Thursday, August 27, 2015

When power outages are more than a nuisance

We all know what a power outage is like. We stumble through the dark to find our flashlights. We check how much power is left on our phone. We worry about the food in our fridge and wait for the power to come back on. A bit of a nuisance, but usually not a big deal.

Now imagine you use a medical device that depends on electricity. Losing power could mean life or death. In fact, 2.4 million Medicare recipients depend on electricity to run their medical and assistive equipment, which can include ventilators and wheelchairs. And while many of them have reserve batteries, such people may need help when the power goes out, especially if it’s for a long time.

Luckily, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services just released a new tool to help. The HHS emPOWER map tells officials where the highest number of people on Medicare who use medical devices are in their communities. While the map doesn’t capture everyone who uses a device, it helps give planners an idea of how many people may be in need during a power outage. And that way they can plan ahead.

Emergency responders and community planners aren’t the only ones we need to plan ahead for disasters and emergencies. We all need to look out for our neighbors, and getting our communities ready starts with us. Check out what has to say about community preparedness and check out our resources for people with disabilities.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Give it a shot: Share our e-card for National Immunization Awareness Month

We can’t believe it’s August already, but we’re ready for National Immunization Awareness Month.  You probably know something about vaccines, but we all need to make sure we’re up to date. So remind the people you care about with our new e-card, just in time for flu season.

To stay safe and to help keep our communities healthy, it’s important for all of us to be vaccinated. Check out this blog post about how you getting a vaccine can help keep everyone else healthy, too.

For more information, check out our Get Ready vaccination fact sheets for kids, teens and adults. To help promote immunizations in your community, check out this great toolkit.

We’ve all got a part to play in the health of our communities. So roll up your sleeve and send out our new e-card to remind your friends of the importance of vaccinations!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

These people caught measles. Who’s next?

Measles is a very infectious disease. It’s so infectious that just being around someone who has it can make you sick. And you can even get it from the air after they’ve gone.

The measles virus.
Image credit // CDC /
Goldsmith and Bellini
Take the case of two travelers who shared the same Chicago airport gate. One was a 19-month-old child who’d received a first dose of measles vaccine, but got sick with measles while traveling. Another was a 46-year-old adult on a different flight who was diagnosed with measles a few weeks later. Researchers say the adult caught it from the child.

While the child could have passed the illness along anywhere at the airport where the two travelers crossed, researchers think that it probably happened when the child’s family was waiting near the gate to board and the adult traveler exited the plane. Measles can stay in the air for up to two hours, even after an infected person leaves. Luckily, in this case, both patients recovered.

Fast-forward to this spring in Washington state. A very sick woman in Clallam County caught measles while visiting her doctor at a hospital that was treating a patient with measles earlier. The virus stayed in the air of the hospital just like it was in the air at the airport gate. After being around the virus in the hospital, her body was unable to fight it and she died. Her death was the first from measles in 12 years in the United States.
Traveling safe includes staying healthy.
Get vaccinated before you get on board!
Image credit //

Both stories offer us a few reminders:
• To protect others, everyone who can be vaccinated should be. It only takes one sick person to make everyone else sick.
• International travelers ages 12 months and older should have two doses of measles vaccinations. The odds of getting sick go up if you haven’t gotten vaccinated or aren’t fully vaccinated.
• If you think you have measles, don’t go to the doctor’s office. Stay home and call your physician with your symptoms.

Protect yourself and protect others. Get vaccinated.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Down and dirty preparedness: Staying safe from disease at a mud race

Are you tough enough to run a mud race? Events like Tough Mudder, Spartan Race and Battlefrog show the popularity of mud races. The challenges include a lot of running and obstacles and require a dose of mental grit. Hazards include mud, fire, ice, walls, heights and electricity. And recently, that list of hazards includes infectious disease.
 A Tough Mudder in the "Kiss of Mud" obstacle.
Image credit // Hartmut Goldmann

For example, 1,000 people recently got sick from norovirus, a virus spread in animal and human feces, at a mud race in France.  Participants at mud races in the U.S. have also come down with norovirus and other infections, causing diarrhea, rash, vomiting and other unpleasant symptoms.

Bacteria and viruses don’t really care how big your muscles are. A lot of mud races are held on farms or in the woods. And since they’re in rural areas, there may be wild animals and livestock. Feces and urine can get mixed into the dirt and mud. When participants get in the mud or when they touch their faces after, microorganisms can be transmitted and make them sick.

Still think you’re tough enough?  Alright. Here are some tips to stay safe.

First off, know what you’re up against. Ask race officials about safety and what’s being done to keep it (relatively) clean out there. Know where to go for medical help if you need it. There’s more to worry about than bacteria. Sprains, cuts and more might be in store for you.

"Funkey Monkey."
Image credit // Tough Mudder
Second, keep your head up if you can. Don’t touch your face with your muddy hands if you can avoid it. Try to keep your mouth away from the mud. We know it’s tempting to get a face-full and take a really cool photo. But is it worth the risk?

Third, hold on tight. On obstacles like Tough Mudder’s Funkey Monkey, where you’ll be crossing monkey bars over a pool of muddy water, your best bet is not to fall off. Sound too tough for you? Keep your hands close to the edges of the bars, right where they meet the wood or metal frame. You’ll get a better grip that way.

Fourth, if you don’t feel safe, skip the obstacle. There’s no shame in staying safe. Some races like Battlefrog require you to complete all obstacles, but most are fairly chill. Do some research beforehand and make sure you’re up to the challenge.

Lastly, help each other out! Giving your course mates a hand, even if they are complete strangers, helps everyone stay safe and builds community.

Have a blast, and push yourself to overcome all fear!

Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Herd immunity. Heard of it?

August is National Immunization Awareness Month!  Watch out for more updates on vaccines coming soon! 

Image credit // Toby Amodeo
You probably know that vaccines protect your body from catching a disease. Many people get vaccinated to protect themselves. But did you also know that getting vaccinated could protect your friends, family and even strangers in your community as well?

Getting vaccinated doesn’t just prevent you from getting sick. It also stops you from spreading a disease to your friends and family. The same goes for other people. If your neighbors get vaccinated, it will keep them and those around them safe as well. If your entire block gets vaccinated, it will protect those people and people on the next block over. And if a whole lot more people get vaccinated, that’s when the “herd” idea comes in.

The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases says that herd immunity, also known as community immunity, is when the majority of people in a community get vaccinated. 

Image credit // CDC / Judy Schmidt
People who get vaccinated are also protecting people who can’t get vaccinated, like newborns or those whose immune systems don’t work well. The more people who get vaccinated, the safer everyone else will be.

Everyone can play a role in improving their health and those around them by getting vaccinated.  Check out our free Get Ready fact sheet on vaccinations here!

Protect your community and join the herd!