important reminder this year. On Wednesday CDC announced that the strain of this year’s most common virus, H3N2, has mutated, possibly reducing the vaccine’s ability to protect against those viruses. Flu seasons with predominantly H3N2 viruses often bring more severe flu cases, including more hospitalizations and deaths.

“It’s too early to say for sure that this will be a severe flu season, but Americans should be prepared,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said in a news statement. “We can save lives with a three-pronged effort to fight the flu: vaccination, prompt treatment for people at high risk of complications and preventive health measures, such as staying home when you’re sick, to reduce flu spread.”

Getting your flu shots remains vital; it provides protection against mutated, or “drifted,” viruses in past seasons and offers protection against other flu viruses that could become common later in the flu season. Flu activity commonly peaks in the U.S. in January or February.

Everyone who is at least 6 months of age should get a flu shot, according to CDC, while healthy children ages 2-8 should get a nasal spray vaccine.

Take and share CDC’s flu pledge to protect yourself and those around you by getting vaccinated. And visit APHA’s Get Ready blog for a variety of resources, including vaccination fact sheets for kids, teens and adults.

Cross posted from APHA's

Friday, December 05, 2014

Stay healthy and safe when traveling this season

‘Tis the holiday season: a time of year when many of us travel to celebrate with friends and family. It’s also a time of year for bad weather, colds and flu and big crowds. So while you’re thinking about how many gifts to pack in your bags, take some time to prepare for travel emergencies.
  • Bad weather: Before heading off to grandma’s house, check the weather forecast so you know the risks of the place you’re visiting. Check out Get Ready’s winter weather page for tips, and share them with those you’re going to visit. If traveling by car, pack an emergency supply kit so you’re ready in case of severe weather. Check out Get Ready’s driving disasters fact sheet so you know how to stay safe on the road. Talk to your family and friends ahead of time about an emergency plan, and write down the names and phone numbers of emergency contacts in addition to having them in your phone.
  • Colds and flu: Fall and winter are cold and flu season. On your way to your holiday destination, you’ll likely come in contact with lots of people. To avoid the spread of germs, remember to always wash your hands with clean, running water and soap and if you don’t have a tissue, use your upper sleeve or elbow (not your hands!) to cover your nose and mouth when you cough or sneeze. And before you head out on your trip, get your flu shot! ( You don’t want to miss out on holiday fun because you’re sick. But in case you do get sick, get the supplies you’ll need ahead of time so you don’t have to battle the crowds at the stores. Read Get Ready’s fact sheet on cold and flu supplies and stock up now.
  • Crowd safety: Many of us will travel through crowded airports or train or bus stations this winter on the way to visit friends and family for the holidays. Or maybe you’ll take in a parade or sporting event. But remember: large crowds can pose dangers. Keep yourself and your companions healthy by making sure you’re prepared for these situations. Learn more about crowd safety with our Get Ready fact sheet.    
The Get Ready team wishes you and your loved ones a joyful and safe holiday season! Take the time to prepare for travel emergencies today so you can enjoy your time with family and friends.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Getting ready for a disaster for people with disabilities

Dec. 3 is the International Day of People with Disability, organized by the United Nations. With more than 1 billion people around the globe living with some form of disability, the observance is an opportunity to promote understanding and raise awareness — including awareness of preparedness needs for people with disabilities.

An emergency can happen anywhere and anytime. Local officials may order an evacuation, or you may need to take shelter from a tornado. That's why it's critical that all people take steps to protect themselves and make sure they can stay safe and healthy. If you have a disability, there are a few extra tips you should keep in mind to get prepared.

A good place to start is with information. APHA’s Get Ready campaign has created a series of fact sheets for people with disabilities to help prepare for emergencies. The fact sheets offer basic information as well as specific tips for people with hearing, vision, mobility and cognitive disabilities.

Determining the type of disaster most likely to occur in your community will help you design an effective plan. Create a communication plan to help you and your loved ones connect and get help during a disaster. If you have a disability, discuss what help you may need before, during and after an emergency with members of your family, friends, caregivers or neighbors.

Everyone should have basic supplies in their preparedness kit, including flashlights, batteries, a first-aid kit and food and water to last at least three days. But if you have a disability, you may need extra supplies. For example, your emergency kit might require extra batteries for your hearing aid, a tire patch kit for your wheelchair, or an extra battery for your scooter.

Here are a few more tips from our fact sheets:
  • If you have a motorized wheelchair and it is feasible and you are able, practice moving around with alternative devices such as a cane, walker or manual wheelchair in case of a power outage.
  • If you are deaf or hard of hearing, be ready to communicate with emergency responders by preparing pre-written notes such as “I need a sign language interpreter.”
  • Don’t forget to include emergency stockpile kit plastic bags in your stockpile to dispose of your service dog’s waste.
Visit our disability preparedness page to read the fact sheets, listen to recordings or watch in ASL.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Bring preparedness to the dinner table this Thanksgiving

It’s almost here: that moment when the turkey is stuffed and roasted, the potatoes are mashed and the cranberry sauce is plated. And then it’s quiet, as family and friends take the first bite of the meal they’ve looked forward to all year. But, if you’re like most families, that silence won’t last long. Before the football game and sales at the mall, Thanksgiving is a time for catching up, connecting and talking with those you love over a great meal.

So what will you talk about with your family at the dinner table this year? At Get Ready, we think there’s no better time to chat about preparedness. Here are some preparedness Thanksgiving questions and topics to get your family talking:
  • This year, were there times that you needed to be prepared? How did it go?
  • What are you thankful you knew about preparedness this year?
  • Where do you and your family feel the least ready for an emergency? How can you better prepare yourself for those times?
  • Did you get a flu shot?
You can also spend some time this holiday on preparedness activities. A few suggestions:
  • Get Ready trivia: Make preparedness fun. Grab some of the Get Ready fact sheets and quiz your family on what to do in case of an emergency. Check out our info on winter storms, and Ebola.
  • Check your stocks: You’ve already got the canned goods out from preparing a tasty meal. Take this time as a family to add any extra preparedness supplies to your emergency stockpile kit.
  • Keep the kids busy with our Get Ready games and puzzles.
Get the conversation going and share with us what you learn. How will you make preparedness a part of your Thanksgiving?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Don’t get overwhelmed by the holiday hustle and bustle

The holidays: a time for food, family, gift giving…and lots and lots of people! Crowd safety isn’t just for summertime festivals, concerts and Fourth of July events. With increased travel, holiday parades and packed stores, being safe in crowds is just as important during the holiday season. Do you know what to do to keep yourself and others safe?
  • Plan ahead: Whether it’s a black Friday sale or Thanksgiving Day parade, know what to expect before you head out. How many people might be there? Will you be indoors or outdoors? These key details will help you plan ahead.
  • Check the weather: Winter weather can bring chilly temperatures, snow, rain and sleet. Wear clothing that will prepare you most for the weather. Maybe you’re standing in line until a store opens, or you’re attending a holiday parade that will be outdoors for hours. Be sure to consider how long you might be outside and bring supplies to stay prepared.
  • Keep clean hands a priority: More people mean more chances to keep your hands from being clean. Stores and airports can host many germs that might lead to colds, flu or other infectious diseases. Wash your hands often and keep your hand sanitizer handy for when you can’t get to a sink. And for added disease protection, always get your seasonal flu shot!
  • Know your exits and surroundings: Whether the event is indoors or outdoors, be sure to locate your nearest exits, the closest first-aid kit and where to go for help. You won’t want to wait for an emergency to take place before knowing how to get what you need.
  • Have a plan: If you’re attending an event with others, have a plan for where to meet should you become separated or if an emergency occurs. Keep in mind that cellphones may not always work among large crowds, so decide on a meeting place ahead of time.
For more information about crowd safety, read our Get Ready big event fact sheet.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

As hurricane season comes to an end, now’s a good time to think ahead to next year

Credit: NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory
Nov. 30 marks the official end of the hurricane season, which luckily was relatively quiet this year. While the 2014 season was slow, there’s no guarantee it will be the same way next year, especially as research shows that climate change is making bad weather worse. With that in mind, now’s a good time to restock hurricane supplies and review your plans.

And remember, being prepared for hurricanes will also help you be ready for other emergencies or disasters, such as winter weather — which is right around the corner.

There are a few main things to remember when preparing for hurricanes. The first is to know the dangers, which can include heavy rainfall, flooding and high winds.

The second part of preparing for a hurricane is having supplies. Everyone should have supplies stored to last at least three days, including non-perishable food, water, medicine and prescriptions, a battery-operated radio, batteries, flashlights and a first-aid kit. The Get Ready campaign offers a great list of supplies that should be in your stockpile.

Have your emergency supplies packed and ready to go in a portable container, and never ignore evacuation orders. Have an evacuation plan ready. Go over the evacuation plan with your family. Remember that you should prepare for the specific needs of yourself, your family and your pets. Take time now to learn the official evacuation routes for your community and where shelters are located.

Injuries can occur during evacuation because of water and debris. Clean up and repairs can also cause injuries. In fact, a recent study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that many hurricane-related injuries occur well after the storm is over. Common injuries include cuts to the arms, legs and hands and back sprains. Make sure to pack extra bandages, including gauze and bandage tape, in your first-aid kit for these types of injuries.

Visit CDC’s website for more hurricane preparedness tips and download Get Ready’s hurricane fact sheet in English or Spanish.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Volcano preparedness: What to know when lava starts to flow

Lava Flows Burning Vegetation / Tim Orr, U.S. Geological Survey
Residents of Hawaii’s Big Island are on alert this week as a hot stream of lava oozes its way from the Kilauea volcano. The lava is set to destroy houses and buildings in its path, and many residents have evacuated.

While lava is a threat to lives and property, there are other unhealthy and unsafe things about volcanoes. Smoke, gases, and ash are unhealthy for very young and older people because they can be irritating to breathe. If someone has asthma or lung problems, they can make things worse.

Other health hazards include burns and drinking water contamination. A volcanic eruption can lead to additional disasters, too, such as mudslides, floods, tsunamis and wildfires.

How can you protect yourself and family from a volcano?
  • Become familiar with your community’s warning systems, evacuation routes and shelter locations well ahead of time.
  • Create an emergency supply kit and have it ready to go in case of evacuation.
  • Remain alert, listen and watch for information from authorities. Follow evacuation orders immediately and completely. 
  • If you or someone in your family has lung disease, consider evacuating early, because the air may not be healthy to breath.
  • If caught indoors during an eruption or if officials have ordered residents to shelter in place,  immediately close all windows, doors and ventilation sources; turn off air conditioning and heating systems; and move to an interior, windowless room that is above ground level.
  • To protect yourself from falling volcanic ash, stay indoors and place damp towels in the spaces between the doors and the ground. If you go outside, wear long sleeves and pants, put on a disposable facemask and wear goggles.
  • After an eruption, avoid driving in heavy ash fall.
Read our Get Ready volcano fact sheet for more tips on preparing for and staying safe during a volcanic eruption.

Thursday, November 06, 2014

You’ve changed your clocks, now check your stocks

Daylight saving time ended last weekend, bringing us one step closer to winter. But before you break out your scarves, mittens and holiday decorations, there’s one more move to make: checking your emergency preparedness supplies.

It’s easy to forget about your emergency stockpile, particularly if you have it tucked away in a closet or basement. But if a disaster occurs, you want it to have everything you need — and that means checking up on it every so often.

APHA’s Get Ready: Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign recommends using the twice-annual time change as a reminder to check your stockpile.

You should make sure nothing’s been removed from your emergency stockpile, that batteries or water haven’t leaked and that food hasn’t expired. Use our supplies list to double-check that you have everything you need in your stockpile, and add items as needed.

If your life has changed since you assembled the stockpile, such as a new family member or a change in medical condition, you should add supplies to account for that.

If you haven’t created a stockpile yet, now is the time to put one together. All Americans should have at least a three-day supply of food and water stored in their homes, with at least one gallon of water per person per day. Choose foods that don’t require refrigeration and aren’t high in salt. Your stockpile should also contain flashlights, a manual can opener, a radio and batteries, among other items.

And if you haven’t tested your smoke alarm and changed its batteries, you should do that as well.

Visit our Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks page for tools and tips for creating the perfect stockpile.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

New Halloween e-cards from Get Ready: Nothing’s scarier than being unprepared

Halloween is here, and for APHA’s Get Ready team that means two things: flu season and time to check your emergency supplies.

  • Get your flu shot! While there’s been a lot of talk about Ebola lately, we can’t forget about preparing for the flu. It kills thousands of Americans every year and poses a major risk for adults over 65, pregnant women and people with serious health conditions. Getting vaccinated, however, can help prevent the flu, so get your flu shot today!
  • Set your clocks, check your stocks: Daylight saving time ends on Sunday, Nov. 2. When you change your clocks, take some time to also check your emergency stockpile. Make sure food supplies haven’t expired and your emergency kit is complete. Do this twice a year when the time changes to help you and your family be prepared when it matters.

We’ve created two new Halloween e-cards to share the importance of preparedness with friends and family. Spread some Halloween cheer and let them know what’s really spooky this time of year – not being prepared!

Monday, October 27, 2014

Guest blog: Tips for staying safe in severe weather

Today’s guest blog is by Marcela Campoli, MHA, a Washington, D.C.-area business consultant. She has experience in emergency preparedness and working with health promoters in community health and prevention. Campoli is a member of APHA’s Equal Health Opportunity Committee.

This post is also available in Spanish.
Severe weather can occur at any time of the year. Do you have a family plan in case of an emergency? If not, now is a perfect time to do so. It only takes 15 minutes to do and practice your plan.

What is considered extreme weather?
Tropical storms and tornadoes: Strong winds can cause severe weather. When a tropical storm moves through large expanses of open water, it can become a hurricane. Hurricanes can cover hundreds of miles and generate a lot of damage.
Tornadoes are also a wind hazard. According to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, tornadoes are the most violent storms of nature, capable of reaching wind speeds of 300 miles per hour. Tornadoes are unpredictable and often their devastation can cost millions of dollars.
Extreme heat, drought and fire: Extreme heat is a consequence of climate change. When temperatures rise above 90 degrees, heat overexposure can dehydrate you and push your body beyond its limits. In dry climates, a severe heat can cause a drought. Droughts can destroy crops and limit the water supply to the community. Heat can also start forest fires. These fires can wake up and act quickly and without warning, moving through wooded areas or slopes, claiming homes or entire neighborhoods on their way.
Extreme cold and snowstorms: Extreme cold also has serious dangers. When temperatures drop well below the freezing point of 32 degrees, prolonged exposure can mean frostbite, hypothermia and even loss of limbs.
Snowstorms and blizzards can cripple a business, closing roads and, knocking out power. Most snow systems are developed in the northern part of the USA, but the snow does sometimes hit southern states like Texas or Florida. Snow systems in these states can be dangerous without much accumulation because many southern communities are not equipped to deal with a winter storm.

Be a force of nature: take the first step
Whatever extreme weather, it is important to be prepared.
  1. Assess your environment and understand the risks of different climates to which you and your family are exposed.
  2. Have an action plan and frequently practice the procedures.
  3. Stay informed.
  4. If you are planning an outdoor activity, check the weather first.
If an alarm is issued, the general preventive measures are:
  • Avoid windows.
  • Seek shelter in safe places at low levels inside buildings and houses.
  • Avoid outdoor activities.
  • Seek shelter in safe places.
  • Avoid using telephones, computers or any device connected to electricity.
No state in the United States is free of severe weather hazards. Each region of the country faces specific climate hazards due to its climate and location. Although some states are more likely to face some severe weather conditions, some weather emergencies can occur anywhere.

Being prepared when severe weather occurs not only makes life easier, it can save lives.

For more information on tornadoes, heat, cold and other severe weather, check out our Get Ready fact sheets. Read this post in Spanish on APHA’s Get Ready Blog.

Blog invitado: Medidas de seguridad en climas severos

Marcela Campoli, MHA, blog invitado de hoy, es una consultora negocios en Washington, D.C. Tiene experiencia en la preparación para emergencias y trabajando con los promotores de salud en la salud comunitaria y prevención. Campoli es un miembro del Comité de Igualdad de Oportunidades de la Salud de APHA.

Climas severos pueden ocurrir en cualquier momento y estación del año. ¿Tiene un plan familiar en caso de que se presente una emergencia? Si no, entonces ahora es un tiempo perfecto para hacerlo. Sólo le llevará 15 minutos hacer y practicar su plan. Tome en cuenta la siguiente información.

¿A qué se considera clima extremo?
  • Tormentas tropicales y tornados: Los vientos fuertes pueden causar severas condiciones climáticas. Cuando una tormenta tropical se desplaza a través de grandes extensiones de aguas abiertas, puede convertirse en un huracán. Los huracanes pueden abarcar cientos de millas y generar mucho daño.

    Los tornados son otro peligro a base de viento. Según FEMA, los tornados son las tormentas más violentas de la naturaleza, capaz de alcanzar velocidades de viento de 300 millas por hora. Los tornados son impredecibles y la devastación suele ser millonaria.
  • Calor extremo, sequías e incendios: El calor extremo es una consecuencia de los cambios climáticos. Cuando las temperaturas se elevan por encima de 90 o 100 grados, la sobreexposición a este tipo de calor puede deshidratar el cuerpo e imponer tus órganos más allá de sus límites. En climas secos ya, un calor severo puede causar una sequía. Las sequías pueden destruir cultivos y limitar el suministro de agua a la comunidad. El calor que puede conducir a una sequía también puede iniciar un incendio forestal. Estos incendios pueden despertar y actuar con rapidez y sin previo aviso, moviéndose a través de las zonas boscosas o laderas, reclamando en su paso viviendas o barrios enteros.
  • Frío extremo y tormentas de nieve: El frío extremo conlleva serios peligros. Cuando las temperaturas caen muy por debajo del punto de congelación de 32 grados, la exposición prolongada puede significar congelación, hipotermia e incluso la pérdida de extremidades.

    Las tormentas de nieve y ventiscas pueden paralizar un área cerrando caminos y negocios y dejando sin electricidad. La mayoría de los sistemas de nieve se desarrollan en la parte norte de los EE.UU., pero la nieve no golpear a veces los estados del sur como Texas o Florida. Los sistemas de nieve en estos estados pueden ser peligrosos sin mucha acumulación debido a que muchas comunidades del sur no están equipadas para hacer frente a una tormenta de invierno.
Sea una fuerza de la naturaleza: dé el primer paso
Cualquiera sea el clima extremo, es importante estar preparado.
  1. Evalúe su entorno y entienda los riesgos de los diferentes climas a los que usted y su familia están expuestos.
  2. Tenga un plan de acción y practique frecuentemente los procedimientos a seguir.
  3. Manténgase informado
  4. Si está planeando una actividad al aire libre primero investigue el pronóstico del tiempo
Si se emite una alarma, como medidas generales de prevención:
  • Evite las ventanas.
  • Busque refugio en lugares seguros en niveles bajos de edificios y casas.
  • Evite actividades al aire libre.
  • Busque refugios en lugares seguros.
  • Evite el uso de teléfonos, computadoras o cualquier artefacto conectado a la electricidad.
Ninguna parte de Estados Unidos está libre de peligros climáticos severos. Cada región del país se enfrenta a amenazas climáticas específicas debido a su clima y ubicación. Aunque algunos estados tienen más probabilidades de enfrentarse a ciertas condiciones climáticas severas que otros, algunas emergencias climáticas son al azar y pueden ocurrir en cualquier parte. Estar preparado cuando ocurre un clima severo no sólo hace la vida más fácil, sino que puede salvar vidas.

Para obtener más información acerca de los tornados, el calor, el frío y otras condiciones meteorológicas adversas, visita nuestra hojas informativas de Get Ready. Lea este publicacíon en inglés en el Get Ready Blog de APHA.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Easy-to-understand fact sheet on Ebola now available from Get Ready

Have questions on Ebola? Want to help your friends, family and community understand the disease and its risks?

APHA’s Get Ready campaign has a new free tool you can use. Our fact sheet on Ebola has answers to common questions on the disease. The fact sheet features information from leading authorities on Ebola — such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization — in a simple, easy-to-understand  format.

Use the Get Ready fact sheet to share information on how Ebola spreads, its symptoms and what to do to prevent it. You can even add your group’s logo.

Read and share the fact sheet now or download and print the formatted PDF.

Monday, October 20, 2014

A double threat: Driving and disasters

Photo: Marvin Nauman, FEMA
Disasters can happen when you’re on the road. Make sure you’re prepared for disasters where and whenever they may happen.

If you’re heading on a trip, find out what disasters are likely to happen where you’re driving. Have emergency supplies in your car. Common supplies include food and water, a first-aid kit, flashlights, batteries and a battery-operated radio. You may also want to have an ice scraper and a bag of sand in case you find yourself in a slippery situation.

Finally, make sure your car is ready for a disaster. This means having a full tank of gas, enough air in the tires and working windshield wipers.

Here are some specific tips to help you stay safe if a natural disaster happens while you’re in a vehicle:
  • Tornadoes: Seek shelter. If there is flying debris, pull over and park.
  • Floods: Never drive in flooded areas. Water can be much deeper than it appears.
  • Landslides: Watch for fallen rocks and other signs of a landslide.
  • Earthquakes: Drive out of traffic and park away from trees and other things that may fall.
  • Wildfires: Don’t drive through heavy smoke. If you have to stop, park away from trees and bushes, leave the headlights on and turn off the car.
  • Blizzards: Pull off the road and turn on hazard lights. Run the heater and engine for 10 minutes each hour to keep warm. When the engine is on, crack a window to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Do not leave your car unless you know where you can find shelter.
If you resume driving after a disaster, be careful to avoid downed power lines, cracks in the road and any other road hazards. Remember: It may be difficult to abandon your car, but it’s important that you don’t hesitate if the situation calls for it.

To learn more about disasters and driving, check out our Get Ready fact sheet.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

What’s that beep? Smoke alarms can save your life

Photo: U.S. Fire Administration
Did you know that fires and burns are the third leading cause of home injuries?

The National Fire Protection Association says that on average, seven people died in U.S. home fires per day from 2007-2011. Most victims are very young children and seniors.

However, many such tragedies can often be prevented with a smoke alarm. More than a third of home fire deaths happen in homes that don’t have smoke alarms.

Smoke alarms are inexpensive and can alert you when there is a fire in your home. It’s important that smoke alarms are installed up on the wall or ceiling in every floor and room of the house, as smoke rises. Periodically test your fire alarms to make sure they are working properly.

Check the battery and switch it out when you change your clocks for daylight saving time. If you have a smoke alarm that’s more than 10 years old, it’s a good idea to replace it.

For more tips on preventing disasters at home, read our Get Ready fact sheet.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Global Hand-Washing Day works to prevent spread of disease

Today marks Global Hand-Washing Day, with events being held 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.
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.
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.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

New Get Ready podcast: Why vaccinations are even more important as we age

Immunizations are critical for seniors.
Photo: CDC/ Judy Schmidt
In our latest Get Ready Report podcast, we speak with Steven Cohen, an assistant professor within the Department of Family Medicine and Population Health, Epidemiology Division, at Virginia Commonwealth University. Cohen explains why immunizations are critical for seniors.
“Vaccines are so important at every stage of life, and particularly in older adults,” Cohen says. “Our immune systems tend to decline over time.”
Because of that vulnerability, seniors are more likely to be hospitalized or die from diseases like pneumonia or the flu, he said.
Cohen discusses the myths and facts of vaccinations for seniors in the new podcast. Everyone 6 months and older should receive their flu vaccination annually, even if they received one last year or the formula in the flu shot hasn’t changed.
“Getting vaccinated every year is one of the easiest things you can do to prevent a major cause of death, and it’s extremely cheap and usually available,” he said.
Listen to the podcast now or read the transcript. For more information on seniors and immunization, take a look at Get Ready’s fact sheet on vaccinations for seniors.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Climate change and heat waves: Stay cool with tips on dealing with high heat in our new podcast

Photo: Patrick Benko/APHA
The recent U.N. summit in New York City was a reminder that the effects of climate change are already being felt, both in the U.S. and around the world. One of those effects is extreme heat, including more intense hot days and heat waves.
Whether it happens mid-summer or unexpectedly on a fall day, a really hot day can be bad for your health. In our latest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready campaign spoke with Ethel Taylor, an epidemiologist with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Environmental Health, about tips on heat safety and preparedness.
“It’s really important for people to remember three things: to stay cool, to stay hydrated and to stay informed,” Taylor says in the podcast.
The effects of extreme heat vary based on region, so it’s important for people to pay attention to heat advisories for their areas. In addition, people should identify a location they can go to in the case that they don’t have access to air conditioning in their homes such as a library, shopping mall or local community center.
If you have a pet, Taylor says it’s important to keep them cool while keeping them safe and to “make sure that they’re in a shady location and that they have plenty of water available. Never leave your pet unattended in the car even if it’s just for a few minutes.”
Among the tips for coping with high heat:
  • Avoid direct sunlight
  • Wear light, cool clothing
  • Drink water, even if you don’t feel thirsty
  • Avoid alcoholic and caffeinated beverages
  • Take cool showers often
  • Learn about the symptoms of heat illness
For more information on how to prepare for and prevent heat related illness, listen to the podcast and download Get Ready’s heat waves fact sheet.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Breaking down obstacles to preparedness and becoming strong in the face of disasters

Today’s guest blog is by Weston Lee, a member of the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Youth Preparedness Council, who works to educate youth in his community. A student at Weber High School in Pleasant View, Utah, Lee’s training includes CPR, first aid and student response. While getting students involved in emergency preparedness can be difficult, Weston says that working with “someone who is engaged, excited and, most of all, actually interested in what they do” can make a difference with youth.

What do cows produce during an earthquake? A milkshake! On a more serious note, what does being prepared produce during an emergency? President Barack Obama said that when our nation faces crisis, we will respond determined and resilient as a result of our preparedness.

The main idea for emergency preparedness is to get a kit, make a plan, be informed and get involved. Make sure you are ready in your family, business or work, school and community. Work with your community and learn about possible hazards or disasters that can happen in your area. Social media is a great way to keep up to date with news and information.

One of the things I like to address when teaching emergency preparedness are the barriers related to becoming prepared. Some obstacles are:
  • Lack of concern. Not believing that an event will happen here. Or that they will not worry about it unless it actually occurs.
  • Lack of thought on the subject.
  • Lack of knowledge or information, such as people saying, “I don’t know how to do this.”
  • Lack of resources, whether it is time or money related.
  • Avoidance. Avoiding the situation of preparedness for various reasons.
  • Or a feeling of fatalism, saying that whatever you do will not matter.
As you venture into becoming more emergency prepared, take time to set aside any barriers or obstacles you may have. In order for us to be determined and strong in the face of the disaster, we can become better prepared by making a kit, making a plan and being informed.

Be disaster aware and take action to prepare by taking part in America’s PrepareAthon during National Preparedness Month this September. Get your family and community involved by following weekly themes and using the preparedness resources.

There are resources available that teach about different hazards and disasters, and provide recommendations and resources on how to become more prepared before, during and after an emergency.

For a smooth start on becoming emergency prepared, visit the American Red Cross,, Get Ready and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention websites.

Sept. 30 is National PrepareAthon Day. Plan a preparedness activity and register your family, school or organization as a participant.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

APHA announces the winners of its Get Ready Tips from Tots Photo Contest! And the winners are…

One of our Tips from Tots Photo Contest winners.
Thanks to everyone who entered APHA’s Get Ready Tips from Tots Photo Contest. We received so many adorable photos of prepared babies that judging was difficult. They are all such cuties!

In the end, we were able to narrow it down to 16 winners that had that special something — and they’re now sharing preparedness advice in our new 2015 calendar. In celebration of Get Ready Day today, the calendar is available for free on the Get Ready website.

From keeping cool in a heat wave to staying safe in a snow storm, these charming tots make learning about preparedness fun. And they’ll look completely adorbs on your fridge, bulletin board or office wall!

The 2015 Tips from Tots calendar can be downloaded and printed. Or pick up a printed copy at APHA's 142nd Annual Meeting and Exposition in New Orleans in November. We'll be passing out copies of the calendar at booth 847 at the expo!

The Tips from Tots contest comes on the heels of the Get Ready campaign’s successful 2013 and 2014 photo contests, which used cats and dogs to share preparedness advice. If you liked those calendars, look out — these tots are even cuter!

Check out the winning photos in our baby photo gallery and share them with your friends and family on Facebook and Twitter.

And while you’re there, browse some of our favorite runners-up photos.

Which photo do you think the judges should have included in the calendar? Vote for your favorite!


Thursday, September 11, 2014

EV-D68? What’s that? What you need to know about the enterovirus outbreak

Protect yourself from EV-D68 by
washing your hands properly.
You may have heard lately about an outbreak of respiratory illness that’s making kids in a few states sick. The bug that’s causing the illnesses is called enterovirus D68, or sometimes just EV-D68.
In Missouri and Illinois, hospitals are seeing more kids than usual with enterovirus D68-related illness. A few other states are looking into cases of severe respiratory illness that may also be linked to enterovirus D68.
So what is enterovirus? It’s a type of bug that lives in our bodies, yet can make us sick. There are more than 100 types of enteroviruses and they have different names so that researchers and health providers can tell them apart. Enterovirus infections are common in the summer and fall, though they can happen any time of year.
The main way someone catches enterovirus is by touching something that has the bug on it and then touching their nose, mouth or eyes. You can also catch it by coming in close contact with another person that has the bug.
These bugs are very common and most people who get infected don’t become sick. Some people who get sick feel like they have a common cold, with symptoms like fever, body aches, sneezing and a runny nose.
However, babies and people with weak immune systems, such as people with HIV or those receiving cancer treatments, are at high risk to get very sick from enterovirus. People with illnesses such as asthma may also get very sick.
There is no vaccine that can protect you from this bug, but you can take steps to reduce your chance of getting sick:
  • Practice good hand hygiene: Wash your hands often. Be especially sure to wash your hands before you touch your face, after using the toilet and after changing diapers.
  • Break out the hand sanitizer: If you are not able to wash your hands, use a hand sanitizer that has at least 60 percent alcohol and rub a good amount onto your hands. Remember that hand sanitizer is only for when soap and water are not available and does not take the place of hand-washing.
  • Keep it clean: Clean and disinfect surfaces that are used a lot or that everyone touches, like door handles, light switches and tables.
If you or someone in your care has symptoms that cause you concern, especially a baby or someone whose immune system is not strong, it’s best to get them checked by your health care provider.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Celebrate APHA’s Get Ready Day and spread the preparedness message on Sept. 16

How prepared are you for an emergency or disaster? Have you developed a disaster plan for your family? Do you know how to protect yourself from measles, the flu or other infectious diseases? Most Americans are not prepared for public health emergencies or disasters.
APHA’s Get Ready Day is raising awareness about community preparedness. Held each year in conjunction with National Preparedness Month, the event will be observed Tuesday, Sept. 16. No matter where you live, there is always a possibility of a public health emergency, from earthquakes and hurricanes to infectious diseases.
So what can you do? First, assess how prepared you and your family are: Do you have an emergency plan? A three-day supply of food and water? Where would your family meet during a disaster if they could not go home? How would you leave town if you had to evacuate? Check out these planning tips and information on emergency stockpiling for help in getting yourself and your family prepared.
Once you are up to date, bring the preparedness message to your community on Get Ready Day. Here are a few ideas:
  • Sponsor a preparedness talk at your local senior center or hold a community meeting. Invite someone from your local health department or the American Red Cross to be a speaker.
  • Insert preparedness planning materials into your church or religious organization’s bulletin, and post information at your library.
  • Work with a local grocery store to promote preparedness and stockpiling to shoppers through displays or fliers. Pass out lists of what people should have to be prepared.
Thanks to your help this Get Ready Day, we’ll all be better prepared!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Avoid the risk from measles: Get vaccinated

In 2000, measles was declared eliminated in the U.S. And yet measles cases in the country hit a 20-year high this summer. How can that be?

When health officials declared measles eliminated, it was because the disease was no longer considered native in the U.S. Thanks to vaccination, measles — which once caused 3 million to 4 million cases a year in the U.S. — isn’t continuously transmitted here anymore.

But the disease is still common in many countries around the world. Unvaccinated travelers can bring measles to the U.S. with them.

Globally, 20 million people get measles each year, and about 164,000 people die from the disease. Measles can also have lasting complications, including loss of hearing or lifelong brain damage.

Measles is caused by a virus and is very contagious. It can be spread through the air by breathing, coughing or sneezing. It’s so contagious, in fact, “that any child who is exposed to it and is not immune will probably get the disease,” according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. If you’re unvaccinated, you can get measles from an infected person. Unvaccinated children and pregnant women are especially at risk for contracting measles.

Some families choose not to vaccinate their children while some are not able to get vaccinated against measles because of allergies or other pre-existing health conditions. By vaccinating your child, you protect not just him or her but you help protect others in your community who are unable to be vaccinated by slowing or preventing the spread of the disease to others.

Luckily, measles is easily preventable. Talk to your health provider about measles vaccination for you and your family.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

College students: Are you vaccinated against meningitis?

As the start of the fall college semester nears, parents and students should be aware of bacterial meningitis. Bacterial meningitis is usually a severe disease that can cause brain damage, hearing loss and other serious complications. It’s caused by inflammation of the membranes surrounding the brain and spinal cord. Luckily, there are vaccines that can prevent it.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends college students and young adults between the ages of 19-24 get vaccinated against meningitis, as they are more susceptible since its spread by close physical contact. College students are more inclined to be living in close quarters and sharing personal items.

Last year, several universities experienced outbreaks on campus. Many states require incoming college students, especially those living on campus, to be vaccinated for meningitis before they are allowed to register for courses. Students who received their vaccinations before their 16th birthday are encouraged to get a booster dose before heading to college to ensure maximum protection.
National Immunization Awareness Month (NIAM)

Monday, August 18, 2014

Summer storms can mean power outages

Rosanna Arias/FEMA
Summer storms can leave your home, your neighborhood and even your entire city or town without power. While power outages can occur any time of year, summer power outages come with special challenges, such as heat-related illness. To prepare for summer power outages, follow these tips:

•   Beware of heat stroke: Power outages mean loss of air conditioning or electric fans. If temperatures are high, don’t sweat it out. Go to a designated cooling center or friend’s house with functioning air conditioning. Heat can be especially dangerous for seniors. If you do stay at home, keep blinds and curtains closed to block out the sun. Consider buying a battery-operated fan for your emergency supply kit.

•   Store bottled water: In addition to knocking out power, summer storms can also lead to flooding and contaminated water. So it’s especially important to have water stored during the summer. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that you drink a glass of fluid every 15-20 minutes in extreme heat. Do not drink alcohol or caffeine, as they will dehydrate you. If you use a water purification system, keep in mind it may not work during a power outage.

•   Make sure your food is safe: According to CDC, if the power is out for more than four hours, it’s best to move meats and dairy products into a cooler with ice. Move stuff to a cooler but don't open the freezer . Use a food thermometer to check the temperature of your food before you cook or eat it. Discard any food that has a temperature of more than 40 degrees. Remember: When in doubt, throw it out.

•   Unplug: The American Red Cross suggests that during a power outage, it’s a good idea to unplug all electrical equipment. When the power comes back on, the spike in electricity can cause damage to equipment like computers and televisions. Leave one light on, however, so you can know when the electricity is back on.

•   Protect against carbon monoxide: While a home generator might make a power outage easier to cope with, never use one inside a home, garage, basement or any partially enclosed area. Generators, along with any other gasoline or propane burning device, can produce carbon monoxide. Carbon monoxide is an invisible, odorless, tasteless gas and exposure can lead to death. It’s a good idea to have a battery-operated carbon monoxide detector that works without electricity.

For more summer preparedness tips, visit Get Ready’s Summer Safe Web page

Friday, August 15, 2014

Make pencils #2 to immunizations on your back to school list

CDC / James Gatheny
It’s that time of year again. Children and teens are heading back to school after summer break.

As parents are preparing for the first day of school, it’s also important to make sure their child’s immunizations are up to date.

Why are vaccinations important? Outbreaks still happen. For example, in 2009-2010 there was an outbreak of mumps that involved 3,000 people, most of whom were high school students.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, staying up to date on vaccinations is the best way to protect your child as well as your community and schools from outbreaks. Vaccinations provide protection from infectious diseases such as diphtheria, human papillomavirus, hepatitis A and B, chickenpox, pertussis, polio, tetanus, mumps and measles. Many schools require that students are current on their vaccinations before classes start.

Check out CDC’s Adolescent Immunization Scheduler as well as Get Ready’s vaccines fact sheets for kids and teens.


Thursday, August 07, 2014

Immunizations: why you need to stay up to date

Imagine that there’s a virus that makes you very sick, or may even kill you. This virus is easy to spread to other people. And because it’s a virus, antibiotics don’t work against it. Wouldn’t you do whatever you could to avoid getting sick from that virus? And wouldn’t you want to protect your family, friends and co-workers? 

No imagination needed. There are viruses that cause diseases like the one described above, such as measles, mumps, influenza, chickenpox and polio. The good news is that we can protect ourselves and those around us from many diseases by staying up to date on required immunizations.

What is immunization? It’s another way of saying that you have been vaccinated against a certain disease. There are two ways to think about how immunization protects us. The first way is that immunization against a certain disease protects you from the bug that causes the disease. The second way immunization protects is that if you’re immunized, you won’t be spreading the disease to others. Immunization “breaks the chain” by helping you to not catch or spread the disease from or to other people. 

So check your immunization record — even if you’re an adult! — and records for your children and pets. If the immunization record is not up to date or is incomplete, take care of that as soon as possible.

Check out APHA’s Get Ready website for more information on how you can do your part to stay protected from diseases that can be prevented through immunization.

August is National Immunization Awareness Month. Get free resources and materials to share in your community. 

Monday, August 04, 2014

Get Ready Mailbag: Get the facts on Ebola

Welcome to another installment of the Get Ready Mailbag, when we take time to answer questions sent our way by readers like you. Have a question you want answered? Send an email to

I’ve been hearing about Ebola in the news. What is it? Should I be worried about catching it?

Ebola is in the news lately because there is an outbreak occurring in four countries in West Africa: Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. There have been more than 1,600 cases and about 880 deaths in the outbreak. It doesn’t pose a significant risk for the general public in America, however.

Graphic courtesy CDC
Ebola is caused by a virus. The virus spreads between humans by contact with body fluids — such as blood, urine and sweat — or through objects that have been contaminated with infected fluids, like needles. Ebola can’t be spread through air, food or water. The only way to get it is to be in direct contact with someone who is experiencing symptoms.

Symptoms of Ebola can include fever, headache, weakness, diarrhea, vomiting and abnormal bleeding. There is no cure. However, early health care including hydration can increase the chance for survival.

The people most at risk for Ebola are health care workers who care for infected patients. In Atlanta, doctors at Emory University Hospital will be caring for two American patients with Ebola who caught the disease in Africa and are being transported here. The doctors will be using practices such as isolation to prevent the spread of the disease to health workers and other hospital patients. The hospital has a special isolation unit to treat patients who are exposed to serious infectious diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is also working to make sure that Ebola is not carried to the U.S. via travelers, assisting with screening and education, providing guidance to plane personnel and advising Americans not to travel to the affected countries.

So, in short, if you’re a member of the general public here in the U.S., you don’t really have to be worried about catching Ebola. You’re much more likely to catch the flu.

For more information, read CDC’s Q&A on Ebola.

To assist public health workers responding to the Ebola outbreak, APHA has made the Ebola and Marburg virus chapter of its Control of Communicable Diseases Manual available for download for free.*

*Editor's note: The PDF is secured against alteration only and can be saved to your device, printed and shared. If you are asked for a password when accessing the PDF on your mobile device, please try the following:
1) Make sure you have the free Acrobat Reader app installed on your device
2) Tap or refresh the password screen until you see text at the top or bottom of the screen that says "Open in...."
3) Select the link for "Open in..." and then choose the Acrobat Reader app.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

How to keep climate change from ruining your summer

Climate change is making summer more dangerous, according to the National Resources Defense Council. Unfortunately, increases in heat, bad air, mosquitoes and pollen can suck the fun out of summer.

In our latest podcast, APHA’s Get Ready campaign speaks with Kim Knowlton, senior scientist at the National Resources Defense Council and co-deputy director of the NRDC Science Center, about how you can get ready for the effects of climate change during the summer.

“Preparedness is key,” Knowlton says. “We need to prepare for the effects of climate change.”
One of the most common myths about summer weather is the confusion between a heat wave and a typical, hot summer day. Knowlton says a heat wave means there are extremely hot temperatures that last more than two consecutive days. It’s also important to note that heat waves vary from place to place.

“There is no one heat wave definition or temperature that applies everywhere,” Knowlton says. “People who live where it’s cooler are generally more sensitive to extreme heat.”

The council has created a new fact sheet on some of the things that are getting worse during the summer months because of climate change and ways people can avoid them. Some of the tips are:
• Heat waves: Reduce, reschedule or eliminate intense activities until the coolest part of the day. Don’t get too much sun. Sunburn lowers your body’s ability to deal with heat.
• Bad air alert days: Asthma sufferers should follow their asthma action plans and keep their quick-relief medicine handy.
• Ticks and mosquitoes: To avoid insect bites, tuck in your shirt and wear long sleeves, long pants and socks when spending time outside. After spending time outdoors, check for ticks and remove them with tweezers.

Listen to our podcast with Knowlton now. For more seasonal preparedness tips, check out the Get Ready Summer Safe page

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Chiku-what?! Florida resident is first to contract mosquito-borne disease within the US

U.S. health officials are on alert for a painful disease with an unusual name, after a new case was diagnosed in a Florida man in July.

Chikungunya, an infectious disease spread by mosquitoes, causes fever and severe joint pain. There’s no cure for the disease and treatment is aimed at relieving symptoms. While the disease can’t be spread from person to person, it can be spread when a mosquito bites an infected person and then a healthy one.

Health officials have known about chikungunya for a long time — it was first described during an outbreak in Tanzania in 1952. As global temperatures have warmed and some types of mosquitoes have spread, the disease has spread to more than 40 countries. An ongoing outbreak in the Caribbean has been linked to thousands of cases.

Photo courtesy CDC Media Relations
In the U.S., cases of chikungunya are usually brought home by travelers who contract the disease in another country. In 2014, more than 240 cases have been imported by travelers.

But in the July Florida case, the man diagnosed with the disease had not traveled outside of the U.S. recently, meaning he caught chikungunya here. The case is the first to be confirmed in the U.S. as locally-acquired. That has put health officials on alert.

Health officials don’t know how much of a problem chikungunya will be in the United States. But as with West Nile virus, which was first reported in the U.S. in 1999 and causes annual cases across the country — with 2,469 cases and 119 deaths reported to CDC in 2013 — there is a chance that the disease will become a regular occurrence.

Photo courtesy CDC Media Relations
However, the good news is that chikungunya is not fatal and can easily be prevented. Here are some basic steps to protect you and your family from mosquitoes:
• Use insect repellent when outdoors.
• Wear clothing that covers your feet, legs and arms.
• Avoid going outside at dawn or dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.

Want to know more on how to protect yourself? Check out our Get Ready mosquitoes fact sheet.