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Sharing our stories on preparing for and responding to public health events
Updated: 6 days 11 hours ago

“Thank you Mom…for being so prepared!”

May 14, 2017 - 7:27pm

It’s Mother’s Day…which got me thinking about my mom. Growing up her purse was like a small version of Mary Poppins’ carpet bag. Everything was in there. If you fell, she had a first aid kit. If you had a stray thread that needed to be cut, she had scissors. All the answers to the small needs and everyday emergencies were tucked away in her purse. I loved this about my mom!

When I became a mom, I tried to do the same. I don’t think I’m quite there yet, but I have established a reputation among friends that I am most likely to have “it” in my purse. I consider this a compliment.

We can think of an emergency kit like a mom’s purse! Here are some basics to consider as you build your family emergency supplies kit. But you should also think about the special needs of your family, including the medical and dietary needs of small children, elderly parents, and pets.

  • Water – one gallon per person, per day.
  • Nonperishable food – foods like energy bars are a good choice.
  • Battery-powered or hand crank radio and a NOAA Weather Radio – and extra batteries
  • Flashlight with extra batteries
  • First aid kit
  • Medications
  • Personal hygiene items
  • Important documents – like medical records; banking information; wills
  • Cell phone with chargers (or solar charger)
  • Family communication plan with emergency contact information
  • Extra cash
  • Emergency blanket
  • Maps of the area

So, that’s the BIG list. What if you need to leave quickly? Put together a go bag; it could take the form of an actual purse! It should be easy to carry and find. Include some of the items that are in your home kit, like batteries, radio, flashlight, blankets, emergency documents, personal hygiene items, a first aid kit, a change of clothing, nonperishable snacks, and some water. Mom would be proud!

I’ll always think of my mom when I’m working on my emergency supplies. Thanks Mom!

America’s Hidden Health Crisis: Hope for Those Who Suffer from ME/CFS

May 12, 2017 - 10:54am

What would you do if you were going along with your life, got what seemed like a common, flu-like illness, but never regained your health? What if you couldn’t go to work, care for your family, or even leave your bed for months – or even years – as a result? Perhaps worse – what if this happened to your child? Then imagine doctors saying there is no treatment or cure, or even a known cause for the illness that is upending your life or your child’s. Sadly, this is the reality for many people who have Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS).

ME/CFS affects men, women and children of all races and ethnicities. Between 825,000 and 2.5 million Americans are estimated to have ME/CFS. Yet, this debilitating illness remains largely invisible to most Americans, despite costing U.S. society an estimated $18–59 billion annually in medical bills and lost incomes.

Today, CDC recognizes the 25th anniversary of International Awareness Day for ME/CFS and Fibromyalgia. We continue to promote understanding of ME/CFS by:

  • Supporting one of the largest-ever studies of ME/CFS. Seven ME/CFS doctors are identifying major health problems and symptoms of patients with ME/CFS. This will help us develop better and easier ways to diagnose and treat ME/CFS. Early findings contributed to a 2015 report by the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on ME/CFS and have been recently published.
  • Publishing teaching modules through the American Association of Medical Colleges’ MedEd Portal that help medical and health students learn how to diagnose ME/CFS.
  • Developing other urgently needed educational materials for healthcare providers.
  • Bringing together in 2016 a meeting of ME/CFS patients, advocates, health professionals and federal officials to discuss best ways to educate the public and provide resources for patients and healthcare providers.
  • Updating our comprehensive ME/CFS website to make it more readable and useful for the public, patients and healthcare providers.
  • Hosting Public Health Grand Rounds in 2016 to raise awareness and foster discussion about ME/CFS. The presentation, summarized here, has already been viewed nearly 8,000 times.
  • Hosting biannual calls with experts discussing promising ME/CFS research for patients, their families and healthcare providers. All are invited to our next SEC call on May 25.
  • Co-organizing the ME/CFS Common Data Elements project with the National Institutes of Health, which will enable information to be consistently captured and organized across ME/CFS studies.
  • Collaborating with other agencies across the Department of Health and Human Services to ensure each agency’s activities provide the greatest benefit to the American public.

Through this work, and the dedication of those who care for ME/CFS patients, CDC is striving to find better ways to diagnose and treat ME/CFS and to improve the lives of those enduring this illness. Better understanding of ME/CFS may ultimately lead to prevention or even a cure. We are confident that, together, we can make continued progress and that there is hope for a brighter future for patients who suffer daily from this debilitating, chronic illness.

National Hurricane Preparedness Week (May 7-13, 2017): It Only Takes One!

May 8, 2017 - 1:44pm

As the saying goes, “all politics are local.” The same goes for hurricanes. A busy hurricane season is not just defined by the total number of hurricanes in a season, but rather if any hurricane hits your local community.  It only takes one.  This mantra provides the impetus every May for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and its partners to participate in the National Hurricane Preparedness Week.  The goal of National Hurricane Preparedness Week is to motivate communities, businesses, and individuals to know their risks, take steps to prepare, and encourage their loved ones, neighbors, and social network to do the same.

This year, one preparedness action will be profiled each day of the week with useful tips and additional resources available for anyone to access. The seven actions are:

Beyond preparedness messaging, there is a lot going on during National Hurricane Preparedness Week. The Hurricane Awareness Tour brings the hurricane hunter aircraft to six East Coast locations over six days. At each location, school students, community leaders, and the public are invited to get an up close and personal experience with the science of hurricane exploration and the scientists who intentionally fly into the eye of a hurricane.

In addition, there will be “Scientists in the Classroom” webinars, public service announcements, and lots of social media buzz. Follow the social media conversations using the hashtags #hurricanestrong, #hurricaneprep and #ItOnlyTakesOne.

Preparedness isn’t just about checking off a “To Do” list, but is a 365-day a year mindset. And May is the perfect time to put the focus on hurricane and tropical storm preparedness. Whether you or family members live along, or are planning to visit, the coast where storm surge from tropical systems can be life-threatening, or are well inland in areas where these systems can bring flooding rains, taking steps now to be better prepared gives you the advantage when the threat becomes a reality.

Autism and Preparedness

May 1, 2017 - 2:51pm

There is a new neighbor on Sesame Street. Her name is Julia and she’s helping dispel decades-old stereotypes about autism. Julia is a little girl with autism and her move to “where the air is sweet” coincided with April being Autism Awareness Month. Our new neighbor is helping us think about the challenges of parenting a child of autism. One of those challenges is preparing children with special needs for public health emergencies.

Children are affected by disasters differently than adults. Mental stress from a disaster can be harder on children because they may not understand what is going on around them and don’t have experience bouncing back from difficult situations. Having autism can further compound this stress for a child and their family.

Any parent of a child with special needs will tell you that it takes patience and perseverance to accomplish even everyday tasks. Preparing your child for something as potentially disruptive as a natural disaster might sound stressful or maybe even seem impossible depending on the exact needs of your child. Here are some tips we hope will help.

Small change…big problem

As you are well aware of, minor change of plans can cause big problems for children on the autism spectrum. While it might seem daunting to imagine how responding to an emergency such as a tornado warning might impact your son or daughter, thinking through all of the potential complications can help you prepare for your child’s specific needs.

Prepare for immediate needs long before disaster

Start by assembling the same tools and resources as you would for any child. That includes creating a basic emergency supplies kit and making a family emergency plan. Then add a few items specific for your child’s particular needs. You’ll want to include:

  • Medical ID for your child
  • At least a 3-day supply of all medicines
  • List of your child’s triggers and helps for behavior issues
  • Names and contact information for all doctors and therapists
  • Complete list of your child’s health records
  • Names and serial numbers for medical equipment

Don’t forget that it’s important to keep all your kits and supplies, including medical devices, in a handy location. Also, if your child with autism is able to communicate and to follow instructions, give them a developmentally-appropriate version of your family’s emergency plan.

Wear your inner strength on the outside

Your child with autism may be particularly in tune with the moods of the adults around them and may sense stress, anxiety, and frustration, and then mimic the mood or behavior. The best way to prepare for being able to express your inner strength is to regularly take care of yourself. Utilize respite care services and don’t be afraid to ask for help. Regularly reaching out to your network of friends, relatives, and/or co-workers for assistance will help you practice in case of an emergency situation.

All these things can help to give your special needs child a sense of security and safety, before, during, and after the disaster.


What’s in an environment?

April 24, 2017 - 1:32pm

Every year, more than 193 countries celebrate Earth Day on April 22nd. Earth Day reminds all of us of our personal and collective responsibility to preserve and protect the environment. Protecting the environment also helps us protect our health.

The word “environment” means different things for different people. For some the environment is the natural world—mountains, forests, rivers, oceans, animals, and the air around us. Others think of “tree huggers,” the green movement, or the motto “Reduce, reuse, recycle.” But everything in the world around us is part of the environment – it is the air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil beneath our feet, and much more. When environments are polluted or contaminated, they can cause harmful health effects in people.

Recent research has confirmed that many people think “public health” refers to government health programs. But public health is really about protecting populations—tribes, communities, cities, states, and nations—from threats to their health, safety, and well-being.

Bridging two worlds

Environmental public health combines these two topics, and focuses on protecting groups of people from environmental threats to their health and safety. CDC’s National Center for Environmental Health and the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry focus on protecting people where they live, work, study, and play.

In order to protect people from environmental health threats, we need to understand basic human needs and how the environment can affect them. Meeting these needs contributes to our physical, mental, and emotional health.

  • Basic physical needs that are required for life
    • Air
    • Water
    • Food
    • Shelter
  • Needs for community that make life easier
    • Family
    • Church or other social group
    • Access to medical care
  • Emotional, spiritual, relational needs that contribute to personal happiness
    • A sense of control of life choices and events
    • Fulfillment
    • Ability to be close to others

Staying healthy depends on the safety of our environments. Natural disasters, such as tornadoes or hurricanes, can endanger our physical health by affecting the safety of food, water, and shelter. They can also create unsafe and unhealthy communities by disabling community services or making access to medical care more difficult. Finally, disasters can affect our mental and emotional health by creating family stress and eliminating any sense of control.