Friday, March 31, 2017

Get Ready Mailbag: What’s the deal with bird flu?

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 a lot about bird flu on the news lately. What the heck is bird flu? Should I be worried?
Avian flu, also known as bird flu, is a virus that occurs naturally in wild aquatic birds, like ducks. It becomes a problem when it infects domestic birds, like chickens and turkeys, and makes them sick.
You’ve probably been hearing about it lately because there have been outbreaks in birds on three Tennessee farms. Another poultry farm in Alabama showed positive signs of bird flu as well. Poultry that’s been cooked to a proper temperature doesn’t pose a risk to consumers. But officials removed the birds from the food supply just in case. It’s better to be safe!

Can I catch it?
It’s possible, but doubtful. Like the flu virus that makes humans sick, bird flu can mutate. If that happens, it can infect humans and other vertebrates. Human infections happen when the virus gets into your body through your nose, mouth or eyes.
People at the highest risk are workers who farm domestic birds and interact with them frequently. There has been an outbreak of bird flu in China this year, mostly in people who spent time near live poultry. Humans infected with bird flu very rarely pass it on to other humans.

I love chicken, and eat it almost every day. Should I stop eating it?
If you cook your poultry thoroughly you should be fine. In fact, you should always cook meat as recommended to protect against bacteria and other infectious diseases. Raw poultry is associated with many infections, like salmonella. Remember to carefully wash all knives and cutting boards after use, and don’t let raw and cooked meat or juices mix together. Don’t forget to cook all eggs thoroughly, too.

I am traveling to China next month for work. Am I safe from the bird flu outbreak there?
If you avoid poultry markets and farms, you should be fine. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says to stay away from places where live birds are raised, kept or sold when traveling to China or anywhere else. Also, make sure that all poultry that you will be eating, including that delicious Peking duck, is properly cooked.

I keep backyard chickens. Should I be worried about them?
As much as possible, keep your flock away from wild birds. Put away food and water so you don’t attract species that could carry a virus. Wear gloves and wash your hands frequently after handling birds.

My daughter watches Big Bird on Sesame Street every morning. Can he get bird flu?
No, Big Bird is a puppet and therefore not susceptible to bird flu. His puppeteer Caroll Spinney, however, should take care to avoid poultry farms, and thoroughly cook all poultry and eggs before he eats them.

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Deadly bites: Protecting yourself against Lyme disease

What do frost, a mosquito and a tick have in common? Their bites can be deadly. But only a tick can spread a serious illness called Lyme disease.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says there are over 30,000 new cases of Lyme — pronounced like “lime” — disease every year. It is mainly caused by one type of bacteria, Borrelia burgdorferi. But last year, scientists discovered a new species of bacteria in deer ticks that also causes Lyme disease. This species, Borrelia mayonii, can be found in the upper Midwest U.S. (Note: The new bacteria are named after the founders of the Mayo clinic where some of the researchers work — not mayonnaise!)

So what does this new bacteria mean? Should I be worried?

Don’t freak out! New bacteria, same risk. This new bacteria poses similar dangers. You should still guard yourself and your family carefully against ticks, as Lyme disease is spread when an infected tick bites a human. It is mainly reported in the northeastern U.S. and upper Midwest.

Lyme disease caused by both B. burgdorferi and B. mayonii can cause fever, headache, rash and neck pain. But while B. burgdorferi can cause a bull’s- eye-like rash, B. mayonii has a diffuse rash. B. mayonii is also associated with nausea and vomiting.

Either way, you can help guard yourself against tick bites by wearing long sleeves and pants, and staying on trails when hiking. Spray yourself with an insect repellant that has DEET if you are going outside. As Harry Potter’s Mad-Eye Moody would say, “Constant vigilance.”

Check yourself for ticks and symptoms of Lyme disease before you wreck yourself! Be thorough: Examine your feet, ankles, armpits, groin and neck carefully. These are the places that ticks love the most. And remember to check your pets, too.
CDC tick removal tips.

Lyme disease is usually treated with antibiotics, but it gets harder to heal the longer you wait for treatment. If you see that you have been bitten by a tick, carefully remove it with tweezers. Ask your doctor about being tested for bite-related diseases.

For more tips on avoiding ticks and Lyme disease, check out our Get Ready fact sheet

Thursday, March 16, 2017

‘Baby got packed’: Prepare for a safe spring break to the beat of Sir Mix-A-Lot

Spring break is often a time filled with sunshine, friends and activities that might just drop your parent’s jaw to the ground. And it’s a perfect reminder to refresh your emergency preparedness knowledge.

Whether you’re way past the spring break revelry or right in the thick of it, make sure you know how to have a safe vacay. Inspired by the lyrics of the very talented Sir Mix-A-Lot here are five questions to ask yourself before your trip:

1. Do I know the hazards where I’m going and how to handle them?
“I like good plans and I cannot lie…” Do some research on the area you’re traveling to. For example, are hurricanes, tsunamis and heat waves a possibility? If so, do you know how to handle them? Check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the U.S. State Department for travel safety tips for your destination before you head out.

2. Do I have all the vaccinations I need to be protected?
“‘Cause you ain't that average groupie,” don’t follow the norm if the norm isn’t getting vaccines. Vaccinations can protect you from a range of infectious diseases. And trust us, you don’t want to bring any of these home as a souvenir. CDC recommends talking to your doctor about vaccines a few weeks before you head out.

3. Have I packed the right things?
“Baby got…packed.” Make sure you have the right clothing and have what you need to protect yourself from hazards and dangerous weather. Don’t forget the bug spray and sunscreen!

4. Are my important documents safe?
If you’re “hooked and you can’t stop staring” at the beautiful scenery once you arrive, make sure you already have your passport and other critical documents safe. You never know when you may need to bolt because of hazardous weather.

5. Do I know evacuation routes and emergency numbers?
Make sure you aren’t left dialing 1-900-MIXALOT in the case of an emergency. Know the local equivalent to 911, as well as where fire exits, stairwells and other evacuation essentials are located where you are staying.

Want even more? Check out our Get Ready materials and read  recommendations on spring break safety from CDC.

Have a happy, safe spring break and “kick them nasty thoughts!”

Thursday, March 09, 2017

Daylight saving begins March 12: Don’t forget to set your clocks and check your stocks

Daylight saving time springs forward this Sunday at 2 a.m., which means we lose an hour of sleep. The good news — besides that extra sunlight at the end of the day — is that you can use the clock change as a reminder to check your preparedness stockpile.

What is this campaign about? Click here to learn more.
Thanks to Get Ready’s Set Your Clocks, Check Your Stocks campaign, you’ll never be missing important emergency items when a disaster happens. Here are eight things to double-check along with your alarm clock:

1.  Did you raid the emergency stocks for canned fruit after noticing you were out and craving some peach cobbler? You should have enough shelf-stable food stored to last three days. Remember to purchase canned fruit packed in juice, not syrup. Also, be sure to have a manual can opener on hand!

2.  Do you have three gallons of water per person per day stored? Or did your daughter decide to fill up the fish tank? In an emergency, water can stop running from the tap or be unsafe to drink. Make sure you have enough for everyone, plus some left over to brush your teeth.
3.  Did the resident chipmunks in your garage take advantage of your emergency granola bars? Be sure to check all stocks for damage by insects and other pests.

3.  Has your son borrowed the emergency flashlight to tell scary stories by the campfire on his Boy Scouts overnighter? In an emergency, you may lose power. Check to make sure you have a working flashlight. Battery-powered, hand-cranked or solar-powered all work fine. Candles can cause fires, so they’re not the safe choice for emergencies.

4.  Do you really want to eat canned tomatoes that you bought preparing for Y2K? (Here’s a hint: you do not.) Check the expiration dates on all of your emergency food and water stocks. Try to purchase foods that don’t require refrigeration and are low in salt. (AKA, no salted caramel ice cream. Sorry, Joe.)

Like this meme? Check out more of our social media graphics.

5.  Are there enough batteries for your emergency flashlights and radio? Or were they stolen to power “batteries-not-included” toys on Christmas morning? Make sure to check the expiration date on your batteries, and confirm they haven’t been exposed to snow or rain. You’ll want to have enough ready for your emergency radio, which is a great way to get weather and disaster alerts.

6.  Do you have emergency medication and copies of important documents for all family members? Or have your stocks not been updated since Suzy was born? It’s important to have paperwork and medical supplies for all family members in case disaster strikes. Depending on your needs, contact lens solution or diapers may be necessary as well.

7.  Did you forget about Fido? Pets are loved ones, too! Include food, medication and other supplies for your animals in any emergency kit. 

After checking for all of these items, you can rest easy — though an hour less! — knowing your family is prepared for an emergency.

P.S. People living in Arizona and Hawaii: Just because you don’t observe daylight saving doesn’t mean you don’t experience emergencies. Remember to check your stockpiles, too!

Thursday, March 02, 2017

Get Ready profile: Speaking up for women’s voices and making a difference in preparedness

March is Women’s History Month, an annual observance that celebrates the vital role of women in American history. To mark the month, APHA’s Get Ready Blog spoke to Eva Jarawan, PhD, MBA, MPH, an assistant professor in the Department of International Health at Georgetown University Medical Center, about her work in global emergency preparedness. 

In the 1800s education and legislation were considered “too weighty for the sensitive fibers of the female mind.” Luckily, such laughable ideas have long been discarded. Women are leading universities, organizations and nations — and the fibers of their minds are doing just dandy, thank you very much.

Women have made major strides in the field of health, including emergency preparedness, response and recovery. Among those is Eva Jarawan, a Georgetown University professor who has worked in public health for over 30 years, striving to protect the health of people around the world during emergencies.

Her career has included work at the World Bank, where she served people on a global scale. She also worked in countries such as Eritrea and the Democratic Republic of Congo on projects that tackled HIV/AIDS and health effects that linger after conflicts have ended.

Jarawan’s success in the field didn’t come about without discrimination based on her gender, she noted. Early in her career, her salaries were often below those of her male counterparts, even below those of the students graduating from her class. Back then, women were sometimes not standing up for themselves for fear of losing their jobs or were embarrassed, especially in developing countries, she said. As it took time for her to gain self-confidence, she identified with them. But she has since found her voice.

 “Women have to speak up,” Jarawan said.

As a professor, Jarawan continues to improve health through her teaching and research and stays abreast of emergency preparedness needs around the world.

Jarawan told the Get Ready campaign that she admired protections put in place for emergencies in the U.S. But she expressed concern that too many people lag at getting ready despite knowing that they should be prepared for disasters. Looking to past disasters can motivate people to get ready for what may happen next, she pointed out.

“People try to draw lessons from them and improve, and that’s important,” Jarawan said.