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 getready@apha.org.

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:
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