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.