Thursday, February 27, 2014

Washing your hands with cooler water can be better for the environment

Have you ever been told that it’s better to wash your hands with hot water? According to a recent study conducted by researchers at Vanderbilt University, using clean running water at a cooler temperature can be just as effective — and it can be better for the environment, too.
While it’s true that heat kills bacteria, the temperature needed to kill germs on your hands could burn you. That means that there may be no real benefit to washing your hands with hot water. In fact, using a really high temperature can irritate your skin, which can make bacteria stay on your hands.
So why do folks use hot water if it’s not killing germs? One reason is that many hand soaps tend to work better with warmer water. Another reason may be that they’ve always done it that way and just don’t know any better!
So how does using cooler water help the environment, you may ask? The fact is that heating water takes energy. Creating energy — such as through burning fossil fuels like such as coal, natural gas and oil — can lead to the release of gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, known as greenhouse gases. Increasing levels of greenhouse gases raise global temperatures leading to climate change.
So does that mean you should only use really, really cold water to wash your hands? That might not be a good idea either. It takes awhile to wash your hands properly, and that’s hard to do when the water is freezing cold. Your best bet is to pick a temperature somewhere in the middle that feels comfortable to you.
The key thing is to make sure that you’re washing your hands properly. This means that you are scrubbing, rinsing and drying your hands several times a day, particularly before eating and after using the bathroom. Here are some tips, courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
  • Wet your hands with running water. Remember to immediately turn off the tap to make sure you’re not wasting water.
  • Apply soap and 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.
  • Rinse your hands well under clean, running water.
  • Dry your hands using a clean towel or air dry them.
For more tips, check out our Get Ready hand-washing page, which features fact sheets in both English and Spanish.

Friday, February 21, 2014

What to know and do about flu

Today’s guest blog is by Michael Jhung, MD, MPH, MS, 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.

On Feb. 20, CDC announced that the current flu season has been hard on young and middle-aged adults, with people ages 18-64 accounting for 61 percent of flu hospitalizations. CDC noted that the season is still ongoing and it’s not too late to get a flu shot.

Winter is in full swing and flu activity is elevated nationwide. Getting a flu vaccination now may still help protect you from becoming sick this winter and spring. In fact, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that flu vaccination continue into February and beyond, as long as flu viruses are circulating.

Should you get the flu vaccine if you’ve already been sick with the flu this season? Yes. Even if you’ve had the flu, it is possible to get it again. Many different types of flu viruses circulate each winter and spring, and getting vaccinated now may protect you from one of the other flu viruses to which you may be exposed.

Even healthy people can benefit from a flu vaccine. Getting vaccinated protects you and those around you, especially people who are at high risk for flu complications, such as people with chronic disease, seniors, pregnant women and young children. Babies under 6 months are too young to get vaccinated, so the best way to protect them is for everyone around them to get vaccinated.

In addition to getting vaccinated, you can take everyday preventive actions to help reduce the spread of germs. Try to avoid contact with people who are sick. If you or your child gets sick, stay home from work or school. Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue and throw the tissue in the trash. Wash your hands often with soap and water or use hand sanitizer to keep from spreading flu to others.

Flu symptoms usually come on suddenly and include some or all of these: fever or feeling feverish/chills, cough, sore throat, runny or stuffy nose, muscle or body aches, headaches and fatigue. Some people may have vomiting and diarrhea, though this is more common in children than adults. It’s also important to remember that not everyone with flu will have a fever.

If you get the flu, prescription antiviral drugs are a treatment option. Many people can benefit from taking antiviral drugs like Tamiflu that can shorten the time you are sick and lessen the severity of symptoms. Antiviral medicines work best when started soon after symptoms develop, so people — especially high risk groups — should seek medical care ASAP.

Flu can be a very serious disease. Do your part to protect against the flu and encourage others to do the same.

Find a flu vaccine provider at Join @CDCFlu and APHA’s @GetReady on social media to share the news of your vaccination by posting a message using #vaxwithme. In doing so, you will help remind and encourage others to get vaccinated.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Get Ready Scholarship now open for entries

APHA is once again offering its Get Ready Scholarship. Now in its sixth year, the competition is open to students at the high school, undergraduate and graduate levels.

In the United States, 2013 was a year filled with disasters: Extreme temperatures, devastating tornadoes and flooding were just some of the events that took lives, damaged communities and tested readiness. This year’s flu season has also underscored the importance of being prepared for infectious diseases.

APHA’s Get Ready campaign is challenging students to help Americans become more prepared via its scholarship. High school students are asked to write a blog entry, undergraduate college students are tasked with creating a preparedness plan and graduate students are challenged to create an infographic. Full details are on the scholarship site now.

We’ll award one $400 scholarship in each category — that’s a total of three winners! Each winner will also receive a free one-year APHA membership.

Submissions are now being accepted and the deadline closes April 8 — or until 300 submissions are accepted in each category. That means the deadline could close early, so be sure to prepare your submission soon.

Check out the details for this year’s contest on our Get Ready Scholarship page, and then get ready to enter!

To see a list of previous winners, and read parts of their essays, check out our scholarship winners page.

Good luck!

Not a student? Share this blog entry with someone who is!

New Get Ready e-cards celebrate February holidays

Famous groundhog Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow this month. According to tradition, that means there are six more weeks of winter. For the Get Ready team, it’s also a reminder that it’s not too late to get your flu shot.

Groundhog Day ecard

Groundhog Day is the theme of one of many free Get Ready e-cards we’re sharing this month. Check out our e-cards to send messages about being prepared to those you care about. Each card has a link to helpful tips to keep you, your family, friends and community prepared.
The Get Ready e-card library includes messages for Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, flu season and the winter holidays.

Puppy Love Valentines Day ecard
This year, a new Valentine’s Day e-card joins the lineup. And coming soon, look forward to e-cards that celebrate President’s Day!
Explore the Get Ready website for more information about the e-cards and the many preparedness resources.
Have an idea for a Get Ready e-card? Send us an email!